Mentoring: Increasing Professional Competitiveness

Mentor: A person with more experience and knowledge who shares their wisdom with a person with less experience and knowledge.

Research has shown that mentored relationships can encourage professional and personal success.  Regardless of your age, gender, socioeconomic status, or professional interests, seeking and receiving effective guidance and advice from a mentor can encourage faster development and increase professional competitiveness.  Yes, mentorships require time and effort but the outcome can often be more effective than most training or preparation programs.

For example, the University of Nevada hosts a college preparation program called Dean’s Future Scholars which uses a relational approach to mentor students into college.  Since its foundation in 2000, DFS has established a homegrown, sustainable educational model resulting in a 90% high school graduation rate for first generation, low-income high school students.  This is significant especially because Nevada’s high school graduation rate is only 54%.  

The program traditionally recruits students during their sixth grade year and mentors them through high school and college.  DFS college student mentors meet with their high school students every week to review grades, establish goals, fulfill high school graduation requirements, and plan for college opportunities.    

DFS also hosts a six-week summer program at the University of Nevada to provide high school math credit courses, improve high school grade-point averages, and introduces students to college life while building sustainable academic networking skills.  Free tutoring, examination preparation, internship opportunities, student job opportunities, and an array of student resources such as computers, printers, and a writing stations are available through the program.  This long-term commitment allows first-generation, low-income students a greater chance for graduating from high school and entering college.

Dean’s Future Scholars, Big Brothers Big Sisters, National Mentoring Month, and Mentor are just some ways to enhance your personal and professional development.  Ask a respected professional within your industry who has more knowledge and/or experience than you do, to be your mentor today.  Just make sure that you are committed to work hard, listen to, and consider following your mentor’s suggestions.  Having a trusted ally in your corner whose goal is for you to succeed is an effective strategy to improve your professional competitiveness.

22 Comments

Filed under Higher Education, Leadership

22 responses to “Mentoring: Increasing Professional Competitiveness

  1. C.L.E.M

    Is this part of a nationwide program or specific to NV? The economic, social, familial, psycholocial, political, etc. effects appear well worth it! The other paths for many low social-economic students are clearly seen when studying welfare recipients, criminal records, dropout rates, etc.

    • DFS is a program located in northern Nevada but many programs around the U.S. are interested in using their model. DFS will continue to expand and positively impact lives. You’re right, their efforts are very worth it. Thanks for introducing those issues.

    • kylee spring

      I think this is an excellent idea but there is one huge concern that I have. Drug testing, if my child was a part of this I would want to make sure that my child’s tutor was not using. I wouldn’t want a bad influence tutoring my child if that may be drugs, alcohol, or every talking about these. How are they keeping track to make sure this is not happening?

  2. Jessica Weaver

    While I think that the idea is excellent, a few things concern me. I, myself, come from a low income area and one of my concerns is how they determine who can be in this program. Can anyone decide to be in the mentoring program? While this is a big concern, my biggest concern is that the mentor and the person being mentored decide to develop a more personal and intimate relationship. There could become many issues and even legal altercations as a result of that. Also, while I would hope that the college mentor would be a good influence, there is always a chance that the mentor influences the young person negatively. I believe that this is a good program, but some concerns need to be addressed before anything negative occurs.

  3. Jessica Acosta

    With this mentoring program I think is great, but if i were a parent, I do not know how comfortable I would be knowing my child is hanging out with a college student. The college student may be a bad influence. But, I think the idea is great that the program helps low income families. If a low income high school student is mentored by a college student there can be many pros but also many cons. The pros is that the student will know what to expect when she goes into college and she will know someone when she goes to college. The negative is the high school student may take ‘friendship’ out of context and I can see that creating some issues. I think this would be a great topic to ask our guest speaker.

  4. Debra Cluff

    Deans Future Scholars is a good program because it gives college students the opportunity to feel responsible for someone else’s education. Also it allows students opportunities they might not get in other places. While I do agree that the relationship thing could be an issue, I wonder if the students are screened or are expected to pass drug tests in order to ensure that the students are receiving the best mentor possible. So far after twelve years it seems that that program has been a success. More students should have the opportunity to graduate and go to college because it will make their future and the future of their families brighter.

  5. Amy Urban

    I think this idea has good intentions. when students have a college student to look up to it could definitely motivate them to go to college. But i have concerns that the attachment that the high school student might have with the college student might persuade the high school student to try to do the more inappropriate types of college activities in order to try to impress or bond with their mentor even if that is not the mentor’s intentions. I think that it also might be an issue that there would be unsupervised encounters between the student and the mentor. I love Debra’s idea about doing screening and drug testing and it think that setting the bar high for the mentors will be the most beneficial to the students. Another issue that could arise is that the mentor might feel almost parent like towards the student and that lines could be unintentionally crossed (in a non sexual way) because of an emotional attachment.

