A Guide to E-Mentoring

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What Does the Relationship Accomplish?

Protégés benefit from a range of opportunities, beginning with the option to simply obtain information about a specific design profession or education process, and extending to the opportunity for a longer term online e-mentoring relationship that can provide ongoing information and support.

This longer term e-mentoring option can increase the protégés knowledge and information about the profession, offer supportive contacts within the profession, and offer assistance in devising strategies for setting and attaining the protégé’s personal goals.

Mentors will have the satisfaction of sharing personal experience and knowledge, and may have fun in sharing a protégé's curiosity, enthusiasm and personal growth. They may learn as much as the protégé!

Mentors and protégés will participate in "breaking the ice", and dispelling myths about both disability and design.

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What is the E-Mentoring Process?

The e-mentoring process involves a supportive relationship between a mentor and a protégé. The mentor, through e-mail communications with a protégé, will provide a range of information, support and referrals as needed or requested by the protégé. The mentor is an experienced design professional and the protégé is a post-secondary student who is interested in design or entry level design professional with a disability. Examples of information and support provided include:

  • Provide information about a specific design field or fields, and about the design education and professional internship or certification processes.
  • Introduce the student or entry level professional with a disability to their chosen field of design and provide ongoing support.
  • Discuss how to handle disability when self-promoting with design schools, potential employers, or potential clients.
  • Discuss how to request and negotiate accommodations.
  • Develop a professional camaraderie.
  • Discuss and research issues of universal design.
  • Provide a forum or sounding board for problem solving, regarding issues of disability in professional life or educational settings as well as issues of universal design.
  • Make referrals, and identify entry points of potential internships or projects.

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What Does it Take to be a Mentor?

Mentors willingly offer information, contacts, challenges and support to the protégé through e-mail communication. The mentor must be a design professional, one who is educated in design and/or experienced in working within a design profession. Design includes architecture, computer-aided design, industrial design, graphic design, information design, interior design, landscape architecture and design, transportation and urban design, web design and related areas. Mentors may come from a variety of design backgrounds and may have experience in private practice, academia, government or non-profit organizations.

  • A mentor may be disabled or non-disabled. If non-disabled, the mentor may need information and resources available from the project to help to educate themselves about disability and its implications in the design fields. The mentor must be willing to look for the protégé's strengths and interests, and to counsel, not try to “fix" the protégé.
  • Ideally the mentor should work in same field of design as the protégé's expressed interest.
  • Time commitments: Some protégés may simply want information about the mentor’s profession, design education programs or the professional certification process. These contacts may be short term and require only a few emails. However, for those who are interested in a longer term e-mentoring relationship, we anticipate there will be a time commitment of no more than an hour per week over the course of one year. This may expand or contract as needed and as agreed between the mentor and protégé.
  • For more specific information, see the What are the Responsibilities of a Mentor? section below.

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What Does it Mean to be a Protégé?

A protégé is willing to learn and must be interested in obtaining information and support in accessing a chosen area of design, design education, or professional practice through online email communication. A Protégé must be a student in a post-secondary design school or college; a person who is interested in design and contemplating becoming a student in a post-secondary design school; or an entry level design professional.

  • While it is expected that many protégés will be interested in an ongoing e-mentoring relationship, some may be interested only in obtaining information about various design fields or design education, or request short term advice or guidance.
  • The protégé must have a disability, and should self-identify as having a disability. This may be an ongoing process depending on how recently the individual became disabled.
  • Time Commitment: while some protégés may be interested in simply receiving general information or short term guidance, others may request an ongoing e-mentoring relationship and may anticipate communicating with their mentor by e-mail on a regular basis over a one year period. The length of time will be discussed in the introductory meeting. As the relationship develops, the time may expand or contract as needed or as agreed between the mentor and protégé.
  • For more specific information, see the What are the Responsibilities of a Protégé? section below.

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What are the Responsibilities of a Mentor?

The effective mentor offers information, contacts, challenges and support. The mentor assists in the protégé's goal-setting process by offering questions, advice and role modeling. The mentor conveys and reinforces expectations while respecting the protégé's preferences, abilities and choices. The mentor helps the protégé understand that disability and difference can work to one's advantage, as design is about finding creative solutions to challenges and problems. The mentor listens openly and gives fair and honest feedback. The mentor may wear several hats, including coach, teacher, advisor and friend.

