Dominoes Episode Five

Charley wanted to give his interns some experience with initiating change before they showed up in person. He asked each of them to propose a change they would like to make on their college campus. Then he compiled them into a list.

On a conference call, he took the interns through an exploration of one change that they could agree on that would be beneficial to all. Quickly eliminated were the “hygiene” changes such as parking, food service, and other changes which were more focused on convenience than substance. Also eliminated were structural changes such as tuition costs, large classes, and sports emphasis since these were unlikely to be something they could impact. The change that the interns selected as their cause was the implementation of a mentoring program for each student. As envisioned by the interns, a mentor could be someone students could turn to for guidance over a wide range of issues from personal to professional.

Charley then asked the interns to develop their own strategy for making the mentorship program happen on their campus. He wanted to review their progress in a month.

One month later, Charley hosted another conference call to see what the interns experiences were in gaining acceptance for the internship program. The results were not encouraging, but what Charley had expected. He highlighted a few of the comments:

  • “No one in the faculty have the time to mentor students.”
  • “We have more important priorities.”
  • “This would cost too much.”
  • “Mentoring is not our responsibility.”
  • “We need to maintain our research reputation and mentoring would take away from that.”
  • “Our advisors already do that.”
  • “Mentoring could create legal liability problems.”

What Charley didn’t expect was that one of the interns had actually pushed the first domino. He asked Lynn what she did to get results.

“I started by finding a faculty member on campus who was known to be a great mentor. He was enthusiastic about helping me and helped me think through all of the likely objections to the mentoring program.”

“Then we developed responses to each of those. Our responses were developed as stories rather than argumentative essays. I went to the university foundation’s archives and found quotes from all of the donors of major gifts to the university that talked about how influential a faculty member had been to their career success. I then reached out to these donors for their support.”

“I then constructed scenarios of student situations where mentoring could have helped. Each of those were very emotional and had a tagline at the end saying: Do you regret that you could have changed this student’s life?”

“When we finally got the President to give us an audience, I asked him to walk from his office to a classroom in the building next door. There were 200 students in the class, and I had asked ten students in advance to share a two-minute experience of their own story. There was a blending of opportunities and obligation narratives told from a very personal perspective.”

“Then I signaled my faculty mentor to enter the room. Following him were over two dozen faculty who supported the mentoring concept.”

“The President promised action at that very moment and invited me to attend the next Trustees meeting. In response I told the President that I had a classmate record this session to send to the Trustees in advance.”

When Lynn finished, Charley and the other students were stunned. Then Charley said: “Before our next call, I want each of you to reflect on what Lynn just told us, and let’s start developing a list of actions that each of you can take to start your domino chain reaction.”

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“A mentor is someone who sees more talent and ability within you, than you see in yourself, and helps bring it out of you.” – Bob Proctor (Author)

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