The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

RLF Reflection: Giving Back Through Mentorship

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While the Rocky Leadership Fellows embarked on a new term of remote learning and few social interactions, Hi’ilani Hopkins took a moment to remind us about the importance of connection and giving back to our communities. She argues that as Dartmouth students, the fellows have been extremely fortunate to get the mentorship that we have. We should ensure that future leaders, especially those that do not have access to the incredible resources that we do, have an opportunity to learn from us. But mentorship need not be a one-sided venture; Hi’ilani finds mentors often learn just as much from our mentees as they learn from us.

Hi’ilani cited Kenneth Ortiz’ TedTalk on how to be an effective mentor. These traits include being willing to spend time with others, having a plan, being encouraging, and able to give mentees clear, corrective feedback. Even more fascinating was Hi’ilani’s own research in her community of Hawai’i. She interviewed many of the islands’ business leaders, asking why they decided to return to Hawai’i instead of staying in the continental United States. The vast majority discuss the need to “pay it forward” to the communities that raised them to support the next generation of leaders.

Like Hi’ilani, I would not be at Dartmouth today without the love, support, and mentorship of my community. This included my high school teachers, dance coaches, and my family who willingly shared their knowledge and vast life experiences. This mentorship continued in college, and I have the Rockefeller Center especially to thank for that. As a part of the First Year Fellows program, I was guided by members of Rocky, who took an entire week to teach me how to navigate different work environments and situations, convey my ideas, and helped prepare me for my very first adult job. They also paired me with an alumni who somehow managed to pencil me into her impossibly busy day and let me barrage her with questions over Thai food. This became the launching pad for the rest of my jobs. I thrived in a myriad of work environments–law offices, tech companies, nonprofit organizations–because of the guidance and support of all of my mentors both at home and at Dartmouth.

I believe that the concept of “paying it forward” is imperative, especially as a Latina who has worked in mostly white-male dominated fields. As a person who has so greatly benefitted from the kindness of others, it is my duty to my community to hold the door open for others like me, help them find opportunities, and hone their unique skills. I have had the chance to give back to the Rockefeller Center by mentoring first-years as a part of DLAB, and even went on to help some of my mentees apply to First Year Fellows. As Hi’ilani points out, mentoring others, especially people similar to me in age and experience, was a skill that came with experience. It was also an unexpectedly fulfilling experience which will keep me coming back to the Rockefeller Center to help in any way I can long after I graduate. 


-Written by Caterina Hyneman, Class of 2021 Rockefeller Leadership Fellow 

As Rockefeller Leadership Fellows, seniors gain a better understanding of the qualities and responsibilities expected of leaders. As Fellows take part in the workshops, discussions, and team-building exercises, they examine their skills, qualities, and attributes as leaders and analyze how these influence teamwork and achieving goals. 

The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences