Social Work Doctoral Student Stephanie Rivaux
Mentoring with the Intellectual Entrepreneurship (IE) Pre-Graduate Mentoring Program
In the IE program I had the opportunity to mentor a first-generation undergraduate college student from the School of Social Work and found this to be an incredible journey for each of us. I first met Mayra when she took my undergraduate social statistics course. During that course, she showed a dedication to learning and an unstoppable curiosity that I found remarkable. So, when she asked me to mentor her, I readily agreed.
Mayra and I developed a contract for our mentoring experience that was designed to give her a better view of what graduate school was like and to help her explore options for what she might want to do after graduate school. Through the mentoring program, she participated in a wide range of activities: meeting with social workers who worked in different clinical settings, attending graduate-level classes and talking to current graduate students about their studies, participating in and learning about research I am doing, developing reading lists for her various substantive interest areas and discussing what she had learned, etc. We also worked on helping her pursue educational opportunities such as applying to the Maymester in London program, applying for scholarships, and beginning work on her application for graduate school. Finally, as a first-generation college student, her knowledge of the academic sub-culture and its norms was somewhat limited, so we spent time discussing how things work in academia, professional communication, writing a resume, and so forth. In January, the Dean of the School of Social Work provided money so that Mayra could attend a professional conference with me and this experience was notable both for what she learned substantively, but also what she learned about the world of travel.
With a student as curious and driven as this one, mentoring took a fair amount of time in my schedule; we met and talked by phone regularly and several times a week she would e-mail with questions, concerns, or issues that came up. Although there were times when it was difficult to accommodate the time pressures this created, overall I have to say that the experience was an invaluable one to me and that I probably learned (or perhaps "re-learned" in some cases) as much as Mayra did. The chance to teach in this individual way was useful, but there was much more than that. I think sometimes it is easy to forget the path I have traveled to get where I am in my career and working with Mayra gave me a new and valuable view of that. The experience reminded me of the amazing wonder of being able to attend school just to 'learn stuff'. By interacting with someone who lacked some of the opportunities I had, but had some opportunities I lacked, I was reminded to appreciate those things I was given, while also continuing to work on those things that were not just handed to me. Perhaps most importantly, it was both an honor and an inspiration to work with a student like Mayra who desires an education so fiercely and works so diligently to pursue this path she has chosen.