Supporting Career Development, Positivity, and Inclusiveness
"We hope that the exchange of experiences and ideas lead to an increase in the students' confidence, persistence and resilience. The role of mentors is very important as they can offer the "been there, done that" perspective."
A new program at Utica College is looking to give students a head start transitioning from college to career.
The year-long Career Mentor Program pairs 20 juniors/seniors with 20 alumni mentors and is a collaboration between the Division for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and Student Transitions, the Division of Advancement, and the Black Alumni Association.
We spoke with Student Relations Chair for the Black Alumni Association Maria Araujo ‘99, a member of the Career Mentor Task Force, on the difference this program can make in the life of a student and what makes Utica College’s approach so unique.
How did the collaborations between DEI and Student Transitions, Advancement, and the Black Alumni Association come about and how do they assist one another in this mission of mentor-mentee connection?
MA: In part, the collaboration is the result of the commitment of the Black Alumni Association (BAA) to support Utica College, contribute to the strategic plan, and more specifically support under-represented students. The creation of a mentoring program is one of the three pillars of the BAA, and in such a way, we hope to contribute to a more positive and inclusive college experience for all students. Knowing that such effort required collaboration, we identified the Office of Career Services as a key ally. During conversation with BAA member Dr. Anthony Baird, the BAA leadership learned about UC's plan to create a pilot mentoring program. Brainstorming biweekly meetings between Advancement, the BAA, DEI and Student Transitions ensued. Those meetings eventually resulted in the program as now known.
What do you hope that this program can do for the students who take part?
MA: The BAA hopes that all participating students develop a consistent and meaningful experience with a seasoned professional in her or his field of interest, the motivation to put in their best effort, and the focus necessary to graduate. Although not required, it would be a bonus if mentors can also be a lead to internship and/or job placement.
How important is the role that mentors serve for students as they take further steps toward their career path?
MA: Motivation is key. We hope that the exchange of experiences and ideas lead to an increase in the students' confidence, persistence and resilience. The role of mentors is very important as they can offer the "been there, done that" perspective. It is an advantage for students to be exposed to trends and overall changes in fields of interest. Learning from someone who is now successful and once was in the same position as a student, is empowering.
What, in your opinion, makes this program unique to Utica College? What type of advantages does this program allow UC to bring to its students that they might not find elsewhere?
MA: The intentional collaboration between insiders (Dr. Baird, Mr. Kovacs, Mrs. Schad) and outsiders (myself and other members of the alumni body), as well as how accessible they are, make this program unique. The attention to details, energy invested to ensure that both mentors and mentees are diverse, the fact that we are fortunate to know personal information about participants, making the matching more intentional and promising, and the plan to use the data collected during the two program assessments, will inform strengths and areas of improvement. For students, having the additional support and opportunity to discuss the reality of their chosen career path, required exams, qualifications, licenses, graduate studies, and overall being able to hear about the landscape they hope to enter may not be easy to find elsewhere.
We are excited and looking forward to both hearing good feedback and learning how we can improve the program (and hopefully grow it). Despite its newness, there are aspects we have already identified as areas of improvement. That's how committed we are!
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