Mentoring: How I Pay it Forward

This school year marks my 10th year working in student affairs as a full time professional. I am so fortunate to have had many wonderful people pour into me over the years. In some cases, just being able to observe good practice (and at times not so good practice) has been beneficial. In other cases, I’ve been able to build intentional relationships rooted in guidance. There is one relationship however, that stands out from the rest. This person was the “operations guy” in my residence life department, but to the staff he was much, much more than that. The great thing about it was that he didn’t have to connect with people in this way — he chose to. There were no supervisory obligations. He didn’t play favorites. He intentionally made the effort to make himself available and accessible to anyone who needed him. However, it was up to us to reach back.

Operation is defined as “the fact or condition of function or being active” and that’s exactly what he exemplified. He took an active interest in my experience in the department and at the institution. If I was frustrated about anything he would give me an appropriately transparent perspective. He shared his thoughts and opinions regarding my professional development and growth. When it was time to update my resume, he was the one who lovingly ripped it apart and gave me suggestions to make it better. When I attended ACPA conventions he made it a point to introduce me to his friends in order to expand my professional network. Even after he left the institution, he made it a point to stay in contact. I can honestly say that I would not be the professional I am today without him!

I’m excited that I’ve reached a point in my career where others seek me out for advice and mentorship. I’m thrilled that I can be to others what so many people have been for me. During the 2016 convention in Montreal, I had the opportunity to participate in the inaugural NextGen Mentoring Program (now known as Professional Development Guides). I was paired with two wonderful young women; one was already working as a new professional and the other was preparing to graduate with her undergraduate degree. I enjoyed being able to connect with them and learn their stories prior to the conference. I was happy that I got the chance to engage with them in person them during the conference and was able to keep in touch with them beyond Montreal.

So what’s my point? Mentorship is my point. I’m sure all of you can think of people who played an integral role in your development as a higher education practitioner or scholar. I can’t think of a better way of showing your gratitude to those who came before you than paying it forward. In Edward Hallowell’s article I Am Here Because They Were he states:

“We were all there once, at the periphery, looking for a guide. Shouldn’t we do the service that was done for us: letting these younger ones take from us before they pass us by?”

If you believe the answer to that question is yes, please consider applying to be a Professional Development Guide for NextGen participants. Give back to others in honor of those who gave so much to you.

NextGen Professional Development Guides (PDG)

As a PDG, you will help future undergraduate and graduate students from across the nation to learn about careers in student affairs by:

  • Meeting virtually with your students prior to convention
  • Attending the PDG lunch on Sunday, 11 March, 2018
  • Providing advice and guidance to your students
  • Supporting mentees who are participating in the ACPA convention experience
  • Being available post convention to work with your students as they request your assistance

If you are interested in serving as a mentor, please fill out this form by 2 December, 2018 . 

If you have any questions about the PDG program, please email

Leah Shaw

Leah E. Shaw currently works at Case Western Reserve University as the Associate Director of Student Activities and Leadership. Prior to working at Case, she worked at Binghamton University and Kent State University. Born and raised in Akron, Ohio Leah attended Bowling Green State University, graduating in 2006 with a Bachelor of Science in Middle Childhood Education. She continued her education at Kent State University, receiving her Master of Education in Higher Education Administration and Student Personnel in 2008. She is currently working on her Doctorate of Education in Leadership Studies at Ashland University. Leah is a member of the American College Personnel Association (ACPA), where she serves on the 2018 Convention Planning Team as the Coordinator of Strategic Programs.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *