As part of the School of Public Health’s ongoing effort to enhance our portfolio of staff-centered development initiatives, the school launched the Staff Mentorship Program earlier this year. The year-long program provides opportunities for staff members to hone in on their personal and professional development goals, expand and acquire additional skillsets, and ultimately reach their full career potential.
Designed to formalize relationships between senior and junior staff members, the program aims to assist staff in growing and enhancing their career while continuing to support the mission and vision of SPH. Beyond career development, the goals of the program center around knowledge transfer between mentors and mentees, the development of new leadership skills among participants, and increased engagement and support in the workplace.
“We are an institution that focuses on education, and we are committed to providing such opportunities for learning and growth for our own staff,” says Ira Lazic, associate dean for administration and finance, who is spearheading the mentorship program. “Through this program, we want our staff to feel more confident in their roles, to expand their collaborative networks, to acquire new skillsets that become more competitive not just for upward mobility but also for lateral mobility opportunities with a higher earning potential.”
Currently, 9 mentors and 9 mentees are enrolled in the program. Mentors and mentees are matched based on common goals and areas of identified interest for growth, and throughout the year they meet one-on-one to work toward the accomplishment of their targeted goals.
For many of the mentors and mentees, the program has provided an opportunity to connect with colleagues on a deeper level after the isolation that came with the shift to remote work due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“During the height of COVID, I didn’t feel like I had a community anymore. I felt disconnected and missed meeting new people on campus and at community events,” says Jaclyn Bowes, director of individual giving and operations and both a mentor and mentee in the program. “Participating in the mentorship program has allowed me to meet and connect with people from other departments across SPH that I wouldn’t have had the chance to connect with otherwise.”
Similarly, Jacoba van Heugten, assistant dean for development, says that one of the highlights of being a mentor in the program has been meeting and engaging with her colleagues in person and learning about their various pathways to SPH. “People are why I come to work each day, so meeting with colleagues to learn about their pathways and passions has been a rewarding part of this experience,” she says.
The program has also allowed participants to gain new insights about their own roles at SPH to ensure they are not only fulfilling their job responsibilities, but are also contributing to a staff culture that is welcoming and supportive of all.
“Since joining this program, I’ve learned a lot about myself and my mentees that I don’t think I would have otherwise,” says Tom Dauria, assistant dean for finance, budget, and planning, highlighting that the program pushed him to do his own research on how to be a good mentor for others. “For me, there is such satisfaction that comes with mentoring and helping others realize their career goals, so I want to do what I can to ensure my mentees get the most out of this experience.”
Melanie Gilreath Chaisson, business operations and workforce planning manager, says that she has also learned a lot from her time as a mentor in the program that will inform her work going forward. “Working with my mentee has allowed me to gain new perspectives about the staff experience at SPH, and has encouraged me to reflect on new ways that the wider staff community can build skills in these areas to ensure we are continuing to evolve and progress as a school,” she says.
In addition to mentorship, the program also offers events and trainings on career development and leadership throughout the year that are open to the wider SPH community.
Lazic and her team are planning to conduct a mid- and end-of-year review of the program to determine its effectiveness and adjust it as needed to best serve the needs and concerns of the staff.
“Our staff members are a critical pillar of our SPH community,” says Lazic. “We owe it to our workforce to keep them engaged and feeling well-accomplished and appreciated.”