Berkeley Staff Assembly Mentorship Program offers professional development

Kaitlyn Guthrie and Emma Strong/Courtesy

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Jeanette Peach had only been a campus staff member for a year and a half when she joined the Berkeley Staff Assembly, or BSA, Mentorship Program as a mentee and found not only professional development and networking opportunities through the program, but also personal development and strong connections with other campus staff.

According to the program’s current co-chair Kaitlyn Guthrie, the mentorship program was created by the Berkeley Staff Assembly and the human resources department on campus. In the program, a mentor and mentee, both staff members, are paired together from September to May to work on professional development through consistent meetings.

“People who are more introverted may be intimidated by the idea of networking,” said program co-chair Emma Strong.

She added that the program creates a structured environment that allows busy staff members to expand their connections outside of their department.

According to the program’s site, the BSA Career Development Committee, or CDC, sponsors a networking event every cycle for accepted mentees and nominated mentors to meet on an informal basis. Participants submit their resumes, and mentees must contact at least three mentors for informational interviews or career-oriented meetings to determine the right mentor-mentee fit. At the end of the process, an algorithm creates optimal pairings based on the mentor and mentee submissions of ranked preferences.

Jeanette Peach, public relations senior associate for Cal Performances and mentee for the 10th cycle, said the informational interviews were some of “the most rich parts of the entire mentorship simply because you get the opportunity to meet a huge variety of people.”

Both co-chairs Guthrie and Strong also spoke of how the program provided them with new connections through their mentors.

According to Strong, the co-chairs’ responsibilities involve keeping the program organized and coordinating events with the CDC. Guthrie said the structure of the program still keeps things flexible for mentors and mentees to establish the nature of their relationship.

“You wouldn’t want a dean to match with an entry-level assistant as a mentee instead of a mentor,” Strong explained, saying there is usually a difference in age and experience level between mentees and mentors, although there can be exceptions.

Peach learned about the program through a staffwide email and was interested in it because she wanted to develop as an individual and meet staff in other departments.

Peach had a positive experience with her mentor, Joanne Straley, the senior director of student services at the Graduate School of Journalism.

“I really felt like we clicked when we first met. She has such a calm and insightful way about her,” Peach said.

Meaghan DeRespini, a nutritional sciences academic adviser in the College of Natural Resources, has experienced the program as a mentee, mentor, CDC committee member and former co-chair.

DeRespini said she still continues to meet regularly with her mentee, Guthrie, because they connected professionally as well as personally.

“I still get fantastic mentoring from her even after the experience,” Guthrie said in regard to DeRespini.

DeRespini added that, despite being a mentor, she had much to learn from Guthrie, who is also the associate director for admissions and student affairs in the UC Berkeley School of Optometry.

In addition to learning about graduate education and professional advising, DeRespini also learned how to be more open to listening.

“They’re skills I use in my advising work, too,” DeRespini said. “I may think I know what a student needs, but I’m really here to sit and listen to the student tell me what they actually need.”

Although the primary committee in the program is the CDC, there is also a mentee subcommittee that organizes professional development workshops and invites guest speakers. Strong said the subcommittee provides staff with an accessible and unintimidating opportunity to be involved in leadership.

Over the years, the program has grown from just a few pairings to about 50 pairings in the last cycle, according to Guthrie. Another major change was the recent shift to align the program cycle with the academic year. The next cycle will begin Sept. 1 and end May 31, according to the program website.

Strong also outlined a few of her and Guthrie’s goals as co-chairs, which include expanding mentor classification levels to make the program more available to a variety of staff, diversifying the staff on the committee through recruitment and making online mentoring resources more accessible to those who may not be in the program.

“You get out of the program what you put into it, so if people are driven for self-improvement, it’s a great program for them to take advantage of,” Peach said.

Contact Andreana Chou at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @AndreanaChou.