Book By: Lois J. Zachary
Review By: Rachel Nottingham Miller
Center for the Study of Higher Education
Curry School of Education
University of Virginia
Lois J. Zachary provides an informative resource for mentors and advisors in The Mentor’s Guide: Facilitating Effective Learning Relationships. In defining the mentor as a “facilitative partner in an evolving learning relationship focused on meeting mentee goals and objectives” (p. 161), Zachary acknowledges the central role of learning in mentoring. Evoking the imagery of horticulture, her book skillfully guides readers through the process of preparing to become a mentor, the phases involved within the mentoring relationship and the reflection necessary for personal growth. Though written for mentors, many of the concepts, exercises and case studies presented are widely applicable to the advising. Three ideas that connect well with the work of the academic advisor are considering context, preparing the relationship and nurturing growth.
According to Zachary, considering the context involves taking into account the comparison between the mentor’s and mentee’s perspectives. The chapter entitled “Working the Ground” examines cross-contextual situations such as long-distance mentoring relationships and mentoring a culturally different mentee. Zachary emphasizes that the mentor must pay careful attention to assumptions made in these challenging circumstances. Nuances of communication are often lost in long distance relationships, making misunderstandings common. Ethnic differences require that mentors develop “flexible cultural lens” (p. 42) to appreciate the unique contributions of the mentee’s traditions while simultaneously recognizing that there is much individual variation within cultures.
Continuing her horticultural metaphor, Zachary compares preparing the relationship to “tilling the soil” (p. 65). Within this first phase of Zachary’s mentoring model, attention is paid to defining the roles of the mentor and mentee, uncovering assumptions about the relationship and working through the initial conversations. Advisors would be helped by paying attention to Zachary’s advice in this chapter as this phase is “critical to building and maintaining the relationship and forging the connections that sustain the relationship over time.” (p. 65).
A third area applicable to advising is found in Zachary’s third phase of mentoring. Nurturing growth includes creating a learning environment to support the mentee’s attempts to reach his/her learning goals. Building and maintaining the mentoring relationship by fostering respect, trust and communication are crucial to nurturing growth. In this chapter, Zachary includes a useful chart to assist the mentor in providing feedback to the mentee. For advisors, this phase of the relationship would be the longest, requiring continued time and attention.
Transferring the ideas of mentoring to advising is not a seamless process. For example, attention is given to cross-cultural exchanges while cross-generational relationships are not addressed. The book’s foundation is in adult learning and assumes that both the mentor and the mentee will be at a similar developmental stage. For many academic advisors this is not the case. Additionally, some of the difficulties in mentoring would be minimized when applied to academic advisors. For instance, much space is given to the final phase of the mentoring relationship in which the mentor and mentee choose to terminate their formal relationship. Deciding when and how to achieve closure with a mentee may be a difficult process. For advisors, however, rejoicing with a graduating advisee makes the closure process much easier. In spite of these minor incongruities, this book would be very beneficial to academic advisors seeking to improve their relationships with advisees. This book would be a tremendous asset to an advisor-training event and would be helpful for all academic advisors.
The Mentor’s Guide: Facilitating Effective Learning Relationships. (2000). Book by Zachary, Lois. Review by Rachel Nottingham Miller.
San Francisco. Jossey-Bass, 224 pp. Price $30.00. ISBN # 0-7879-4742-3.