The Mentor

Behind every successful woman is a Shandol. Shandol Hoover is the Director of Student Development for Honors Carolina at UNC Chapel Hill, where she connects bright young minds to educational opportunities that nourish curiosity while building the foundations for rewarding careers. The woman that inspired our Shandol skirt is a guide and a mentor, who steers her students through one of the most challenging questions they’ll ever have to answer: What do I want to do with my life? It should come as no surprise then, that Shandol had no difficulties in answering our questions about finding your life’s work and getting comfortable with a “zig-zaggy” career path for our Ameliora Muse Questionnaire.

Can you tell us about a mentor figure that has played a significant role in your life? What did they teach you?

In college, I had an incredible supervisor. I was the student director, and she took me under her wing to help me learn more about working in higher education. She allowed me to accompany her to meetings so I could see how she navigated challenging situations, and observe how to she “held her own” in groups where she was one of the only female administrators and by far the youngest at the table. She taught me to be bold. Perhaps the most valuable skill she taught me was problem-solving. If I ran into a problem and popped into her office to say “this won’t work”, or "we can't do this", she would send me out of her office until I could come back to her with at least three plausible solutions. I vividly remember starting to walk to her office to tell her about a problem only to turn around before I hit the door because I did not yet have three solutions. To this day, I draw upon this in my work and have since passed this strategy onto the students and staff I supervise.

What was your first job and what did you learn from it?

My first job was as a lifeguard and swimming instructor at my small town public pool. After a full day of work in the hot sun, we cleaned the pool and the locker rooms, maintained the grounds, and planned activities for our upcoming swimming lessons. I learned valuable lessons about teamwork, communication, and customer service from that job, and as a result I firmly believe that everyone should have at least one job that has a front-line customer service component. That experience taught me how to remain positive in challenging situations, work with colleagues to complete complex tasks, make split second decisions, and communicate with diverse people of all ages.


How did you know when you had found your ideal career path?

I know that I’m on my ideal path because I am energized at both the beginning and the end of my workday. While there are certainly always challenges, I truly believe in the mission of my department and the university so I feel compelled to give everything I have every day. I feel empowered to create and implement programs and initiatives that enhance the student experience, and I am honored to work with extraordinary students, faculty, colleagues, and alumni.

What are some techniques you use to manage stress and the competing demands of your work and home life?

Every day I carve out time to just “be” at home and with my family. No matter how busy I am, it’s important for me to take time to power down all electronics and just be present. Exercise and physical activity are also very important to me. I try and either walk or swim at least three times a week – it’s where I do my best thinking.

What is your view on failure?

Failure is never easy to handle in the moment, but it is inevitable and a part of the process. What really matters is how you deal with failure. Resilience and perseverance are critical competencies. College is the perfect time to “go for it” and experience failure in a supportive environment. When students approach me and are upset that they failed at something, I encourage them to “sit” with the feeling for a little bit (but not too long). Then I encourage them to reflect upon on the following questions: Why did things not go as planned? What worked? What didn’t work? What was in your control? What was outside of your control? How might you approach things differently next time? What did you learn? What’s next for you?

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