MAS Mentoring Program

Minority Alumni Society

    Through the Villanova Law Minority Mentoring Program, minority alumni serve as mentors to minority students, providing valuable knowledge and insight into the legal and business professions, while also sharing practical advice concerning the challenges of law school.

    The formal mentoring relationship is from October to May. The program committee matches interested students with alumni mentors in February, and recommends that mentors and mentees connect with one another at least twice a month via telephone, email and/or personal visits. Alumni do not need to reside in the Philadelphia area to serve as a mentor.    

    The program is co-sponsored by the Villanova Law Minority Alumni Society and the Law School ’s Minority Student Associations - the Asian-Pacific American Law Students Association, the Black Law Students Association, and the Latin American Law Students Association. Sign up via one of the links below, and read below to learn more about mentoring, as well as to gain some valuable tips.

What is Mentoring

Mentoring is the process by which a more experienced person imparts advice, support, insight, and knowledge to a less experienced person. A mentor provides guidance in the form of teaching and support and helps the mentee achieve his or her goals; encourages and motivates the mentee, assists the mentee with career and professional development; serves as a sounding board; and links the mentee to others who can enhance the mentee's growth and development.

The Origin of Mentoring

Popular mentoring literature attributes the origin of the term mentoring to Homer, one of the ancient Greek story tellers. In his classic tale Homer tells of the King of Ithaca, who asked his friend Mentor to look after his son Telemachus while he fought to win the Trojan War. However, scholars familiar with the original work believe that the model of mentoring portrayed by Homer would make most relationships fizzle rather than sizzle. In fact the true origin of the modern use of the term mentoring more likely comes from the work of 18th century French writer Fenelon who was also an educator. African scholars have noted that mentors were commonplace in Africa , long before the ancient Greek civilization.

Getting Your Mentoring Relationship Off to a Good Start

We ask that the mentee make the initial contact with his/her mentor, and provide the mentor with such information as a preferred name, or nickname, areas of interest, and any specific reasons for participating in the mentoring program. At this point, it may also be helpful for each of you to consider how much time you can devote to the relationship, what skills and knowledge you can contribute, and your expectations of the relationship.

Establish Regular Contact

Not every contact need be lengthy, weighty or on a face-to-face basis. Brief messages containing small talk are as necessary for establishing a relationship as long, deep communications. Therefore, we strongly encourage you to maintain contact with one another at least two times per month. Email and telephone are the usual modes of communication.

Tips for Mentees

Initiate - In order to sustain the mentoring relationship, take the initiative to ask your mentor a question, to let him or her know your educational and professional interests and objectives, and to ask about his/her own experiences.

Honor your Commitment - As a lawyer, your mentor probably has a very demanding job. He or she has volunteered to take on the added responsibility of mentoring. Please be appreciative of his or her time and investment; respond in a timely manner to your mentor's questions and comments. If you don't have the time to respond at the time, send a short message letting him or her know you will be in contact when you have the opportunity.

Expect Support, Not Miracles - You can expect a certain level of support and advice from a mentor, but he or she can't solve your problems for you. Perhaps the most valuable quality a mentor can offer is perspective. A mentor can put the situation in perspective, offer feedback, serve as a sounding board, and identify resources that may be helpful to you.

Communicate Clearly - Initiate contact with your mentor if you have questions or need to discuss something. Identify your needs and communicate them as clearly as possible to your mentor. It may be helpful to put some focused energy into organizing your thoughts and concerns before talking to your mentor, so that the time is spent wisely.  Don’t be afraid to share your concerns about law school, job searches, etc., as your mentor was once in your position.

Be Teachable - Be willing to learn new things, obtain another perspective, be responsive to suggestions and constructive criticism.

Maintain Contact - As stated above, your mentor is a busy person. Thus, he or she may not always be available to speak to you when you call or respond quickly to a phone or email message. Don’t be disappointed, as he or she has volunteered to participate in the program as yourmentor. Rather, reach out again with a quick line, such as, “I realize you are busy, and thought I’d check in with you again to find a time when we can connect.”

Assessment of the Program - To evaluate and improve the mentoring program, we will be asking you periodically to answer questions about the program, as well as will be checking in periodically with each partner to determine how things are going.  These questionnaires will not take up much time. Your responses are crucial in shaping the future of our program.

Tips for Mentors

What to Discuss - When students initiate discussion, it usually focuses on asking their mentor about their career experiences. There may be other topics that might prove fruitful for discussion. You may want to reflect back on your school experience and identify information that would have proven useful to you back then.

Maintain Contact - Maintaining regular contact and soliciting the same will aid in developing a successful mentoring relationship. Sometimes a short sentence acknowledging receipt of a note and saying you'll be in contact later will suffice during a busy time. Plus, it will assure your mentee of future contact. You may even prompt or encourage your mentee to do the same. A quick line, such as "I haven't heard from you lately, are you very busy with school/work?" may help bridge a lag in communication.

Set Expectations - You may want to communicate with your mentee about your busy schedule, any times you will be out of town, and when you will have limited access to email. Also, you may want to let your mentee know whether your employer restricts email access and so you are limited to contacting him/her during the evening.

Link your Mentee to Others - If you find that your mentee may have interests in practice areas, settings, etc. of which you are unfamiliar, perhaps you can link your mentee to a friend or colleague who can help enhance your mentee's growth and development.

What if your Mentee is Going Through a Rough Time? - Academic life can be very stressful for some individuals. It is a natural part of the mentoring relationship to provide feedback and support during rough times. However, know that the Law School does provide various resources that can assist with personal issues and difficult times that extend beyond the scope of the mentoring relationship.

Assessment of the Program - To evaluate and improve the mentoring program, we will be asking you periodically to answer questions about the program, as well as will be checking in periodically with each partner to determine how things are going. These questionnaires will not take up much time. Your responses are crucial in shaping the future of our program.

Activities

Participate in or attend a social or professional activity or event related to common interests, whether it be at Villanova Law or outside the area on winter or spring break. (Villanova Law Event Ideas: Red Mass, Fall Reception for Minority Alumni and Students, Evening with the Philadelphia Orchestra for the Dr. MLK, Jr. Tribute Concert, Spring Minority Banquet, Student Association events.)

Offer to do an informational/mock interview for your mentee and/or review your mentee’s resume.

Schedule a visit to the mentor's workplace.

Meet for breakfast, lunch, dinner or coffee…we all have to eat!

Questions or Concerns

Contact Sarah N. Ponzio, Esq. '04, Director of Alumni Relations, at (610) 519-7011 or ponzio@law.villanova.edu.

Mentoring Tips were developed with the aid of the following resources:

Peer Resources, http://www.peer.ca/peer.html APA Online, Disability Mentoring Program, http://www.apa.org/pi/cdip/mentoring/tipsformentors.html
which cited the following:

Ambrose, Susan A. et al., (1997). Journeys of Women in Science and Engineering: No Universal Constants. Philadelphia : Temple University Press.

Muller, Carol B., (1997). Mentoring along the Career Track in the Twenty-First Century: Mentoring and Mentors for Students. A Report Prepared for Dartmouth College.

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