Reflections on mentoring, or was that sponsoring???

On Wednesday afternoon I was honored to be a part of the WILD ( mentoring panel. Prior to the event I searched through over 20 years of documents on mentoring. Being mentored, mentoring and providing lessons on how to choose a mentor have been strong elements of my life. Beyond career, I believe that asking for guidance and guiding others (when asked), is essential to personal growth. The panel and participants helped me to articulate the mentor relationship and the organic flow from learner to teacher.

To reflect, I have been mentored through formal mentor relationships which I initiated, and those that were impressed on me. The challenge for me was to identify a mentor expert that had strengths in a variety of desired growth areas. It took me years to realize that the “to do” list and “best practices” for a mentor/mentee relationship were simply not a fit for who I am and my needs. At that point I adopted a “collectors” attitude and began to collect mentors on a variety of skill, social, and expertise areas. This approach worked for me because I found that experts come from a variety of professions, genders, and ethnic backgrounds. Narrowing the feedback for lifetime growth to one person was not fair to them or my growth. Now I reach out and ask one person to connect about the background or politics of a situation and another about a skill I need to acquire. Occasionally, I ask for a referral or introduction to individuals that have skills or connections where the new relationship would lead to a growth opportunity.

At the panel discussion I was reintroduced to the term “sponsorship” by the esteemed Barbara Jordan. What is a sponsor in this context? According to a New York Times author it is “a powerfully positioned champion — to help them escape the “marzipan layer,” that sticky middle slice of management where so many driven and talented women languish” ( I love this definition. It is a great fit for the many talents (Rock Stars!) I have been blessed to work with in my career. It reminds us to lift each other up and reminds me to have a commercial for talented individuals so I can promote their work to others. Sponsoring others is an essential part of who I am and what I can bring.

Further, I am reminded how scary it is to ask someone to sponsor you. Honestly, that may be the hardest ask, and the most beneficial. I will continue to maintain my cadre of mentors because I need them and hope I can help with their development in return. My current goal is to move to the next level and begin to intentionally sponsor and, when needed, ask to be sponsored.

This Life…. Not A Tag Line

This Life… Not A Tag Line

There is nothing better than a political season filled with high energy and rhetoric. No, really!! I enjoy the energy of a heated political debate about communities, the state and nation. When candidates discuss the issues in deep and respectful ways, when mindful consideration is brought to the forefront, I go to my happy place.

During the early months of the candidacies I have noticed a tendency to keep the discussions shallow, not going in depth. Narrowing the discussions to the point of a tag line. The media then picks up the tag line and runs with it… Hold on, the issues we have in our communities, our state, our country are serious. Does a tag line really reflect our concerns – could it possibly capture a solution to the complex concerns we face?

Over the next few months it is my hope that we can dig a bit deeper, discuss at a more complex level, explore more than platitudes and identify options. Even identifying that some solutions are unknown would seem more honest to me as I listen to the debates and considerations for our future.

I know my life is more complex than a tag line….

The wonder and exceptional creativity of a child

The wonder and exceptional creativity of a child.

A couple weeks ago I was invited to visit STEM Camp at Riverside Elementary. The camp is a delightful opportunity for children to engage in courses designed and taught by professionals in the Rochester Elementary Education program; the WSU- Rochester Graduate Induction Program, the Teacher Preparation Collaborative; and recent graduates of each program. The students were busy building, creating, and being allowed to fail. Yes, I said it! The students tried one approach and then another. So often we forget that part of creativity is failing. I recently read a posting on raising creative children and was struck by the great recommendations and how they play out in camps like STEM camp ( Summer is a great time for camps, exploring, creativity, and celebrating failure!


Partnership Basics

Partnership Basics

I was asked to re-post my thoughts on partnering. The basics for partnership:

  • Developing and maintaining the partnership requires work. Show up, address concerns before the concerns turn to problems, and never assume your organization is the only option for your partner. I refer to this as the “no entitlement rule”.
  • Partnerships benefit all partners. The partnership is about more than money and should have an outcome that benefits students. I refer to this as the “no extortion rule”.

I truly appreciate the variety of thoughts and creative problem solving approaches that are only possible with diversity of opinions, life experiences, and world views.

Great partnerships result in fiscally responsible organizational structures.

Great partnerships create the best outcomes.

Great partnerships are the future, a sustainable future.

