Megan Katchmer entered the OHIO Women’s Center’s Mentoring Program seeking networking and advice on how to stand out to potential employers. Katchmer, a junior studying international business and an only child, also sought the kind of supportive relationship she never had for lack of an older sibling.
“I’ve always wanted some sort of a mentor,” Katchmer says. “I thought having someone to help me with my career path would be helpful and a good way to become more confident.”
Katchmer’s mentor is Beatrice Selotlegeng, director of the College of Business’s junior executive business program. Selotlegeng, MBA ’08, also is the coordinator of the college’s diversity recruitment and retention program and served as interim director of the OHIO Women’s Center in 2007.
Throughout her career, Selotlegeng has made mentoring bright, young students a priority. In fact, she’s a returning Women’s Center mentor.
“The key lesson is to know that I don’t know it all,” Selotlegeng says. “There’s always something that one can learn from one’s mentee. I’ve learned after doing this for some time that you have to be able to let go and let the mentees really fly.”
Katchmer and Selotlegeng intend to make their monthly mentor meetings as stress-free as possible.
“We agreed that this relationship is going to be a friendly one. It’s not going to create any stress—it’s going to be enjoyable and we’re going to learn from each other,” Selotlegeng says. “It doesn’t mean we’re not going to achieve the goals we set; we’re going to achieve those. But we really want to do it without any extra stress for ourselves.”
Katchmer says her original expectation for a mentor was someone to help her grow professionally and network within the College of Business. Katchmer says she wasn’t prepared for Selotlegeng’s kindness and mindfulness.
“I booked an appointment with my advisor yesterday to go over my junior audit to make sure I graduate on time,” Katchmer recalls from early fall. “I came in [a day later for my meeting with Beatrice] and she had already done it for me. She was like ‘I got you covered!’” Katchmer says with a laugh.
Both women want their relationship to extend beyond the length of the program. Selotlegeng says her goal is to be a positive influence on Katchmer.
“From a mentor’s perspective, when someone signs up to be mentored, you’re making a major statement,” Selotlegeng says. “The young woman is saying that she wants to grow in every respect: personally, professionally and … academically.”
More mentoring , please
OHIO’s Mentoring Program started in 2009. The goal is to give female students confidence, opportunities, and insight about their professional field and personal life through a female mentor. Mentors come from all walks of life: alums, faculty, and staff, graduate students and Athens area professionals. The relationships empower both mentor and mentee.
The benefits of women’s mentoring programs have gained nationwide attention. Catalyst, Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting inclusive workplaces for women, found in a 2012 study that 65 percent of women with a developmental mentor paid it forward by becoming mentors to young professionals. In addition, 30 percent of the surveyed male mentors were mentoring women, while 73 percent of female mentors were developing female talent.
At OHIO this fall, 143 women were paired as mentees and mentors, a significant increase from the 20 to 25 pairs in past years, said Geneva Murray, director of the Ohio University Women’s Center. She also restructured the program so there are more mentee/mentor check-ins and a way for students to network inside the program.
“The idea is that we have 72 young women who want the same thing; they want to be successful—however we’re defining success—and want to make an impact on the world,” Murray says.
The role Texas Tech’s Women’s Studies director Gwen Sorell played as Murray’s mentor was as someone who encouraged her to try new things to promote personal and professional growth. Prior to her death in 2011 from cancer, Sorell gave Murray a gold bracelet, one that Murray often wears.
“Whenever I think about our mentoring program, I think about Gwen and what she gave me,” Murray says. “I know not everyone will have that same experience because we all have different personalities and need different things from a mentor, but I hope they feel fondly about their mentor years from now. I hope when they’re sitting in their professional job, they can say their mentor helped shape them.”