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Stomping The Yard: Where to Find a Mentor on Campus

Our resident college blogger shares tips for finding a quality mentor on campus.
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Calling all college students!  Our new weekly column, The Yard, aims to help undergrads excel in their studies and social lives.  JETmag.com’s team of experts will show you how to get it done from the day you move into the dorms to the minute you step off campus for that first job. Submit questions and feedback for The Yard via digitalpitches@ebony.com.

So, back in my college days, there was no online class registration.

Nope, you couldn’t sign up for school with the ease of a touchscreen tablet or a laptop. When I enrolled as a freshman at Howard University in Fall 1997, we stood in lines. After standing in a queue, which felt more like punishment and hazing, I was hot, sweaty, bewildered, confused, and scared out of my mind.

I thought if registration was this hard, then I was terrified what the rest of the year had to bring. Fresh out of the line, I walked down to the School of Communication set to complete the next loathed task of the day: I needed to find a department on campus that would give me a job to take advantage of my federal work study award.

My main goal with my work study award was to avoid having to work in the cafeteria! I thought a job requiring me to wear a hairnet and serve my fellow classmates meals would definitely kill all my potential dating game! So why not see if I could work in the department I was majoring in? Not knowing anyone, I asked some university staff members in the hallway about finding the dean’s office. I figured that would be a an ideal place to work for obvious reasons.

Well, one of those ladies asked what I needed. She looked at me as if she could immediately tell from my dress and demeanor I was obviously a freshman. I told her I wanted to ask about getting a work study job, and she said “I need students, you’ll come work for me.” She told me to come to her office on Monday, and we would get started. Then she warned me “You know you’re going have to WORK in my office, I don’t play around.” I said okay and asked her again her name and the office she worked in. She said “Ms. Carol Dudley, career development. “ So, before I knew it, I had a job and was saved from working in the cafeteria, but I didn’t realize that I had also met my most influential college mentor.

My mentor, Ms. Carol Dudley!

My mentor, Ms. Carol Dudley!

Ms. Dudley was not only my boss for most of my college career, but she helped me develop in so many areas of my life! She became my career counselor and she gave me advice on approaching professors, which classes to take, and recommended me for scholarships and jobs. She was like a second mom right there on campus. Ms. Dudley continues to mentor and support me to this day. Having a mentor in college is so critical to assist you in being successful in making good decisions, and overcoming the challenges that will definitely come.

Maybe you’ll be fortunate and find one in the hall like I did Ms. Dudley. But, here are some recommendations on where to find a great mentor on your campus:

• Your Professor’s Office: Don’t make the mistake of only viewing your professor as a lecturer and paper-grader, and overlook them as a possible mentor. He or she may be an expert in your field of study. Your professor has also gotten a chance to see some of your work, and it can also distinguish you from all the other students in your course, when you seek a more personal connection.

• Graduate Assistants: Often you may take a course taught or supported by a graduate student. He or she can provide great insight on what you need to do to be successful as an undergraduate student, because they may have just graduated and were just in your shoes.

• Your Community Service Placement: Maintaining volunteer work in the community is a requirement for leadership positions and entry into many fraternities and sororities. Volunteer work can build character and critical skill sets. The site coordinator for your volunteer placement may serve as inspiration as you establishing your leadership skills, and more importantly, they can also provide feedback on your strengths and weaknesses very similar to that of a boss of a part-time job.

• Your Local or Campus Churches: A mentor who can provide spiritual insight can be motivating and beneficial for your academic and social pursuits, finding a mentor who may be a pastor, counselor, etc. may help you become a well rounded individual.

• A Family Friend in That City: Being away from home can be rough! But, you may find a potential mentor in an aunt, distant cousin, or some family member that lives in the area that you attend school. Sometimes, a Sunday dinner with them can get you a home cooked meal, and a outside down-to-earth perspective and support on some of the challenges you may be facing as a student.

I look forward to sharing more stories, and providing more experience, and I wish you well in your pursuit of College: Life on The Yard And Beyond!

About Kelly Fair

Kelly Fair

Kelly Fair is the founder of the highly successful Polished Pebbles Girls Mentoring Program that has served more than 600 girls 7-17 years old to be effective communicators, and career and community conscious leaders! This work has been supported by a network of 300+ volunteers from the Chicagoland community and area businesses such as Bloomingdale’s, Microsoft, ThoughtWorks and many more. You can follow Kelly on her blog and on Twitter at @KFairtheMentor.