Mentoring Students

A few weeks ago, I attended UNI’s annual Student Leadership Recognition Awards Ceremony with students from the Hispanic Latino Student Union (HLSU), an organization I advise. One of my students, Joslyn, a freshman from Chicago, had been nominated for the Emerging Student Leader Award. Last week, the university photographer sent me a group photo of some of the ladies from the HLSU and myself. As I quickly placed the photo as my desktop background on my computer at work, I was smiling ear to ear with pride. I started to think about how these young women have been on an incredible leadership journey their freshman year of college and how I get to be a part of it.

When I started college, I didn’t have a mentor to show me the ropes. I was a first-generation college student and my family couldn’t answer my questions about registering for classes or what to get involved in, among many other things. When I attended UNI as a college student, there weren’t many individuals who looked like me. Thankfully, I was connected to some great Latino/a staff members on-campus who served as solid role models for me. Without them, I wouldn’t have turned into the adult I am today. It’s strange (and exciting) how the tables turn, and that I get to be the role model for young women I work with and especially with other Latina women.

Mentoring students has been a new role I have embraced this past year. I truly believe that the profession of Student Affairs allows me to be a holistic-type mentor, in helping students in all areas of their collegiate experience. Even better, I am learning more and more about mentoring multicultural students specifically. In my department, we have re-launched a mentoring program for multicultural students, and so I’ve been doing research on other mentoring programs at other institutions to be better informed and provide a better experience to incoming UNI students.

I’m really proud of the ladies who are members of HLSU because while they are carrying a message of cultural pride, they are also taking a stance on leadership as freshmen! I love their passion and determination to make their student organization successful, even through times of adversity and even when their leadership was being questioned because they are so young in age. These young women (and all my students, to be honest) give my life purpose and makes my work so meaningful to me.

Another student took the Emerging Student Leader Award that night, and the ladies walked over to congratulate him. As they hugged all their friends and peers who did receive awards, I thought how my students were already winners in my book. Before leaving the event, the ladies and I toasted to the good, the bad, and the ugly moments of this year because it turned them into better leaders (and me to a better advisor). We are all excited for the new adventures to head our way in the next academic year, and maybe next year…keeping their fingers crossed…they will be in the same seats again at this award ceremony, maybe with a cool trophy to take back to their organization.

"I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship."
Louisa May Alcott

Tabatha Cruz

Student Affairs - the First Years

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