Mentoring Program Fosters Collaboration & Community on Campus

Tanvi Gadhia ’09, Geography and Environmental Systems, is UMBC’s first Environmental Sustainability Coordinator. Caroline Bodnar is a Career Specialist in UMBC’s Career Services Center.

A year ago, UMBC’s Professional Staff Senate saw an opportunity to build community and empower and support new staff members. The organization launched a mentoring program through which more seasoned staff members share their knowledge, resources, experience, values and skills with other staff members, who typically work in different departments and divisions from their mentors. We are beneficiaries of the program: relatively new staff members who have been mentored by our colleagues, and are using the experience as a springboard to  campus involvement and contributions to our UMBC community.

Tanvi reflects:

Tanvi Gadhia 3Joining the mentoring program has been an even more rewarding experience than I could have imagined. It’s a useful change of pace to reflect with colleagues about not just our work but our professional lives.

In the book discussions led by my mentor, Beth Wells, we’ve turned our attention to our own work styles and how we can optimize everything from time management and  communication to decision making and networking. It has been helpful to learn about how others before me have been able to foster transformative change. Beth herself has done just that. From directing a university’s Women’s Center in the 70’s and 80’s, at the time when women first began entering the work force in large numbers, to planning statewide HIV prevention programs  in the 80’s as the epidemic grew, Beth has played a pivotal role in achieving progress in challenging times. I have found parallels between the social movements of past decades and the ecological and climate movements of which I consider my work to be a part.

I believe that sustainability offers us a path to overcome  both pollution and injustice to build a thriving society. As the university’s sustainability coordinator, I sometimes find myself overwhelmed at the abstraction and ambition of that goal.  But Beth’s advice has helped me develop my strengths and maintain my focus and confidence. I am grateful and delighted that the Professional Staff Senate created this opportunity and matched me with Beth.

Caroline reflects:

Caroline BodnarThis is my second year in the Professional Staff Senate mentoring program, because I joined the pilot program last year. I joined as a second year staff member, with the goal of networking with others outside my office and learning more about the unique UMBC culture. I also hoped that by learning more about the work of departments outside my own, I would recognize opportunities for collaboration between them and the Career Center, where I work as a career specialist.

I have had two great mentors with two very different styles. In my first year, I was paired with Lee Calizo, Director of Student Life. We would met together for lunch and discuss our professional goals. Lee was instrumental in connecting me with other staff across campus, especially other female leaders. My meeting those individuals led to new campus partnerships for the career center and new friendships for me.

This year, I was matched with Beth Wells, Assistant Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, who is also mentoring Tanvi. We have been having book discussions based on a text supplied by the Professional Staff Senate. Members of our small group read on our own time and then come together to discuss the main points and how we can incorporate what we are reading into our work lives. Beth has also helped me stay on track with my own professional goals such as taking a graduate course to complete credits needed to gain licensure as a professional counselor.

I encourage any new professional staff member at UMBC to apply to participate in the mentoring program for 2014-2015 (the application will be available and advertised soon), because you are sure to learn a lot about UMBC, gain a lot of wise advice from some wonderful people, and have fun in the process.

Contact the authors: Tanvi Gadhia at tanvig1@umbc.edu, and Caroline Bodnar at carolc@umbc.edu.

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