Last week, Shearwater took to the road to visit Indiana University, Bloomington, a trip that is always uniquely special. In addition to being the home of four Mentor Collective programs, it is also the alma mater of its co-founder Jackson Boyar. It was made all the more special by a testimonial from a mentee shared during the “Lunch and Learn” co-hosted by Shearwater's Mentor Collective and the school. Despite having a good experience at IU, Erin Powell was struggling to translate those experiences and her qualifications into meaningful job prospects. “Left and right, I was getting denied from employers… even the ones I thought I could fall back on,” she shared via a prepared statement read by Michelle Bartley-Taylor. “I didn’t look good on paper and I sure wasn’t prepared to enter an interview.” As Powell sees it, “This is when Mentor Collective came in handy.”
Bartley-Taylor currently serves as the Assistant Director of Student Engagement for the Center of Excellence for Women in Technology (CEWiT). CEWiT partners with Shearwater's Mentor Collective for two programs: one providing mentorship for its general female population, and a second focusing specifically on mentorship for Black women. It was the latter program that provided Powell with such affirmation and constructive assistance. She writes:
I was matched with Melanie, an IU alumna who graduated with a degree in Human Resources. She was a minority woman likemyself and we got along instantly. She was able to figure out where I fit in and how to put my best foot forward when I was applying to jobs I felt very strongly about. She lives in Indy and we were able to meet up a handful of times to discuss life, careers, friends, and everything in between.
Although IU aims to provide students ample support, Powell’s testimony highlighted a need for additional help; CEWiT’sprograms have admirably addressed that gap. Both Bartley-Taylor and her colleague Melissa Ward confirmed that this level of personalized student support has been received with an amazing level of appreciation. The extended network that Mentor Collective helps to assemble and coordinate - comprised of fellow students, alumni, and community members - clearly makes a tremendous difference for students in need, including Powell. She said of Melanie, “[s]he wasn’t someone I was having monthly chats with, but a friend I could confide in for more than just interview tips.”
Mentor Collective’s matching survey method of pairing students with fitting and engaged mentors creates opportunities to highly customize the mentorship relationship; Bartley-Taylor spoke highly of this programming trait, calling it essential to their “student-first” approach. Ward, a director of recruitment and student success in the School of Global and International Studies, encouraged attendees to keep the “student-first” mentality in mind when building programs. “You don’t need to spend a year planning the perfect program. [It’s] better to jump in and get going, ‘quick and dirty’” to ensure that student needs are met, she shared with the program’s attendees.
Bartley-Taylor and Ward’s substantial and focused work on these mentorship programs has not gone unnoticed; it’s clear that their mindset on getting a program going paid off for Powell as a student. Her mentor relationship provided more than just a leg up in career prospects, but a true sense of peace and security in her future endeavors- the highest goal we can think of for the work Mentor Collective does. Powell closed her testimony by saying of her mentor, “She gave me an unbiased opinion and made me feel secure in who I am and what I planned for my life.”