Mentorship Beyond Academia – Dr. Melissa Muindi’s Mentorship Journey

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Dr. Melissa Muindi, a mentor at Strathmore University, embarked on her mentoring journey in January 2013. Her path to mentoring began unexpectedly when she received an email from the mentoring department announcing the inception of the university’s mentoring department. The call to become a mentor resonated with her, leading her to join the program in July 2013, marking the start of a transformative journey.

Throughout her mentoring tenure, Dr. Muindi has cultivated a structured approach, drawing from positive psychology’s principles to support her mentees. Using a “signature strengths project,” she identifies her mentees’ top strengths through quizzes and assigns them tasks related to these strengths. This structured method not only benefits her mentees but also assists her in managing her mentoring initiatives effectively. One of her mentees, Simons, was assigned to visit a  patient unknown to her at a hospital of her choice. After researching  the meanings of different flower colors, she selected a yellow bouquet and carried it to the  hospital to meet  a stranger. Unfortunately, the first hospital  denied her permission, so she went to the second hospital where she met a patient, who was a stranger but coincidentally, an alumnus of Strathmore University.

Balancing work, mentoring, family, and education hasn’t been a simple feat for Dr. Muindi. However, she’s crafted an open-door policy, making herself accessible for discussions over a cup of tea or via messaging platforms like WhatsApp. Her approach is rooted in prioritization, managing urgent and important tasks while constantly striving for balance.

Interestingly, some of Dr. Muindi’s mentees don’t come through the formal mentoring department but find their way to her through casual interactions or recommendations. For instance, Simons became Dr. Muindi’s mentee after her previous mentors left the institution, demonstrating the personal connections she fosters beyond formal arrangements. Eileen form tells how she became Dr. Muindi’s mentee. “Honestly, mentorship is generally a great experience. My first mentor, who was really nice and very encouraging,  was from SIMS  but she left SU.” When she left, Eileen talked to someone from the mentorship department and she was advised to  get another mentor.
“I randomly started asking my classmates, ‘who’s your mentor’? When they mentioned Dr. Muindi, I enquired, ” what kind of mentor is she?” “She’s amazing. She’s great,” one of my classmates responded. Although I hadn’t met her, I said to myself, “I’m trusting this and trusting the process.” So I reached out to her, and it has been an amazing journey since second year.

Dr. Muindi’s  mentoring philosophy also emphasizes the importance of mutual engagement and participation. Sheencourages active involvement from her mentees, emphasizing that mentorship is a two-way relationship and shared responsibility  rather than a passive experience. However, mentoring is not without its challenges. Dr. Muindi faced a significant emotional hurdle when one of her mentees tragically passed away. This heartbreaking experience led her to reflect on the purpose of mentoring and the need for her own support system to navigate such emotionally taxing situations. ’’Losing a mentee made me so intentional about figuring out who my support system is within mentoring. So then when I feel low, or that things are not going the way I would like, I can share with someone. I have been able to get mentorship from other support systems that I have. If I don’t work with  other people, I think I Would crash because you can’t operate on an empty tank.  With mentoring, I find that I’m giving off my time, resources, and  energy and so I have to be very intentional about filling my tank so that  I don’t end up in a situation where I’m operating on empty.”

Throughout the journey, Dr. Muindi’s commitment to her mentees is evident, not just in guiding them academically but also in instilling values of self-compassion and understanding. Her approach goes beyond academic mentorship, focusing on holistic personal growth and well-being.The impact of her mentorship isn’t solely reflected in academic achievements but also in the emotional growth and self-awareness of her mentees, emphasizing the profound and multi-dimensional nature of mentoring relationships.

Simons and Eileen encourage everyone to get a mentor and walk with them through this life. In a mentor, you get a mother, a big sister and many more. Do it!

 

Article written by Teresa Nekesa

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