To continually provide meaningful and evaluation-driven programming, Words Alive commenced on a seven-month Dialogues in Action (DIA) project to analyze the impact of our Words Alive Westreich Scholarship (WAWS) program using a blended qualitative and quantitative evaluation model. Through this process, we had an opportunity to view our program through the lens of the scholarship recipients, past and present, and their mentors to determine opportunities to enhance our program delivery.
Throughout this process, we identified eight findings and then brainstormed ways we could update and improve the program based on these findings. Here is the fourth finding!
Face-to-Face: Facetime with mentors means stronger rapport, greater success
Through interviews with both students and mentors, we found that mentorship was key to success for the scholars in the program. Scholars who reported a close bond with their mentor, established through frequent meetings, not only were more likely to follow through on their mentor’s advice but also felt like they weren’t “alone.”
Conversely, students with long-distance mentors struggled to form an attachment to them. Scholars and mentors alike reported awkward Skype interactions and missed phone calls. Simply put: Without having to look someone in the eye, it’s easier to flake. These factors made it difficult to build rapport, resulting in relationships that hinged solely on obligation.
“I think it would definitely be easier if it was a closer distance. We’re mostly limited to phone calls,” one mentor said. “When she is in town, it’s often pretty brief but I think our interactions go better in person.”
One pair built a strong rapport despite the distance. The difference? They were able to meet in-person when possible:
“[My mentor] would go above and beyond to meet me where I was at. If we were meeting, she would come to me a lot of times. She would take trips to San Francisco to visit her niece and then stop by and see me. Having her support made the biggest difference. My parents couldn’t come visit me, but she did – and it was such a comfort.” – Scholar, age 24
Trust is the fundamental building block of all successful relationships – and the mentor/mentee relationship is no different. But trust is built over time and difficult to establish in a phone call. Without that element of trust and essentially, rapport, mentees have difficulty opening up, asking for help or placing value on the resources offered. On the flip side, mentors feel like they are prying or stepping out of bounds when trying to follow up or hold their mentee accountable.
This finding indicated that impactful mentorships underwent a period of relationship-building first – and that happens best face-to-face.