  6. Tori

    The first question I have is, “how do they pick the student’s to be DFS or not?” I mean, what qualifies a sixth grader to be chosen for this extra help. Aren’t all students deserving of a mentor to help them through. As said in the blog above the video, mentors can help everyone regardless of age or socioeconomic status. I think it is wonderful that these students were helped, and that they graduated high school and have moved up in life because of DFS. I just wish that there were more programs like this so that all student’s can be helped. It mentioned that DFS offers tutoring services to the students, and tutoring is so expensive for normal people, I think that that is a great perk to this mentoring program.

  7. Collette Witt

    I feel like the mentoring program is a wonderful idea! Coming from a low-income school, in Dayton, Nevada, I have watched my classmates slowly drop out one by one. With nothing to look at but parents that dropped out due to teen pregnancy and drugs, certain schools need something fresh to look at. If we were to have a program like this, I feel like the drop-rate would have tremendously decreased. As far as the previous posts stating the dangers of college students working with high-school students, I feel like we need to give college students more credit. First of all, we made it, we took that step and enrolled in college! Any high-school student will take a look at that and admire it. Also, being the adults that we are, not just anyone would volunteer to become a mentor, only someone who wants to make a difference will join. I say we let the program expand and see what success it gives us.

  8. Jacqueline Sutton

    I think that DFS is a great program. Jennifer, who is one of the girs interviewed in this clip is one of my good friends, who I known since elementary school. I never was in this program, but since she was I would hear a lot of great things from her, while we were growing up. She is now a really successful young women, who now loves to give back to the community. Yes I do think there are some concerns when it comes to your child being mentored by a college student, but I see it more positive then negative. The college student who will be mentoring your child I am sure will have gone through a background check and most parents ( I think) would be delighted to have a college student mentor their child. It sounds like a lot of these mentors were mentored their self at a young age and would like to give students an opportunity to be successful, as they were given that chance. Overall I think there is more good to this program then bad. If we can get more of our students to graduate high school, and go off to college, then we can build a stronger economy.

  9. Jaime MacGill

    While I agree with the intent of this program, I am a little frustrated with the selection process. When viewing the selection criteria on the DFS website
    ( http://www.unr.edu/educ/dfs/about.htm ) I noticed that the program is only open to ethnic minorities. I inquired about funding for this program and received information that funding is primarily provided through donations; however, they do receive funding from grants and the state government. It concerns me that the state would provide funding for a program that specifically excludes any student that is not a minority. This seems to me that the state would be violating the Equal Education Opportunities Act of 1974 which indicates that educational opportunities will not be prohibited based on race, color, sex or national origin. I am sure there are many non-minorities that would achieve success through this program. I also feel that the selection process should be expanded to allow applications to be submitted by parents or other family members and not just be subject to teacher, counselor or principal suggestion. This would provide a more equal opportunity for students to become a part of this program and remove any potential biases that may be held by the selecting parties.

  10. Beau Riley

    This interview was quite encouraging. I’m proud to be a student at a University that invests in the lives of high school students. I am not familiar with any other colleges that engage in similar programs, and definitely needs to change. The DFS program, ideally, should expand to every high school in the greater Reno area. There are plenty of high school students, even in affluent areas, that can benefit from a college mentor who can reflect positive leadership abilities. High school students with a hunger to succeed will naturally look up to a college student that reflects who they wish to become. Without this program, where would these particular students be? This is not only a life changing opportunity for the high school students, but for the mentors, as well. Education majors have the opportunity to impact lives before they even set foot in their own classrooms. That is an encouraging thought.

  11. Kathy P

    Dean’s Future Scholars appears to be a promising program. Coming from a low-income, minority background myself, it can be difficult finding the means and motivation to further oneself into higher education. By giving high school students the opportunity to be mentored by current college students it will encourage them to do well and finish high school by seeing that there is a reason to further education. Students who may be struggling financially can also seek advice from these mentors about how to pay for school through loans, grants, scholarships, etc. I am the second person in my family to attend college at the university level. My older sister attended the University of Nevada before me and graduated honors with a double major and double minor. During her years at the university she struggles yearly and had to figure all the details about college on her own. Like one of the young women in the video, my sister was the first to attend college and came from a family with no previous background knowledge on how to prepare for college. This generation is full of first time college students who stem from families with parents and relatives not understanding the importance of higher education. By mentoring a student it will encourage a student that no matter what obstacles may come, there is a way to overcome it. These mentors will provide guidance through their own service, but also by the service of other faculty or professionals who may be able to help the student in whatever their situation may be. With support students will not only achieve better but also gain more confidence, which is key to success.

