The Mentoring Relationship

Portrait of Glenn Munson.

Glenn Munson

I never thought much about mentoring until I was well into my admissions and records career. I started in ad­missions, where I was pretty much on my own. It was not until I became a registrar that I realized the signifi­cance of the people from whom I was learning. The higher education mentoring relationship was instrumental in my professional development.

The man I consider my first mentor was the associ­ate dean of academic affairs (to whom I reported), but I didn’t realize that I was being mentored until I figured out that many of his meetings with me were like tutor­ing sessions. He would describe his thought processes about a decision he had to make and then tell me what his decision was. I’m not sure he knew that I saw him as a mentor or even if he intended to play that role, but I’m guessing he did. I was a young, first-time registrar with a lot to learn, and he was the associate dean who actually knew quite a bit about the registrar’s duties (he often had to cover for my predecessor). I learned from him that not all decisions set precedents; each situation is unique, even though it may not seem to be. The higher education mentoring relationship is professional growth.  Of course, some situations affected groups of students (for example, a certain section of a class), and related decisions had to be consistent. Also, there were times when a request from a student led to a new policy that we didn’t know we needed but nevertheless had to have (“That’s the ‘Smith policy,’ ” we would say in jest).

Admissions and Registrar – Higher Education Mentoring Relationship

Another of my mentors never knew that he served in the role of higher education mentoring relationship. We were good friends. We usually saw each other only at professional meetings, but that was enough for me to know that I had a lot to learn from him. I enjoyed listening to his stories, many of which I heard several times, and I very much appreciated his professionalism and ability to stand up for what he be­lieved was right. Very rarely did I call or email him, but I respected him as I did very few colleagues I have known over the years. That respect was part of the mentoring relationship I had with him. Little did I know that over those years I would switch roles and become a mentor to others, whether I intended to or not.

What I came to realize is that if you stay in this business long enough, you will become a mentor. The mentor-mentee relationship is special: it can creep up on both of you, or it can be an objective decision by the mentee to see and utilize you as a mentor (or vice versa). Someone may choose you to be her mentor, or you may find someone you believe could benefit from your experience and so you become her mentor. Re­gardless, it is important to recognize the significance of mentoring in the admissions and records profession and to understand the mentor-mentee relationship.

Higher Education Mentoring:  Important

higher education mentoringThe higher education mentoring relationship in admissions and records is not neces­sarily the same as it is in the business world or in a col­lege or university academic department. In the business world, it is often the busy manager who has as part of the job description the mentoring of newcomers to the office or the business. In academia, it is usually an asso­ciate professor who mentors the new tenure-track fac­ulty member. Or it could be a committee or work group that meets with young faculty members on a regular ba­sis to discuss teaching methods, research requirements, and other factors in the pursuit of tenure. In admissions and records, the mentoring relationship is usually more informal—so informal, in fact, that neither person may recognize when it begins or that it is happening. Men­toring in one’s office is common, of course; the direc­tor recognizes leadership abilities in a younger staff member and works with that person to help her grow professionally. Just as common, if not more so, is the long-distance mentoring that takes place by phone or e-mail—for example, with the mentor answering the que­ries of a less experienced registrar. Mentoring also takes place at conferences; often, a conference—for example, a workshop like Registrar 101—may be the setting for the beginning of a mentoring relationship. One of my most long-standing and rewarding mentoring relation­ships continues with someone who attended a Registrar 101 for which I was a faculty member. In fact, all of my mentoring has been long distance since my long-time associate registrar left more than ten years ago for her own top management position. The higher education mentoring relationship facilitates professional growth and opportunities.

Only one person actually told me that he recognized me as a mentor. He fit the model of a mentee: a young professional who sought me out and was willing to initi­ate the mentoring relationship. He wanted to take ad­vantage of the knowledge I had gained as a result of years of experience, and he had the ambition and desire to use that knowledge and assistance to grow profession­ally. He accepted my encouragement to get involved in professional associations and develop his own potential.

New Registrars and Directors of Admissions

Assessment Consulting meeting at a table with four people.Another new registrar saw me as the wise old guru for young registrars (herself, in particular). She had not sought the registrar position at her institution but rather had been promoted to it, so she often sought help via e-mail, phone calls, and at conferences.

