Thank Your Mentor Day Jan. 25
A highlight of National Mentoring Month is Jan. 25, when individuals are encouraged to thank or honor role models who have offered guidance and made a positive impact on their lives. Mentoring is a major component of NMU’s Student Leader Fellowship Program, which will celebrate 20 years with a reunion June 23-25.
Lindsey Butorac (Human Resources, right) has seen the SLFP from both sides. She completed the program as a student and now serves as a mentor. She is pictured with student fellow Sabrina Wheeler.
“It’s a way to give back to the program and it’s nice to see it come full circle,” said Butorac. “My mentor had also gone through the SLFP when she was a non-traditional student. She was very good and we’re still in contact. As a student, I was eager to see how she balanced her accounting job, motherhood and leadership because I knew I would probably be in the same position eventually.
"People are busy, but it doesn’t require a big time commitment to be a mentor. I’ll treat student fellows to lunch occasionally and I have a goal that each of us should see each other in leadership roles at least once during the year. This fall, we volunteered to rake leaves for Make a Difference Day. It's easy to just donate money to a cause, but in reality the most valuable thing people can truly give is their time.”
More than 730 students have completed the SLFP. The program was singled out in The Templeton Guide: Colleges that Encourage Character Development, a national resource that profiles exemplary institutions that inspire students to lead ethical and civic-minded lives. Will Keim, an expert on collegiate leadership, called the SLFP “one of the most exciting, challenging and innovative programs” in North America.
About 50 student fellows are selected for the SLFP each fall, based on eligibility criteria and their ability to make a two-year commitment. The program begins with a weekend retreat that features activities designed to build fellowship and teamwork. New participants are assigned a mentor for the first year. The program also includes a leadership theory and practice course, Skill Builder! workshops, opportunities to meet with visiting leaders and community service internships designed and carried out by the student fellows based on their personal interests or passions.
“The internships allow the students to put into practice what they learned the first year,” said Dave Bonsall (Center for Student Enrichment). “They provide leadership to a project or service of their choice, often working with area youth. It gives them a flavor of how things operate in a community. It’s much different than a university, where there is more built-in support. The students realize that they are the resource to make things happen.”
Rachel Harris (Center for Student Enrichment) added, “The SLFP has had a huge impact on students over the years. Because it’s multi-faceted, the different elements build on each other and make students more effective leaders when they have the opportunity to apply those skills and make a difference on campus and in the community. There’s a ripple effect in terms of the lives touched by the program.”
Each incoming block of students is identified by a color. Bonsall started with red and figured it would stay that way, but the second group of participants wanted a unique identifier and the trend continued.
“After several years, the color choices were starting to get a little crazy, so I figured we could start over with red,” said Harris. “The students said, ‘No way!’ It didn’t matter to them that the people who originally wore the color had long since graduated. They wanted their own. Now it’s become a big deal for each group to vote on a new color—that’s the highlight of our first meeting—and our alumni are eager to find out what it is every year.”
The palette expanded to several hues, from burgundy to lime to mango. There are also variations of the same shade. For example, basic blue has morphed into aqua, navy and sky. Despite the cosmetic changes on the surface, the core of the program has remained consistent since it was established in 1991 and has become a model for other institutions.
Applications are being accepted for the fall 2011 semester. Faculty and staff are encouraged to contact the SLFP office to recommend students who might be interested. The application deadline is 5 p.m. Friday, Feb. 4. For more information, visit SLFP.