Become a Mentor

Mentors are essential to the professional and personal development of new policy professionals. Through Chicago Harris’ innovative Mentor Program, public policy graduate students benefit from the experiences, insights, and support of three kinds of mentors:

  1. First Mentors: early- to mid-career Chicago-area policy professionals who lead small affinity groups of first year master’s students.
  2. Senior Mentors: high-level Chicago-area policy professionals who provide mentoring and support to two First Mentors and act as a resource for a first year affinity group.
  3. Second Year Mentors: policy professionals who mentor one second-year master’s student. Second Year Mentors can be at any stage of their career, and live either in or outside of the Chicago area.

First Mentors
First Mentors provide invaluable support and guidance to our first-year students. As early career professionals (and often Harris alums), First Mentors are uniquely equipped to provide students with insight on the courses, internships, and skills that will be most beneficial when launching their career in public policy.  First Mentors help students clarify their career interests, develop professionalism skills, and build connections and community at Harris.

First Mentors mainly interact with students through affinity groups. Each group has approximately five students. Two First Mentors whose professional experience aligns with the group’s interest lead each affinity group.  The affinity groups are also matched with one Senior Mentor, who is a high-level policy professional.

Why Become a First Mentor?
First and foremost, becoming a First Mentor is an opportunity to inspire future public policy professionals and to make an impact by sharing your professional insight.  As someone who started their career not too long ago, you know how important it is to get advice from people who’ve gone through the same process.

As a First Mentor, you’ll also be gaining your own mentor. The Senior Mentor’s role is to advise and support the First Mentors, along with the students in the group. You will also meet many other exceptional Harris mentors through the Mentor Program, which will help you to continue to grow your professional network.

Finally, being a First Mentor helps keep you connected to the Chicago Harris community. Your insights and advice will not only shape the students in your group, it will also guide Harris’ programming and curriculum.

Time Commitment for First Mentors
The affinity groups will meet one to two times per quarter. Some of these meetings will be discussions facilitated by the First Mentors. Others will be panel or lecture events on professionally relevant topics, and some will be social and networking events. Some will be on the Hyde Park campus, and others will be in downtown Chicago. The First Mentor pairs will also be responsible for planning one event for their group during the year – this can be an outing or activity or even just dinner at a restaurant. There will also be a yearly kickoff event – generally in early October - where mentors meet their mentees for the first time. We estimate that First Mentors will spend about two hours per month at events.

Outside of formal group events, we hope that First Mentors will be available to their mentees for advice and support. This may take the form of emails or phone calls, and some First Mentors and Mentees may wish to meet in person separately from the group. This kind of connection is tremendously helpful to students, but we understand that our First Mentors are also busy professionals. The amount of contact you have with your students outside of formal group events is up to you.

The term for First Mentors is one academic year – September through June. First Mentors will be recruited during the summer months. First mentors will receive their affinity group and co-mentor assignments and bios in September.

Senior Mentors
Senior Mentors are high-level policy professionals who know what it takes be a great mentor and often have extensive mentorship experience. They draw upon this experience to guide the First Mentors and help them to become more effective mentors. This role allows the Senior Mentors to have a broader impact without increasing the time commitment.

In the first year of their master’s program, students are placed into affinity groups by career interest, with about five students in each group. Each group is led by one Senior Mentor and two First Mentors, who are early- to mid-career policy professionals. The primary role of the Senior Mentor is to provide guidance and support to the First Mentors, but Senior Mentors will also connect with the students in the affinity group.

Why Become a Senior Mentor?
Serving as a Senior Mentor allows you to give back to Harris in a way that is both significant and time-efficient. The Senior Mentor role allows you to mentor five students and two First Mentors without demanding more of your time than a traditional mentoring relationship with one student. The affinity groups are structured so that students will come to First Mentors for most of their needs, engaging the Senior Mentor when needed.

Serving as a Senior Mentor connects you to the other mentors in the program- a network of nearly 200 public policy professionals at all levels, which can serve as a ready-made pool of talented people to draw upon for hiring and professional expertise.

