Monday, October 13, 2014

Dr. Faulkner: Mentors

As we have been recruiting mentors for the Tennessee Promise program, an article from the Gallup Business Journal ( arrived in my in-box.  The article reports on a Gallup survey of more than 30,000 college graduates.  According to the survey, “the three most important elements linked to long-term success for college grads are . . . feeling they had a professor who made them excited about learning, that the professors at their alma mater cared about them as a person, and that they had a mentor who encouraged them. . . “

The term mentor actually comes from Greek mythology and more specifically from Homer’s Odyssey.  Odysseus, king of Ithaca, goes off to fight in the Trojan War.  He entrusts the care of his family and household to a person named Mentor, who serves as teacher and overseer of Odysseus' son, Telemachus.

I’ve been fortunate to have had many good mentors in my life. Most of the time, the mentoring came along with a relationship such as parent, minister, teacher, friend, or boss. 

In only one instance did we actually use the term “mentor.”  During a yearlong experience with the Chair Academy Advanced Leadership Academy, I had the opportunity to enlist a mentor as one of the requirements of the academy.  My mentor was the retired CEO of a large appliance manufacturing company.  Although a great friend of the college, he had little higher education experience and so the strength of what he shared with me was the unique non-academic perspective he brought to issues with which I was dealing at the time.  We met monthly over lunch and it was an extremely beneficial relationship.

My point is that mentoring can be extremely important in the future of a student here at Vol State and it is something that doesn’t necessarily require a huge time commitment.  It could be a formal relationship like Tennessee Promise mentoring or an assigned advisee or it could be a spontaneous opportunity.  Mentoring doesn’t just occur between faculty and students.  It can occur between any two members of the campus community.

The title of the article I referenced is The Biggest Blown Opportunity in Higher Ed History. It decries the fact that colleges don’t do a good job of mentoring students.  I would really hate to think that we at Vol State are blowing the opportunity to help students succeed. 

-Dr. Jerry Faulkner

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