January is National Mentoring Month. The GTI Mentorship Program aims to connect international students to working professionals in the NC State and local communities. Mentors are part of the PACK (Professional, Accessible, Compassionate, and Knowledgeable). Sandy Canfield is the assistant director of partnerships and resource development for the North Carolina Space Grant. She shares her thoughts about the benefits of mentoring in a brief Q&A.
Why did you decide to participate in the mentor program?
For over twenty years my career was focused in the international development field. I now represent a consortium of colleges and universities around the state to cultivate relationships with NASA and the aerospace industry. I was missing my global roots, and in addition have enjoyed prior elements of my career that included training, coaching and mentoring, so I thought that GTI would be a great fit for me.
What are the benefits of participating in the program?
I focus on aerospace at NCSU which is very heavy in engineering. Working with a student in the College of Textiles has reminded me to look around and recognize all of the great work that NCSU is doing in other colleges. Being involved in the program has also helped me to share my experience, such as my career path and the decisions that I have made, with an up-and-coming young professional. I believe that all students can benefit from such relationships, and there is an added level of understanding that can be provided to our global students about the American working environment, from writing a resume to earning how to express your knowledge, skills and interests to an American employer. On a more personal level, DaXian has been a joy to get to know both in terms of her academic pursuits as well as her personality. I have immensely enjoyed getting to know her and spending time with her.
What are some challenges to overcome?
The biggest challenge that we have had is finding the time to meet given both of our really busy schedules.
How does this program help you in your future career (for the mentee)?
I did not become involved as a GTI mentor to advance my career. I simply felt it important to share what I could as a broader part of my professional and personal commitment to engage with students. But I believe it is an asset that I will proudly include as my career advances.
Professionals have a lot to share that can benefits students, but looking at my experience through the lens of a global student of today has reminded me to keep my skills and means of communicating fresh and up-to-date.
What advice would you have for future mentors/mentees?
Make a time commitment to get to know your student both academically and personally. Take the opportunity to learn about a new culture whether its the food, the arts, the politics and economy or whatever interests you. Learning is a life-long endeavor and mentors have a lot to share, as well as a lot to still learn.
Why do you think other professionals and/or students should get involved in a mentoring program?
It is important to be part of a community. NCSU is a large ecosystem and being part of the GTI program creates a more intimate experience to network and explore. Students can benefit from having more experienced mentors who can give them their perspective on academic and career pathways, in addition to other parts of life such as family, work-life balance, etc. Professionals can benefit by being inspired by the energy and excitement of students. Being involved with DaXian has reminded me that there is still a lot in this world that I have yet to learn and explore, and that I can do so with fresh eyes and an open mind no matter where I am in my own career and life.
What have you learned from each other over the course of your mentoring relationship?
DaXian has helped me to find the best Chinese restaurants in the Triangle! She has also prompted me to look into research for biomedical bandages.
What are some of the highlights of your time together?
The highlight for me is her warm smile. She is such an engaging person and I simply enjoy her company. But I will never forget when her passport was temporarily lost, and how worried I was about her. My caregiver instinct kicked in!