What Women Want, In Physical Space


What Women Want, In Physical Space

In 2007 I earned my PhD at the University of North Dakota. My dissertation included research on how rural women utilize built environments for physical activity. There are a number of lessons from my research that inform my thought process as I consider my work with the DMC Heart of the City committee. Specifically, what are the elements of spaces (built environments) that are important to women and how does that help everyone feel welcome? Indulge me for a moment.

I found that women perceived streets and roads as conducive to outdoor physical activity. Themes that influenced the women’s choices of built environments emerged as safety and maintenance.

Perceptions of safety were influenced by the presence of other people during outdoor physical activity, poorly maintained built environments, traffic control, seasonal issues (e.g darkness), and wild animals. Structure issues included condition of built environment and traffic control. One woman referred to safety being an issue based on the “numbers of people around, numbers of cars around, depending on where you are walking, low incidence of crime and those who would be out to prey on others”.

Living with extended periods of darkness also posed a concern. The winter darkness issues impacted those who chose to walk early in the morning or after work. When communities have limited or no artificial light source to penetrate the darkness of winter, the spaces are not conducive to use.

Furthermore, poorly maintained built environments impacted the willingness of women to utilize build environments. Women defined poorly maintained as broken-up or cracked sidewalks, un-shoveled sidewalks, and icy sidewalks or streets. Further, women identified safety concerns related to traffic (e.g. fast moving traffic or limited in the frequency and number of vehicles using that road), the dangers associated with those concerns were fear of being hit by traffic or fear of being harmed due to isolation.

What does all of this have to do with how we develop spaces in Rochester? I believe considering safety and long term maintenance will impact the short and long term usability of the spaces we develop. Safe and maintained spaces are welcoming. Women bring their families to welcoming spaces and come back time and again. Spaces like this do not just happen, they are developed. Planning and input from those who are most influenced by safety issues will ensure that everyone feels welcome. Let the development begin.

Civil Discourse and Questioning

Civil Discourse and Questioning

The political season is off and running! I love the passion and opportunity to hear about future ideas and plans for our country (state and community). High season for civil discourse (I hope!). Asking questions to better understand the opinions and life experiences of those in our community and country is key. I have been thinking about what questions I have to expand my understanding, which has lead to more reading of documents and articles. How can we stay civil with a country so divided? Then I found and was intrigued by the National Association of School Psychologists statement on violence ( One of the six statements was that “Other people’s perspectives matter”.

Other people’s perspectives matter. The very nature of civil disagreement is to acknowledge respectfully the views and experiences of other people and learn from differing perspectives. Adults can start by reflecting on their own experiences and how these shape their interactions and reactions. They can help children to do the same and ask questions of each other, rather than hurl accusations. Adults can create safe spaces for youth to share their feelings and concerns while also exploring how they might feel and act if they were in someone else’s shoes.”

This document is for schools, however, I believe there is a societal lesson. We should encourage individuals to share their lived experience, how these experiences “shape their interactions and reactions”. Which leads me to ponder,,, even question.

Where are the places, who are the people, and how can we engage in civil discourse? Where do we start?


Blessings and Renewal

imageBlessings and Renewal

The schedule is packed, things to do, people to see, more to get done. Work work work! Wait a minute, what about relaxing, taking a deep breath, perhaps even renewal? The work versus relax dilemma has always been a tough one for me. Part of it is upbringing and part is I just like to be productive, and I really like my work and my colleagues.
Growing up on a small farm in northern Minnesota was a gift to me. I learned how to work hard, not to take the ability to work for granted, and to make hay while the sun shined! Literally, we made hay when the sun shined!! When your formative years are busy with farm work, the responsibility and continuous planning, doing, evaluating cycle defines you.
Entering into my career I found that every new person and experience brought an opportunity to learn something new. I loved the learning, the challenges to my beliefs, and knowing that humanity could be so beautiful and intriguing. Engaging with colleagues, growing together, and creating great opportunities for students is a great way to make a living, lucky me! So, why bother with relaxing?
Last week I was enjoying some time away from work, relaxing and reflecting on my year, my family, and life. That busy life and schedule I choose to have and enjoy, does not allow for reflection. Thinking time, just contemplating can be so important to putting big world issues and small local dramas into perspective. I am blessed to have time to work hard and to relax. Not everyone is given the opportunity or ability to work or relax. A blessing. Ah, renewal.
Thank you for being a part of my small world and remember to take a deep breath for you are a blessing to me.