Developing a Culture of Mentoring

Mentoring within a university setting is a complex challenge if it is to be effective and to have the desired impact on the mentees. The challenge is both one of logistics and of quality. Consider the number of constituents and stakeholders, the number of departments, programs, and colleges within the larger university, and the difficulty of ensuring effectiveness across this wide diversity. This article explains how Wake Forest University manages this challenge – they created a Mentoring Resource Center to guide, support, and mentor each mentoring program effort on the campus.

Wake Forest University: Developing a Culture of Mentoring

Allison E. McWilliams, Ph.D., Director, Career and Professional Development and Mentoring, Wake Forest University


The Wake Forest University Vision

Wake Forest has a long-standing tradition and culture of mentoring, which is firmly rooted in its liberal arts foundation. The University’s 2008 strategic plan identified four priorities, each of which support and impact the development of a more intentional culture of mentoring:

  1. Build exceptional faculty student engagement
  2. Sustain a tradition of opening new doors for educational opportunity
  3. Reinforce the connections between the liberal arts and the professions
  4. Educate the whole person – mind, body, and spirit – and help students find their place in the world.

The University’s President, Nathan O. Hatch, notes that Wake Forest is a “deeply personal place, dedicated to community and face-to-face interaction,” a place that helps students “connect who they are with what they do – helping them to find meaning and purpose in their lives and work.” [1]

The recently established Mentoring Resource Center at Wake Forest plays a key role in supporting that interaction and builds connections between students, faculty, staff, alumni, and the community to help align students’ passions with their goals and visions for what they want to accomplish at Wake Forest and in their future careers.

The Role of Mentoring in Reaching the Vision

At Wake Forest University, the use of informal and formal mentoring is viewed as an essential strategy for increasing the success of all members of the university community. Formal mentoring programs at Wake Forest are built around affinity-based groups – clubs, teams, subject matter disciplines, or other areas of common interest that create an affiliation for group members.

Establishing the Mentoring Resource Center

All of this clarifies why, in June 2010, Wake Forest University launched its Mentoring Resource Center with the purpose of providing standards, training, support, tracking, recognition, and inspiration for mentoring across the entire Wake Forest campus. The Mentoring Resource Center and all the various mentoring programs help students to think more deeply about their lives and to make sound decisions, by promoting and supporting effective mentoring relationships.

The Functions of the Mentoring Resource Center

The Mentoring Resource Center provides general guidelines and support for the development of formal mentoring programs and informal mentoring relationships. MRC guidelines require each formal mentoring program to have a Program Coordinator. This person takes responsibility for the planning, development, implementation, oversight, and assessment of the program. Depending on the needs and the goals of the program, the Program Coordinator can be a student, staff, or faculty member.

The staff of the Mentoring Resource Center literally mentors any interested group or Program Coordinator in the development, implementation, and assessment of mentoring programs on the Wake Forest campus.

The MRC also developes and provides resources for mentor program coordinators and other participants, and provides mentoring training.

This allows the MRC to maintain a broad view across the varied mentoring programs at WFU. That perspective positions the MRC to learn from each experience, gather and build a knowledge base of “what works”, and share that knowledge across the programs.

Finally, the MRC convenes and facilitates groups, such as a mentor program coordinators group, to create a peer mentoring environment and support system within and across mentoring roles.

The Structure and Benefits of an Internal Partnership

The Mentoring Resource Center is housed within the University’s Office of Personal and Career Development alongside Career Education and Counseling, Leadership and Professional Development, College-to-Career Community Partnerships, Employer Relations, and the Center for Innovation, Creativity, and Entrepreneurship. As such, the Mentoring Resource Center is able to collaborate with and leverage the resources of these internal partners for students’ benefit.

For example, the Center works with the staff of Leadership and Professional Development to build mentoring components into their programs, applies tools and resources from Career Education in mentoring training, and collaborates with the staff of College-to-Career Community Partnerships and the Center for Innovation, Creativity, and Entrepreneurship to support faculty and staff who are fulfilling roles as mentors or are interested in developing mentoring programs in their departments.

Planning and Accomplishments

In 2010-2011 the Mentoring Resource Center established four strategic goals:

  1. Develop training materials and programs to support formal and informal mentoring
  2. Support the development and implementation of 3-5 formal mentoring programs
  3. Communicate and generate awareness of the Mentoring Resource Center and mentoring opportunities
  4. Develop metrics to track mentoring engagement.

The Center has made significant progress on each of these goals – several of the key accomplishments are listed below:

·     1. Handbooks and other resources were developed to support mentors, mentees, and mentoring program coordinators; approximately 200 handbooks were distributed in hard copy throughout the year and they are also available for download through the website.

·     2. Mentoring Resource Center Faculty/Staff Advisory Committee was convened biannually to update on progress and gather feedback.

·     3. A Mentoring Program Coordinator Council was created and convened to share best practices, learn from internal and external experts, and provide feedback on opportunities to improve mentoring on campus.

·     4. Mentors, mentees, and mentoring program coordinators in five formal mentoring programs were provided support, training, and guidance. The Mentoring Resource Center trained 719 faculty, staff, and students on effective mentoring practices; as well, individual mentoring program coordinators provided their own training and supporting resources as needed.

·     5. Mentoring Resource Center website < > was launched and provides access to tools, resources, and information to support mentors, mentees, and mentoring program coordinators. We are proud to say that one of the resources provided is a link to the International Mentoring Accociation.

In 2011-2012 the Mentoring Resource Center is focused on building upon these accomplishments and expanding our reach and effectiveness through the creation of additional formal mentoring programs, continuing and expanding training and support for informal mentoring, exploring opportunities to deliver training and resources via new technologies, and recognizing outstanding mentoring on the Wake Forest campus through the creation of annual mentoring awards.

The Long Term Mission and Vision of the Mentoring Resource Center

Through these efforts the Mentoring Resource Center takes steps towards accomplishing its mission and vision: for mentoring to be valued and embedded in the culture of Wake Forest and for Wake Forest to be recognized as the national leader in college student mentoring.



Contact the Author or the MRC

Mentoring Resource Center
Reynolds Hall, Room 17B
PO Box 7328
Winston-Salem, NC 27109

MRC Director, Allison McWilliams, PhD
336.758.3741 (voice)