It’s matchmaking with a difference. A new mentoring program launched on Wednesday by Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies pairs students with graduate volunteers. Meant to foster career and personal development for students, the program also has benefits for the alumni who sign up as mentors. And judging by the excitement when mentors and mentees met for the first time, this pioneering program could blossom into something big.
Right: A volunteer alumna chats with her student match
“If only you could have seen the mentors and mentees in Michelangelo’s” on Wednesday night, said launch organizer Carole Umaña, senior policy analyst and special projects coordinator at Atkinson. “People were so engaged in conversation, they were still talking at quarter of nine,” well past closing time.
Altogether 120 people turned up for the event hosted by Atkinson Dean Rhonda Lenton. Thirty-five mentors – all graduates of Atkinson and working in a diversity of professions – met with almost twice as many mentees, who ranged from part-time to full-time, teenage to mature students, enrolled in everything from nursing to accounting.
Left: Students in the mentorship program
The program might “help students choose a field because a lot of undergraduates don’t know what they want to do,” says Andrew Sutherland, an accounting student who is on the advisory committee. It gives them a chance to talk to people working in a field they are considering, he said.
Victor Antonucci, 20, a second-year administrative studies student, didn’t know what to expect when he signed up for the program. “It was something new, and I wanted to be part of it.” Then he met Jim, a retired sheet metal worker and union man who earned his BA in English and became a teacher. “It was a really good match,” said Antonucci.
They’re “two generations apart” but share a political activism and experience in union organizing, and have run across a lot of the same people (the late Cardinal Emmet Carter, for one). “It’s interesting meeting someone outside dealing with the same issues I am on campus,” said Antonucci. “It shows that history is circular.” The two have decided to work together on United Way and other community campaigns. “I’m looking for Jim to become one of my good friends,” says Antonucci.
“They were beaming at each other,” said Umaña of Antonucci and Jim. She said she heard more than one alumnus exclaim: “Wow, I wish there was something like this when I was here.”
“This mentorship program will provide meaningful and concrete support to our students by linking experienced and supportive alumni with current students,” Lenton said. “We are supporting education outside of the classroom as well as providing a way for our alumni to stay connected with their alma mater.”
Right: Mentor and mentee
The mentorship program is a non-academic program administered by Atkinson’s Dean’s Office and supported by a volunteer advisory committee comprised of Atkinson students and alumni. Mentors provide support, guidance and encouragement to students in a variety of areas. The program enables both alumni and students to build new networks and facilitates valuable interaction between alumni and students on topics of mutual interest.
For more information about the Student-Alumni Mentorship Program at Atkinson, visit www.atkinson.yorku.ca/alumni/mentor/.