The Mentoring Life Cycle
Mentoring has always been a valuable part of life for Christa Porter, Ph.D., associate dean for the Graduate College.
“I have always had some pretty amazing mentors, specifically black women, who are my senior,” Porter said. “But I also have a group of sister scholars, who I have been peer mentoring with and alongside since I was a doctoral student, and then I've also picked up some other peer mentors along the way.”
For Porter, mentoring is both a means of support in academic life and a mechanism for various opportunities.
“Mentoring has meant folks opening doors for me, folks sort of serving as sponsors for me. People speaking my name in rooms that I may not have been right invited to,” Porter said.
When it comes to mentoring students and peers, Porter never uses the word “mentor” unless it is bestowed on her by another. Porter understands that the title must be given to her and that she cannot force herself into that role in anyone’s life.
“I don't assume the title. I let students call me mentor because it's that precious to me. So, if a student calls me their mentor, that's just awesome,” Porter said. “For me, it's different than advising because advising can be transactional. Whereas mentoring I'm literally invested in their success and their holistic wellbeing.”
It is this kind of thoughtful respect for mentoring that has earned Porter the Association for the Study of Higher Education Mentoring Award. The award recognizes the extraordinary, sustained and tireless contributions to the professional and scholarly development of emerging scholars, seeing them as the future of higher education.
Porter received 12 nominations from both faculty and students for the award. The nomination letters reflect the hard work and care Porter puts into her mentoring.
One nomination letter read, “Dr. Porter mentors with a combination of challenge and support. She challenges us to believe in ourselves and overcome doubt that often stems from the difficult world of academia. Beyond simple logistical support, she serves as a tireless advocate for our needs. Whether the barriers are administrative, financial or personal, Dr. Porter has been more than just a sounding board she sources information, resources and makes connections to remove these barriers.”
The mentoring process never ends, according to Porter. She believes that mentees are meant to grow up and become mentors, passing on the mantle and creating a life cycle of mentorship.
“My favorite part is watching my mentees grow up. And then they're mentors to other people. That is like the greatest gift,” Porter said.
As Porter continues her career in higher education, she is looking forward to mentoring both new and old friends who walk through her door.
“Every season, we get new folks who we're supposed to tap into and share importance with. So, I welcome and I look forward to continuing what I'm doing and then meeting new people to mentor,” Porter said.