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October 26, 2006

Senate plenary session: Administrators advocate mentoring

“It would difficult to overestimate the power of mentors in our lives,” Chancellor Mark Nordenberg told faculty gathered at the University Senate fall plenary session. “We never outgrow the need for mentoring.”

Recounting the impact mentors have had on his career, Nordenberg called on the audience to recognize that those who have benefited from mentoring “have debts to repay” in reciprocal service for the common good. “Most mentoring is characterized by a genuinely generous spirit; however, most mentoring relationships are not purely charitable. Instead most protégés have something that is of value to offer to their mentors, he said. “Most mentoring relationships, then, are not accidental, and though mentoring can be effectively encouraged, I doubt that truly effective mentoring can be forced.”

The Oct. 19 plenary session, “Fostering Mentoring for Sustaining Organizational Vitality,” emphasized the importance of mentoring, both in faculty-student relationships and between professionals. (See related story this issue).

Those familiar with the classics recognize Mentor as the name of the faithful friend to whom Odysseus entrusted his household and son Telemachus before departing for the Trojan War. Mentor’s wisdom and guidance were not his own, but sprang from Athena, the goddess of wisdom, who disguised herself in his form.

“We believe a strong mentoring program is a signature of a strong university,” said event co-chair Ellen Olshansky.

Provost James V. Maher echoed Nordenberg’s sentiments on the impact of mentors, describing the emotions he felt at the funeral of his PhD adviser as being similar to the way he felt at his father’s funeral. Maher noted that he felt the term “mentor” to be inadequate and somewhat cold in light of the emotional ties he felt to those who played that role in his life.

“I am beholden to all of them and always felt a responsibility to pass on some of that care, concern and love to others in the community, just as it was given to me,” he said.

Maher commended the University community for the mentoring opportunities that already are in place and those that are being developed, adding that mentoring is an important way to ensure the success of everyone throughout the community.

“We have a big investment in these people,” he acknowledged.

Care needs to be taken to make sure no one misses the opportunity for mentoring, Maher said. “Who’s getting left out, and why, should be our touchstone here.”

Follow-up monthly brown bag workshops on mentoring-related topics have been set for noon – 1:30 p.m. on Nov. 14, Jan. 23, Feb. 14, March 28 and April 5 in 4127 Sennott Square.

—Kimberly K. Barlow

Filed under: Feature,Volume 39 Issue 5

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