Dixon Center mentor helps student manager navigate new experiences

Nita Phillips, administrative program assistant, and Hayden Murphy, speech communications major, say they have mutually benefitted from the mentor program.

Nita Phillips, administrative program assistant, and Hayden Murphy, speech communications major, say they have mutually benefitted from the mentoring program.

Dixon Recreation Center hires about 300 students every year. And one of the first connections they make is with Nita Phillips.

OSU senior Hayden Murphy met Phillips shortly after beginning her job at Dixon during her sophomore year. “When anybody had questions like ‘where do I find this?’ or ‘what do I do about that,’ Nita had the answers,” she says.

Phillips, an administrative program assistant, and Murphy, a speech communications major, were later officially paired in a mentoring program between administrative and student staff at RecSports.

Phillips says part of mentoring was simply exposing students to new experiences.  For example, Murphy is a center manager and supervisor, as well as the student chair for the RecSports board of directors. So in addition to handling day-to-day operations — like opening and closing facilities, supervising other student employees, providing first aid and resolving conflicts among players —   Murphy has had to learn about budgets and the administrative functions of the department that most students never see.

“Students like Hayden have already shown they have excellent leadership qualities and skills,” Phillips says. “As mentors, we try to help them with the day-to-day things they have to learn and do.”

Phillips admits she was hesitant at first to joining the mentor program, thinking “What do I have to offer?” She didn’t realize going in “how much my life would be enriched just by the interaction,” she says. Her concerns about having a structure or program model for mentoring “just melted away” once she and Murphy got to know each other.

Murphy credits Phillips with helping her become a more open person, more willing to meet new people and try new experiences. This past year, she took on an internship for the Rose Festival, even though it involved commuting back and forth between Portland and Corvallis every week. And she’s learned that it’s OK to be firm and say “no” sometimes, even if Phillips doesn’t exactly do that herself.

“She never says no!” Murphy says with a laugh. Phillips laughs, too. “I know that’s what you’re supposed to do,” she admits.

Murphy has also had opportunities to mentor others, so she’s seen both sides, and she says, it’s helped her be much more successful at running her life over the past year.

“You learn so much from other people’s experiences — what they did and what worked,” she says. “I hope I bring that perspective to others as much as I use it.”

In the end, Phillips believes being a mentor has given back much more than what she’s put in. For one, the energy and drive she’s seen in Murphy and other students inspired her to go back to school, something she’s doing a class at a time every term.

“It’s such an enriching process to be a part of these students’ lives,” she says. “Sometimes, it’s just the small things. It doesn’t take a whole lot of effort to be there for somebody.”

~ by Gary Dulude

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