Four months after the initiation of the Mentorship Program piloted by the Association of Yale Alumni, roughly 40 students have been paired with alumni to bridge the gap between being a college student and a working professional.
When the AYA piloted the program last October, 21 pairs of mentors and students signed up for the program’s first six-month round. The high interest rate led to a second round of roughly the same number of pairs, which began in January. Last fall, coordinators from the AYA reached out to over 350 alumni and asked them to fill out a survey indicating their career, interests, address and other identifying information. The students then received the biographical information of all the alumni participants for this round excluding their names, and were asked to rank their top four choices.
“I don’t find [the high interest]] surprising, but it is gratifying to see the result,” said Nancy Stratford ’77, an executive officer of AYA and one of the primary coordinators of the program.
Stratford said the alumni mentors ranged from recent graduates to those from many years ago and were diverse in age, geographic location and career field. Student participants were also divided evenly across gender and age group.
John Hopkins, who also helped coordinate the program, said student participants were mainly responsible for initiating conversations with their mentors. In most cases, students could be matched with their first-choice mentor. Steve Blum ’74, AYA’s senior director of strategic initiatives, said the vast majority of conversations between students and their mentors revolved around job searches, preparing for interviews and how to market oneself as an applicant. Many students spoke to uncertainty about entering the “real world,” he said.
Program staff interviewed all said students were very active in initiating conversations.
“We only heard from a few alumni in the second round who indicated that they hadn’t heard back from the students,” Stratford said. “But these issues were quickly resolved.”
Blum added that both sides indicated that the program was a “meaningful exercise,” though he added that alumni were less confident about how much their mentorship benefited the students.
Students and alumni in the first round were asked to fill out a survey halfway through the six-month period. The three-page survey included free response questions as well as ratings for each part of the program. Fifteen students and 15 alumni responded to the survey. Blum said that on average, students and alumni communicated three times in three months.
Although the overall response to the program has been positive, Blum said students and alumni differ in their ratings of the program’s individual components. The students rated the matching process highest and the orientation materials — which included a formal orientation session at the beginning of the program — less helpful, while alumni gave orientation materials a high rating. Whereas students found that scheduling conversations with alumni was easy to facilitate, alumni indicated that it was a challenge. Blum explained that alumni probably preferred that the students come to their meetings with a little more preparation as opposed to a last-minute call.
Blum also quoted one student comment from the survey which said that what students and alumni each put into the program dictates what they get out of it.
Paul Broholm ’78, a mentor who works in the business sector, described his relationship with his mentee as “friendly.” Broholm said he did not know what to expect of the program in advance and signed up because he supported the idea and was curious about what he might learn from it. Broholm met his mentee once in September and they have communicated over phone or Skype since then. Brohom said that his conversations with his mentee often center around the “inevitable unexpected turns of fortune” of life after Yale.
“My own benefit has been to see the world through a different set of eyes, and perhaps to be reminded that things I take for granted can be useful to someone else. And I have the impression I’m being helpful, which is rewarding,” Brohom said. “And I’ve met a very nice person.”
Briana Cameron SPH ’19 said that the relationship with her mentor was helpful in both career advising and life in general. Cameron, who participated in the first round of the program, was matched to a mentor who works in the public health sector with whom she had regular phone conversations. Cameron said her conversation with her mentor centered on her school performance at the start but eventually expanded to a wide range of topics. Cameron said it was helpful to gain insight on the “real world” of public health.
Stratford said she was very pleased to see that this program has facilitated connections.
“Once we get feedback we are then able to scale the size of the program so it [will] benefit more students,” Stratford said.
The launch date for the third cycle of pairings has yet to be determined.