When I think about pivotal times in my life, I can pinpoint special people who lifted me up and gave me confidence in my intellect, my athleticism, or my work itself. When I think of myself in undergraduate school at the University of North Dakota, I think about Sherry O’Donnell, PhD who mentored me, sponsored me for scholarships, and spent extra time getting to know me, but more importantly, supporting me beyond my education, but providing support in ways that a student transitioning from high school to college life would need. While it didn’t start out exactly that way, Sherry did give me my first D+, it ended that way. Years later, it would be Sherry who would nominate me for an important Alumni Award and today, I wonder if she knows how much her time meant to me and how it still continues to resonate with me.
I have been a part of programs within workplaces that provide mentoring or tools, especially for women, and some of those programs have been effective and some not. One such program that I was nominated for at AIG’s Women’s Executive Leadership Initiative, my sponsor did believe strongly in me and provided opportunities for me to meet other colleagues and executives. He and I later founded Modjoul.
As an advocate for mentoring and the value of sponsorship, I serve on the Seton Hall University’s Gerald P Buccino Center for Leadership Development Honors Program Council, a part of the business school, and been able to be a member of the Women’s Leadership program board. There, I am twice rich with two mentees, one who I met last week for the first time, and one who I met a year ago. I will always say I get more from my mentees than they get from me. I have gained perspective of campus life, balancing leadership programs with studies and with athletics, and I see much more mature students than I was, especially before I met Sherry.
Mentoring can mean a lot of different things to people – to me it means being present for my mentee. Checking in and seeing if they are OK. Maybe inviting them and their parents over for dinner if they are in town. To me, it is providing connections and developing a network of support for these students and for their families.
I encourage anyone who is contemplating mentoring or giving back to your newer colleagues or students, to do it fully and not look back. In reflecting on this most extraordinary year, I realized how mentoring has made my heart grow three times the size, much like the Grinch.
“And what happened, then? Well, in Whoville they say – that the Grinch's small heart grew three sizes that day.”
–How the Grinch Stole Christmas!
Holiday Greetings and All Good Wishes for a Happy New Year!