Academic journal article College Student Journal

Mentoring the 'Net Generation': Faculty Perspectives in Health Education

Academic journal article College Student Journal

Mentoring the 'Net Generation': Faculty Perspectives in Health Education

Article excerpt

A new generation of consumer and tech savy college students have forever altered the method and degree of interaction between faculty and student. The purpose of the article is to describe the challenges of mentoring a new generation of health educators. The authors will summarize the literature on generational group characteristics that may affect how higher education faculty successfully interacts with and mentors the Net Generation. Discussion will focus on changes in the mentoring relationship to meet the needs of this generation. Strategies for specialized mentoring that best prepare future professionals for the job market are presented.


Mentor in Greek means to "advise wisely" and is one who shows intent, purpose, spirit, and passion when helping others. Mentoring is an active and engaging process that should happen frequently and does not have to occur within the confines of traditional mentorship programs. In college some students will actively seek out faculty mentorship and others who will shy away from it; regardless faculty are leaders with the responsibility to mentor every student through course instruction, career advancement, selection volunteer opportunities, and appropriate professional and ethical conduct.

Faculty mentors must possess a diverse set of characteristics and skills to guide this inspiring and powerful relationship. The most important skill in guiding student career decisions is that of listening to the future desires, goals, and personal aspirations. The time spent in career exploration, open discussion, and dialogue can enhance the relationship for both faculty and the student mentee.

Mentoring is a powerful process that involves connecting an experienced individual (regardless of age) with a person of lesser experience. Stanley & Clinton (1992) state that mentoring is "a relational process in which a mentor, who knows or has experienced something, transfers that something (i.e. resources of wisdom, information, experience, confidence, insight, relationships) to a mentoree, at an appropriate time and manner, so that it facilitates development or empowerment". In an academic setting, mentorship often involves connecting the elder trained professional with a younger aspiring undergraduate or graduate student; thus bridging the generational divide.

Mentoring is an essential process in the college educational experience shaped by the advancement of technology. Today's students expect to use technology in their everyday lives for accessing information, make college decisions, choices on a major or career path as well as everyday communication with peers, family, and college faculty. Regardless of distance to campus, the use of technology compels a review of mentoring practices and professional preparation for future health educators.

Generational groups tend to adhere to social, cultural, and historical characteristics that shape their common identify development (Brown, 2000). According to Oblinger and Oblinger (2005) a common classification system categorizes generations as distinct groups that fall into the Matures (1900-1946); Boomers (1946-1964); Generation X (1965-1982) and Net Generation/Millennials (1982-1991). In many instances, faculty members fall into the Matures or Boomers generational category. The student population, however, may cross all generations with the newest, the Net Generation, being distinctly different in their characteristics and learning expectations (Tapscott, 1998).

In an attempt to distinguish learners in the past from today's college student, Prensky (2001) uses the distinction of digital natives and digital immigrants. Digital natives grow up with technology and understand it as a part of daily life. Digital immigrants view technology as an innovation and grew up in an analogue world. An example to distinguish between the two is to ask people to find information about a restaurant, or to see if a bookstore carries a particular book. …

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