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The Inclusive Excellence Podcast: What makes mentorships meaningful?

In this episode of the Inclusive Excellence Podcast, Erin Sember-Chase and Toral Patel are joined by longtime Cornell colleagues and alums Barbara Oh, Ph.D. ‘17 and Cate Thompson ‘83 to discuss mentorship and how it has enhanced their personal and professional experiences at the university.

Thompson is the director of the Pre-Collegiate Summer Scholars Program, and Oh is the associate director of the Health Professions Advising Center. The pair met at the Learning Strategies Center at Cornell and instantly felt a connection that transcended their work life, forging a mutually fulfilling mentorship relationship.

“Mentoring for me feels very organic and natural,” Oh said. “It's the people you're drawn to, for whatever reason. There's some shared life experience or commonality. Throughout my time at Cornell, the mentors I’ve had were all people who took a minute out of their busy schedules to care. It's about going beyond a job description and caring for that human side of people. And so, Cate and I have done the work to build our relationship and establish vulnerability and trust in being open.”

Thompson and Oh share the benefits of not only finding a mentor but becoming one and how mentorship enriches the professional development of mentees while presenting the opportunity for mentors to grow as well.

“Being a mentor helps me stay young as a professional because I have to put myself in someone's shoes regularly,” Thompson said. “It takes learning, thinking and listening on my part as not only a human being but a professional. And I'm grateful for that piece because I think it's very easy when you've been in an organization for decades to not remain an active learner.”

For Thompson and Oh, their mentoring relationship offered the chance to build a friendship while using support from one another to excel professionally. Establishing this mentorship took time and commitment but has proven to be a rewarding experience for both. When it comes to mentorship, Oh explains there are many ways that it manifests and that it relies on a genuine connection with the other person.

“Understanding and deeply seeing someone take tremendous effort,” Oh said. “The other person has to feel seen and heard for that understanding to take place. And mentoring relationships don't always have to be top-down with someone older or more experienced. They should be horizontal and diagonal and down and up because we each have areas we excel at, regardless of age, experience or background. Mentoring is all about being a little bit more creative and artistic.”

Whether a seasoned professional or just starting a career, tune in to hear Barbara and Cate’s insights on the importance of active listening, understanding and bridging generational gaps when it comes to mentorships in Episode 77: What Makes Mentorships Meaningful? Visit to access the episode and transcript

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