Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to discuss the challenges and obstacles encountered in the implementation of a mentoring program for Master of Business Administration (MBA) students at the University of South Australia (UniSA) Business School. The paper starts with an exploration into the need for a mentoring program, the trial and subsequent four years of implementation. The paper also explores the network model of mentoring and the reasons why this, rather than a more traditional model, was chosen for the program’s implementation.
Design/methodology/approach – This exploratory case study uses data from over 600 students and their alumni mentors over a five-year period to evaluate and improve the program as well as cultivating a critical community of adult learners.
Findings – Feedback from students indicates that the mentoring program is regarded by most as a value-added feature of their early learning as it offers support, if and when it is required, from those who have been there before.
Research limitations/implications – Results are limited to one institution. However, as research into mentoring for higher education students is thin on the ground, this study contributes to our understanding of the positive impacts of mentoring on student success.
Practical implications – This paper emphasizes the importance of business leaders giving back to their alma mater through mentoring current MBA students. It shows how mentoring can support learning and management development.
Originality/value – This is an original study which explores ways to increase the learning of higher education students for positive social outcomes.
Mentoring has long been regarded as an effective means of cultivating good practice in work settings (Clutterbuck, 2014; Kram, 1988). The purpose of this paper is to explore the benefits of formal mentoring for higher education business students. Over 600 students and graduate mentors participated in the study and findings indicated that the program achieved its purpose of providing new students with the opportunity to work with alumni mentors and hence, add value to their Master of Business Administration (MBA) experience.
Conclusions and recommendations
What were we hoping to achieve? Did we achieve it? These questions were raised during each of our quarterly review meetings. Recent literature about formal mentoring programs is consistent in identifying success factors but less clear in determining how we measure success, particularly when it relates to subjective factors (Zellers et al., 2008). One possible way of measuring success is by the number of students who contact mentors after the initial workshop. If that is the case, we have not been very successful, as less than one-third of students sought ongoing support. Yet the feedback every time, after the first workshop, has been positive – students appreciated this session. So, we accepted the fact that the value was at the beginning and developed a new paradigm for success by using the analogy of an insurance policy – “being there” is a safety net for new MBA students.