Kent State Women’s Center Brings Faculty and Students Together Through Mentorship Program
The Kent State University Women’s Center, known for its support, advocacy and education efforts, has launched a student mentorship program aimed to equip female students with the tools they need to pursue their passions, excel in their careers and reach their academic goals.
Summer Wigley, a graduate assistant at the Women’s Center, says the program is open to all women-identifying students who are committed to mentorship and reaching their personal, professional and academic goals.
“We have an opportunity to reach students in various spaces of campus with the hope that they will benefit from having a mentor to push their academic success,” Ms. Wigley says. “Women need affirming spaces to contribute to a sense of belonging. It is our hope that the mentorship program can provide an affirming space for our current students and for more students in the future.”
The program, which is in its second year, is an opt-in mentorship program where the Women’s Center reaches out to faculty, staff and members of the community. Following the invitation, individuals apply to be a mentor and go through an orientation.
“We have a similar process for student outreach and we also have the application on our website,” Ms. Wigley says. “The selection process is not rigorous; and typically we have an even number of mentor and mentee applications. As long as those who apply continue to show interest, we invite them to join the mentorship program.”
Program mentor the Rev. Renee Ruchotzke, ’90, says she became a mentor because she wants to help women find just as much success in college as she did.
“In my first career as a mechanical engineer in a male-dominated industry, informal mentors helped me to navigate sexism and harassment. In my second career in a faith community, formal mentors helped me reflect on my learning and serving, as well as my own theological discernment,” the Rev. Ruchotzke says. “Now leadership development is part of my professional portfolio, and I have been a mentor for several years, both formally and informally.
Results from the students participating in the program have been positive. Eighty-two percent of the mentored participants last year rated the program as excellent, 83 percent say they felt an increase in sense of personal power and 67 percent reported an increase in self-esteem, self-motivation and self-discipline. All mentees say their communication skills improved due to the program, and 95 percent reported that they would love to be mentors after their experience with the mentorship program.
Freshman psychology major Tyra Teague says that her mentor always made her feel like she could achieve her goals and encouraged her to stay active at Kent State.
“My mentor has definitely helped me to start breaking the boundaries of my comfort zone that keep me isolated,” Ms. Teague says. “She genuinely cares about being supportive and forming real connections. This has been a great way to meet people and start getting involved.”
Freshman pre-nursing student Callie Simpson-Potter says that she would encourage other students to sign up for the mentorship program.
“This program has made me feel like I have someone that cares,” Ms. Simpson-Porter says. “I’m from Maryland, and it is hard not having that support system here for me. But the mentorship program has become that support system. I think this is an amazing program that everyone should get involved in because it really makes you feel like you aren’t alone.”
Mentors in the program have also benefited from their interactions with their mentees. Program mentor Daniel Diaz Nilsson, director of the Office of Diversity Outreach and Development in the College of Education, Health and Human Services, says that being a part of the program gives him a sense of pride.
“It’s an amazing feeling to give back to female-identifying students and support them in their success,” Mr. Nilsson says. “It is fantastic to watch my mentees become successful in the various things that are important to them. Whether it’s protesting for women’s rights in D.C., getting that paid internship they deserve or even graduating from college, I love being a part of it all.”
Program mentor Stephanie Evans, special assistant in the Office of Student Conduct, says working with her mentee made her realize that she has valuable experiences to share.
“We really do learn from each other,” Ms. Evans says. “Our students are great and worth taking the time to get to know them personally.”
For more information about the Women’s Center and its mentorship program, visit www.kent.edu/womenscenter/womens-center-mentorship-program.