Mentorships, whether formal or informal, can have a huge impact on a person. Some of the most successful people in the world credit their own success to learning under the tutelage of a mentor, from the likes of Bill Gates to Mark Zuckerberg. That’s why Millersville University launched the Mentor Collective partnership with Experiential Learning and Career Management (ELCM) that pairs up Marauder graduates with currently enrolled students.
This mentorship program has already proven to be a huge hit. Alumni relish the chance to share some of their hard-earned wisdom from their experience in the field, and students are eager to hear from other ‘Ville grads working in the industry. “The Mentorship Program really cares about creating successful pairings,” says junior mentee Cecilia Arvelo of her experience. “They aim to give every student a chance to have one and the resources to create good mentoring relationships.”
And it’s not just the students who say they’re getting something from the experience. Alumni mentors also indicated they felt like they were giving back to their alma mater through their participation in the program. “When I first heard of the mentorship program at Millersville University, I was excited to join to connect with current students and share my experience with them,” says mentor Linnea Golden. “I think it’s important for young people to have access to an adult they can trust, who isn’t a teacher or family member.”
The timing for the launch of the program couldn’t have been better. Shortly after the pairs were matched last fall, many people’s lives changed completely in the spring as schools closed and the region went into lockdown due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. “So instead of advising them on roommate issues or school clubs, we were navigating the world of distance learning, diminished job prospects and an uncertain future,” said Golden.
Alumni mentor Carroll Staub echoes these sentiments, saying, “I particularly enjoyed having conversations with my mentees. Being a mentor has strengthened my thinking that we are going to be okay with this next generation. My sense is that they are talented, aware, involved and willing to go the distance to make the world a better place for them and us.”
The program is already racking up some impressive numbers. From mid-October to the end of May, 200 juniors participated in the online Mentor Collective Partnership, receiving career-focused support and mentoring from over 70 Millersville University alumni. The mentee and mentor pairs logged over 400 conversations and nearly 1,400 text messages through the online platform.
More important, these relationships have given the students real, tangible takeaways. By the end of the academic year, mentees reported feeling more confident in a number of areas related to career preparation. Over 70% of mentees indicated they now had a usable resume, compared to 32% at the mid-point assessment, and nearly two-thirds – 62% – felt more confident during interviews, as compared to only 38% at the mid-point.
Mentors have proved to be an important part of the MU experience for many students over the years – especially for 2011 graduate Alyssa Leister. She was matched up with her mentor, alumnus Paul Beideman, during her junior year as a student in the Honors College. The pair continues to stay in touch to this day.
MU’s Honors College has been incorporating mentoring into its program for well over a decade by pairing students with upper division honors mentors and alumni mentors. The Honors College also utilizes peer mentors who reside in the Honors Living Learning Community to provide guidance for freshmen. This year, thanks to a grant from the University’s mentorship office, the Honors College was able to expand what they do through a new program known as Honors Mentoring Communities.
“Paul offered guidance as I panicked about graduation. And he simply started with “You are not alone,” says Leister. “As a junior seeking employment in an unsure job market, that advice alone meant a lot to me. He consistently checked in with me and reviewed my resume and provided valuable comments, which in turn bolstered my resume.”
She says Beideman has been a reliable source of insights to her as she’s stepped into her career. Recently, her full-time job was furloughed, so Leister began pouring her energy into her part-time gig as the operations manager for a non-profit. “This comes with a lot of learning and growing as I dig into the non-profit sector, grant writing and fundraising aspects of a 10-year old business,” says Leister. “Paul . . . provided me with phenomenal contacts [in the industry] I’ve spoken to over the last few weeks, providing guidance on everything from fundraising strategies to partner organizations.”
Leister says she’s thankful for Millersville, the Honors College and Dr. Dennis Downey, the former director of the program, for bringing them together. “Paul has remained a mentor to me for 9 years, and has truly guided and shaped my career in ways I probably will never fully realize,” she says. “I am exceptionally grateful to Millersville for connecting us and I truly believe that this exemplifies what true mentorship can look like.”
This academic year, the Mentorship Office will offer the career mentoring program to a second cohort of 250 juniors. Over 140 alumni mentors have registered for this program to date. In addition, the First Year Mentoring Program matches incoming freshmen with upper-division peer mentors. There has already been a tremendous response from first-year students seeking peer mentors, nearly 500 incoming students have signed up for the program within a month of its initial launch. Who knows where it will go from here?
Want to learn more about mentorship opportunities at MU?