School-mandated "mentorships"?

polycounter lvl 7
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pixelb polycounter lvl 7
So, I recently got a request from a student asking me to mentor him in handpainted texturing. I was ready to do so, but I decided against it after learning it was actually a requirement for his capstone class. Personally, I think it's deeply unethical that his school is requiring its students find professionals to mentor (and evaluate) them for free while charging good money for the credit hours.

Now, I understand internship requirements are not an uncommon thing. I had to do one myself, and while I find the practice to be pretty grey, I'm sure it boosts the school's industry placement rates and is a real benefit to the student's resume. Still, in that situation I was providing a service to the company I interned for, not the other way around. They got decide what I did and they didn’t take any extra pains to train me.

Also, the way this “mentorship” is set up seems practically designed to exploit the student: first by not helping them find a mentor, then by forcing them to retake the class (and pay for it again) if they can’t find one by the third week.

But now I'm curious. Would you "mentor" a student if it were a requirement for their degree program? And students, does your program have something similar?


  • Mstankow
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    Mstankow polycounter lvl 7
    High School Students? Maybe.

    College Students. Um. The school should have those mentors on staff. There were a few key professors at Digipen that I would often go to for advice and guidance that really helped me as an artist. Actually, that was one of the things I liked most about college and it felt like one of the most legitimizing features of going to college.
  • Leinad
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    Leinad polycounter lvl 4
    Absolutely not... I wouldn't want to mentor a stranger who is doing it for a school assignment. I would need to know them personally so that I can be more invested in guiding their direction. There needs to be passion, it should be personal work, not an assignment or commercial work.

    While in school, I spent many nights/weeks helping students who were struggling but quickly realized it was quite a superficial environment.

    I like to make genuine friendships, I am put off by people who approach me only to advance their own career goals.
  • maatin
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    maatin polycounter lvl 6
    I got a similar request a few weeks ago. I was suprised that they were required to get a mentor. I said no, mainly because I´m not experinced enough to be a mentor.
    I think it´s a douche move from the school forcing them to rely on others to do this for free.

    I felt kinda bad for the guy though, :/
  • Muzzoid
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    Muzzoid polycounter lvl 9
    Reminds me of when an Indian design school lecturer made all his students participate in an online challenge at where the guy running it was left giving all these shitty students feedback for no compensation.

    It's exploitative and shit.
  • kanga
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    kanga greentooth
    In Holland its normal for students to have to complete an internship which I think is an amazingly sound practice. Years ago the studio I was working with participated in these programs as a way of 'giving to the future'. There was however no set program and the whole process was very lay back. You have to realize that even being in a professional environment can be very helpful to students. When it was my turn I went to town on the kid. He could draw a little (no folio) but he had an amazing attitude. We called him Ukky, which means runt, sort of. This character was the type of person that when asked to clean the coffee machine, took it apart! In those days office coffee machines were a mass of cogs, wheels and belts. The kid had taken the machine apart and we arrived one morning to see the entire apparatus spread over the floor in neat little numbered piles. Every piece was polished and put back together in time for the morning break, I swear the thing never ran so sweet :)

    I rode the understudy hard for 6 months, at the end he got accepted into the Royal College of Art in London to study Industrial Design based on his portfolio, which was hard to get into. I have to say it was one of the most satisfying experiences of my life so far. You don't have to handle the situation in such an intense way though and it depends a lot on the individual. If it is someone who is not worth the time, send them home, or build in a test period. You can make a big difference to someone's life though and work experience places are very scarce.

    I have to agree that lately there are many commercial institutions capitalizing on young people that have no business teaching computer graphics, but your old established community college is a different story, I teach part time at one. While not all students are worth the time some of the kids are brilliant and deserve a shot.
  • SanderDL
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    SanderDL polycounter lvl 7
    I agree with internships. They are a great way for students to get proffesional experience and learn a lot. But mentorship really sounds like the school is using proffesionals as teachers while they really should be having these teachers themselfs. Otherwise, what are you really paying for?
  • PhattyEwok
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    PhattyEwok polycounter lvl 9
    BTW don't want to thread jack but pixelb most of your images on photobucket aren't viewable across your threads. Its a shame considering how awesome your work is lol. Do you have a portfolio to view?
  • Jonas Ronnegard
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    Jonas Ronnegard Polycount Sponsor
    yeah this is shitty, but not really surprising, if schools can get away with it they will try.

