By: Lucinda Aborn, Ph.D.; Jill Baker, Ed.D.
CAPED launched the second year of the Mentorship Program in September 2017. The program is designed for new Director/Coordinators in the California Community Colleges. CAPED’s Mentorship Program (CMP) brings the expertise of CAPED Leaders, DSPS Solutions/Interwork Institute and the Chancellor’s Office to provide the mentorship pairs with best practices, training and individualized support. The CMP completed its second year with many successes and measurable outcomes. The California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office provided funding for the 2017-2018 second year program continuation. Dr. Lucinda Aborn continued as the Coordinator for the CMP overseeing project activities from July, 2017 through June 30, 2018.
The CAPED Mentorship Project (CMP) provides training and support to newly hired Disabled Student Programs and Services Directors (DSPS). New DSPS Directors, called Protégés, are matched with experienced DSPS Directors, called Mentors. The following is a summary of the activities conducted by the grant during the second year.
Activity on the project began in July and August with building the Canvas Course structure and training topics that would support interaction and learning. In September the CMP Coordinator attended the Chancellor’s Office New Director’s Training. Protégé profiles were gathered and Mentors were matched according to region, expressed areas of need for expertise, campus size and other factors. Over 25 new Directors indicated an interest in the program. Mentors were recruited from a pool established from last year’s program. The CMP began with 25 Protégé/Mentor pairs who represented all 10 regions of the state. Twenty-two of the pairs completed activities to the end of the project year.
In June 2017, a comprehensive evaluation survey was administered to the mentors and protégés participating in the CAPED Mentorship Program. The survey consisted of quantitative and qualitative questions addressing the specific parts of the program.
Communication is essential to any successful mentorship program. Mentors and Protégés meet on a regular basis to provide support and share knowledge through a variety of modalities. Meetings can be face-to-face, or virtually via phone, text, video chat or email. Approximately a third of the pairs reported being in contact 4-6 times during the project year, while a quarter were in contact 7-9 times and another quarter were in contact 10-15 times. Most pairs used email (36%) and telephone (40%) to communicate. Twenty percent of pairs met in person.
Mentors and protégés rated the effectiveness of the mentorship match, which both groups found highly effective. Both groups reported some difficulties and challenges with making the relationship work, with the mentors reporting slightly more challenges, most of which were related to workload and having time to meet. Both groups reported positive outcomes resulting from their relationship and building connections with other DSPS directors and coordinators. Both groups cited a strong sense of appreciation for having each other, and for using each other’s skills, thinking, and problem-solving abilities. Some cited the relationship as a perfect match. More than nine in ten protégés responded “yes,” they would be keeping in contact with their mentor in the future. Mentors responded similarly, with eight in ten responding “yes,” and the rest indicating that they “may” stay in touch. Most mentorship pairs used a Mentorship Agreement to guide their interaction and establish goals for their interaction.
The project conducted four training activities: meetings in pairs, two “face to face trainings” and a Canvas Course site. When asked to rank the CMP Activities according to most beneficial to their learning, participants prioritized them in the following order, placing personal interaction with mentor/protégé at the top, followed by the two face-to-face training sessions that also included personal interaction.
Participation in the “face-to-face” trainings and the Canvas Course site were the two activities which Mentorship pairs found most helpful in developing their knowledge. Training in the CMP course site was delivered in six modules addressing the primary areas of responsibility of DSPS program management. Topics reflecting the most growth included Budget and Fiscal Resources and Personnel Management.
Open-Ended Response: Additional Feedback and Comments
An open-ended question was posed to the protégés to gain additional feedback regarding their application of knowledge gained from participation in the program. Specifically, they were asked to provide an example of how they used their new skill set and knowledge to address something at work. Two findings emerged:
- Understanding of Budget and Fiscal Management: Several responses included protégés commenting on their increased knowledge of the budget and fiscal management. The outcomes of this new skill set in some cases resulted in increased funding for DSPS programs by their college. Some of the comments included:
- “Was able to take knowledge of budget and (college) matching to help advocate for DHH funding for next year”
- “It was through gaining a deeper knowledge of the regulations, understanding the implications for /if /when there is an OCR visit, and greater knowledge of the allocation process and staffing at similar sized institutions that I gained institutional support to pay for this (a new position) with the majority of general funds.”
- “I’ve taken some of the budget tips and set up a shadow budget for this next fiscal year. Before, things were a little fuzzy as to the y-t-d (year to date) budget since our system has some glitches and lags.”
- Shared experiences to gain confidence: Some of the responses indicated that having the new skill set and knowledge allowed them to gain self-confidence to resolve problems and implement best practices.
- “I have implemented some of the recommendation(s) that we have learned in the conferences at the DSP&S office in my respective College. I have learned best practices, laws and regulation(s) to improve the day to day operation of DSP&S.”
- “It has been great just knowing what all college(s) do and to interact and see what areas we all find difficult and what areas we just needed a recommendation to resolve the concerns. I found the experience very helpful and would recommend it highly.”
Culminating Thoughts on the Mentorship Experience
The survey provided the opportunity for both mentors and protégés to reflect on the positive outcomes of the mentor/protégé relationship via open-ended questions and targeted questions on outcomes. Using the combined analysis of these data, the following two themes emerged:
- Mutual Learning: Both protégés and mentors commented that learning took place from participation in the mentorship program. They expressed the positive feeling of being able to establish a network of professionals with whom they could continue to grow and problem-solve on the job. Both groups noted mutual respect and continued growth as they maintained contact throughout the year. Some of the comments included:
- “Networking relationships developed. We learn from each other as we explored questions together as well as the challenges”
- “The most powerful thing about this whole experience is that it reminded me that I wasn’t alone in my DSPS Director-related challenges and that many others have or are having similar experiences/challenges.”
- “Although I was the mentor, I learned much from my protégé”
- Better Equipped to Perform my Job Duties: As indicated by the six module topics and the open-ended questions, both mentors and protégés indicated they were “better equipped to perform” their job duties because of the program. Participants were asked to rate their level of agreement with the statement:
- “After participating in the CMP I am better equipped to perform my job duties.” Thirty-nine percent of respondents selected “Strongly Agree” and 41% selected “Agree”. The combined percentage of 80% indicates that mentors and protégés viewed their participation in the program as having better equipped them to perform their job duties.
Overall the CAPED Mentorship Program was successful in meeting the outcomes stated in the original proposal. The work plan was carried out with modifications. The evaluation evidence indicates the learning outcomes were achieved and met the expectations of the services and knowledge foundation for new DSPS Directors. There were unintentional positive outcomes which benefited the Mentors in their careers as they learned best practices. CAPED plans to continue organizational support for the CMP activities into a third year. The Chancellor’s Office has approved funding for the 2018-2019 year.
CAPED Officers Council and DSPS Solutions have provided additional support for this important partnership with the Chancellor’s office. CAPED looks forward to member support of the CMP. For more information about the CMP, contact Lucinda Aborn, CMP Coordinator, at: firstname.lastname@example.org.