By Devin Hall, Coordinator of IFC Services
North-American Interfraternity Conference

When we think about leaders, we often reflect on historical figures who have made an influential impact on society or have somehow contributed to a greater cause. How often do we reflect on the leaders on our campus? Do we appreciate the talent and commitment our peers have on the fraternity and sorority community? Leadership is built on trust, understanding, and integrity among other things. These valuable characteristics can be found in your campus community. Our peers can provide guidance and knowledge based on their lived experiences, accomplishments, and opportunities for growth. Now how do we get our fellow leaders to become mentors?
This blog post will discuss the benefits of establishing peer mentor relationships within your campus community. I will use Komives’s et al. (2006) theory on leadership identity development to articulate the importance of peer mentor relationships. The Leadership Identity Development model is a linear process where individuals transition through phases of development. College students are often developing between stage three, leadership identified, and stage four, leadership differentiated.  During these two stages, an important component to students’ development is the interaction and influence of others. By fostering meaningful mentor relationships with peers, students can have a positive effect on group membership and leadership development.
What are the benefits?

  • Providing an opportunity for students to connect with peers about goals and leadership aspirations.
  • Relating to diverse peers in a greater community is essential to interpersonal skill development.
  • Older peers provide support as sponsors or role models to help students transition through stages of leadership identity development.

What does it take to be a mentor?

  • Mentors can be anyone who identifies as a leader in your campus community.
  • Students who currently hold or have previously held campus, council, or chapter leadership positions are ideal.
  • Mentors have knowledge and experience to share with others, and have made an impact on your campus community.

Does our mentor relationship have to be structured/formalized?

  • The mentor/mentee relationship should be defined by the participants. Some people thrive in a structured program where others feel confined by boundaries. It is important that individuals be transparent about what they hope to gain from this relationship.
  • Structured relationships will identify weekly or biweekly meetings to discuss upcoming events, leadership opportunities, and goal setting. Make the relationship as platonic as possible. Meet over lunch or coffee and gear the conversation toward building a partnership on trust and understanding.
  • Semi-structured relationships will meet less regularly. This relationship will look much more fluid. As leadership positions open up, perhaps the two individuals will meet to discuss qualifications and go over goals. A semi-structured relationship can make it more difficult to build that well developed partnership piece, so transparency is important. Make sure both participants are finding value and growth from the experience.

What can a mentor learn from a mentee?

  • The mentee is not the only one who grows from this experience. Leadership is a two way street.
  • Mentors can gain valuable insight into their own leadership style through reflection and/or feedback from the mentee.
  • The opportunity allows for cultural competence development through diverse interactions.

How can our campus support mentor relationships?

  • The first step is finding an opportunity to facilitate this conversation among council leadership and university administrators. The fraternity and sorority life staff can help identify seasoned and emerging leaders in the community who can benefit from a mentor/mentee relationship. The next step is creating an application or formalized process to effectively pair mentors with a mentee based on a matrix of skills and interests.
  • How do we pair people? Connect individuals with different lived experiences and from different councils, if possible.  As mentioned above, people grow as they relate to their diverse peers.

This blog starts the conversation on the impact mentorship can have on leadership development. Relationships are a key aspect of fraternity and sorority communities and it is important that there are ample opportunities for these relationships to take place.
Be sure to check out Futures Quest, a leadership program that connects fraternity men who have joined their organization within the past two years with peer mentors from institutions across the country. Peer mentors are undergraduates, from fraternities and sororities, who have held leadership positions on their campus, and want to share their experiences and perspective to help develop future generations of fraternity and sorority leaders.  The focus of the weekend is identifying personal strength and challenges, developing leadership and communication skills, exploring personal values and strength of conviction, and making a commitment to fraternal ideals.
Want to be a peer mentor for Futures Quest? Click the following link: http://www.nicindy.org/mentor-application.html
For more information on building a mentor/mentee program for your campus, contact your Coordinator of IFC Services, Dan Greenebaum or Devin Hall.

Komives, S. R., Longerbeam, S. D., Owen, J. E., Mainella, F. C., Osteen, L. (2006). A leadership      identity development model: Applications from a grounded theory. Journal of College       Student Development, 47(4), 401-418.