Crossing Paths With...

//Success Stories

Dr. Jean Rhodes

Professor of Psychology and

Director of the Center for Evidence-Based Mentoring

UMass Boston

Step Up's monthly blog series "Crossing Paths With..." spotlights community members on their paths to success. This month's blog post features Professor of Psychology and Director of the Center for Evidence-Based Mentoring at UMass Boston, Dr. Jean Rhodes. Dr. Rhodes is from the small town of Allendale, New Jersey and now lives in Boston. Dr. Rhodes attended the University of Vermont where she met the mentor who changed her life. In addition to her love for mentoring, Dr. Rhodes loves hiking, wine tasting trips, and reading.

You met one of your mentors when you attended the University of Vermont. How did that relationship affect you?

As a freshman, I had the blind luck of enrolling in an introductory psychology course taught by the pioneering community psychologist George Albee. He saw potential in me, and, over time, that changed me. My sense of self shifted from a Jersey girl with an uncertain identity and modest ambition to someone who could and should try to make a difference in the world. As an entering freshman, I was surprised to learn that there existed nonmedical “doctors.” I had never even heard of a PhD, much less met anyone who held such a degree. Within a few short years, I was pursuing one. That’s why I’m so excited about the Step Up Digital Community. I’m hopeful that it will foster similar, transformative relationships.

How did you cross paths with Step Up? What made you get involved?

I’ve always admired the mission and work of Step Up and was thrilled when they selected MentorPRO to serve as their platform for their new Digital Community initiative. Together, we have co-created a welcoming, evidence-based platform for young adults and Step Up members to engage in flash mentoring, make new connections, and work together on career readiness skills.

How has your idea of what success means to you evolved? Have you experienced any pivots that have paid off in ways that you value?

As a professor and researcher, I have been studying mentoring relationships for more than half my life and always planned to continue down that path into retirement. MentorPRO was co-founded a few years ago with my sister, Nancy, whose interests and expertise align with mine for this mission. As a clinical psychologist, mentoring expert, and college professor at the third most diverse university in the U.S., I deeply understand the strengths and struggles of young adults and how to apply best practices to advance students’ lives. And, as a computer scientist, Nancy knows how to harness technology to improve outcomes. After starting her career at Xerox PARC in Palo Alto where she helped to pioneer technology platforms, Nancy worked at a Cambridge-based tech startup before launching her own successful company Academic Web Pages more than 20 years ago. The spark that ignited MentorPRO came as we were walking along the beach at the Jersey shore, where we’ve been going our entire lives. I had just finished writing a book on mentoring and was bemoaning the persistently small effects and lack of focus in most programs, despite clear findings showing the value of goal-focused, evidence-based practices. Nancy asked whether technology could be leveraged to help disseminate best practices and, several years later, we are continuing to advance this idea.

In your field, how do you stay authentic to yourself and your values?

When I become aware of any inconsistencies between my values of anti-racism and social justice and other motivations (e.g., career, MentorPRO success), I reach out to my partner, sister, colleagues, and/or close friends to discuss the nuances. Fortunately, this doesn’t arise that often. I’m a community-engaged researcher, and my work with young people, nonprofits partners and like-minded colleagues means that I have ongoing real-world validation and alignment.

Which one of Step Up’s values do you identify the most with? Why do you identify with this value the most?

Of course, I identify with all these values, but I’d have to say curated connections. I have devoted my career to studying connections and it’s been exciting to translate research and best practice into scalable initiatives that affect so many lives.

How have you incorporated your passion into what you do?

I feel like every day I’m able to do meaningful, purpose-driven work that is an expression of my values, talents, and passions.

What professional accomplishment are you most proud of? Why?

I am proud of the impact I’ve had on the field but what makes me especially proud is that more than a dozen of my former doctoral students now hold tenure-track or tenured faculty positions across the US and in Israel, Japan, and Hong Kong. It is exhilarating to have mentored such talented scholars and to see the important work of improving intergenerational relations continuing in new generations of scholars.


MentorPro is an app cofounded by Dr. Jean Rhodes to facilitate on demand virtual mentorship sessions. Step Up invites mentors (ages 30+) and mentees (ages 18-29) to join its digital community via its website.

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