Journeying Together: The Alumni Career Mentor Program

By RetterJ | November 7, 2016
Submitted by Rebecca Purvis ’17

The first week of October marked the kick-off of the Alumni Career Mentor program. The initiation reception on Oct. 4 brought together interested students and mentors to network and participate in a presentation and panel discussion led by two-time Pushcart Prize nominee and Associate Professor Michelle Reale ’96MA, ’99MSLS, ’16MFA.

Reale spoke on the impact that a committed and passionate mentor can have on the life of a mentee, and how that can influence their career direction and perception of self. Through narrative storytelling, she emphasized creating meaningful collaborations and encouraged the mentors to give something of themselves to their mentor-mentee relationships.

“Be willing to listen to what the mentees are saying,” said Reale. “We have to guide them to where they need to go, not to where we think they need to go. This is the way mentors build trust. This is the ethic of care that all mentoring calls for and is a failure without.”

This ethic of care has been a long-running theme within the Alumni Career Mentor program, which represents a collaborative effort between Arcadia University’s Office of Career Education, Office of Alumni Relations, and Honors Program. The mission of the program is to facilitate developmental relationships between alumni and students that provide both parties with invaluable platforms for personal and professional growth. Participating alumni mentors offer their professional expertise and diverse workforce perspectives to help mentees identify academic and professional goals, develop professional competencies, and navigate employment pathways.

The alumni mentor initiative began five years ago with 51 students and 33 mentors. Since then, the program has grown to involve over 200 students and 170 mentors from assorted professional backgrounds. Each fall, applications are accepted from interested students and alumni, who are matched based on commonalities in academic majors and career aspirations.

Throughout the year, various events are held to support the mentor-mentee relationships, including formal and informal dinners and panel discussions that foster targeted networking and interpersonal-skill development.

“In a world in which so many college students and graduates feel rudderless, mentoring has the capacity to form and maintain meaningful and vital relationships, helping mentees navigate the often rough terrain of their chosen career,” said Associate Director of Alumni Relations Nancy Woehrle.

Next year, the program will also offer an online database of mentor biographies that students can browse to select their mentor preference, creating a new opportunity to maximize the considerable benefits of the program.