What comes to mind when you hear the word "mentor"? Perhaps a bespectacled older teacher or other professional offering sage advice to a younger student? In this episode of KUT's podcast "Higher Ed," Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger and KUT's Jennifer Stayton discuss what makes a good mentor (and it doesn't necessarily have to do with age or specific experience).
Ed wants to make a few things clear about mentors and mentoring up front.
First of all, mentors and role models are not the same thing.
"When I think of a role model, that person can be far away, could be someone who I don't even know but I aspire to be, or I see and see elements of that I want to replicate, " he says. "A mentor is much closer. There is a person who not only do I know, but the person has taken the time to know me and then to offer wisdom, counsel, advice, guidance and so forth."
Secondly, mentors of any age - not just more seasoned teachers and other professionals - have something to offer.
"I don't think that a mentor necessarily has to be someone who is older than you," Ed believes. "It's the perspective they bring and the questions they ask and the inspiration they offer."
Ed believes a strong mentor-mentee relationship entails much more than the exchange of information and advice.
"It's a safe relationship where no one's going to be judgmental," says Ed. "But in fact, listen - ideally open-mindedly - and then ask questions. Then start to say 'Okay, let me probe you. If you really want to do that, what about this? Why are you thinking that way?' Then all of a sudden, it provokes thought, which is of course what all things should do."
Listen to the full episode to hear about some of Ed's experiences being a mentor and having a mentor. He firmly believes people can benefit from a mentor's guidance at any age or stage of school and work. It is also time to gear up for the solution to the most recent puzzler.
This episode was recorded on Dec. 4, 2018.
For all of the Higher Ed episodes, you can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes here.