Northwest Association of College & University Housing Officers

The Importance of Mentorship


By Coree Newman Coronado

As our calendar gets closer to the Annual conference, we thought we would share a little bit about a program we host here at Washington State University called “Residence Life Academy”.  This is a workshop series program for students that are thinking about careers in student affairs.  WSU has offered variations on this program for some time, but a couple of years ago we decided to formalize the program so that it had consistent support, an established curriculum, and allowed us to better engage those students who are dabbling with the idea along with those that are committed and actively work to join our profession.  For those that may be looking for opportunities to provide something similar, here is how we currently execute this program…

Who (attendees):

Our target audience are students who live or work with Residence Life (RAs, hall government, RHA).  We share the information will all staff and have our professional team nominate students that they think might enjoy this field.  We follow up with some personalized invitations to those students.

What (curriculum):

We invite everyone to attend 8 workshops.  Attendance is always optional, though typically we see that students that attend two sessions attend almost all the sessions.  Topics we cover include:

  • Pathways into this field & opportunities to gain experience as an undergraduate (STARS College, NASPA’s NUFP), & selecting a job coach/mentor
  • Functional areas in student affairs & an overview of institutional types
  • Resumes, cover letters, & interview skills; reading job descriptions and how to approach a job search in student affairs
  • Graduate school- different types of programs, application planning and considerations, asking for references.
  • Applying StrengthsQuest to your future plans
  • Social Media presence and use

Additional topics based on participant’s interests and needs (such as how to transition from residence life to other areas of student affairs).

How (staffing the program):

The workshop series is coordinated and presented by the Director and Associate Director.  This allows students to have regular access to our department’s most senior administrators.  Much of the work, however, is done with the individual students and their self-selected job coach/mentor.  The mentors are often our Assistant Directors or live-in staff who then meet with students to talk about their process, their personal reflections, narrowing down programs or jobs of interest, etc.  It is this combination that allows participants to have their needs met in different ways and get a variety of opinions and encouragement throughout the department.

Testimonials (from past/present students):

“My mentor was a pivotal part of me entering into the field of student affairs, I cannot imagine my journey into this profession without him. In 2013 we were discussing my future plans after graduation and I shared with him how much I enjoyed working in student affairs positions. After this conversation, he introduced me to the NASPA organization, and the NASPA Undergraduate Fellows Program (NUFP).  I became a NUFP in 2013 and had the amazing opportunity to be exposed to the profession through this program. During my first year as a NUFP, I attended both the NUFP Pre-Conference and the NASPA Annual Conference. The experiences I had at the conference made me confident that I wanted to be in student affairs. I am eternally grateful to my mentor for taking the first step to tell me about this organization as well as the field of student affairs. I feel lucky to have him as my mentor and I am thankful that he guided me into our profession. Without him, I am not certain I would be in the field.” – Marina Martin, Graduate Student at Colorado State University

“Student affairs isn’t an incredibly well-known field, which can make the graduate school search process even harder. While many schools have master’s programs in chemistry or English or history, not every school has a Higher Education or Student Affairs program. Before I had a mentor, I had no idea how to even begin the search process. Having a mentor allowed me to have someone supporting me in the hectic journey of grad school applications. From the big things, like narrowing my choice of schools, to the small things like finding the right necklace for an interview, I always knew there was someone with me who 100% supported me and wanted to do everything in their power to help me succeed. It was incredibly helpful to have someone nudge me or set deadlines to have cover letters and resumes done on the weeks that I had no motivation. Most importantly, it was so important to have someone believe in me. Rejection is inevitable, but still difficult – my mentor always had my back. Without my mentor, I truly don’t know if I would have made it through my search process. She was the ultimate support system in every way.” – Tiffany Browning, Graduate Student at University of Massachusetts, Amherst

“What can I say, if I didn’t have my mentors I wouldn’t be where I am today. My mentors helped me find my path that has led me into the field of student affairs. Mentors are those special people in our lives that go out of their way to develop leadership wherever and whenever possible. Time after time my mentors have empowered me to do what makes me happy all while challenging in capacities that helped me grow exponentially. They have been someone I can celebrate my successes with, have a shoulder to cry on when I needed it, or someone I could meet for coffee and talk about my week. Never have I ever in my life have I met someone with as much charisma and positive energy that helps drives results in student affairs. These are the kind of people that if I could clone, I would. My mentors are the most important in my life and they are family to me. Mentor and mentee relationships are unique in so many dimensions. Although the mentee learns from their mentor, it is important to realize that this relationship is reciprocal. Mentees are the future of student affairs and our mentors foster a brave space that challenges our thoughts. Our mentors stress the importance of invocation that evoke change in higher education and I am so proud of how far I have come in my paraprofessional career because of them. I can’t thank my mentors enough. I can honestly say that I don’t know where I would be without my mentors, in return I hope to someday to serve as someone’s mentor so that my mentors legacy will continue beyond me and inspire change and results in higher education.” – Joseph Lloyd, Senior and Assistant Hall Director at Washington State University

If this blog has inspired you to give back and help other find their passion and path, or connect with a mentor yourself, then you may be interested in the NWACUHO Mentorship Program! The Membership Engagement Committee has reinvigorated the Mentorship program. Anyone can sign up and the benefits are endless – building lasting connections, learning different perspectives, gaining supportive relationships, strengthening the region… Sign up is simple and the committee will pair up interested parties for an early start in the new year.  For mentees, register at: http://tinyurl.com/nwacuhomentee.  For mentors, register at: http://tinyurl.com/nwacuhomentor. Intake is on a rolling basis throughout the year, with a soft launch January 15, 2017.  Please contact engage@nwacuho.org with any comments/concerns/ideas!

Coree Newman Coronado works as the Associate Director for Residence Life at Washington State University, and also serves as a faculty for the STARS College Program through ACUHO-I. She can be reached at canewman@wsu.edu.

Coree Newman Coronado works as the Associate Director for Residence Life at Washington State University, and also serves as a faculty for the STARS College Program through ACUHO-I. She can be reached at canewman@wsu.edu.


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