Levester Johnson, vice president for student affairs, was recently named a finalist for the Inspire Awards, which College Mentors for Kids present to individuals who excel at mentoring in their workplace or community.
Johnson said he was surprised when he saw the first congratulatory e-mail pop up in his inbox explaining that he had been nominated and was overwhelmed when he eventually received more than a dozen nominations.
While he has had ample opportunity to mentor in his position at Butler, he said his initial desire to mentor came from his minister father and the example he provided.
“That was what you do, you serve others,” he said. “Especially as related to youth and making sure they are involved and engaged and given the knowledge to create their own path towards success.”
He said he was given an opportunity to expand on these roots during his time at Marquette University and then at Butler, since both institutions have service as part of their main tenants.
Working as an advisor to Student Government Association and class officers has given him a perspective on what mentoring entails. He said that he likes working through problems with them, sharing advice and helping them come to a decision.
Ginger Lippert, who now works as a marketing MBA project manager in the College of Business, said she nominated Johnson for his willingness to give back to the Butler community.
Lippert interacted with Johnson as SGA president from 2003-04, but said his influence began her freshman year when she went to a student lunch he hosted.
“I thought that it was a really neat thing, that he was going out of his way to make sure he was getting to know not just student leaders, but new students,” Lippert said.
Even though Lippert has graduated, she said that Johnson stays in touch and holds reunions for former student leaders to promote connection.
“I don’t think it’s normal for a vice president of student affairs to do that much in terms of keeping former student leaders engaged,” she said.
Johnson said that interacting with and getting to know leaders like Lippert on a more personal level is also key to building such relationships.
“I believe in not being just an adviser in name, sitting around a table or in this office coming up with plans and programs,” he said. “I like going there and being involved in it.”
Karla Cunningham, director of residence life and one of Johnson’s nominators, said Johnson has been a professional and personal mentor to her in her role as director and during her pursuit of a doctorate. She especially sees his impact on students when he interacts with resident assistants during their training sessions.
“I’ve seen how he relates to students and how he connects to and inspires them,” Cunningham said.
To Johnson, a good mentor is someone who is not only physically available, but someone who also understands that mentoring is a two-way street. He said that he enjoys learning from his mentees as much or more than they do from him, and the best mentors understand this give and take.
“We all have these intrinsic qualities we need to fine-tune, and to do that for an entire lifetime,” he said. “Having others involved in our lives so that we can smooth the edges out is very important.”
He also said that mentoring, even in the smallest way, is something everyone should pursue.
“Everyone has that ability to share something, so everyone should be a mentor or be in a mentoring kind of role.”