Alumni Support OU Students in Mentor Program
Mentorship is a commonly known avenue for students to forge connections, gain career insights and build their confidence. Mentors can serve as dedicated guides who offer advice, provide constructive feedback, or open doors for possible employment opportunities.
Last year, Oglethorpe University launched the Oglethorpe Alumni-Student Mentorship Program managed in partnership with Mentor Collective, an online platform to facilitate mentorship relationships. A peer mentorship program was also implemented through this platform; first-year students were paired with upper-class students, while upper-class students were paired with Oglethorpe Alumni.
Many alumni eagerly responded to the request to volunteer as a mentor, offering support and guidance to current students. In the program’s first year, 43 Oglethorpe alumni mentored nearly 90 students, including many who are first-generation college students. Alumni represented various career fields and graduation years, each bringing unique perspectives yet sharing the same Petrel bond with students.
“Serving as an alumni mentor to an Oglethorpe student is more important now than ever,” said Kathryn Ethridge Henderson ’17, director of alumni engagement and giving. “Through this program alumni are providing a space for Oglethorpe students to discuss their experiences at Oglethorpe and beyond, as well as connect them with resources that build resilience.”
For some alumni, the motivation to participate came from the mentor relationships they had as students. Tony Golden ’13 recalls several informal mentors during his time at Oglethorpe who helped him prepare for job interviews and shared career advice. “They gave me advice, like what an interviewer is looking for, so that I could be able to better sell myself,” says Golden.
Golden says his mentor’s guidance, as well as introductions they made to other professionals in his field, helped him land a job after graduation. He is glad to be able to be able to support Oglethorpe students in a similar way now. “I think about the university motto: Make a Life. Make a Living. Make a Difference,” he says. “I like giving back and being able to make a difference and help students.”
Mentorship also reaps benefits for the mentors, offering opportunities to learn from their mentees as they connect and discuss the Oglethorpe experience.
“Mentoring is not just about helping others. It is also an opportunity for me to learn and grow,” says Gabrielle Williams ’16. “I enjoy getting to know my mentees, their families, and their career goals. I learn a lot from them, and I also feel fulfilled knowing that I am making a difference in their lives.”
Through surveys about the program, students indicated that their mentors helped them in a variety of ways, ranging from advice about how to adjust to the academic rigor of college classes to making the most of the resources on campus. Others noted that their mentors provided a supportive listening ear and offered guidance on interview tactics and internship applications.
“Career development is a lifelong, community process and mentorship is an excellent tool for a student’s career development,” says Karlie Burell, career development coordinator. “Students may gain value from a mentor who shares a lot in common with their path and shows them that there is a way forward, or students may be challenged to expand their perspectives beyond what was originally planned. Either way, mentorship is an integral part of the support system that helps shape our students’ unique career journeys.”
The Alumni-Student Mentorship Program continues this year, with more alumni engaged in supporting Oglethorpe students on their academic and career journeys. Williams offers two pieces of advice to those considering participating as a mentor: be intentional and be patient. “Mentoring is a commitment so it’s important to devote time to your mentee,” she says. “It takes time to build a strong relationship. Keep at it and be positive, as it can be challenging but, in the end, rewarding!”