By Will Dancer
In an attempt to strengthen the connection between students and the various mentors they will interact with, Roosevelt University was visited by Dr. Betty Neal Crutcher, a cross-cultural mentoring consultant to help the university improve its communication between mentors and mentees, with emphasis on overcoming social barriers.
Dr. Crutcher was brought to the university through a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Grant.
According to the event’s host, Kelly Wentz Hunter, the grant is available for the next five years and one of the key parameters going in was an initiative to increase the quantity and quality of both peer and faculty mentoring.
“I felt we really needed someone who was an expert in cross-cultural mentoring that could help to guide us and that is a relationship we have now built… this is not a one-off event, we are really looking to establish a long-term relationship with Dr. Crutcher,” Hunter said.
After the introduction, Dr. Crutcher began to share her background working in high education administration for more than 30 years spanning from Quaker College to Miami University, as well as serving as first lady for both Wheaton College and the University of Richmond. She wrote her Doctoral Dissertation on mentoring and now travels around the country providing guidance and lectures on that very topic.
“I have benefitted from access to people in high education all my life who’ve consisted of administrators, faculty, staff, and students… I am here to share with you some strategies and tools to enhance all of your mentoring work,” Crutcher said.
Dr. Crutcher went on to define mentoring as an “ongoing, intentional and a mutually enriching relationship between yourself and someone generally more experienced who helps guide your personal and intellectual development” and noted that proper mentoring can help improve a school’s graduation and retention rates. She also differentiated cross-cultural mentoring as a type of mentoring that accentuates the significance between mentor and mentee who differ in “race, gender, ethnicity, religion, cultural background, social economic background, sexual orientation or nationality.”
She furthered this by explaining that cross-cultural mentoring was designed to encourage student confidence and comfort when they are in unfamiliar environments and situations.
“Mentoring brings us together in a manner that forces us to acknowledge our interdependence,” Crutcher said. “We try to find commonalities around the ‘three Vs’- values, virtues and vision.”
She elaborated on the three, explaining that it is important to communicate and reaffirm core values in both mentor and mentee claiming it will lead to commonality and trust between the two.
“Virtue is the ability and way of knowing that enables people of different backgrounds to navigate new terrain and overcome barriers,” Crutcher said, expressing the opinion that virtues help build habits for the future. And of vision, Dr. Crutcher then highlighted the ability of a mentor to look beyond the educational perspective, allowing them to “see more in the mentee, than the mentee sees in themselves,” restating this phrase multiple times.
Discussing the challenges facing cross-cultural mentoring integration into Roosevelt, Dr. Crutcher signaled out the limited amount of time that is available as a major obstacle to success. “It takes time to build an effective mentoring relationship, but we must make that time.”
Student and mentor expectations are another challenge that limit effective communication. Crutcher said that mentors need to have reasonable expectations regarding how forcefully they advise their students and student needing to realize that their mentors are not just going to have easy answers and that action is required on their part. Dr. Crutcher told the audience in order to “pass the glass” of mentoring, it must be done with “delicacy and grace.”
While the actual tactile implementation of Dr. Crutcher’s lessons and studies into the Roosevelt framework remains somewhat vague, the University’s core value of teaching social justice would seem already establish a foundation for her advising.