Mentorship Matters

January is National Mentoring Month and Foster has a lot to celebrate when it comes to connecting students with professionals. From alumni office hours, the MBA Mentoring Program, student organization mentoring programs and more, there are many opportunities to make an impact on the student experience.

Susan Canfield along with mentors

Susan Canfield along with mentors Lydia Islan (MBA 2017), Tasha Tieu (BA 2014, MPAcc 2015) and Sam Bradley-Kelley (BA 2012).

Another example is our Undergraduate Mentoring Program, currently in its sixth year of operation, which pairs undergraduate students with Foster alumni professionals in the community. Over a 6-month period, these mentoring relationships assist students in the transition from academic to professional life and give alumni the opportunity to share their career insights, gain coaching skills and expand their network.

A win-win situation

Susan Canfield, Megan Rasmussen and Suzanne Keel-Eckmann at the mentor training.

Susan Canfield, Megan Rasmussen and Suzanne Keel-Eckmann at the mentor training.

The Undergraduate Mentoring Program kick-off event in December focused primarily on training. Alumni mentors focused on how to approach a mentoring conversation, resources available to support their conversations and how to tackle difficult scenarios.

Suzanne Keel-Eckmann, an executive coach and consultant, has facilitated the program’s mentor training since its inception. “For five years, I’ve facilitated workshops for mentors as part of the Foster Undergraduate Mentoring Program,” says Keel-Eckman. “Of note in its design is the opportunity for both students and mentors to learn from the experience. Mentors share with students their educational/work experiences and help pave the way for students to succeed at Foster and beyond. In the process, mentors develop their own leadership skills through listening/guiding students and by networking with other more seasoned mentors. What a win-win!”

Mentoring pairs are also organized into cohorts by industry (cohorts were named after famous movie mentors this year).

Mentoring pairs are also organized into cohorts by industry (cohorts were named after famous movie mentors this year).

Foster’s Susan Canfield agrees. The mentoring maven and author of Mentoring Moments: Inspiring Stories from Eight Business Leaders and MBAs retired three years ago from Foster after founding and running the MBA Mentoring Program for 17 years, but mentoring remains a passion. This year, she returned to campus to lead a break-out session for returning mentors “The traditional view of mentoring casts the mentor as guru and the mentee as grateful recipient of the guidance,” says Canfield. “But it goes both ways. The mentors often learn as much as they teach.”

Impact

Pairs can choose to meet as a cohort or in a 1:1 setting.

Mentoring pairs can choose to meet as a cohort or in a 1:1 setting.

Mentoring gives alumni an amazing opportunity to give back to their alma mater and gain some valuable coaching experience at the same time. John Charlton, Assistant Director in the Undergraduate Career Center raves about the program. “From a professional development standpoint, the impact we see mentoring have on our students is both immediate and lasting– participants have told us repeatedly that the ability to connect with a positive role model has made a huge difference in firming up their career aspirations, connecting to their chosen field, and winning both internships and full-time roles after graduation.”

When surveyed about the highlights from the mentoring program last year, alumni participants commented:

“I loved connecting with my mentee, learning about her experience, and her dreams for the future. It gives me the same excitement I had prior to graduation.”

“I appreciated having the opportunity to provide perspective for a young undergraduate going into consulting. I was able to help him think of what was important to him in a career and the steps to take early on.”

On the flip side, students rave about their experiences as well:

“I appreciated getting connected to a working professional in Seattle who I now can call my friend. I am not from the area, so I am just starting to build my network. It’s really great to have been matched with someone who was very easy to talk to and is at an age where she can give me relevant advice about my next steps as a business professional.”

If you’re interested in becoming an alumni mentor for the Undergraduate Mentoring Program, please email Megan Rasmussen, Associate Director of Alumni Engagement at [email protected]. Registration will be open September to October for FY 2020-2021’s program.