University of Calgary

Mentorship program

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taira and lisa

taira and lisa at the fountainWomen guide women in
new mentorship program


By Nicole Ouellet

The close bond between Taira Hutchings and Lisa Wickens is rare among students and working professionals—and the Women’s Resource Centre at the University of Calgary is working to change that.

Hutchings, a young professional at Canadian Natural Resources Limited, and Wickens, a recent graduate of the Faculty of Communication and Culture, first met in February at the kick-off for Women Guiding Women, a mentoring and leadership program organized by the Women’s Resource Centre.

The program—now in a pilot phase—is designed to match professional women with graduates who are seeking mentorship as they transition from university life to the workplace. Using personality testing, facilitators pair 10 mentors with grads who have different personality types than theirs. The goal is to help both graduate and mentor learn how to work with personality differences.

The program also aims to illustrate how it is important to listen to your own personality, values, interests and attitudes when choosing a profession, an employer, a work environment, leadership styles, dealing with co-workers and finding work/life balance.

The centre’s executive director, Stephanie Garrett, BA'04, identified the need for a mentorship program for women after attending one in Oakland, California.

“The program [at U of C] was created to address a need: female students had concerns over how to facilitate the transition from university to career, and wanted to sort out goals and planning surrounding life events such as motherhood and balancing a career,” says Garrett.

For Hutchings and Wickens, the program has been life-changing. It has helped them both to redefine their definition of success in the workplace and in life.

“This has been an amazing learning experience,” says mentor Hutchings. “One of the big misconceptions when a student leaves university is that they know exactly where they are going to go. But really, the students are feeling lost and not sure what is best for them.”

The program helps others learn from your own experience, she adds. “At Canadian Natural we believe that it is very important to work together to develop people both professionally and personally—this is why we support the Women Guiding Women mentorship program.”

Wickens says that without Hutchings as a mentor, she would still figure things out—eventually. But the support she has received has quickly cleared up many questions and doubts she had about her transition.

“I have learned from Taira that you can combine your passion with your career and make it whatever you want it to be. It’s very empowering to realize you can do whatever you want in life.”

The pilot program will wrap up in June and officially launch this fall. The Women Guiding Women program is accepting monetary donations to sustain activities and monthly meetings between the mentors and recent graduates.

If you are interested in becoming a volunteer, a mentor or a sponsor, drop by the Women’s Resource Centre, call 220-8551 or email women@ucalgary.ca.