    I agree it is good for students to be able to interact with people currently working in the industry but then they should either hire them for speeches or feedback sessions or even lessons if the workplace allows it, or the school should ask for free help themselves.
  • Mask_Salesman
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    Mask_Salesman polycounter lvl 8
    I didn't realize they abused this to that extent. :/

    I've received a fair few of these types but most of them aren't mature enough to take critique properly since they are forced into it rather than of their own want and drive to get better.

    So I tend to decline them, only really openly chatting with younger polycounters that are clearly trying to learn of their own accord.
  • AlecMoody
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    AlecMoody polycounter
    I got one of these requests recently. I told them to post on polycount for critique and feedback. My request said I would need to carve out time for at least one critique session a week. It seemed really odd for a professor to be handing off their job responsibilities to people over the internet. I tried to ask what school they went to and who their faculty was but I got no response.
  • Shiniku
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    Shiniku polycounter lvl 7
    My school did this a few months after I graduated. Actually, one of my friends picked me as their mentor.. seeing as how I wasn't really employed in the industry, the qualifications needed were pretty loose.

    I will say though: nobody got less education from their instructors. This wasn't some excuse to shovel away responsibility. In fact, a lot of the instructors would end up being mentors. I'm not going to give an Art Institute too much high praise, but I will say (some) of my instructors were great, and always available for advice and critiques, even when i wasn't in their classes, and even after I graduated.

    Telling students to find a mentor really just helps them to branch out, make connections, and find new places to receive feedback.

    It's not perfect or anything, and I wouldn't expect any working professional to give up their time for a kid who doesn't give a shit anyway, but it's not as nefarious as some of you guys make it sound. At least it wasn't for me.
  • beefaroni
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    beefaroni polycounter
    Damn that's pretty messed up. We have a co-op program here which helps place us in 6 month internships (similar to what other posters have been talking about). We don't pay the school while we're working and it's really nice to work in a professional environment. A forced mentorship though.... lame...
  • pixelb
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    pixelb polycounter lvl 7
    Keep in mind, I’m not talking about schools who have special staff on hand to tutor students or students being “mentored” by their profs. That’s all well and good and more power to the schools who provide it, that’s what a supportive learning environment looks like. I’m talking about industry professionals who aren’t affiliated with the school, teaching students because they were asked nicely.

    I agree with everyone who says they don’t want to mentor someone who isn’t doing it of their own volition. That’s how I feel too, and I would think schools understand that well enough to not make dumb requirements out of it.

    I also with everyone saying internships are a great thing, but internship requirements are a tricky thing to enforce. If every game design program forced its students to do an internship, there wouldn’t be enough internships to go around. That’s why everywhere I’ve seen it enforced, there’s also a plan B, usually a “teaching internship” where you TA a class for a semester. In this specific case, the “mentorship” is plan B for students who don’t find an internship, but a really bad one imo.

    Muzz, I can’t say I see them problem with that? I see people post class threads here and noone’s forced to respond to them. If I were teaching a class I might do the same thing, because forum participation is really important but there can also be a real psychological barrier to posting.

    I envy you, Beefaroni. That sounds like the best possible state of affairs. When I did my internship I got little help from my school and ended up taking an unpaid internship because I couldn't find anything better.
  • pixelb
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    pixelb polycounter lvl 7
    @Phatty Yeah, my photobucket account ran out of bandwidth for the month. It should go back to normal by Saturday, but I’m also working on moving my images to my website for the future. They're at
  • beefaroni
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    beefaroni polycounter
    pixelb wrote: »
    Keep in mind, I’m not talking about schools who have special staff on hand to tutor students or students being “mentored” by their profs. That’s all well and good and more power to the schools who provide it, that’s what a supportive learning environment looks like. I’m talking about industry professionals who aren’t affiliated with the school, teaching students because they were asked nicely.

    Yea, I should have clarified this as well. I view it as the school offloading instruction to professionals who aren't getting paid any time for their work.
  • kodde
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    kodde polycounter lvl 13
    Mentorship can be done right. I incorporate it in one of my courses for my Technical Art students at The Game Assembly where I work. The way I do it I don't rely on mentors for the course, I see it as a bonus, and also I'm the one getting the mentors to help out.
  • Amsterdam Hilton Hotel
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    Amsterdam Hilton Hotel hero character
    AlecMoody wrote: »
    It seemed really odd for a professor to be handing off their job responsibilities to people over the internet.

    Based on the school I went to that doesn't seem odd.
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