UW News

August 20, 2009

Personal stories of connection shine in staffer’s book, ‘Mentoring Moments’

UW News

For Susan Canfield, the creation of her book of interviews about the mentoring relationship, Mentoring Moments, is something of a dream come true.

“I’ve had a very detailed vision of this book for four or five years,” said Canfield, who is associate director of MBA career services and heads the mentoring program at the Foster School of Business.

That vision was to tell stories of how mentoring has helped students in the business school and even changed lives along the way. The 100-page book, with photographs by Matt Hagen, comprises eight in-depth interviews with Seattle-area business leaders — including a heartfelt conversation with UW Regent Sally Jewell. Other mentors in the book include Richard Tait, co-founder of Cranium; and Phyllis Campbell, Pacific NW chairman for JPMorgan Chase.

Year after year in her job, Canfield said, she would hear compelling stories of the mentoring relationship in its many forms. “I was full of these stories and had to bring them to life because they were powerful,” she said.

She hopes the book encourages readers to seek mentors in their own lives. “Over the years I have seen the power of mentoring to impact people and to guide them through life’s transitions and inevitable changes.”

All the people interviewed in the book have been or are mentors, Canfield said, and all readily agreed to her interview request. “Everyone said yes because, I think, they value mentoring and were eager to share their stories … it was so easy and pleasurable to interview them because this is a topic that touches their hearts. There were tears at times, and great emotion.”

The stories reveal that mentoring comes in many forms — even in fairly brief encounters, if they are meaningful — and is a reciprocal relationship. “This isn’t just about passing it all down, but about being open to receiving it back, open to being challenged.

“The best mentoring is when the mentors realize it’s not just about business, it’s about life … what students are ultimately looking for are role models of how to live the best life.”

Good mentors, she said, also need to be transparent and willing to talk about their failures as well as their successes. “We get feedback from the students, and they treasure those stories. That’s where real learning happens — in those failures and mistakes.”

Canfield said the dean and others at the Foster School of Business “had to take a leap of faith” to support her idea of the book, and they did. All proceeds from it will support the school. “This isn’t in my job description and I want to say, I am extremely grateful that they were willing to take this chance on me.”

Above all, she said, she wanted the book to honor the mentors within its covers who have been so generous with their time, as well as the many who have served in the program (who are listed in the back).

“I have deep affection for the people in this book,” she said. “I felt tremendous pressure to do right by them and to do right by the business school who believed in me.”

And it sounds like some of that affection is reciprocated. James Jiambalvo, dean of the Foster School of Business, said in an e-mail that “Susan’s book documents the extraordinary benefits that can be achieved by a well-organized mentorship program. I want these practices to be copied (and even improved) by other schools.” So much so, in fact, he sent out 325 copies — one to every fellow business school dean in the country.

Canfield said, “It’s great to hear the book is having an impact and encouraging other business schools to begin mentoring programs as well.”

You can learn more about Canfield’s book, read highlights from a chapter and even order it by visiting online here.