Jaffus Hardrick worked 40 hours a week while putting himself through college. The first in his family to earn a degree, he has looked to mentors for support and guidance throughout his career. As vice provost for Student Access & Success, Hardrick—pictured above, right, with doctoral student and mentee Teshaun Francis—oversees more than a dozen strategic programs that cater to underrepresented students. These include the Golden Scholars Bridge Program, which provides academic summer experiences to help incoming freshmen get ready for college; Fostering Panther Pride, which offers tailored academic and other support to former foster and homeless youth; and the McNair Achievement Program, which prepares undergraduates from disadvantaged backgrounds to pursue doctoral studies.
Many of your programs have a strong mentorship component. What are the benefits?
Success is built on relationships. The reality is none of us have gotten where we are on our own. We’ve always had people in our lives to help us get there. Mentors are instrumental in encouraging students so that they can succeed. Mentors teach them to think critically, to ask questions and to solve problems. Mentors are giving them skills for the workplace and for life.
How have mentors impacted you personally and professionally?
Everywhere I’ve been, people saw potential in me and invested in me. My uncle and aunt pushed me toward college and supported me even as I worked 40 hours a week while taking a full load of credits. In the workplace, many of my supervisors began to bring out the best in me, positioning me for greater opportunities within the organization. You need people in your corner who will help you keep your eyes on the prize.
Is having a mentor essential for underrepresented students?
When you look at individuals coming from low economic backgrounds, or first-generation college students, many are coming from environments where they have never seen success. I love the slogan of the 100 Black Men organization: “What they see is what they will be.” Underrepresented students in particular need to see successful people who look like them.
What has motivated you to mentor others?
The greatest joy in life is being able to help bring out the best in other people and see them excel. And because it was done for me, I have an obligation to do it for others.
What does it take to be a successful mentor?
It takes an individual who is genuine about making a difference in the lives of others, someone who is committed to the process. It’s more than just a quick phone call. It’s an investment of quality time. ♦