In WPI’s Employee Mentoring Program, close bonds are often formed and, in many cases, lifelong connections are made.
Members of the Employee Mentoring Program Committee are looking to expand the program, now in its fourth year, and are holding the first of a series of events today (Dec. 8) from 10 to 11 a.m. in the Hagglund Room in the Rubin Campus Center for those curious about the mentoring process.
Participants in the program will discover more about WPI, experience the networking aspect of the mentoring group, and make connections with people from other departments across campus, according to Lisa Atwell, office coordinator in WPI’s Information Technology department, and Heidi Startz, assistant director of IT operations at WPI, who serve on the mentoring committee.
Mentoring makes a difference, they say, and doesn’t have to take a significant time commitment.
“Sometimes I think people more than ever before feel they are too busy to add another thing to their plate,” says Startz, who also mentored others in the program. “But, our group is very informal. Mentors and mentees can get together once a month if they want. It is what works for you. It is a mutual thing, doesn’t have to be hugely time consuming, and the goals you are setting for yourself as a mentee are yours. There is a commitment for eight months, but you don’t have to shy away because you don’t feel like you have enough time.”
The committee promotes the program, takes applications, matches people, and evaluates its effectiveness at the end of each year. But, the relationships formed do not always end there, she says.
“Even though it is during the academic year, a lot of mentors and mentees continue their relationships past that,” Startz says. “In many cases, they make lifelong connections. For me, I felt a sense of accomplishment. For those new to WPI, you can provide a lot guidance, ideas, help with navigation problems in the workplace, and perhaps connect them with fun activities or communities they didn’t know about so they can make the most of being here.”
Committee members include; Startz; Lisa Atwell, Information Technology office coordinator; Elizabeth Gallagher, web development manager; Christine Love, associate registrar; Tina DeVries, Office of Sponsored Programs; and Julie Wilson, Interdisciplinary and Global Studies program coordinator.
Melissa Luzzo of Human Resources says participants in the program can tailor the experience to what works for them. For many, it is an inspiring experience, she adds.
“I think that on the mentor side, we’ve reached out to individuals who might not think they could be mentors but who found out just how much they have to offer and it inspired them,” Luzzo says. “For mentees, 98 percent said it was an inspiring opportunity to grow in their position at WPI. We want all employees here to feel confident in themselves, feel inspired, and go back and mentor others.”
Mentor Martha Cyr, executive director of the STEM Education Center, says providing WPI employees with someone they can have conversations with that they do not report to directly and give them suggestions, guidance, and an ear to listen to can be invaluable.
“I’ve mentored people of all types—people looking to advance their position at WPI, people leaving WPI, people figuring out how to balance things—and sharing our experiences and thoughts is valuable. You get one-on-one time with people you would not normally run across in everyday workings at WPI in different divisions.”
Cyr says committee members listen to feedback from participants to help improve the program.
“Even if you don’t think you have strong skill sets, just being there for someone and having conversations is a highly valuable thing,” she says. “I’m so glad the program was established and I hope more people participate at WPI. It only helps.”