Students And Alumni Strengthen Their Careers In Mentoring Program


This past week I had the pleasure of speaking with two of the most involved and dedicated individuals from the Tri-Mentoring Program (TMP) at Ryerson University in Toronto.

Ghazala Knight, a third-year politics student, is the Leadership Development Liaison at TMP, and Brad Deokie, who graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce in 2011, and now works as the Chair of the TMP Alumni Association.

Students at Ryerson are placed in the program through applications during orientation week and the numbers have been steadily increasing due to the success of the program and a high demand for expansion.

As the Leadership Development Liaison, Ghazala works with the mentees who have a high potential for leadership. She helps organize and run events to give them the necessary skills in order to further develop their leadership abilities. One of the more recent events was the annual Leadership Symposium, a one-day event that focuses on facilitating the development of students’ leadership skills through guest speakers, community partners and workshops on confidence, leadership and self-awareness; largely soft skills that are more difficult to cultivate within the academic side of school.

Brad, the Chair of TMP Alumni Association, explains that the association was developed in May of 2012, and is currently establishing their foundation documents, constitution and executive strategy in order to move forward. Ultimately, Brad keeps his team of 10-15 on track in terms of alumni relations and hopes to bring in graduates of TMP to be included in the Alumni Association. Brad also aspires to help bridge the gap for graduates and would like to stay involved with the program to create a successful support network.

Ghazala and Brad filled me in on what has made this mentoring program so successful at Ryerson:

The program likes to set up mentors and mentees in a 1:1 ratio. Stronger students may sometimes take on two or three mentees, but ideally TMP likes to stick with a 1:1 ratio to provide the best support possible.

Ghazala explained how they are able to achieve such a personal ratio, “Mentors are usually students who were mentees, sometimes not, but often they went through the process so they know how to be a good mentor.”

Brad elaborated on the type of person who may be interested in sharing their skills as a mentor: “This depends on what the [mentee] needs, for example, someone in their career stream, someone with the same major or someone for advice on a specific situation. They should provide general guidance; someone who is a good listener easy to connect with and, in general, who has a lot of life experience.”

Ultimately, mentors are there for whatever their mentees need them for including, but not limited to, personal issues, managing stress at school, finding jobs and networking.

Ghazala says her favourite part of the mentorship program is the development students’ leadership portfolios; taking something and allowing students to grow through something other than their academics. The program provides support from a community separate from academia for all aspects of their lives.

Brad says he really likes what the program stands for: “It’s always a place where you can go and feel connected and welcomed.” You can gain advice when you need it or offer advice to someone who does need it and really give back within the TMP and Ryerson community.

The stats don’t lie: TMP has experienced constant growth. After celebrating the program’s 10-year anniversary last year, there were over 2,000 mentors and mentees involved.

Aside from the growth in numbers, you can also see students grow and develop close relationships with their mentees and other members of the program. Success is also measured through the number of alumni who come back to participate. Membership statistics are always important when looking for funding or support from admin and even other alumni, but the real measure of accomplishment comes from the amount of engagement; to what extent are the members immersed in the program?

A great example is the Live2Lead conference, a workshop on leadership roles in the workplace. Both the alumni and members (mentors and mentees) are involved and speakers even threw it back to the audience to get everyone engaged in the conference; it was almost like a conversation.

Both Brad and Ghazala believe that everyone can benefit from TMP or similar programs, and they have personally grown into more confident professionals because of it.

Brad’s advice is to be fully involved and immersed within this type of program. You should be really passionate about what you get involved in and don’t just attend conferences to be there – attend to be engaged and participate. A lot of the students participate in the program for the full four years, first as mentees and then as mentors. Others use it to transition to other clubs at Ryerson, but most are engaged and involved with the program for the duration of their university career and that is ideally what TMP is meant for.

But the program is not just a matter of meeting with your mentor one-on-one; the TMP office is also a place for mentors and mentees to meet and interact with each other and everyone is there for support or just a friendly conversation. The program helps students transition to university life, meet friends, develop leadership skills and is a great platform to cultivate their passions, whatever they may be.

Photo credit: Brian Ujiie