The newest chapter of UMKC’s student storytelling series is all about mentorship
Many successful people give generous credit for their achievements to the guidance of mentors who counseled them as young adults. At the University of Missouri–Kansas City, mentorship is a vital part of the educational experience. One of the common threads in the ongoing Our Students. Our Story. #UMKCGoingPlaces series on the UMKC site and tumblr is how students appreciate the work of their mentors.
To focus even more on those crucial mentorship relationships, we’re introducing another regular feature: Dynamic Duos. In interviews and images, we’ll give you an intimate look at faculty/staff-and-student mentorship pairs at UMKC. Read them all!
MEET VIVIANA L. GRIECO and EDITH G. MORENO
Edith Moreno is on track to graduate in May with a degree in Theatre, with an emphasis in Costume Design. She’s headed to the University of Illinois, where she doesn’t know anyone, to begin pursuing a master’s degree.
Moreno credits her mentor, Viviana Grieco, an associate professor of History, with inspiring her to be more courageous and well-rounded.
Moreno chose UMKC because it was close to home and she received financial aid. She met Grieco through the Avanzando scholars’ program, a partnership between the UMKC Division of Diversity & Inclusion and the Hispanic Development Fund. It is designed to support HDF Scholarship recipients at UMKC in their academic and career pursuits. Goals include increasing scholar retention, improving graduation rates and assuring successful transitions of students into graduate school and/or career positions. One of the major tenets of Avanzando is mentoring.
Avanzando scholars are matched with a UMKC faculty or staff member. Mentors listen, provide guidance and support, and create access to essential campus and community resources. Mentors also support scholars in maintaining their Latina/Latino identity, recognizing their unique strengths and attributes.
Moreno and Grieco enjoy catching up with each other at Chai Shai, an Indian and Pakistani restaurant in Kansas City, and other outdoor cafes including Crow’s Coffee. Grieco typically brings along Elvis, the Chihuahua mix she adopted from Moreno.
Edith, how are you different now than when you first started at UMKC?
Edith Moreno: When I first started, I was kind of a pushover. I didn’t let the real Edith come out. I was shy and timid, and quite honestly, I was afraid of the world. Now I am confident. I have started to open up and really engage with new people I have encountered. I have explored more of what is out in the real world and have taken on new experiences without hesitation.
Why did you choose to study theatre?
Moreno: I chose my passion. I have a passion for the entertainment industry, and because I love clothing and what it can do (bring out personalities), and I love fashion in history, costumes ended up becoming my emphasis. UMKC has led me to meet some of the most important people in this business, and now I am on my way to getting a master’s degree.
Tell us what the Avanzando program has meant to you.
Moreno: The program made the transition from high school to college less stressful and more exciting. It also has given me the opportunity to interact with my mentor.
What makes mentorship critical to the success of students?
Viviana Grieco: In my experience, students want to have an open conversation about their challenges without fear of being judged. They also want to talk to someone who understands where they are and what may be coming. Students also want to identify with their mentors — not 100 percent — but they do need to find some common grounds. Students also want guidance that comes from someone with some authority on the matter but willing to play that authority down to make the process less intimidating.
What do you admire about Dr. Grieco?
Moreno: She has such a kind heart. There would be subjects that I bring up and a week later, she would continue that conversation because someone else mentioned something similar. She really is an inspiring lady. With me, because I am a theatre major and she teaches history, she has made an attempt to understand my subject and really help me make connections. There is so much that she has done that four years ago, she would have told you I am not the same person.
How has she helped you grow?
Moreno: As a person, she has shown me to be me. There were so many times that I was afraid to venture out into the world. But recently, with all the changes that have happened, such as finding a grad school, going to a different country, these are things I was mentally preparing myself for because she mentioned her own experiences. There is only so much that a book can provide before the only thing left is to experience it. She has exposed me to new things, she has given me the right tools to tackle challenges. She always says “You just have to try because you never know.”
What qualities make a good mentor?
Grieco: Willing to spend time with students. Being a good listener. Helping students find a solution instead of handing down one. Avoid being condescending. Being warm and welcoming instead of managerial. Helping students set attainable aims for themselves. Willing to identify themselves with their students and be capable to understand their challenges at any given time. Trustworthy.
Some people go their whole lives without having a mentor. What advice would you give people about finding one?
Moreno: Find one! For me being a first-generation college student, none of my family members knew anything about college or knew the struggle or challenges that came with being in college. All of those things were difficult at times for my mother to understand. But having a mentor has helped me tremendously. She has given me her firsthand experience about how she dealt with similar situations as well as her mistakes. Things would be different if I didn’t have her as a mentor. And even though through Avanzando I have had one (primary) mentor, I have encountered many other mentors throughout the program who have helped shape and guide me to a successful career. Find a mentor even if they are the complete opposite of you. It is something that you will not regret.
What changes have you seen in Edith?
Grieco: Edith has gained so much confidence in herself. She is incredibly put together. College was a truly transformative experience for her. Not only academically, but also personally and emotionally. She is very articulate, knows what she wants and, finds the right paths to achieve her aims. She can handle stress better and knows what to prioritize. She is a wonderful young woman ready to hit the real world.