The Value of Mentors

One of the great opportunities of the college experience is the chance to meet and get to know faculty members, academic advisers, student services staff, coaches, clergy and many others who are all part of your educational experience. You will hopefully come to see that a lot of really important learning happens outside of your classes. Conversations with faculty during office hours or with an RA or an athletic trainer after a team practice may wind up having a really profound influence on how you think and see the world. These people who can have a positive influence on you are called mentors.

To make the most of your college experience, it is great to find people to mentor you. For faculty mentors, there may be opportunities to do research or other academic projects with them or to have them guide your own academic project. Mentors in student affairs may be ready to help you learn to start or manage a student organization or club. These outside the classroom learning experiences can be both fun, rewarding and educational at the same time. Mentors can help guide you in identifying and refining your interests and college/life goals.

Here are a few ground rules to keep the mentoring relationship productive:

  • Be polite, responsive and respectful. This person is giving freely of their own time. Acknowledge that by taking the relationship seriously.
  • Mentoring relationships can be more or less formal. Sometimes you might arrange to work with a particular faculty member who is working in an area of interest to you and you will work out a specific project to do together. Other mentors may be people who you speak to from time to time to discuss different issues of interest or concern to you. There is no mentor rule book.
  • Whether or not there is a formal relationship, mentors should always respect boundaries. You might work closely with a mentor over a period of time or just have infrequent discussions. Either way, mentors should always respect appropriate boundaries. Dating, romantic entanglements or physical intimacy between faculty/staff and students is not OK.
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If this is a medical emergency or if there is immediate danger of harm, call 911 and explain that you need support for a mental health crisis.