Perspectives on ‘Mentorship as Leadership’

The second annual Women’s Leadership Symposium on October 24 wove together meaningful speeches, practical advice, and participation from industry experts, workshop facilitators, and attendees both on campus and across the country.

MBU students, masked and distanced, gathered in the Student Activities Center to watch live-streamed keynotes and participate in Q&A sessions.

Three keynote speakers gave insight into their unique perspectives on leadership and mentorship, telling stories from their careers and summarizing key take-aways for the audience to put into practice in their own lives. 

A live Q&A followed each speaker so both in-person and virtual attendees could engage directly with the experts. 

MBU students also had the opportunity to attend break-out sessions and workshops during the day where they gained tools to help them prepare for entering the job market after graduation.

“I knew that the different guests and speakers would offer priceless advice on how to expedite my confidence in being a strong, working woman.”

Courtney Rosenstadt ’23

“I would say that my mother, Dr. [Carey] Usher, and other strong women in my life influenced me to participate in the symposium, because we as women should learn from each other.”

Savanna Nobles ’22

Speaker Dara Beevas ’02 placed her remarks firmly in the context of 2020 and all its challenges, looking back to her time at Mary Baldwin and thinking about the questions, fears, and plans her college-aged self would have been experiencing.

Throughout her talk, she identified three ways of being in the world and working through challenges: survival mode, hustle mode, and, finally, purpose mode. The first two are important to acknowledge, she said, but unsustainable. 

“We often move along doing the thing we’re supposed to do, instead of doing the thing that we are called to do,” Beevas said.

The third option, purpose mode, is the path to conscious and effective leadership — and also the source of productive mentorship. It opens people up to curiosity, growth, and stretching themselves toward new challenges.

“In purpose mode, you are centering the voice inside, who already knows where they should be in this moment, and they know why,” Beevas said.

Watch Beevas’ full talk here.

“The world is starving for your leadership, your creativity, your ideas, and your willingness to have tough conversations.”

Speaker Dara Beevas ’02, publisher and author

“It was really meaningful to me when speaker Dara Beevas asked us to ask ourselves ‘Where am I being called?’ It was something that I had to actually sit there and think about. I am so focused on getting my degree that I haven’t asked myself ‘Is this my calling? Do my personal values align with this career?’”

Jasmine Matthews ’21

Dr. Leigh Frame ’06 was the second keynote speaker for the symposium on the theme of mentors and allies in healthcare. She gave advice on how to find an effective, knowledgeable, and available mentor in the healthcare world, and how they can help their mentees develop into healthcare leaders. 

“Mentorship is many things including sharing knowledge,” Frame said, “and then inspiration — how you can inspire others to become a leader or change healthcare or get into the healthcare field initially.”

She identified different types of mentoring — coaching, guidance, and inspiration — and the strategic value they each bring, together with shadowing a healthcare professional to absorb what the career is like day to day.

Thinking about attendees who are interested in joining a healthcare profession, Frame gave tips on different introductory and entry roles that are available, and on staying persistent.

“The moral of the story is just keep trying,” she said. “Don’t be discouraged if your mentor doesn’t respond to you at first. Don’t be discouraged if being a hospice volunteer didn’t work out for you. Try something else.”

Watch Frame’s full presentation here.

“There are so many kinds of positions in healthcare that you have to find the one that’s right for you. And this is also true of your mentor, you have to find the right mentor or mentors for you.”  

Speaker Dr. Leigh Frame ’06, integrative medicine researcher and program director

“It really meant a lot to hear Dr. Frame speak about the many challenges and wins she has faced in her field, all while providing such impactful advice to those of us seeking healthcare-related careers.”

Emily Carroll ’18, administrative assistant and graduate student at MBU’s Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences

MBU students had the opportunity to participate in sessions and conversations on career preparation, nontraditional mentorship, men as allies, networking for their first job, and salary negotiation; here facilitated by Nell Desmond, director of the Vantage Point, MBU’s office of personal and professional development.

“I am in a place where I would love to mentor anyone that would need to know all about my expertise in my field of dentistry. I have so much knowledge that I’m ready to pass on to anyone who would benefit from it. I want people to love what they do.”

Janitza Rivera ’99, assistant office manager, Smiles for Life

“I’ve always looked for mentors in the careers I aspire to. The advice of looking for mentors outside of your own career space was interesting and not something I had previously considered.”

Megan Chambers ’05, corporate integrated marketing manager, Publix

The final speaker for the symposium — Wendy Foster, former president and CEO of Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Eastern Massachusetts — opened her talk with a few questions: “What is mentorship? And what is leadership? And what do they have to do with one another?”

To answer them, she drew insight from her career serving as CEO of one of the largest youth mentorship programs in the country. 

“Mentoring is a relationship between two people,” she said. “The relationship aspect of mentoring is really important. The mentor and mentee work together toward a shared goal of helping the mentee develop and grow.”

Foster’s approach to leadership is the concept of servant-leadership that puts the needs of the people and organization first.   

“My definition of leadership is seeing how something can be improved and rallying people to move toward that better vision,” she said. “Servant-leadership is mentorship, mentorship is developing servant-leaders in others.”

Examining her career pivot from the corporate to nonprofit world, Foster spoke about finding her cause in the injustice of under-resourced children, and how Big Brothers, Big Sisters defends the potential of those children through transformational, long-term relationships. 

Foster herself has worked with a young girl, Shanell, through the program, and they have been mentoring each other for nine years.

“Mentoring can extend privilege and social capital to create more access and more equity for youth and for adults,” she said. “I think that is a great example of mentorship as leadership.”

Watch Foster’s full talk here.

“I think of mentoring as being an act of love. Not in a romantic sense, but love in a social or moral sense. It’s an altruistic and generous act to share of yourself, to help another person grow and achieve greater things for themself.”

Speaker Wendy Foster, former nonprofit CEO

“Immediately, what resonated with me is Wendy Foster who emphasized ‘potential is everywhere but opportunity is not.’ I see this on a day-to-day basis with the amazing, young, and bright students I interact with — doing more for others and bridging the gap between education and employment so that there are opportunities for all students to be successful.” 

Bibianna Herrera-Paniagua ’16, counselor and program developer

The second annual Women’s Leadership Symposium is made possible through the generous support of Donna Dearman Smith ’70 and hosted by Mary Baldwin College for Women.