Mentor-Connect continues to tap new faculty teams

By Madeline Patton

Program aims to improve technician education at community colleges

Mentor-Connect welcomed 25 teams led by two-year college faculty as its 10th cohort of mentee colleges during a virtual meeting this month.

Twenty states are represented in the 2022 cohort, including South Dakota. It is the first time a South Dakota college has been involved in Mentor-Connect.

Broadening the geographic diversity of mentee colleges is woven into Mentor-Connect’s goals to help educators from two-year colleges prepare competitive proposals to the National Science Foundation’s Advanced Technological Education (NSF ATE) program. ATE focuses on improving technician education and Mentor-Connect’s cohort mentoring is available to faculty from institutions that are new to ATE and individual faculty members who have not previously had ATE grants.

Broadening reach

With this new cohort, Mentor-Connect will have provided cohort mentoring to 382 faculty members and 221 other mentee college employees – either grant writers or administrators – who participate on the mentee teams. The teams have been from 210 two-year colleges in 42 states and two U.S. territories.

The 2022 new-to-ATE cohort includes 50 two-year college faculty members and 32 grant writers or administrators.

Each faculty-led Mentor-Connect team will receive nine months of mentoring from an educator with experience developing and implementing successful ATE grants.

“Mentors are the secret sauce that make Mentor-Connect and you successful,” Mentor-Connect Principal Investigator Elaine Craft told the new mentees.

A proven path

Thirteen of the 15 mentors for the 2022 cohort were formerly Mentor-Connect mentees and then participated in Mentor-Connect’s Mentor Fellows program. This high ratio of former mentees serving as mentors is another milestone for Mentor-Connect’s regenerative cycle for cultivating leaders among community colleges’ science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) faculty.

“It is exciting to now have these individuals mentoring prospective ATE mentees and to see these ATE leaders advance technician education in this special way,” Craft said.

Cohort mentoring participants also benefit from Mentor-Connect technical assistance and the knowledge of Mentor-Connect senior personnel, as well as the other Mentor-Connect mentors and mentees who they interact with during two in-person workshops.

Ellen Hause, co-principal investigator of Mentor-Connect, told the new mentees that Mentor-Connect’s instruction is designed to build their grant-writing skills and project leadership capabilities.

“We want to inspire, energize and prepare you for a long relationship with the NSF ATE program and for any subsequent grant awards. What you learn over the next year is transferrable as you respond to other NSF funding opportunities and you will also learn how to design good projects that lead to funding from other sources,” Hause said.

Hause, who is program director of academic and student affairs at the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), emphasized leadership development.

“We teach you grant proposal strategies, and simultaneously your mentor will work with you to guide your proposal writing and submission. Throughout this process you’ll be learning and practicing skills that develop you as a leader….Be prepared to amaze yourself. Your growth as a leader may jump exponentially as you implement your first ATE project.”

Mentor-Connect is an ATE project hosted by Florence-Darlington Technical College in South Carolina in partnership with AACC. Craft praised both organizations for their support of Mentor-Connect since it was initially funded in 2012.

The application for 2023 cohort of new-to-ATE mentees will be available on Mentor-Connect’s website in July 2022.

In addition to cohort mentoring, Mentor-Connect offers Second Chance Mentoring for faculty whose proposals to the Small Grants for Institutions New to ATE were declined and Moving Up Mentoring for faculty who have had a Small Grant for Institutions New to ATE and want to propose a larger ATE project. April 1 is the deadline for applying to these shorter duration mentoring services.

This article originally appeared in CC Daily.

Madeline Patton

is a contributor to the 21st-Century Center.