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How to pursue a grassroots mentoring program: with an IMA grant, we developed a program for chapters that matches students and professionals in a unique mentoring program.

In January 2002, we received an Innovations in Accounting Education Grant from the Institute of Management Accountants that enabled us to establish a Grassroots Mentor program through a local IMA chapter. The thrust of this program is to provide a strong partnership at the IMA chapter level to provide mentors to accounting students. The program's mission is twofold. For students, the goal is to help develop their managerial accounting knowledge by promoting IMA membership and providing certification information. For IMA members, the program is an opportunity to share their knowledge and expertise with those eager to learn. Due to the initial success of this effort, the mentor program is now institutionalized in the Illowa Chapter.


We sent invitations to participate in the program to members of the Illowa Chapter and to professors and students at colleges in the Quad Cities area (Moline and Rock Island, Illinois, and Davenport and Bettendorf, Iowa). The letter explained the benefits of the program to mentors and students as well as what would be expected of them as participants. Thirty-four students and 20 mentors volunteered.

Our plan began with the creation of a model we hoped could be utilized by any local chapter that wanted to establish a mentor program. Knowing that not all members had experience in mentoring, we searched for a tool that volunteers could use to develop their mentoring skills. We purchased CDs of How To Be A Great Mentor[TM] ... in under 30 minutes (1) for distribution to mentors. We knew some of the IMA volunteers might not feel comfortable playing the role of mentor, so we wanted to provide them with training opportunities. This program was designed to be flexible, enabling the mentors to choose the areas in which they wanted training.

The next step was to create a packet for both mentors and students that outlined the benefits of the program and included a schedule of activities, a sample discussion sheet, a progress chart, and other items to ensure the success of the program for each student and mentor.

After developing the program, we officially launched the IMA Illowa Chapter 2002 Mentor Program at a luncheon on March 19, 2002. Students and mentors had a chance to meet each other and discuss program logistics, as well as see a presentation that discussed the program and how everyone could benefit from participation. The luncheon was very successful, although not all participants were able to attend (85% of the mentors and 44% of the students attended). The students who attended the luncheon (results discussed below) reported greater overall satisfaction with the program.


After the initial luncheon, mentors and students were free to design their own relationships. The grant provided funds for students to attend monthly chapter meetings, so some mentors met with their students there. A few of the beneficial results of the program were:

* Membership growth--the mentor program facilitated our support of 35 new student members this chapter year.

* CMA/CFM candidates--one student member decided to take a CMA review course and take the CMA exam.

* Chapter/Student partnerships--our chapter developed a formal partnership with one university, Western Illinois University (a student IMA chapter was formed in the year the program began), and informal relationships with Augustana College, Mount St. Clair College, and St. Ambrose University.

* Student attendance at IMA meetings--because mentors brought students to IMA meetings, the chapter's meeting attendance increased.

At the end of the program, we sent a survey to the participants to get their feedback. Fifteen of the 34 students and 11 of the 20 mentors returned them.

Table 1 shows the results from the student surveys. While the results for "I received valuable information" (3.33/5.0) were not as high as we would have liked, the lower scores came from students who reported difficulty in contacting their mentors. The students reported the benefit from the kick-off luncheon as high, 4.38/5.0. While the rating of "overall benefit" by student respondents was 3.27/5.0, the score was 3.75/5.0 for those who attended the luncheon. Clearly the kick-off luncheon succeeded in its purpose of helping to foster a relationship between students and their mentors.

While students did report a high willingness to continue in the program and to serve as mentors later in life--both categories scoring 4.0/5.0--the most disappointing score was in relation to how much they learned about the IMA. Perhaps the solution to this is to ensure that mentors are prepared to discuss the benefits of IMA membership with their students, or perhaps students participated in the program because they already knew a great deal about the IMA. Nevertheless, more students attended the Illowa Chapter meetings as a result of the program, which encouraged the growth of the student chapter. It should be noted that the student chapter is at a campus 80 miles from the Illowa Chapter, so students from the Chapter had some limitation in participating with their mentors.

