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Mentoring Center members ready to help

March 11, 2010

The newly minted Ph.D. has just landed her first job as an assistant professor at a large university in the Southwest.

She has been teaching as a graduate student for several years, but now, in her first tenure-track position, she is unsure about several aspects of her job. She doesn't really want to talk to her dean, nor is she eager to confide in her colleagues.

In the past, she probably would keep her questions and doubts to herself, or use her husband or a friend as a sounding board. But now, if she's at ASU, she can turn to the Emeritus College Mentoring Center.

ASU's Emeritus College, now some 350 members strong, opened its Mentoring Center last year, and this year continues to recruit new volunteer mentors and expand awareness of the center.

It's a place where any faculty member - or graduate or undergraduate student - can go to get a little operational and career help, anonymously.

The volunteer mentors, noted Center co-directors Quentin Bogart and Howard Voss, have "jumped through all the hoops and can help those who don't understand the academic environment."

"There are a lot of pressures on people today," Bogart added, "especially if you're new to the situation."
Anyone seeking mentoring may make his or her request through the Emeritus College, (480) 965-0002. All meetings take place in an open, windowed office within the Emeritus College headquarters on the lower level of Old Main.

"We will consider providing a mentor to anyone in the University community who walks through the door," said Bogart. "But we're not a clinical counseling center."

Nor will the mentors tutor students, serve on thesis or dissertation committees, or "usurp any of the responsibilities normally assigned to regular faculty members," noted Voss.

"We can help a person think through things and understand procedures. We have sufficient expertise to help with any procedural or operational problem. We don't intend to do what departments do."

Those serving as mentors also gain from the experience, Bogart and Voss added.

Voss, who taught physics to large lecture classes and to small physics major classes, said he misses going to his classes. "I retired a few years ago and I miss meeting with the students," he said.

Bogart said he wishes that he had had a mentor when he began his university career teaching classes in educational leadership and policy. "I would have liked to have someone work with me on collaborative efforts," he said.
Voss was fortunate because his department head took him under his wing, and "we became fast friends," Voss said.

Nearly 20 emeriti faculty have joined the Mentoring Center so far, representing such far-flung disciplines as mathematics, human behavior, history, theoretical physics, psychology, medicine, Chinese language, chemistry, biochemistry and library studies.

Collectively, they have jumped through a lot of hoops. And, to use another cliché, they know the university ropes - and they're ready to help untangle them for those who don't.