ASU's Commission on the Status of Women creates staff mentoring program

April 10, 2014

Ask any successful leader about how their career developed and many will reference the impact of mentors in their lives. Now, thanks to the ASU Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), there is a university-wide mentoring program in place to provide mentoring opportunities for all staff.

The CSW Staff Mentoring and Development Program pairs experienced and excelling staff members with staff who are interested in developing their career and leadership skills. The program is structured to provide support, networking opportunities and professional development training to help staff members develop their careers and become advanced contributors to the New American University. Download Full Image

According to Karen Engler-Weber, the CSW’s senior coordinator, the program was developed after extensive research into the availability of staff mentoring programs at all public/state universities nationwide, with a specific focus on looking at ASU’s peer and aspirational institutions.

“In our work with staff, we were frequently hearing about the desire for mentoring opportunities," Engler-Weber said. "This prompted us to look into the feasibility of developing a mentoring program, but we didn’t want to just patch something together; we wanted to build a model program that would provide both mentoring and development training.

“We looked at every university in the country to see what type of mentoring opportunities were available for staff, and found that while mentoring programs existed sporadically – mainly through individual colleges or units – overall, there are very few universities nationwide that offer a university-wide staff mentoring program.”

Of the mentoring programs that did exist, the CSW researched and conducted interviews with them to learn about best practices and the challenges of such programs.

From there, the CSW continued to research mentoring practices, and began to work with mentoring consultants from HR’s Leadership Workforce and Development group. The result was the construction of a program that provides monthly mentoring meetings, as well as special development training that focuses in part on identifying strengths and skills, and promoting those skills.

The program utilizes the book “Strength Based Leadership,” which includes a valuable online assessment. This is the same book that is utilized in the LINAU program. In addition, the program also features some unique programming, such as “Table Talk with an Administrator,” which provides an informal opportunity to learn about the career development of a university leader.

“With this CSW program, ASU now becomes one of the very few universities in the country to offer a university-wide staff mentoring and development program. It’s very exciting!” remarks Engler-Weber. “The program is designed to help staff members learn more about the university, and to help them have a long-term career at ASU, in their current position or for positions in the future.”

The CSW ran the first cycle of the staff mentoring program in summer 2013 for a select group of nominated participants from a select group of colleges. The program ran for four months, had 20 mentoring pairs across all campuses and featured three development programs. Although the first cycle of the program was smaller and shorter, the positive impact of the program was clear. Eighty-seven percent of participants indicated that the program increased their self-confidence professionally, while 94 percent of program participants found the experience beneficial to their career.

As one mentee participant noted, “The CSW Staff Mentoring Program increased my awareness of who I am as a leader, my professional network and my motivation for being a leader within ASU.”

But it wasn’t just the mentees who found the experience rewarding; mentors in the program reported the experience to be very positive. As one mentor remarked, “I am proud to have been a part of the CSW Mentoring Program. I have created new friendships with colleagues on campus, and the program gave me a chance to encourage other staff members to be proud of the work we do at ASU. Sun Devil pride!”

“It was clear from the feedback, that the program provided important opportunities for not only the mentee, but the mentor as well. The program provides an opportunity, as well as resources and structured support, for a mentor to develop their mentoring skills. A prospective mentor does not need to have previous mentoring experience to be part of the program” says Engler-Weber.

The CSW Staff Mentoring and Development Program is open to all university staff.

Heard enough? Interested in being part of the program? The CSW is now accepting applications for both prospective mentees and prospective mentors for the next cycle of the CSW Staff Mentoring and Development Program to begin in summer 2014. The program will run from June through December. As part of the program, mentors/mentees will meet once a month, and there will be four development programs across the program cycle.

The application deadline has been extended through April 30.

To learn more about the program (including anticipated time commitments) and to download the application materials, visit the CSW’s website. You can also contact the Karen Engler-Weber at

Britt Lewis

Communications Specialist, ASU Library

Archaeologist leads undergrads to research dynamics of neighborhood formation

April 10, 2014

Undergraduate research opportunities abound at Arizona State University, and archaeologist Michael E. Smith is one of the top faculty for providing them.

As the director of the Urban Organization through the Ages project, Smith has directed graduate and undergraduate students in a variety of roles, from interns to paid employees. The project, funded by the Late Lessons from Early History initiative, has given rise to several presentations, related projects and publications in academic journals. Black Rock City, Nevada Download Full Image

The most recent outgrowth is the publication of a paper in the Journal of Urbanism, authored by Smith and seven – at the time – undergraduate anthropology students.

The paper takes a look at “semi-urban settlements,” places where sizable groups of people gather by choice or force for a week or more in settlements designed to fit a specific purpose. The types of settlements studied were broken into two groups: formal and informal (voluntary).

Formal settlements include military camps, internment camps, company towns, workers’ compounds, refugee camps and disaster camps. Informal settlements include protest camps, shantytowns, RV camps, festival sites and Plains Indians aggregation campsites.

Smith provided the theory and framework, and the students – Ashley Engquist, Cinthia Carvajal, Katrina Johnston-Zimmerman, Monica Algara, Bridgette Gilliland, Yui Kuznetsov and Amanda Young – researched and wrote about one or more specific type of settlement.

Some students had already conducted research on their assigned settlement types. Carvajal had studied squatter settlements, Engquist refugee camps and Gilliland Egyptian workers’ villages. The others chose the category that interested them.

“My original idea was to look at as many types of settlements as possible to see if they had some form of neighborhood organization,” Smith says. “This is part of an effort to show that neighborhoods are human universals, whenever cities or other settlements grow beyond a certain size.”

The group’s findings support that idea. Of the 11 different types of semi-urban settlements studied, 10 include the spatial and social units generally defined as neighborhoods. Only disaster camps do not. The group speculates that could be because these settlements are so transient in nature that not enough time lapses for the development of neighborhoods.

“This is a fun topic, and I enjoyed working with the students,” says Smith, who gave his students the chance to delve into the dynamics of such diverse settlements as Native American hunting camps and the famed Burning Man festival’s Black Rock City.

Johnston-Zimmerman, who researched the Occupy Portland camp, was impressed by the bottom-up organization of her research site and its quick evolution.

“Something like this is not often observed in Western society and is normally at a much larger scale,” she stresses. “In some ways, this would be phase one of an informal settlement, whereas structures are mostly tents and fairly temporary, and then progress further into the second phase of semi-permanence, given time. I would say they got to the beginnings of this second phase when it started to cause problems with the city regarding legality of structures on parkland, and occupants were evicted.”

As evidenced by the Occupy Portland example, the usually swift formation of semi-urban settlements provides a chance for researchers to witness urban social processes easier than in well-established cities.

Since the semi-urban paper was accepted for publication, all of the students have graduated and moved on to graduate school or careers.

Smith, a professor in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, continues to guide students – graduate and undergraduate – into research and lab opportunities, often including them in his field sessions in Mexico.

“I have found that when encouraged to work at a more professional level, with some training and mentoring, many undergraduates turn into good researchers,” he explains. “That was certainly the case with this paper.“

Rebecca Howe

Communications Specialist, School of Human Evolution and Social Change