An update from Miroslava Detcheva, Faculty in Residence (FiR) for the McElvaney Residential Community:

A recent experience inspired me to write about the importance of mentoring. It was a great honor to receive an invitation to the 2014 Women’s Initiative Fellowship* Graduation Ceremony at the George W. Bush Presidential Center earlier this month. Since 2012, each WIF Class has consisted of a diverse group of extremely talented women from the same foreign country. Through their academic background and professional achievements, they represent the most influential sectors of a modern society, such as education, health, law, business, politics, and media.

At the 2014 Women’s Initiative Fellowship (WIF) graduation, it was exciting to hear the unique stories of 18 professional women from Egypt and to learn about their journey through the program. The graduation speaker was none other than the mastermind and visionary behind the initiative, Mrs. Laura W. Bush. As each fellow was called on stage to receive her graduation certificate, one other important person was standing next to each of the graduates – the fellow’s mentor. During the year, the participants in the program met many fascinating people, including Diane Sawyer, and visited a few exciting places, from the Google campus outside San Francisco to NYC and D.C.; it seemed, however, that the one thing each fellow cherished the most from the whole experience was the building of a quality relationship with her WIF mentor.

The participants in the WIF are paired with prominent professional women from the U.S. who serve as mentors and provide constant “guidance, advice, and support” throughout the program. Mentoring is the “critical component” of an initiative that “empowers and equips women to become [effective] leaders in their country.” Upon graduating, each fellow desires to create positive social change in her country. The common experience of the WIF, founded on mentor support and intellectual exchange, later creates an impact in the fellows’ communities that is “substantial, concentrated, and powerful.” After witnessing the strong bond between the mentors and fellows of the WIF, there is no doubt that these unique mentor-fellow relationships serve as the building blocks of the success of this program.

As I was learning more about the Women’s Initiative Fellowship and the creation of amazing mentorship experiences, I could not help but think about the Residential Commons (RC) and the creation of future strong bonds among students as well as between students and faculty in each RC community. The Faculty in Residence (FiR) living on campus will serve as intellectual leaders and mentors. They will be joined by a diverse and talented group of faculty affiliates representing many SMU schools and departments. Together, faculty and students will exchange ideas, share experiences, and in the process, create even stronger communities on campus.

SMU is fortunate to be the home of the Bush Center and the Women’s Initiative Fellowship. There are many things the SMU FiRs can learn from the WIF mentoring structure and success. Who knows, maybe a few years from now, some of our own SMU-grown world leaders will in turn become mentors helping create positive social changes on a global scale.

*The Women’s Initiative Fellowship was created by Mrs. Laura Bush, and its Director is Mrs. Bush’s Senior Advisor, Charity Wallace. Since 2012, it has hosted women from Afghanistan and Egypt. The current Fellowship group is from Tunisia.