Mentor FAQs

The Teams participating in the competition can work with a Mentor.

Who is eligible to become a Mentor? 

Professionals with some years of experience in managing projects dealing with the challenges faced by the CUNY system or, the NYC Government, and with the fondness for working with young people can volunteer to be the Mentors.

What does a mentor do in the mentoring relationship?

The mentor should be the one to take the initiative to make the initial contact with the team they have been paired with and elicit the team’s goals and expectations. A mentor listens carefully to the goals, strengths, and struggles of the team and its members. Based on those goals, the mentor supports the team in meeting its goals through questioning, providing guidance and feedback, sharing his or her own experiences, and possibly connecting the team with other individuals or groups who could help. Every mentoring relationship will unfold differently based on the individuals involved, but the purpose of mentoring is not to tell the team what to do but to help the team make informed decisions. The mentor should be supportive, not critical or negative, and should remember that everyone’s experiences and priorities are different.

 What do members of the team do in the mentoring relationship?

Team members communicate their goals and professional situation clearly to the mentor. They listen critically and objectively to the feedback and guidance received, keeping in mind that the mentor is speaking from his or her specific experience and priorities. It’s up to the team and its members to ensure that the relationship is beneficial by keeping in contact, clearly communicating expectations, actively addressing problems, and asking for help when needed.

 Setting goals and expectations

Both the mentor and the team should start by discussing their expectations for the mentoring relationship. This should be clarified as soon as possible because not understanding each other’s expectations for the relationship could lead to disappointment. A mentor should ask the team about what the team’s goals are and what it is looking for from the relationship. The team should be clear about what it hopes to get out of the mentoring relationship, particularly with respect to goals, which will form the foundation of their work with the mentor. Issues like frequency of meetings, availability, and modes of contact should be agreed upon from the start.

Should Mentors attend the workshops?

Mentors are welcome to attend all the workshops with the assigned Team Members. (Please click here to see the schedule of the workshops and the boot camps.) However, mentors must attend the second day of the Boot Camp on Saturday 9th March to boost the morale of their team as they make a Five Minute Pitch to a panel of reviewers and receive feedback from the reviewers.


Given that the mentoring relationship requires trust, communications between the team, its members and mentor should be kept confidential.

If things are not going well

Occasionally, the mentoring relationship doesn’t work out. This can be a result of a bad fit, a mentor or mentee who doesn’t actively participate in the relationship, or communication issues. If this happens, the best way to approach it is to first address the issue with the mentor/mentee. If this does not rectify the problem, contact the Competition Director, Stan Altman at who will try and help resolve the problem.

Want to volunteer as a Mentor?

Please email Dr. Stan Altman at by February 25th, 2019, if you would like to volunteer as a Mentor in the 2019 CUNY-IBM Watson Social Impact Challenge 2019.