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Sarah O’Sullivan

Staff mentoring in higher education – the case for a mentored mentoring continuum

Theme: Approach/school/theory
Area: Mentoring
Type: My research (completed)

Session on Friday, Jul 5th, 13:50
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This session describes a case study of mentoring that occurred at Cork Institute of Technology, in the Biological Sciences Department. It challenges the traditional dyadic definition of mentoring. Our proposed mentoring model was first described in a paper entitled Staff mentoring in higher education: the case for a mentored mentoring continuum, which was published in the All Ireland Journal of Higher Education, in 2018.
Benefits of the proposed model include increased support for mentors and mentees. We also contend that the potential for learning with our model is greater than with the dyadic approach and that mentors benefit at least as much as mentees from the process. We suggest that our model may extend from the head of a Higher Education Institute to the most junior staff and to both postgraduate and undergraduate students.


Sarah O’Sullivan worked in the private industry for 10 years before joining the Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) in 2017 in Ireland. As a new staff member, Sarah was given the opportunity to be mentored as part of the mentored mentor initiative. As a mentee, she was given great support as she gained access to not only her mentor but also to her mentor’s mentor. Both mentors were at a difference stage in their career to each other, with the senior mentor having worked in the establishment for many years and Sarah’s mentor having recently joined the company but also having worked in the private industry. This meant that both were able to offer different perspectives, based on their own experiences.

The agenda for all meetings centred around Sarah’s particular practical and emotional needs. Having worked in the private industry before, her experience with mentoring had been using the traditional dyadic approach, where her mentor was usually her direct superior. The model used in CIT meant that there was no conflict of interest. Confidentiality, between both mentors and Sarah, was outlined in the ground rules from the very beginning. This allowed for a level of trust to develop between all parties.

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