Mentoring program connects current students with Doane alumni for career counseling
LINCOLN—Aimed at creating bonds and experiences to help students in their future careers, the School of Graduate and Professional Studies (GPS) in Lincoln worked with the Alumni office to add another layer to Doane’s adult learner education.
The Alumni Mentoring Council was established this spring and, through its first cycle, gave current students and recent graduates from Doane’s Lincoln campus a career mentor in the form of a Doane alumnus or alumnae.
Joshua Russo, a mentee, was in his last term of the Master of Arts of Management program when the mentoring program started.
“I am a strong believer in mentoring relationships,” he said. “The mentoring relationship made me start to question myself, in a positive way, about the opportunities that exist and how I should pursue them.”
Russo’s mentor was Jeanne Pashalek, the human resources chief officer for Lincoln Fire & Rescue.
Pashalek said she joined the program to contribute to the personal and professional growth and development for students.
“Doane College is an outstanding educational institution and is a leader in personal growth and development,” she said. “The curriculum, staff, leaders and programs really prepare you for your chosen profession…so I wanted to be able to give something back to Doane.”
The Alumni Mentoring Council was GPS Career Development Director Susan Rocker’s idea while Doane’s Alumni Council played a key part in the initiation of the program.
“Their work to identify and contact potential mentors was key to a successful alumni mentoring program,” Rocker said.
The Alumni Council identified possible mentors in January and began contacting them in February. Students then applied to be matched to a mentor in March.
The program ran for 10 weeks, from April 5 to June 14. It opened with the Kick Off event, where mentors and participants talked about goals and were given success tips and a planning sheet that identified over 30 possible ideas for mentoring activities. Participants also had the flexibility to identify unique activities that fit their particular situation.
“One of the things I wanted for Josh was to meet some of the community leaders that I know in the careers he was interested in,” said Pashalek, who met Russo for the first time at the event. “I provided Josh with their contact information and he followed through with setting up meetings with them.”
Those kinds of experiences—which took him out of the classroom to apply his learning in real-world situations—only added to the value of Russo’s education at Doane. He said the program helped him develop professionally.
“To this point, I have learned a few things,” he said. “It is important to always have someone who can give you honest feedback about where you are in your career—and not just someone who can help you with specific job duties. The feedback from this special relationship can help you take steps that you did not know were possible. The experience develops you as a professional by seeing the path of another individual firsthand.”
And the program was practical. Director of Alumni Relations Anne Ziola said the program was developed to take into account students and mentors’ diverse schedules and lifestyles.
“Timing is a big concern when working with nontraditional students and alumni that have a regular 40-hour work week, families and school,” she said. “We had to make the program accessible to all types of schedules.”
Finding times that worked gave mentees the opportunity to experience firsthand what a different career looks and feels like.
“Some students were able to visit the workplaces of their mentors and receive VIP access into areas that the general public does not get to see everyday,” Ziola said. “It was our goal to connect as many students and alumni as possible. It offers huge benefits for both groups.”
Russo said this mentoring program gave him experiences that he wouldn’t have been able to have otherwise.
“Mentoring enables individuals to follow in the path of older and wiser colleagues who can pass on knowledge, experience and open doors to otherwise out-of-reach opportunities,” Russo said. “However, the point of mentoring is not necessarily to find a job—or advance in a position—through the experience. It is to develop yourself into a more (well)-rounded person.”
At the end celebration, Rocker said there was a lot of positive feedback and the stories were inspiring to hear.
“Out of 20 people who have responded to the feedback survey thus far,” Rocker said, “all 20 recommended the program be repeated again in the future.”
Pashalek said she thought Doane had a lot to offer and agreed that the program should continue.
“Doane alumni and community members have so much to offer in the way of guidance,” she said, “and without the program, these experiences will not be shared and people will not have the networking and support that is part of the program.”