Mentoring forms the heart of the Milestone Institute’s academic programme, providing individual pastoral care to students in each year group. Mentors support their students’ intellectual development, motivation and emotional welfare; they are there both to represent the students’ interests and to guide them through tough decisions. Mentors are usually subject-area experts in fields that are relevant to the student’s interests or personal development. They are aware of the opportunities available to students in each year group, as well as the path they should follow in order to excel in their chosen field. Mentors weave the various threads and layers of the programme together to make sure the student gets the most out of the Milestone experience.
Mentoring is primarily focused on providing students with a customised education that best suits their interests. Mentoring generally takes the form of a conversation where student and mentor explore questions and answers to a given topic through discussion. Through such exchanges, the student acquires a variety of skills and explores a range of ideas, most importantly learning to question his or her own assumptions while maturing intellectually.
Mentoring is built on independent learning: students are expected to prepare set tasks in their own time. Mentors assist in this process of autonomous research and knowledge acquisition, laying foundations or complementing the process with more difficult material based on the progress of the student. Some sessions may be entirely dedicated to talking about a personal problem, others to exploring a particular text or discussing a research project, practicing for a presentation or reviewing application material written by the student.
A core tenet of mentoring is the notion of ownership, the idea that education should not be looked upon as an externally imposed duty, but rather the outcome of the students’ own motivation and goals. To this end, identity formation and the idea of play form the core of mentoring. Students are often placed in simulated environments – asked how they would make policy decisions, design a research project, curate an exhibition, or approach problem solving creatively – in order to dispel the notion of ‘obligation’ and replace it with a sense of playfulness. At Milestone we firmly believe that such a playful environment creates a social reality that allows students to explore multiple perspectives, where the mix of creativity and seriousness inherent in games can thrive, and where mistakes are prized higher than success for the educational lessons they offer. It is in this manner that mentors help the students come to think of knowledge acquisition as having intrinsic value.
Mentoring at a glance:
- Number of mentoring sessions/year: 12
- Number of mentoring sessions per term: 4-8
- Length of mentoring sessions: 30 to 60 minutes
- Preparation time expected of the students: 1 to 4 hours per week
- Tasks: tasks are always discussed during the mentoring session and sent via email ahead of the next session
On Site/Off Site Option
For students who do not reside in Budapest, or who have valid reasons for being absent, Skype sessions are an option. Beyond these exceptions mentoring always takes place on-site.
Cancelled Sessions, Lateness and Incomplete Tasks/Coursework
Communication and due notice are key to the mentor-student relationship. Cancelling a session or not completing a task is only acceptable for legitimate reasons. Students are asked to notify their mentor two days in advance if they cannot attend a session or complete a task. Exceptions are only made in emergency cases. Lateness, absences, missing coursework or incomplete tasks without a valid excuse and due notification will result in disciplinary consequences.
Asking for Help
Mentors should be the first person students approach for help. It is an important part of their role to represent their students’ interests in case they get into any kind of trouble. Whether it is to do with late or missed coursework, absence from the programme or other personal matters, students should first turn to their mentors. In case the mentor is unable to help, students should contact their programme director.
The year group’s programme director is responsible for mentor allocation, the process by which each student is assigned a mentor. During this process, a complex set of considerations are taken into account:
- The subject interests of the student
- The student’s general performance and academic ability
- The personality of the student
- The ambitions and motivation of the student
Mentor allocation takes place at the beginning of the academic year and is usually complete by the third week of the Summer Term. In exceptional cases, students may find that their mentor allocation takes longer in order to ensure the perfect match.
A change of mentor may become necessary, either from the side of the Institute or that of the student. In the first instance this may occur due to:
- Health reasons (sustained illness of the mentor)
- Professional reasons (for example, a mentor takes a leave of absence for a sabbatical)
- Disciplinary reasons, or other strong reasons why the mentor no longer wishes to work with the student
- Change of interest (if students change their interest radically, there may no longer be a match with the mentor’s area of expertise)
In such cases, the year group’s programme director will move to allocate a new mentor to the student.
The second instance may occur due to:
- Personal reasons (such as a personality clash or sustained and irresolvable conflict with the mentor)
- Academic reasons (the student feels that he or she is not getting the necessary academic input from the mentor)
- Professional reasons (the student feels that the mentor is not delivering on outlined promises and tasks, feedback or meetings)
In such cases, the student can request a change of mentor from the year group’s programme director. The student should explain the reasons for the switch, and be open to alternative solutions, such as discussing the problem with the existing mentor or accepting the programme director as a mediator. Whether a change actually takes place is at the discretion of the programme director, based on the merits of the request and an analysis of each case.
Orientation is the process through which Milestone students find their path. It is one of the most complex challenges faced by the faculty and staff, which we address through a variety of practices. At the core of the orientation process lies the principle that students learn by doing, that choosing one’s path requires substantive academic and practical experience in different fields, as well as in-depth reflection on those experiences. As such, orientation is not restricted to mentoring, but rather happens at all levels of the Milestone educational experience. Module teaching is instructive in showing students the beauty and difficulty of different disciplines, while participation in student societies, volunteering and work experience provide them with tangible know-how of different professions and different work environments. Simultaneously, mentors offer essential guidance. This guidance often goes against the grain of societal myths that make students insecure about employment prospects, in order to allow their specific skills and talents to come to fruition.
The core tenets of orientation are the following:
- Students are aware of the range of choices available in terms of subjects and subject combinations
- Student experience a range of different subjects, both in an academic and a professional setting
- Students develop substantive interests and core concerns that they try to address in their work
- Students are inspired to pursue (a) subject(s) at which they are likely to excel
- Students have a realistic perspective on the choices available to them based on their abilities and existing knowledge
- Students choose a path that is supported by the key stakeholders in their lives, such as parents and teachers
- Student are aware of possible risks involved in the subject and university choice, the relative competitiveness of a course, and how this may impact their chances of being admitted
Tutorials have the same function as mentoring sessions, but bring together up to three students. They are an excellent tool for helping students explore ideas together and compare their views on a given task or issue through academic discussion, debate and collective problem-solving.