Time Commitment for Senior Mentors
The expected time commitment for Senior Mentors is about one hour per month.

The affinity groups will meet one to two times per quarter, but First Mentors will not attend all of the meetings and events with their groups. Throughout the year the Mentor Program will host events, including panel, lecture, social, and networking events. Some of the events will be on the Hyde Park campus, and others will be in downtown Chicago. While Senior Mentors will be invited to these events, they are in no way obligated or expected to attend. We do ask that Senior Mentors attend the yearly kickoff event – generally in late September - where mentors meet their mentees for the first time.

Outside of formal group events, Senior Mentors are welcome and encouraged to meet or correspond individually with the students and First Mentors in their groups.  While this kind of connection is tremendously helpful to students, we also understand that our Senior Mentors are busy professionals. The amount of contact you have with your students is up to you.

The term for Senior Mentors is one academic year – September through June. Senior Mentors will be recruited during the summer months and will receive their affinity group assignments and bios in September.  Senior Mentors are also encouraged to serve as Second Year Mentors in the same year if they are able. 

Second Year Mentors
Second Year Mentors are policy professionals at any level who mentor one master’s student in their last year of enrollment at Harris. Most students will be in their second year of a two-year program and will have been in an affinity group in the previous year, while others are enrolled in one-year master’s programs. Second Year Mentors can be at any stage of their career and can live either in or outside of the Chicago area.

Matching for Second Year Mentors and mentee pairs is incredibly important. Factors such as career interest and experience, personality, and other identity characteristics are considered in an attempt to make the strongest possible matches. Geographic location is also a key variable in the matches. While some students prefer a Chicago-area mentor, students who are targeting a specific city or region for work after graduation benefit from being paired with a mentor who lives in or has a network in that area.

Why Become a Second Year Mentor?
Second Year Mentors have an opportunity to form a substantial relationship with a public policy student and make a real impact on that student’s life and career. Second year students have had the time and support to clarify their career interests, so their needs are much more likely to be aligned with what their mentor can offer. Second Year students who have participated in the first year affinity groups have also gained some basic professionalism skills and have seen firsthand the value of a mentoring relationship, and are therefore more likely to be actively engaged with their Second Year Mentor.

Being a Second Year Mentor helps keep you connected to the Chicago Harris community. You will have the opportunity to connect (in person and virtually) with the other mentors in the program- a network of nearly 200 public policy professionals at all levels. Additionally, your insights and advice will help to guide Harris’ programming and curriculum, and we often invite mentors to speak on panels, give guest lecturers, and engage with Harris in other ways. 

Time Commitment for Second Year Mentors
The time commitment for Second Year Mentors is about one hour per month. We ask that mentors connect with their mentee once a month – either in person (if possible) or via phone or video chat. A few times each quarter, mentors and mentees will receive an email newsletter with a suggested topic of conversation (e.g. networking, job search tactics, leadership development). These newsletters will serve as a reminder to connect with your mentee and can also help to break the ice in your first few conversations. You are not obligated to stick to the suggested topics – they serve only as a guide.

For mentors who are in the Chicago area or are otherwise able, we also ask that you attend the yearly kickoff event – generally in late September - where mentors meet their mentees for the first time.

The term for Second Year Mentors is one academic year – September through June. Many mentors and mentees remain in contact for many years after the student has graduated, and this is, of course, an ideal outcome. Mentors will be recruited during the summer months and will be notified in September of their assigned mentee and sent his or her bio.

Second Year Mentors who are able are also encouraged to serve as First Mentors or Senior Mentors in the first year affinity groups.


How to Get Started as a Mentor
To express your interest in any of the mentor roles in the Harris Mentor Program, fill out a profile. If you have any questions or want to talk further about becoming a mentor please contact Kate Shannon Biddle, Senior Associate Director of Student Affairs, at kbiddle@uchicago.edu or at 773-702-4753.