January 29, 2016

What Makes a Great Mentor?: Chatting with Chotsani West, M.A. ’07

Chotsani West

Chotsani West, M.A. ’07

Chotsani West, M.A. ’07, was an up-and-coming television producer in New York who mentored youth in her spare time when she realized that her volunteer work was in fact her calling. Her aha moment led to a bold career shift into education and social services and eventually an M.A. in Educational Leadership and Technology from Adelphi. In 2014, she came back to Adelphi to implement the Adelphi University Mentoring Program. This groundbreaking program is designed to enhance student academic success, particularly the success of students of color, many of whom may be the first in their families to attend college.

Recently, she shared her expertise about mentoring and mentoring programs.  

What makes a great mentor?

A great mentor has the ability to see things in a student or a young person that they can’t see in themselves. A great mentor is also able to recognize that a student may benefit from re-thinking his or her choice of a major and ask, ‘How can I support you in making sure that your passion, your gifts, your talents can lead to a career path you are passionate about?” In mentor training sessions, I talk a lot about active listening and how you don’t listen to respond, rather you listen to understand.

What makes a great mentoring program?

A successful mentoring program requires effective communication between the mentoring pairs and the leadership of the program. It must be student- or mentee-centered—meaning it needs to meet the needs of the people who are being mentored. Assessment is also extremely important for understanding how effective your program is.  

What supports do you have in place for mentors?

Aside from the formal mentor training, I check in with mentors at certain points during the program. We have group activities in which the mentors get together on their own to discuss issues. I also send out articles and resources that will help mentors stay-up-to-date with the latest trends in the world of mentoring. And, whenever possible, I acknowledge mentors for the great work they are doing. Recognition is key and is an amazing form of support for mentors.

What advice do you have for Adelphi students of color?

Come in with an open mind and be available to your experiences. You should definitely get involved. Know that your professors are available to help you, and don’t be afraid to ask them questions. Overall, be proactive in your undergraduate career and take advantage of the resources and supports that are here for you.

How has your Adelphi training helped you in what you do now?

My Adelphi professors were always tuned in to my career and being a working student, which has helped shape how flexible and adaptable I am with schedules and training, while still maintaining accountability. It also gave me insight into the culture of the University. I understood that faculty and staff had an open door policy and that they were very happy about the success that I had  in my career and life. It wasn’t just about the classroom.

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Adelphi University, New York, is a highly awarded, nationally ranked, powerfully connected doctoral research university dedicated to transforming students’ lives through small classes with world-class faculty, hands-on learning and innovative ways to support academic and career success. Adelphi offers exceptional liberal arts and sciences programs and professional training, with particular strength in our Core Four—Arts and Humanities, STEM and Social Sciences, the Business and Education Professions, and Health and Wellness.

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