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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