Field mentors from 35 Human Development and Family Sciences (HDFS) internship sites converged on Oregon State University’s campus on August 31 for the inaugural Field Education Mentor Summit. The free continuing education event provided an opportunity to create awareness, share best practices, network, receive help completing a learning plan and offer a space to have discussions and ask questions.
There are more than 70 field education sites located throughout the state participating in the HDFS Field Education program. Representatives from a variety of organizations attended the summit, including Jackson Street Youth Services: Old Mill Center for Children and Families, Oregon Health Authority – Family Partnerships Program, and Benton, Linn and Clackamas County Juvenile departments and more.
“We wanted to be able to present the field-based education program in a comprehensive, clear way to our field mentors,” says HDFS Internship Instructor Julie Graves. “We prefer to call them field mentors rather than site supervisors because these individuals provide so much more than supervision – they are the main person mentoring the student.”
Summit participants spent the morning learning about high-impact learning from Associate Dean for Student Success Vicki Ebbeck. They also heard from current HDFS practicum students and interns and discussed best practices in field education. The afternoon consisted of faculty presentations on the human services curriculum and a workshop presented by Julie and Brooke Howland of the Center for Teaching and Learning. During the workshop, mentors learned a model for transformational coaching they can apply with students and participated in multiple practice scenarios.
“Transformational coaching strives to support students in becoming self-directed thinkers and leaders,” Julie says. “We see it as our responsibility to train the next generation of human services professionals in a best-practices manner that is supported by national standards.”
A win-win partnership
Students aren’t the only ones who benefit from the mentoring relationships. Sites providing practicums and internships to students also reap a variety of benefits, including:
- New learning/insights to staff
- Positive role models to sites serving youth
- Help with tasks they’re unable to complete due to time and staffing restraints
- Qualified potential hiring pool
- Opportunity to support students and the community
“Field mentors have an impact on how much we grow as future human service professionals throughout our internships,” says recent HDFS alum and summit panelist Quinn Santangelo. “The efforts they put in to help develop our skills is remarkable and I wanted to thank them for all of their time and energy.”
From their time spent at their respective sites, students:
- Gain self-awareness and identity as emerging professionals
- Learn practical skills and how to apply them in actual situations
- Network with multiple organizations and professionals
- Gain potential job placement following graduation
“I gained a new perspective during my internship at a local homeless shelter when I saw the street community as human beings rather than people to pity,” HDFS student Sayeeda Sieah says. “It was hard at first, but after observing my mentors interact with clients and the outside street community, I managed to refrain from feeling sorry for them and instead just saw them as people in a tough situation trying to better themselves.”
HDFS students are required to complete a preliminary practicum (HDFS 209) during their sophomore or junior year consisting of 90 hours. During a student’s senior year in the program, a 300-hour advanced internship (HDFS 410) is required, in which the field mentor plays a central role. During both levels of field experience, students also participate in a seminar in which they complete related readings, reflective journaling, and a bi-weekly on-campus session with their peers and instructor.
“Many of our sites have gone on to hire students,” Julie says. “Five HDFS students who graduated from our program were in attendance as alums now leading organizations in our community. Many students have said their field education was the most important and growth-inspiring part of their college career.”