OP-ED: Make Becoming a Mentor A New Year’s Resolution

By Sara Kehler
OP-ED: Make Becoming a Mentor A New Year’s Resolution

In Greek mythology, Ulysses, king of Ithaca, asked his friend Mentor to take care of his son, Telemachus, while he went off to fight in the Trojan War. From this near-paternal relationship, we get the term mentor, someone who is experienced, either in their particular business or profession, and shares their knowledge.

Some great mentors include Greek philosopher and teacher Aristotle who mentored Alexander the Great; film director Martin Scorsese who mentored Oliver Stone; and composer Johann Christian Bach (youngest son of Johann Sebastian) who mentored Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

At Harrisburg University of Science and Technology, mentoring has been a key component in the students’ academic career. As January marks National Mentoring Month, we highlight the University’s program that has led many a graduate to enter successfully a career in their field of study.

Mentoring is most important at HU because the University educates career-minded individuals in nationally critical science, technology, engineering and math careers, giving them the tools to succeed in a 21st century knowledge-based economy.


In their first year, each full-time student is paired with a business mentor. Together, they attend professional events and mixers, and visit businesses and organizations related to the student’s fields of study.

Mentors serve as guides, answering questions, giving advice, and helping students to learn more about their field of interest and about themselves.

Some of the organizations participating in our mentoring program include WITF, Inc; Dauphin County Coroner’s Office; Harristown Development Corp.; Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center; Select Medical Corporation; Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources; Michael Baker; Deloitte; Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare; Pennsylvania Department of Health; Buchart Horn and The Technology Council of Central Pennsylvania.

Academics alone are not enough to prepare students for whatever career field they choose. Students must also get real-work experience in which they can apply their studies to better understand their chosen career.

Research shows that youth mentoring programs can promote positive outcomes, such as improved self-esteem, social skills and career development – skills necessary for launching successfully into a job.

Mentors don't necessarily need special skills, just the ability to listen and to offer friendship, guidance and encouragement to a student. Mentoring is a rewarding experience because of the impact a mentor can have on a student’s life.

Rich Davis, president and CEO of Team PA Foundation, became an HU mentor in 2005 to give back. “I immediately thought about all of the people who have mentored me throughout my life and had a tremendous impact on whom and where I am today,” he said. “It was without question that I wanted to try and do that for someone else.”

Mentoring has an impact that goes beyond the relationship between mentor and student. It is transference of knowledge, an inheritance, to the next generation so they can build on the success of their mentors and help create a better economy.

While you are busy making resolutions for a fresh start in 2011 I encourage you to add mentoring to your list. Our lives are busy and schedules pushed to the maximum but a great relationship can be forged over a cup of coffee or during a staff meeting.  Your guidance and support will have a lifelong impact on a student.  As we all know the road can be bumpy, why not serve as a guide for future travelers.

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Sara Kehler is Manager of Experiential Programs at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology in Pennsylvania.  The only STEM-focused private university between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh,  Harrisburg University strives to match all students with professionals in the Harrisburg community.  More information online at www.HarrisburgU.edu