Saturday, January 5, 2008

Mentoring for the Future

Champlain College is awakening back to life. The students who are taking mentorship positions are back to campus in training. Likewise faculty and staff are preparing to welcome the students into this shining new semester. An amazingly full plate confronts us at the Emergent Media Center with a very busy upcoming week.

This past week a small team of faculty and myself have been crafting a new degree program proposal. We spent two full days brainstorming; working with input from our external advisory board gathered before the holidays. One of our defining moments was after a full day of construction. We realized that we needed to pinpoint what the students who will enter this degree will call themselves. We knew what type of brain sets they would possess, what the students would be looking to become as far as skills and intellect are concerned and what the domain they would be entering is but what would they call themselves? 

The challenges are different when you are designing degree programs for firmly established fields. An accountant-to-be is an accountant. A graphic design student is a future graphic designer. Each comes with time-tested definitions and areas of craft. But what about the students who will be creating new fields and pushing existing ones? How does one define them and their expertise? Creative technologists is a term being used but that is too general at the moment for our mission.

This at its essence is identifying with the future as mentors. The road to the future can sometimes seem straight forward like a bright clear day. However more often that not it is obscured with occasional brilliant moments pointing out potential pathways. In creating a new degree program one must identify those bright directions and the skills and intellect needed to create and build upon those directional markers.
I have been fortunate to have mentors in my life who have helped me craft a future for myself and for the young people I work for. This morning, contemplating this, I have been thinking about what a mentor does for the men-tee. A mentor is not necessarily a teacher but is a guide. A mentor may not have the skills that the men-tee is seeking. Stronger still, a mentor is interested in promoting and developing the eventual path of the person being mentored. Often this means opening doors that lead to directions worth exploring. True learning coming from the individual recognizing discovery. It also means sharing or giving the lime-light to the person being guided. It is a uniquely selfishly unselfish act.
In essence this is what we were doing this week—creating doorways through which young people may define future media technologies and modes of communication. They in turn will be our guides. So what did we decide these students will call themselves? Innovators, developers, designers who work within emergent media. Emergent media? Networked, interactive, participatory communications. In the end it all boils down to building community.

1 comment:

Coberlin said...

Too late to change to Information Design?