Atkinson students meet their match

Over the last five years more than 430 students in York’s Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies have met their match – professionally, that is. They’ve paired up with York graduates in the Student-Alumni Mentorship Program and are gaining insight into their potential career, their personal life, and what to expect once they graduate.

Run by the Student & Alumni Relations (STARS) Unit, the mentorship program has proved beneficial not only to students but also to alumni who are eager to reconnect with their alma mater. It has become one of the most successful programs run by the STARS Unit, attracting participants from a wide range of disciplines including human resources, information technology, marketing and social sciences.

“The Student-Alumni Mentorship Program is ideal for students who are looking for insight and direction on how to pursue their chosen career path; it’s a unique way for them to engage in personal and professional discovery with someone who is supportive and has been in their shoes,” said Franz Branschat, faculty liaison assistant and key organizer of the program. “It’s also great for alumni who are looking to gain sophisticated coaching and leadership skills, reconnect with York and make a meaningful impact on the community.”

This year, students had the unique opportunity to select their top five ideal mentors online. They were matched with alumni based on similar interests and their chosen career fields. Once paired, the mentors and mentees met up at a meet and greet in September and have been keeping in touch – via phone, e-mail and in person – ever since.

Human resources management student Auroosa Kazmi (left) has been involved with the mentorship program for two years. It has helped her develop networking skills and to increase her confidence for entering the workplace. Kazmi’s mentors have provided her with invaluable lessons on finding a work-life balance and setting goals for her career. They’ve also given her insight into effective resumé writing, job searching, interviewing and dealing with workplace challenges.

“As students, sometimes we get tunnel vision,” said Kazmi. “We’re so focused on going to class and getting our degree that we fail to see the opportunities around us. The Student-Alumni Mentorship Program is not only a good networking and relationship-building initiative, but it’s also a great way to learn how to talk to people, to communicate effectively and to be open to new perspectives. I loved being able to bounce ideas off of my mentors while also feeling open to give my own suggestions or advice. Seeing where they’ve come from and knowing where they’ve gone makes me feel confident that I can achieve my aspirations.”

Melanie Johannink (BA ’00), who works in corporate communications for Nortel, has been a mentor since 2004. She was attracted to the program for a number of reasons, including its flexibility, the minimal time commitment required, and the opportunity to make a difference in the life of a student. In total, Johannink has mentored three students and now helps to mentor the mentors by providing advice and training.

Right: Jacqueline Cooper (left) with her mentor Melanie Johannink

“I highly recommend the program to alumni,” Johannink said. “It’s a fantastic networking opportunity, you gain new academic insights into your field from students who offer up a fresh perspective, and it’s a great way to come back to York and get involved.”

David Kuch (BAS ’07), a marketer for Bell Mobility, agrees. A mentor since 2006, he has enjoyed the program so much that this year he has taken on two mentees. “I love the mentorship program,” he said. “I get to learn about myself and transfer some of the knowledge I’ve gained to students. It’s really rewarding to watch their skills and confidence improve, and to see them succeed and move forward.”

Left: Sarah Hung (left)  with her mentor David Kuch

Each graduate has a story to tell, whether it’s about their career path or how to juggle a busy life. The Student-Alumni Mentorship Program is looking for Atkinson alumni working at York who are willing to share their experience with current students.

To learn more about the program, why not plan to attend one of several information sessions which will be held in the Harry Leith Room, 004 Atkinson Building. There is one taking place today from 6:30-7:30pm and other sessions are scheduled for June 18, July 16 and Aug. 13.

For more information, register for an information session or call Franz Branschat at ext. 20012.