[Stc_presidents-discuss] Mentoring programs

Johnson, Debra Debra.Johnson at wyn.com
Wed Apr 22 15:36:33 UTC 2015

Hello all… 

Thanks to Dan Voss and his student Mentorship Program Coordinators, Sarah Baca and Bethany Aguad,  the Orlando Central Florida STC Chapter has a flourishing student mentoring program pairing professionals in our community with technical communication students, mostly at the University of Central Florida (UCF) with a few from other colleges.  In 2015-2016, we will be expanding this program to recent graduates who are New Technical Communicator (NTC) members of STC.


Instituted in 2003, the program has nurtured more than 100 mentor/mentee partnerships over the past 12 years, to the benefit both of the students and our community.  Our chapter has a longstanding relationship with the technical communication program at UCF that dates back to the inception of the UCF program in the early 1980s. Since 2003, this relationship has focused on a student organization called Future Technical Communicators (FTC), which is sponsored by the UCF Student Government Association (SGA). FTC functions similarly to an STC student chapter. The advantage of the SGA affiliation is access to university facilities (e.g., free meeting space), funding (e.g., speaker fees, conferences), and public relations infrastructure (e.g., event promotions in several media).


To apply for the mentoring program, a student must join FTC if they are at UCF, and all students (UCF or otherwise) must join STC as student members of the OCF Chapter and the Academic SIG.


Over the years, we have found that the key to a successful mentoring program lies with two “champions” who are willing to provide a short but intense burst of start-up activity at the beginning of the fall semester and a much lower level of administrative activity through the rest of the year. These two individuals are the professional and student coordinators of the program. If both of these individuals are go-getters, motivated to “sell” the program (the professional coordinator recruits mentors; the student coordinator recruits mentees), the program is highly likely to succeed. If either of those individuals is missing or not fully engaged, it is almost certain to fail.


That’s why, over the years, the OCF Chapter has maintained close liaison with FTC, in an attempt to ensure that the current year’s officers (usually seniors) are grooming their successors for the following year. The FTC president is usually the primary liaison to the chapter, and we typically invite him/her, as well as the other incoming FTC officers, to attend our annual Leadership “Retreat” in July and to continue attending our monthly Administrative Council meetings.  The FTC president is often also the student mentoring coordinator, although this not always the case.


For geographic communities who are planning to initiate and administer a student mentoring program affiliated with a student chapter, organization, or Technical Communication Department at a nearby university, we recommend the mentor/mentee application process and pairing be handled locally by the professional and student coordinators, as opposed to using STC’s centralized MentorBoard to recruit and pair mentors and mentee.  So that STC has a complete picture of its student mentoring initiatives, we suggest that once the geographic communities have identified and paired their mentors and mentees, the information on those individuals may be entered into the MentorBoard with the notation that these folks are already paired as part of the  student mentoring program.


We see the MentorBoard as an ideal way to set up virtual mentoring relationships between STC professionals and student members, and the information provided on the mentor and mentee applications for the MentorBoard is designed to encourage self-pairings that match mentees’ areas of interest with mentors’ areas of subject matter expertise. The applications we use for our local program are very similar, but by keeping the mentor/mentee recruitment local and keeping the pairings in the hands of the coordinators (vs. self-pairing), we have the added advantage that the professional coordinator knows most if not all of the mentors and the student coordinator knows most if not all of the mentees. That allows us to consider other factors in the pairings such as personality, preferred teaching/learning styles, and common interests, which, we have found, makes for optimum pairings.  
Without a doubt, the better the pairings, the more successful the program.


We traditionally announce the pairings at a “kick-off” meeting in October that serves as an icebreaker for the new mentor/mentee pairs to get acquainted, as well as to plan how they are going to meet and communicate, establish the objectives of their mentoring partnerships, and identify the activities via which they plan to achieve those objectives by completing a mentor/mentee agreement form.


In 2011, 2012, and 2013, our mentoring program coordinators (Dan Voss and Sarah Baca in 2011 and Dan Voss and Bethany Aguad [then Bowles] in 2012 and 2013) were active on the Community Affairs Committee (CAC), leading its student outreach initiative. They participated in Leadership Day at the Summits in 2011, 2012, and 2013.  At the 2012 and 2013 Summits, Dan and Bethany distributed a comprehensive “guidebook” on student mentoring programs both in hard-copy form and on CDs at Leadership Day, and they also conducted informal networking with representatives of other STC communities interested in forming student mentoring programs, distributing more guidebooks and CDs. The material in the guidebook includes numerous articles and presentations on student mentoring programs—both face-to-face and virtual—and, perhaps most importantly, a complete suite of administrative tools such as mentor/mentee applications, mentor/mentee agreement forms, suggested mentor/mentee activities, contact logs, etc.  These tools are great time-savers for a community starting up a student mentoring program, because it keeps the program coordinators from having to “reinvent the wheel” so they can focus their energy on promoting the program and recruiting/pairing mentors and mentees.  When the STC France Chapter initiated a student mentoring program with the University of Paris in 2009, they found they were able to use the administrative tools from the Orlando/UCF program with minimal adaptation.


Although Dan and Bethany are no longer serving on the CAC and attending Summits, they remain active at the chapter level and are available and eager to assist and advise professionals and students in establishing and maintaining a student mentoring program. Dan is at daniel.w.voss at lmco.com, and Bethany is at bethany.aguad at gmail.com.


I’ve attached two documents that may be useful to you and to STC communities that are setting up student mentoring programs. (1) An article Bethany and Dan wrote for the STC-India newsletter Indus in conjunction with the STC-India conference in Goa in 2013, summarizing STC’s student mentoring initiative. (2) A .pdf of the 126-page mentoring program “guidebook” distributed at the 2013 Summit.  Dan still has several hard copies and CDs of this document, which we would be glad to forward to you or anyone else who is interested. The CDs have editable native files of the various forms and tools that can readily be adapted to meet other communities’ needs.


You can also find this material, as well as the guidelines and administrative forms for the OCF/UCF mentoring program on our website, at http://www.stc-orlando.org/education/mentor/mentor.asp.


Please don’t hesitate to contact us if we can be of any further assistance in planning your presentation/workshop on mentoring at the 2015 Summit. You are certainly welcome to use any of our materials if you wish to do so.


Debra Johnson, President

Orlando-Central Florida STC Chapter




Debra D. Johnson 

Technical Communication Lead | Information Technology Services | Knowledge Management  | Enterprise Content Strategy | Information Development  Delivery and Storage
Society for Technical Communication – Orlando Central Florida Chapter President

Wyndham Vacation Ownership 

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debra.johnson at wyn.com <mailto:debra.johnson at wyn.com> 


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