Mentorship on the rise

Atkinson’s Student-Alumni Mentorship Program is founded in the belief that people genuinely want to help others. For the past four years, the program has provided alumni with an opportunity to step into the lives of Atkinson students, offering career insight, friendship and a helping hand.

On Sunday, Sept.17, the program officially launched its 2006-2007 year with a meet-and-greet social to formally introduce alumni mentors to their student mentees. During the event, mentors and students got to know one another, set their meeting schedule for the term and enjoy lunch together. “This is their first formal introduction,” says Carole Umaña, founder of the program and director of Atkinson’s Student & Alumni Relations Unit. “Mentors and mentees use the event to get to know each other and plan their year.”

Right: More than 250 Atkinson alumni, students and staff filled the Atkinson cafeteria during the fourth annual mentorship program launch

This year, 120 Atkinson graduates volunteered for the program and have been matched one to one with Atkinson undergrads: 60 per cent of the volunteers are returning mentors from previous years. The program, established at Atkinson in 2003-2004, was created to provide a way to engage Atkinson’s alumni in University life. After surveying Atkinson alumni to determine possible support, the program was launched and quickly attracted several students and 30 mentors willing to volunteer their time. Over the years, the program has seen a steady increase in popularity.

“It’s been so exciting to see the program grow as much as it has, and to see students who have been mentored in the past come back as now as alumni mentors. This validates the fact that students are getting value out of their mentorship experience and that they also now want to pass the gift of mentorship onto others,” notes Franz Branchat, who works as a faculty liaison assistant in Atkinson’s Student & Alumni Relations Unit. Branchat has coordinated the program for the last 18 months.

Left: Students and mentors are matched on common career interests

The mentorship program provides students with an opportunity to explore career options, helps students prepare for a chosen career path and serves as an effective networking tool for students. Some alumni mentors have helped their student mentee prepare their resumé and hone their interview skills. Others provide networking opportunities for students through job-shadowing or by inviting their student to attend informal business or professional functions. Umaña says that an increasing number of international students have also found the program to be beneficial in that it helps them learn more about the Canadian context.

As shared by one student mentee last year: “My mentor is a life coach, helping me to focus on achieving my goals. I appreciate having someone who looks out for me.”

Students are not the only participants to benefit from the program: by becoming mentors, alumni enhance their leadership and coaching skills, and reconnect with York in a meaningful way that help students achieve their career goals.

“I believe that people genuinely want to help others,” says Umaña. “This mentorship program provides the vehicle through which alumni can reach out and give back to the Atkinson community in a very meaningful way.”

For both students and alumni, Umaña says one of the greatest benefits lies in the relationships that they build. Often mentors and mentees become friends and stay connected long after the program has run its course.

“We’re very pleased to launch the fourth year of this program,” says Martha Rogers, associate dean and master of Atkinson. “It gives students the opportunity to explore and expand career options while connecting Atkinson alumni to their alma mater.”

For more information about the program, visit the STARS Web site or call ext. 33572.

This story was written by Bethany Hansraj, a student assistant in the Publications unit of York’s Marketing & Communications Division.