UND Learning and Development perfecting craft of excelling internally through its Mentoring Program -- and a little help from friends who’ve been there
The University of North Dakota’s Learning and Development Department, part of the Human Resources Office, encourages continual professional development of University staff members.
Of the numerous services it offers, its “StrengthsFinder” initiative and Mentoring Program are relatively new ones.
StrengthsFinder is an assessment comprising 177 questions to help identify individuals “Top Five” (of 34) Signature Themes. These themes help people discover their own work and motivation methods and how others perceive them. Questions range from: “Do you prefer to go to the movies or stay home?” to “Do you prefer to think through a process or just act?”
The assessment has proven to be useful in identifying certain tendencies in people. And with more than 14 million people worldwide having taken the assessment, UND Learning and Development is confident in its usefulness.
While taking the assessment comes with a small fee, the coaching and results evaluation that comes with it is free of charge and can be administered by Carrie Herrig, coordinator of UND Learning and Development, based on the third floor of Twamley Hall.
Taking the StrengthsFinder evaluation is open to staff and faculty of the University. If you are interested in learning more about StrengthsFinder, contact Herrig at 777.0720, or via email at carrie.herrig@UND.edu.
Herrig feels a real sense of pride in her work and values her position at the University. She knows education doesn’t stop at a college commencement speech.
“I’m playing a role in helping somebody realize potential,” Herrig said.
In 2013, UND Staff Senate began discussing the possibility of a Mentoring Program for staff at UND. After some discussion, the Senate decided the program needed to be passed on to a department that could do the legwork and research necessary to help the program grow: enter UND Learning and Development.
Working closely with the Staff Senate, Learning and Development, under Herrig, oversaw the implementation of the Mentoring Program. The four-to–six month process included reading articles and books about mentoring, viewing webinars and observing mentorship programs at other universities to see what worked and what did not.
A pilot program was launched in fall of 2014 and participants were given near-complete freedom to perform the responsibilities how they saw fit. They got to choose their own mentors, how often they met with them and what their end goals would be. After the first trial period, it was clear a few changes needed to be made.
“What we learned is that there needs to be that healthy balance,” Herrig said. “We need to provide that structuring framework for setting people up to be successful, yet at the same time be hands off enough that they can truly learn, grow and connect in their own ways.”
After making some adjustments, the official yearlong Mentoring Program launched in May of 2015. And with 11 new mentoring pairs eager to begin the program, a “kickoff” event was held soon after.
The event was designed to introduce both mentors and mentees to mentoring and how it should be conducted. In June and July, both mentors and mentees were encouraged not to talk about the program. Rather, they were asked to get to know each other to begin building relationships might aid them in the mentoring process.
Afterward, both mentors and mentees received final orientation sessions where they’re given instructions on how best to complete their responsibilities. After the sessions were complete, the mentoring pairs were on their own until January.
In January, a “midpoint check-in” was conducted. Designed to give the mentoring pairs the chance to learn from each other’s experiences with the program, it serves as the final training opportunity before mentoring pairs begin preparing for graduation.
Upon graduation, the mentors and mentees gain valuable insight and skills for excelling at their current position or a new position they’re striving to obtain. Of the 11 mentoring pairs to begin the program, nine completed it. In May, a new group of nine mentors-and-mentee teams began their yearlong mentorship journey.
The feedback from the graduates and the continued application submissions from new mentors and mentees prove the value offered by the program.
With several people from various positions across the University involved -- from directors to vice presidents serving as mentors, UND Learning and Development looks to guide the program into the future with continued success and new graduates.
Matt Eidson University & Public Affairs student writer