Results from the mentor survey were more encouraging (see Table 2). Overall satisfaction with the mentoring program was high for mentors, with a score of 3.91/5.0. From the comments we received, this score would have been even higher if some mentors had not experienced a mixed interest from students. The intent to continue being a mentor was also very high, 4.73/5.0. When asked if they had provided the students with useful information about the accounting profession, the mentors who had difficulty meeting with their student(s) reported lower scores. Mentors with more than one student also had mixed results. In several cases, one student seemed very interested while one seemed to have more conflicts.


While the benefit reported by mentors was higher than that reported by students, both groups wanted to see the program continue. We learned several things that will help us improve the program.

The kick-off luncheon is a key to success. The luncheon provided more than just food. It included a structured presentation of the program and provided an opportunity for the students and mentors to interact for the first time. Holding the kick-off event in a group setting generates a sense of excitement and provides a structure that helps participants distinguish the mentor program from a less-structured "job shadowing" experience. Those who were able to attend the luncheon reported a more positive experience with the program.

Because the kick-off event is so important to the success of the program, additional efforts should be made in the future to ensure that all mentors and students can participate. For example, seeking input as to the best date and time from participants or possibly offering two or three sessions rather than one would be helpful. Whatever is done, a key to program success is to ensure maximum participation in the kick-off event.

Students and mentors need encouragement to continue contact during the program. Some of the participants might have continued their enthusiasm and involvement in the program if they were prompted. In retrospect, this could have been encouraged by sending participants a monthly e-mail or newsletter that could provide tips to strengthen the mentoring relationship. It is important for program facilitators to stay in contact with the participants.

Mentors need to have access to appropriate IMA materials to increase the student knowledge of the organization. The IMA provides a wealth of information to members about the organization. In retrospect, the packet of information provided to the mentors should have included information about IMA and tips for communicating this information to students. In the future, one goal will be to provide mentors with structured information about IMA and suggestions on how to communicate it to students.

Overall, we feel that we were able to create a successful template for other chapters interested in mentoring programs. We invite all interested IMA members to contact us in regard to materials used in the program. Finally, we would like to thank the IMA for its support in creating this Grassroots Mentoring Program.
Table 1: Illowa Chapter IMA Mentoring Program Survey
Student Survey Results

Please answer the following questions based on your experience
so far with the mentor program: Number your answer 1-5
(Scale: 1=Strongly Disagree; 5=Strongly Agree)

 Question Mean Score

1 I received valuable information about the 3.33
 accounting profession from my mentor.

2 My mentor has contacted me or responded to 3.33
 me several times so far in the program.

3 I benefited from the materials provided by the program. 3.27

4 I found the kick-off luncheon very beneficial. 4.38

5 I will continue participating in the mentor program as 4.00
 long as I am a student.

6 I would like to serve as a mentor after I enter the 4.00

7 I have learned more about the Institute of Management 2.73
 Accountants through the program.

8 The mentor program has been a definite benefit to me as 3.27
 a student.

Table 2: Illowa Chapter IMA Mentoring Program Survey
Mentor Survey Results

Please answer the following questions based on your
experience so far with the mentor program: Number your
answer 1-5 (Scale: 1=Strongly Disagree; 5=Strongly Agree)

 Question Mean Score

1 I have provided my student with valuable information 3.64
 about the accounting profession.

2 My student has contacted me several times so far in 3.00
 the program.

3 I benefited from the training materials provided by the 3.90

4 I found the kick-off luncheon very beneficial. 4.36

5 I will continue participating in the mentor program in 4.73
 the future.

6 From my point of view as a mentor, the program has been 3.91
 very successful.

(1) We purchased the CDs from Deliver the Promise[R] at

Anthony Falgiani is associate professor at Western Illinois University-Quad Cities, Moline, Ill. You can contact him by phone at (309) 762-3999, ext. 258, or by e-mail at

Martin J. Coe is assistant professor at Western Illinois University-Quad Cities, Moline, Ill. You can contact him at (309) 762-3999, ext. 304, or at

Joel Thompson is senior internal auditor at MidAmerican Energy Company in Davenport, Iowa. You can contact him by phone at (563) 333-8386 or by e-mail at
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Author:Falgiani, A. Anthony; Coe, Martin J.; Thompson, Joel
Publication:Management Accounting Quarterly
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2004
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