Center for Career Development hosts DEIB panel on mentoring

Katie Samek-

The Center for Career Development will be hosting a Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) Mentoring Panel on Tuesday, March 19th from 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. in the St. Peter Room, located on the main floor of the Jackson Campus Center. This panel will be focusing on the topic “Mentoring’s Positive Impact”, and will feature local guest speakers who have served as mentors, sharing their stories as to how mentoring has had a positive impact on their personal and professional lives. This event is open to all current Gustavus students, faculty, and alumni. Appetizers, desserts, and non-alcoholic beverages will be provided as refreshments, and all attendees will be entered for a chance to win door prizes, which include small succulents for the first 30 attendees and a raffle entry for 2 gift cards to Coffee Hag in Mankato.

Four speakers local to the Saint Peter and Mankato areas will be present at this event: Rita Rassbach, Special Initiatives Manager for the Mankato Area Foundation; John Harper, Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for South Central College; Jenn Melby-Kelly, owner of Coffee Hag in downtown Mankato; and Buraq Ahmed, Student Support and Cultural Liaison for the St. Peter School District.

“These panelists are local leaders who work closely with DEIB and have been impacted by mentors in their own lives,” Mentoring and Internship Specialist for the Center for Career Development Julie Rudolf said. “They also have been mentors themselves to many others.”

These panelists will be answering a series of questions on how mentoring has had a positive impact on them personally and professionally and the role that DEIB values play in their workplaces. After their panel, attendees will also have a chance to ask questions to the panelists during a Q&A segment. There will also be information available for student attendees about the Gustavus Mentoring Program and how to apply for it.

The Gustavus Mentoring Program is open to all current Gustavus students, connecting students on campus with members of the Gustavus alumni community. To register for the program, students can either scan a QR code that will be provided at the event, or go to the Gustavus main page and search “Gustavus mentoring program”. Once there, click on the blue link that says “new mentee registration pathway” and follow the instructions provided in the attached Google Doc. Once registered for the program, students are connected with alumni in the field or industry in which they hope to go. For those already registered, going to the Mentors tab within your PeopleGrove account will allow you to favorite the mentors you’d like to be matched with.

“Mentors can help students set short and long-term goals and guide you in achieving them, as well as help you recognize your strengths and provide you with feedback and suggestions on how to improve your weaknesses,” Rudolph said. “Having a mentor in your corner who’s ‘been there, done that’ can help turn your degree into a career. They want to see you succeed and will challenge you to discover your talents and push you to think outside of your comfort zone.  Lastly, mentors can help provide students with support and encouragement as well as open doors by helping build their professional networks.”

While mentoring has several benefits for students in developing their professional careers, it also has a wealth of benefits for the mentors as well. Rita Rassbach, one of the featured event speakers, shared her perspective on being a mentor and how has benefitted her life.

“For me, being a mentor is a wonderful way to provide support, share experiences, and in some ways act as a potential life or work ‘GPS’ for someone,” Rassbach said. “It can provide helpful connections and encourage the exploration of ideas and paths that might not have been considered. Although it may sometimes seem one-sided, it really isn’t. As a mentor, I learn from those whom I mentor and think of it as sharing a journey together.”

Rita has served as a mentor within the Mankato community for over twenty years, and even now, she continues to learn more about how to be a better mentor, both from her mentees as well as from fellow mentors and peers. While all of her mentoring experiences have been different, each experience has provided her with unique perspectives and helpful guidance to further not only her own career, but those of her mentees as well. Many of her past mentees continue to keep in touch with her, and this kind of connection has allowed her to flourish in her role as a mentor, sharing her own wisdom and life experiences to serve her mentees better.

“Some of the most important things a mentor can teach their mentee are keeping an open perspective and being willing to explore various avenues, as well as how to use critical thinking in their lives and workplace,” Rassbach said. “On the other hand, it isn’t helpful to have mentors who think they always know what is best. A mentor should provide suggestions and feedback, but also be willing to learn from the mentee to be able to provide a more informed and better mentorship experience. A good mentor should be willing to learn from the wisdom of the mentee.”

For students who may still be on the fence about joining the mentorship program, Rassbach highly encourages students to take the leap and connect with their older peers. Mentorship allows students to jumpstart their careers before they graduate, and building connections within their respective fields is a skill that will follow students throughout their entire professional life.

“Being paired with the correct mentor can make a world of difference in your life,” Rassbach said. “A mentor can help you see yourself through a different lens and help you explore your strengths and tackle challenges. There is so much to be learned from those who have more experience, and just having another person cheering you on in life can be wonderful.”

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