Let’s Give Ourselves a Hand

by Diana Ho '71

My father was a professor of dentistry at the University of Southern California. He came to USC in 1936 after graduating from college in Nanking, China, and left USC 30 years later. While his students will attest that he had a gift for teaching, and his patients sported the benefits of his extraordinary talent for the technical and artistic aspects of dentistry, it was neither teaching nor dentistry that prompted him to subordinate a lucrative practice for 25 years to his responsibilities as a faculty member. It was the notion of “giving back” to his alma mater.

Six years ago, when I was nominated to fill one of two alumna trustee roles on the Scripps Board, I jumped at the opportunity to “give back”—bringing my time, skills, and experience to the place where I learned some of life’s most valuable lessons. However, despite my ability to hit the ground running as a consultant, I found that figuring out my new role at Scripps was, at times, a daunting task!

Enter Angelica Kusar Clark ’84, the “senior” alumna trustee, and my mentor. Angelica ably guided me through the “ins and outs” of our duties: representing the alumnae voice on the Board, attending quarterly Alumnae Council and trustee meetings, participating in two trustee committees, and cheering our graduates at commencement. Angelica’s reassuring “check-ins” and suggestions were key to my finding my stride.

Throughout my career, I’ve always felt lucky because mentors “appeared” to guide me through rough spots and inspire me to next steps. Today, mentoring and coaching are core aspects of my consulting process: I coach clients and help organizations design and implement mentoring programs. However, until Angelica entered my life, it had been many years since I’d had a mentor, and surely I’d never had a mentor who was younger than me! This realization prompted me to think about different models of mentoring, and what I saw at Scripps was the opportunity to create “mentoring moments” all the way up and down the hierarchy of the institution: extending a hand to help another along the path of the moment.

As a member of the Nominations and Governance Committee, I had the opportunity to weigh in on the design and implementation of a Trustee Mentor Program, and orientation programs for new trustees and student trustee committee members.We watched as new trustees such as Barbara Bice were mentored, and then became mentors themselves.

As chair of the Student Affairs Committee, I worked with trustees Nancy Katayama ’77 and Micki Flowers, and Vice President and Dean of Students Deb Wood, to mentor and prepare students to share their experiences and points of view. It gave me and others great pleasure to see student committee members such as seniors Erin Fry and Sylvia Ruiz, and recent student trustees such as Cheryl Laven ’00 and Lee Ann Wang ’03 blossom into committed and sure-footed young leaders with a voice in the governance of our college.

Mentoring has also gained momentum within the Alumnae Association. Six years ago, Fabiola Ceballos ’02, Brenda Ching ’93, and Sue Talbot ’69 stepped forward as the Alumnae Student Diversity Committee tri-chairs.Their good work was continued by Jessica Castillo ’03, Vanessa Lee ’98, Myeisha Peguero ’02, and Deepika Sandhu ’99, and this last year, the Alumnae Student Diversity Mentoring Program made its debut under the guidance of Nancy Matthews ’87 and Mariaestella Cuara ’89.

Looking back, I want to give a hand to all whose generosity of time has provided “mentoring moments” to others because this kind of guidance is crucial as we try to stay on our path to the future amidst the onslaught of our daily lives. Looking forward, I want to extend a hand, and pull others up on the bandwagon for mentoring.These past six years have demonstrated to me how valuable mentoring is at every stage in our lives. How lucky we are at Scripps to belong to a community where we can both “give and get” mentoring in ways that will enrich our lives forever!