The Other Side of Mentoring

I always thought of mentoring as a one-way street. Something that flows in one direction, from the top down. A pouring into a student’s life, like water from a pitcher.

The number of students I have had the opportunity to mentor at the University of Mobile is far fewer than the number faculty will impact, even over the space of a semester. Mostly, they are students who have worked part-time or had internships in our Marketing & Public Relations Office, where I have served on staff more than 25 years.

While each student was special, there were a few where the mentoring relationship really clicked. When they walked across the stage at graduation, I admit to having a bit of pride in the small part I played in their accomplishments.

We kept in touch after they graduated, and it was wonderful to see them soar. My role continued to be that of occasional long-distance mentor, or maybe favorite aunt. Listening, praising, giving a bit of unsolicited advice, cheering them on.

I didn’t realize until my son died how the students I mentored had woven themselves into my own life.

How the relationship I always thought of as top-down is, instead, knit together.

When the fog cleared and I could look back on that first year, after cancer surprised us and took my precious 21-year-old son, among the people who helped me stand when the world crumbled around me were these very students I had mentored.

They answered my 2 a.m. text. They cried with me. They talked with me. They listened to me. They were there for me.

Over the years since they graduated, when I wasn’t paying that much attention, these college students grew into women who had the strength and capacity to be the hands and feet of Christ in my life.

That’s the other side of mentoring.

About the Author

Kathy Dean

Kathy Dean uses her passion for storytelling and "playing with words" to share the stories of people, place and purpose that make the University of Mobile unique. As associate vice president for university communications, she manages media relations, edits the TorchLight alumni magazine, and oversees university communications. A former award-winning journalist, she is a two-time recipient of the Baptist Communicators Association grand prize for feature writing. Kathy and her husband, Chuck, live with three extremely loud miniature schnauzers.