I fit the definition of a mentor for each of those indi­viduals. I was a more experienced, supportive colleague who was willing to share my expertise (especially that related to Banner and FERPA). I was often a sounding board for their ideas, and they knew that I would give impartial, non-judgmental feedback. Because of my belief in professional development, I also encouraged and often aided their participation in their state and re­gional associations and especially in AACRAO. But in most cases, I was an accidental mentor: I was the one who was sought out to be the mentor.

It is important to understand the formats that the mentoring relationship can take. As mentioned previ­ously, mentoring in the admissions and records profes­sion can be very different from that in other professions. Yet there are similarities. The mentor-mentee relation­ship can be formal or informal, structured or unstruc­tured. In formal mentoring (which is not as common in the admissions field), the relationship is often within an office and is based on a formal request with a con­tract or agreement that calls for a structured program of regularly scheduled one-on-one meetings within an expected time frame. There is often a set agenda with objectives and/or goals. Both parties have an under­standing of where the mentee is expected to be at the end of the mentoring program.

An informal mentoring relationship is usually not a supervisor-employee relationship. More often, it is a ca­sual, long-distance relationship in which the mentor is a sounding board or idea generator. In this often-sponta­neous relationship, there is less of a sense of obligation or responsibility on the part of the mentee to follow the mentor’s advice or suggestions. Rather, it is up to the mentee to make whatever decision is necessary after lis­tening to the advice and counsel of the mentor.

The structured mentoring relationship combines both formal and informal mentoring. The mentor is usually more in charge of both the process for and the agenda of the mentoring sessions, which are regularly scheduled and have established content including ideas, issues, and concepts to be discussed. Structured men­toring may include a formal contract with objectives and pre- and post-mentoring assessment measures. It is usually found in an institutional or office setting with staff members and employers or managers. A structured relationship may eventually morph into an unstructured relationship if the mentee’s needs or situation change.

Higher Education Admission Registrar

Higher education mentoringUnstructured mentoring allows for more flexibility and spontaneity; the mentee often contacts the men­tor as needed rather than according to a predetermined schedule. As a result, the mentee is more responsible for the process, seeking out the mentor, who responds in turn to the mentee’s needs or agenda. There is no formal developmental plan for the mentee; rather, men­toring takes place on an ad hoc basis and perhaps even by phone or e-mail. A concern about unstructured mentoring is that it may be more difficult for a shy or introverted person to initiate such a relationship. Alter­natively, a person might perceive his seeking a mentor as a sign of weakness or as an acknowledgment of his lack of knowledge. In fact, such an individual may be more in need of a mentor than he realizes. It is impor­tant to remember that mentorship is not a closed-ended proposition. Rather, it can continue so long as both par­ties remain interested or until either of them leaves the office (if internal) or the profession.

Meeting at a table with four people for interim placement.Who Is a Mentor and a Mentee?

So who can be a mentee or a mentor? A mentee is characterized by:

  • some experience in the profession
  • a willingness to learn
  • eagerness to take advantage of learning opportunities
  • an ability to receive and appreciate non-judgmental, objective feedback
  • courage to try new things
  • acceptance of responsibilities
  • openness and honesty, respect, and gratitude
  • commitment to developing leadership and management skills
  • desire to succeed and
  • desire to give back to the profession.

A mentor is characterized by:

  • experience in the field (more than the mentee)
  • a record of professional success and accomplishment
  • a value system rooted in honesty, empathy, and authenticity
  • an ability to give non-judgmental, objective feedback
  • leadership and management skills
  • a desire to see others succeed
  • personal investment in the profession
  • a desire to give back to the profession and
  • a desire to “pass the torch” or leave a legacy.

Are you ready as a potential mentee to approach a potential mentor? It can be difficult to take that first step. There are several ways to start the mentoring relationship:

  • Meet as many experienced professionals as pos­sible at your state or regional association meetings.
  • Attend the AACRAO annual meeting—especially workshops and the first-timers meeting (as appro­priate).
  • Find someone who does what you do, who is what you want to be, or who is where you want to be in the future, and take the initiative to ask for help, suggestions, and feedback. Establish the relation­ship over snacks in the vendor area or lunch. Be sure to ask for your potential mentor’s business card, e-mail address, and phone number, regard­less of whether the individual knows you see him as potential mentor.

