Mentoring Strengthens Student Well-Being through the Elena Prien Scholarships

by Whitney Hopler, Communications Director

Mentoring Strengthens Student Well-Being through the Elena Prien Scholarships
Students walking the Fairfax Campus with fall colors.

A new group of Mason students and employees is working together on well-being mentoring this academic year through our center’s Elena Prien Scholarships program. A distinctive benefit of the scholarships, beyond the $1,000 award to each recipient, is the one-on-one mentoring program. Scholarship winners meet regularly with someone from Mason’s faculty or staff who has well-being expertise and commits to building a supportive relationship with the student.

“The assistance of a mentor cannot be overstated,” says Tahisha Mayfield, IT Project Manager in Mason’s ITS Portfolio & Project Management Office, who is serving as a mentor this year. “It has been critical to my own integration of well-being practices and tools needed to support my progress in a life well lived. The ability to move beneath the stories in life to reframe my understanding of the magnitude of my own potential as a human being has been greatly served by the consistent incorporation of mindfulness and well-being practices. I hope to support my student mentee in developing similar experiences of becoming their own creative authority in life.”

Shawal Tariq, a junior majoring in Neuroscience, says she is finding it helpful to work with her mentor to learn about the science of well-being and “different ways I can enhance my own self being by helping enhance the well-being of others.” Tariq, who is a first-generation immigrant and a first-generation college student, has enjoyed learning about how well-being differs among cultures from her mentor, our center’s senior scholar Dr. Jim Maddux. “I have to look at the world through different cultures, and Dr. Maddux is helping me understand exactly how to do so,” she says.

The stress of college impacts the well-being of many students. A full 88 percent of undergraduate students surveyed by the American College Health Association’s spring 2019 National College Health Assessment reported feeling overwhelmed by all they had to do at least once during the past year. It’s a challenge to face the “constant stress as a college student bombarded with classes, internships, and studying throughout the week all while trying to keep my diet, sleep schedule, and social habits healthy,” Tariq says. “Managing stress is a difficult task that I face every day. Some well-being practices that I find helpful include making to-do lists and treating myself in some way after a particularly difficult day. To-do lists help me keep my day organized and in check, and checking off an activity always relieves my stress (even if that relief is just a tiny bit, it counts!). Treating myself after a long day ranges from activities like grabbing a cupcake from a bakery, doing a face mask, or even just watching the latest show of Grey’s Anatomy. It all helps maintain my personal well-being as I relax and unwind after a stressful day.”

Mayfield is helping the student she is mentoring to cultivate resilience, a key aspect of well-being that can help people manage stress well. “I am encouraging and supporting the development of habits and practices that promote enhanced levels of self-connection, acceptance, vitality and a sustained sense of possibility and authentic purpose. These states of being cultivate resilience, and serve a student’s successful integration to a world in constant transformation.”

It’s possible for all Mason students to invest in their well-being, Mayfield says. “The ability to support a consistent experience of yourself and your life that does not feel compromised is very possible. Ultimately, well-being is about cultivating a depth of self-awareness and experience of your authentic nature that enables you to become your own solution to life.”

Tariq encourages other Mason students to prioritize pursuing greater well-being. “I would like to tell my fellow students that investing in your well-being on a regular basis is the most important thing you can do for yourself,” Tariq says. “Your well-being and mental health directly impact your physical health, and when both of those are thriving, you will thrive as well. If you have big goals in life it’s important to understand that those goals cannot be achieved unless you’re taking care of yourself in all aspects. Well-being is something that should not be overlooked, but instead recognized and invested in so that you have the fortitude and energy to conquer your future with the best of your ability.”