Q & A: Mentoring Current Students

Katherine Tucker ’16 and Peter Calvert ’79

In 2014, the Alumni Student Connections Committee of the College’s Alumni Council initiated a project to facilitate mentoring relationships between alumni and current students. After developing a mentoring handbook, six committee alumni volunteered to mentor six current students on the Student Alumni Council for the 2014–15 academic year. 

Mentors Rick Stuck ’82Nancy Schmulbach Maly ’61Rania Mohamed Robb ’03Peter Calvert ’79, and Rhonda Stuart ’86 all reported positive connections with their mentees. In 2015–16, the program doubled. 

Ultimately, the connections committee hopes that every student on campus will have the opportunity to connect with an alumni mentor. Through Grinnell Connect, the College’s new online networking platform, Grinnellians past and present are already making strides toward accomplishing that goal. Sign up at grinnellconnect.com.

Q. Tucker: What makes an effective mentor or mentee?

A. Calvert: In my view, most students have the chops to solve their problems already. But when they get caught in a rut or a seeming dead end, they sometimes forget how to reason their way through knotty issues or looming crises. The best mentors do not take ownership away from their mentees but rather help them step back and remember themselves at their best. Once they get their mojo back, mentees are often able to leap two steps forward or reenter the fray from a different angle.

Q. Tucker: Can you give me an example?

A. Calvert: I recently mentored a student who was applying to medical schools, and we found that it was especially helpful to evaluate long-term strategies. We talked through a variety of questions: What if your top schools don’t have slots available this year? Can you identify alternate tracks — what about pursuing a research internship or considering other lines of study in parallel medical fields? These exercises helped my mentee develop a flexible mindset during his senior year. He was ultimately accepted into an exceptional two-year research program in the Boston area, which is helping him build a stronger resume for a subsequent try at medical school.

Q. Tucker: What do you want Grinnell alums to know about mentoring current students?

A. Calvert: I want them to know how rewarding and natural it is. The time commitment is not excessive — perhaps three Skype calls a year and maybe some texts. Hopefully, an in-person meeting can be arranged. The ability to gently guide a current student and be one part of their Grinnell journey is a fantastic use of our life experience. And we share that unique link to the Grinnell crucible we were all catalyzed by once. 

The Alumni Council is a group of 26 Grinnell alumni and two student representatives working with the Office of Development and Alumni Relations. Additional information is available at alumni.grinnell.edu/alumnicouncil.

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