The Meaning of Mentorship and Why We All Need it

The best place to get answers about grad school is from a graduate student themselves
Friday, November 3, 2017 - 1:49pm
David Hageraats

Think of a person in your life that pushed you to your limits, but made you stronger than you were before. Or perhaps, there was a time when someone changed your perspective on something. Or maybe you once felt lost, and someone helped you find your path. Whether there were formally or informally our mentors, the impact these people have in our lives can be long-lasting and hugely influential.

Mentorship can seem hard to define. What differentiates a true mentor from someone we merely consider to be friendly and helpful? When I asked this question to fellow UTM students, a few common phrases kept coming up, such as: “role model,” “a resource,” “someone who gives great advice,” “someone who’s more experienced,” and my personal favorite, “the life boat for a sinking ship.” Everyone has a different mentorship story, and although describing our feelings for these people can be difficult and hazy, one thing is clear: Mentors are defined by our experiences with them, and those experiences make a difference.

The Centre for Student Engagement has a number of programs that facilitate this mentorship experience, for both students looking to become a mentor or mentee. Every year, during the beginning of the fall term, a partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Peel matches UTM student mentors with children and youth to promote healthy development and enhance self-esteem. The Alumni Mentorship program gives students the chance to connect with a professional and experienced UTM alumnus in order to ease the transition from school life to work life. The newly created Grad Connect program links grad student mentors to undergraduates who may be interested in pursuing graduate studies.

The gains for mentees are obvious, but the mentor-mentee relationship is mutually beneficial. Mentors often feel highly rewarded based on the fulfillment felt by mentees. Tom Chen, a UTM grad student, put everything into perspective while reminiscing about one of his important mentors, a previous athletic coach. “There really isn’t such thing as great players. Only great coaches.” says Tom. “When you bring out the best in someone, doesn’t that bring out the best in you?”

No matter your motives (personal, professional, or other), mentorship ultimately goes beyond reaching individual potential. It also builds more resilient communities, as new relationships are fostered and more holistic perspectives are gained. “Individuals” may be the answer to “who?”, but “the collective” reminds us about the “why?”. We can all have a big impact by making connections.