Informal mentoring activities have always existed across the AJCU institutions, predating even the creation of the AJCU CITM. The formal CITM mentoring program had its roots in a problem raised in the 2006/7 academic year by Tracy Schroeder, at that time Vice President for IT at the University of San Francisco. She had several staff who she felt had strong leadership potential but needed mentoring to develop their potential. Tracy was reluctant to mentor people within her organization but believed, with the strong shared values across AJCU schools, that it would be possible to establish mentor/mentee relationships across AJCU institutional boundaries.
This suggestion was welcomed by several people at various campuses, including Ellen Keohane of the College of the Holy Cross, Jason Benedict of Fordham University, Chris Gill of Gonzaga, and Susan Malisch of Loyola University Chicago. This group, including Tracy, met in person and via conference calls, exchanged emails, and gradually developed a program involving formal applications to become a mentor or a mentee, a process of matching mentor/mentee pairs, and a proposed timetable. At the Business Meeting of the 2007 CITM meeting the group requested and received approval to pilot the mentoring approach.
A subsequent call for participation from Tracy and the matching process created five mentor/mentee pairs, with participation from seven AJCU institutions. The resulting experience was “magical” and “remarkable” according to comments from participants and the organizing committee.
The mentoring program was incorporated as a permanent activity of the CITM at the 2008 Business Meeting, with a charter to “provide AJCU member schools with an effective staff development resource for outstanding staff who, in the judgment of their sponsors, have leadership potential. The AJCU-CITM Mentoring Program will offer these staff the opportunity to develop their skills and broaden their perspective on the issues and challenges Information Technology professionals face in higher education.”
A committee of approximately seven CITM members oversees the mentoring program, and its responsibilities include: the development of the nomination and matching procedures for mentors and mentees; assessing the experiences of the mentors and mentees; and providing support and safeguards throughout the duration of the mentor and mentee relationship. The CIO of each AJCU institution may nominate two mentors and one mentee. The mentoring relationship is designed to last for six months with an optional six month extension, and it culminates at the annual CITM meeting.
The program remains effective to this day. There have been several changes of leadership, and membership, in the mentoring committee. Participation levels in the program vary from year to year, with shifts in the number of mentor volunteers, the number of mentees seeking a match, and the number of successful matches made, but virtually everyone who has participated as a mentor, a mentee, or a committee member views the experience as valuable and rewarding. Mentors credit their mentees with asking challenging questions which require the mentors to see themselves and their work in a new light. The mentees praise the program for giving them the opportunity to ask difficult questions in a trusting environment and to learn from experienced administrators who treat them as colleagues and partners.