Mentors can help shape and guide the experiences of their mentees, and this relationship can have a lifelong impact. As the first person in my household to go to college, I know that mentors played a critical part in my leadership development and my decision to pursue graduate school. Mentors like my colleague Kandy Mink Salas, who wrote her dissertation on college women and their leadership aspirations, and Tony Ragazzo, my student leadership advisor who told me that I should go to graduate school, both played a key role in my undergraduate success.
When I was a campus administrator, I tried to pay it forward in my work with students. Many of them had the capacity to lead, and it has been a privilege to serve as a mentor. Now in my job at AAUW, I still get to do this great work through the many AAUW leadership programs that help empower college women across the country. Programs like the National Student Advisory Council and Elect Her–Campus Women Win and events like the National Conference for College Women Student Leaders help women find their voices and take on greater leadership roles in their communities.
This month, I presented on women and leadership at the Leadership Educators Institute in Columbus, Ohio. One of my key points focused on the serious need for mentors in the lives of college women. I asked participants in my workshop and colleagues on Twitter what words of wisdom they, as mentors to college women leaders, would share. These were some of the responses.
- “I would encourage critical thinking and validate their ideas. I would seek out resources to share with them and connect them to different people. Also, I would say, The answer is always no if you don’t ask.”
- “Let her know what options are available to her and why it’s important to try, and/or why [certain options] are a good fit.”
- “Trust yourself; explore your identity as a woman and what that means to you.”
- “The harder you work now, the ‘luckier’ you’ll get in the future.”
- “Never be ashamed to talk about your intelligence. Women aren’t always taught they can be smart and emphasize it.”
- “Learn to brag! … Then learn when it is appropriate.”
- “Believing in yourself is part of your growth as a leader and as a woman. If you believe in yourself, you can accomplish anything you put your mind to. I will always be here to guide you.”
What words of wisdom would you share with a college woman?
This post was written by AAUW College/University Relationships Manager Christine Hernandez.