  12. Aimee K

    While there are some possible negative repercussions possible within this mentoring program, I think it’s more likely to be beneficial to the students. Any mentors involved are there of their own free will, because they want to see struggling students succeed in higher education. I think the program is likely to be really useful for middle, high school, and undergrad students. Personally, I’ve found that one of the biggest obstacles to overcome in attending college is creating a ‘game plan’ for further education. Because these kids have someone guiding them along the way and providing a positive influence, they’re more likely to feel comfortable in their new environment. Some legal repercussions of the program are inappropriate romantic relationships between mentor and mentee, and the abuse of available resources within the program. Overall, though, I think DFS sounds like a promising program and a great way to grow personally and professionally.

  13. Jessee Santos

    I Love the Dean’s Future Scholar’s program. I can honestly say I would probably not be a student at UNR if i had not attended he DFS summer program in 2004.
    Once I came to UNR i expanded my efforts and worked as a mentor for DFS. I know how much it helped me and I think that the program is one of the best. There are so many different opportunities that are opened up when you get to become a part of something so helpful.

  14. Diana

    I feel as though this program would will substantially increase the student competitiveness on campus. With the mentors able to help the growing students as they enter their college careers, the shock would not be so drastic as they would be more prepared. The more students come to college prepared, the more students their will be fighting for certain jobs. This type of competitiveness will expand the job market as more people will be qualified. It will also ensure that the best of the best have the positions of desire.

  15. Katie Gettman

    As others have commented on the intimate relationships that could arise out of this, I would have to also be concerned. Even though there have been no reported incidents there are still possibilities that this could happen. I feel that there is a definite possibility of a she said he said argument. What if the young person being mentored started to have feelings for their mentor and the feeling was not mutual. The mentoree could then come back the next day and say that their mentor touched them inappropriately. Then the mentor could face a serious punishment for something they did not do. This causes a red flag for me. I think that as long as the program matches candidates to the right mentor as well as a common rule that all meetings between the mentor and student be in the presence of a third party for possible legal issues.

  16. Karalyn H.

    I can see that most of the legal issues that have been concerning us all trend from, “How are the students picked both mentors and mentored.” There are several concerns that come with minors being accompanied by adults. How are the mentors screened to be proper role models and how are the students defined as in need of a mentor. There could be legal problems from parents of students that fit into the qualifications of low-income families that do not find their child to be in need. They could be offended and find their character questioned which of course could form into legal action. This is just my perspective of the program legally.

  17. Maddie

    I thought this interview made many good poinmts and while the program seems like it does a lot of good for the selected students I still felt like I had a few concerns. My first concern was how they select not only the students but the mentors. I know that there must be some screening process, however, I personally know quite a few college students that have both made mistakes but would be great mentors, and students that haven’t made those mistakes but wouldn’t be very good dealing with high school students. Another concern of mine is age difference in some cases there isn’t a huge difference in age and if there isn’t that difference would they bump into each other out side of a class setting, maybe at a social gathering? How appropriate would that meeting be? I know for a fact that there are some high schoolers that at this moment are older than I am, how would that affect our relationship? I also feel like if the age difference is little to none inappropriate conversation could start that a mentor might not know quite how to handle. How much previous experiance is needed to work with these kids? Are the kids getting what they need simply because there is more one on one time with someone or is it truly because of the mentors themselves and the knowlege they provide.

  18. Megan Barrett

    I could definitely point out more positive points when discussing mentoring, but I can also see where someone might be concerned. The biggest issue I thought of immediately after reading and watching the video was the potential conflict concerning the ages of the mentors and the students participating in the program. Someone mentoring a student in elementary or middle school has little risk involved (assuming the mentor underwent a background check), but the mentors helping high school students could potentially lead to inappropriate relationships. In addition, a college student mentoring a high school student could also be beneficial to the high school student since their mentor recently went through all of the steps and life changes that they’re about to endeavor. Like I previously stated, I believe this program is more beneficial to students than it is harmful. This blog most likely lists many of the pros because there is a very limited list of cons.

    Megan

  19. Jessee

    I think that the DFS mentoring program is great program. It is very helpful and has gotten me very far in my college career. However I think that the way the dfser’s are choosen may be seen as a little discriminatory and unfair. I disagree because if it wasnt for that system of choosing i probably wouldn’t be at UNR right now. There are many legal things that could go wrong, intimate relationships with mentor students, releasing student records to the wrong people, or even a money misplacement. However after working there I can safely say that the staff and director and all are verry dedicated to the program because they are made up of moetly past DFS students and they know how important the program is to everyone who is, has, or will become involved.

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