Are you ready to be a mentor? If you have some of the traits described above, you may be more ready than you think. Remember that a mentor provides feedback, not criticism. A mentor pulls, doesn’t push. The suc­cess of the mentee is not necessarily in the hands of the mentor, but the guidance a mentor provides can help form a confident, involved, and respected professional.

Consulting directors shake hands.I did not seek out mentees; they found me, and I believe I have been successful (I possess most if not all of the traits described above). I continue to enjoy my role as a mentor. Neither did I search out my men­tors; rather, I could learn from them by following their examples and listening to them. I am pretty sure they never knew that I perceived them as mentors; we never discussed it. These mentoring relationships were very informal and unstructured.

Similarly, you may already be a mentor without knowing it. Or perhaps you are being mentored but haven’t yet realized that your boss or a colleague has taken on this role in your relationship. Take advantage of either situation. You, your mentor or mentee, and the admissions and records profession will be better for it.

1  Reprinted by permission from College and University, 2017, 92 (Fall, 2017), 45 – 48.

About the Author:

Glenn Munson is a nationally respected and recognized leader in registrar practices and operations. Glenn spent 28 years as the Registrar at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee, and after a brief attempt at retirement, was the Associate Registrar at the University of Memphis for three years, giving him a unique combination of experience at both a small private college and a large state university. He also served in the Admissions Office at Rhodes (when it was Southwestern at Memphis) and held other admissions and records positions at Allegheny College in Pennsylvania and as the first Director of Admissions and Records at Methodist Hospital School of Nursing in Memphis. As the Registrar at Rhodes, he saw Rhodes through changes in the institution’s name and academic calendar, several modifications to the curriculum and ultimately an introduction of a new curriculum, and the implementations of Banner and DegreeWorks and the establishment of a one-stop shop..

He served as a regular or ex-officio member of faculty and administrative committees including Administrative Policy, Academic Standards and Standing (dealing with student requests for variances from academic policies), Space Utilization, Academic Calendar, Curriculum, and the Enrollment Management Committee. He also was the only administrator on the Curriculum Revision Committee which successfully designed and set the implementation of a new liberal arts curriculum in 2007.

One of Glenn’s major responsibilities at the University of Memphis was the introduction of DegreeWorks and its regular updating (scribing). He was the representative of Student Enrollment Services on the Program Management Committee which managed the University’s Process Improvement Program and also served on the Equity in Athletics Committee reviewing the University’s compliance with Title IX.

Glenn served the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admission Officers (AACRAO) as a member of their Board of Directors as Vice President for Records and Academic Services; as a member of the Annual Program Committee; as a member and as Chair of the Nominations and Elections Committee; as a member of other numerous task forces and committees including AACRAO Task Force 2000, and as a frequent presenter at annual meetings and workshops. Glenn was presented the AACRAO APEX Award in 2005 that recognizes professional excellence based on the person’s commitment to student success and demonstrated by involvement on their campus and presentations and activities at the state, regional, or national level.

Glenn has provided consulting services for a number of colleges across the country. Glenn is a recognized leader in office organization, administration and communication initiatives; the registrar’s role in curriculum development and management; registration systems; student information services (Banner in particular) and degree audit (DegreeWorks in particular),

Glenn is a strong advocate of professional development. He was instrumental in restructuring AACRAO’s Registrar 101 workshop during his time on the Board of Directors, and he continues to participate as a faculty member for REG 101, both live and online. He also co-developed and helped to introduce Registrar 201.

Glenn received his Bachelor’s degree from Hartwick College in Oneonta, New York, and his M.S. degree from Kent State University. He and his wife Christine have been married for 40 years and have three grown children living in Tennessee.

As a Senior Consulting Director of focusEDU, Glenn looks forward to assisting the leadership of the higher education community with optimized solutions for best practices in all areas of registrar and student information system services.

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