Posted on: February 11, 2020
One of the first things Sonya Singleton did when she accepted her position as Assistant Dean for Students in the College of Social Work was meet with Marguerite O’Brien, the Director of Wellness, Prevention and Advocacy Services, for guidance. Years prior, Sonya was a University 101 Graduate Leader and co-taught a section of U101 with Marguerite, who became a mentor in her life. “When I got this job, I met with her for advice on how to navigate a new level of leadership and supervision. She’s such a resource for me and I feel confident our relationship will continue throughout my career.”
Gaining a mentor is a common benefit of serving as a Graduate Leader. Graduate Leaders are second-year students in the Higher Education and Student Affairs program (HESA) who co-teach University 101 with a faculty or staff member. One of the goals of the Graduate Leader Program is to prepare student affairs professionals for their future careers advocating for and working with first-year students. By working with a University 101 instructor, Graduate Leaders engage in a practical learning experience where they attain course development, management, and facilitation skills.
[Marguerite] took the time to give me constructive feedback, and through that I learned how to slow down, how to be patient, and that silence can be a powerful tool. She taught me these skills while letting me be myself and helping me develop confidence.
“Marguerite gave me the freedom to teach and she let me lead as much or as little as I wanted,” says Sonya. “She took the time to give me constructive feedback, and through that I learned how to slow down, how to be patient, and that silence can be a powerful tool. She taught me these skills while letting me be myself and helping me develop confidence.”
Similarly, Paul Holliday-Millard still uses the skills he learned from his teaching partner, Alisa Liggett, the Executive Director of Student Conduct and Academic Integrity. Paul was a Graduate Leader in fall 2010 and currently serves as the Associate Director for Academic & Career Coaching in the Belk College of Business at UNC Charlotte. “Teaching with Alisa was amazing and she really took the time to develop me. The collaborative lesson planning and syllabus building was formative for me.”
The process of working with [Alisa] to build the syllabus has made me a much more intentional planner. I’ve taken that skill and now that’s how I plan for all of my presentations and workshops.
- Paul Holliday-Millard
One memory Paul has from those days was Alisa’s focus on well-being and how she weaved the Wellness Wheel throughout the semester. “I remember we worked hard to tie all the assignments back to the Wellness Wheel. The process of working with her to build the syllabus has made me a much more intentional planner. I’ve taken that skill and now that’s how I plan for all of my presentations and workshops.”
But Alisa also taught Paul not to over-plan. “I’m very type A. When I started, I thought lesson plans had to be completely structured. I tried to plan things minute by minute, but I learned that sometimes things take longer, sometimes things fall flat, and sometimes students need more time to reflect. I learned that it’s important to leave space for some organic elements.”
Like Sonya and Paul, many former Graduate Leaders find benefits of working closely with someone who has a different style and attributes than they do. Grace Kazmierski served as a Graduate Leader in 2018 and is currently the Assistant Director for Student Engagement with the Office of Sustainability. Grace co-taught with Marc Shook, Dean of Students and Deputy Title IX Director, and found he had a very different presentation style than she does. “My role in the Office of Sustainability is really collaborative. Sustainability is inter-disciplinary, so I work with different offices, and being able to easily jump in and co-present with someone who might have a different facilitation style has been really valuable.”
One of the things [Marc] said to me was, “I love to mentor people.” Knowing that he wanted to make the space in his schedule to not only teach U101 but also to take the time to mentor me was really impactful.
- Grace Kazmierski
Even more important was what Grace learned from Marc about mentorship. “One of the things he said to me was, 'I love to mentor people.' Knowing that he wanted to make the space in his schedule to not only teach U101 but also to take the time to mentor me was really impactful. It means a lot to have the support of someone who has been in the profession for a long time. I try to think about how I can apply that to my students or graduate students – I also want them to know I care about them and that they know I’m always someone they can go to even after they graduate.”