  • Respond to your protégé's e-mail inquiries in a timely fashion. This is critical to developing a relationship.
  • Be willing to discuss issues of disability as well as design. For more information about disability issues, consult the resources available on this site and through Adaptive Environments and contact the Mentorship Program Coordinator.
  • Be open, patient and positive in response to all questions.
  • Assist with referrals and professional networking. Use the resources at Adaptive Environments/Institute for Human-Centered Design if you need any assistance.
  • Share articles or other sources of information.
  • Share successes and failures in discussing real life stories. We are our stories; these are some of the most powerful tools we can share.
  • Consider your protégé's confidentiality when appropriate.
  • Suggest rather than dictate.
  • Mutually agree on a schedule that includes frequency of contact and the duration of the formal mentorship.
  • Contact the E-Mentoring Program Coordinator with any issues, problems or questions.
  • Participate in an evaluation of mentorship administered by Adaptive Environments/Institute for Human-Centered Design.

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What are the Responsibilities of a Protégé?

The effective protégé is open and direct with any question. The protégé discusses personal goals and remains open to advice. The protégé listens as well as seeks to be heard. The protégé shares new ideas and personal strategies for problem solving, goal setting and achieving success. The protégé is open to feedback and demonstrates respect and appreciation.

The protégé may wear several hats, including student, seeker, listener and friend.

  • Respond to the mentor’s e-mail inquiries in a timely fashion. This is critical to developing a relationship.
  • Respect the mentor's use of time.
  • Communicate openly with your mentor; freely asking questions – even those that you think are stupid!
  • Follow through on referrals.
  • Follow through on advice from the mentor.
  • Display willingness to do research.
  • Check in on a mutually agreed schedule that includes frequency of contact and duration of formal mentorship.
  • Be specific in your needs and desires, and reasonable in your requests.
  • Respect confidentiality when appropriate.
  • Be receptive to feedback and advice, do not discourage it.
  • Contact the E- Mentoring Program Coordinator with any issues, problems or questions.
  • Participate in an evaluation of the mentorship, administered by Adaptive Environments/Institute for Human-Centered Design.

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Protocol for the E-Mentoring Relationship

Adaptive Environments/Institute for Human-Centered Design and the E-Mentoring Program Coordinator will respond to inquiries about the Program, and will send those interested in participating as a mentor or as a protégé a brief, one page “Background Questionnaire” through e-mail. The information in the Questionnaire will be used to assist the Program in identifying a potential match between mentor volunteers and protégés, and to assist in providing a brief introduction between the parties.

If a potential match is made the Program Coordinator will host an on-line electronic meeting where brief introductions will be made, and where the mentor and protégé will be encouraged to share personal interests, career interests, education, disability, involvement with design professions, etc.

If during this introductory meeting and discussion, the mentor and protégé decide they are interested in continuing communications, either for a short informational exchange or a longer relationship, they will exchange e-mail addresses with one another. After this brief introductory session, the mentor and protégé will communicate directly by e-mail. In this initial meeting after getting to know something about the others interests, mentors and protégés should establish a schedule for contact and establish an expected ending date for the formal relationship.

Formal e-mentoring relationships can be short term, requiring only a few e-mails between the participants, or they may last up to one year. The duration of the relationship will be established by the participants and can be extended for up to a year if both the mentor and protégé agree.

The formal mentoring relationship will be conducted via e-mail. Mentors and protégés are advised to keep a file of their communications for ease of reference and use during the evaluation process at the end of the formal e-mentoring relationship.

Other forms of contact are not a part of the formal e-mentoring relationship.

Any other contact, via phone, TTY or other social technologies, or face-to-face, must be agreed upon in advance by both the mentor and the protégé through e-mail communication.

Mentors and protégés should contact the E-Mentoring Program Coordinator for advice or for assistance if any problems arise. They should also notify the Coordinator of the end or termination of a mentoring relationship. The Program Coordinator will contact protégés and mentors, from time to time, to offer assistance and monitor the progress of the mentoring relationship.

Protégés are also encouraged to use the International Network of Designers with Disabilities, utilizing the list-serv or blog when appropriate.

Refer to the Access to Design Professions website for updates on the project.

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Getting Started

Contact Ruth Lusher (rlusher@ihcdesign.org) to share personal information with Adaptive Environments/Institute for Human-Centered Design that will assist us in making a pairing. This will be primarily through a questionnaire.

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Evaluation

At the termination of the formal relationship, Adaptive Environments/Institute for Human-Centered Design will ask participants to respond to a written questionnaire. We will limit our questions so that the responses will not require more than 20 minutes to complete.

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