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Mentor Roles and Responsibilities

What a Mentor Is

By Dr. Gordon Nakagawa

Mentor roles and responsibilities are varied and complex. Serving as a guide, facilitator, role model, and/or ally to the mentee, a mentor must be prepared to take on a range of roles and responsibilities that may change as the mentor/mentee relationship develops over time, as the needs and goals of the mentee shift, and as specific contexts and situations require different strategies. Although it’s not possible to pigeonhold any mentor, mentee, or mentoring relationship, a mentor will generally enact a number of common roles and responsibilities. It’s worth emphasizing that whatever role the mentor may take, the mentor’s principal goal, as Paulo Freire reminds us, is to invite and nurture the “total autonomy, freedom, and development of those he or she mentors.”

A mentor is . . .

  • A knowledgeable and experienced guide who teaches (and learns) through a commitment to the mutual growth of both mentee and mentor.
  • A caring, thoughtful, and humane facilitator who provides access to people, places, experiences, and resources outside the mentee’s routine environment.
  • A role model who exemplifies in word and deed what it means to be an ethical, responsible, and compassionate human being.
  • A trusted ally, or advocate , who works with (not for) the mentee and on behalf of the mentee’s best interests and goals.

What a Mentor Is Not

By Dr. Gordon Nakagawa

Mentors and mentees should understand that mentors cannot be all things to their mentees. A role model is not a flawless idol to be mindlessly emulated

by the mentee; an experienced guide is not a surrogate parents who stands in as a mother or father figure; a caring facilitator is not a professional therapist

who is capable of treating serious personal problems; a trusted ally or advocate is not a social worker or a financier. Often, mentors and mentees

encounter problems in their relationships due to different ideas about the 6 appropriate role(s) and responsibilities of either the mentor, mentee, or both.

There are boundaries in virtually any and all relationships, and the mentor/mentee relationship is no exception. While there are no hard and fast

rules, and while there may be rare exceptions, there are guidelines for what a mentor is (or should be) and for what a mentor is not (or should not be).

A mentor is not...

  • A (surrogate) parent.  
  • A professional counselor or therapist.
  • A flawless or infallible idol.
  • A social worker.
  • A lending institution.
Contact Information

For more information contact the Fostering Achievement Fellowship Program office by phone (850) 201-9767 or e-mail

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