Last spring, Hastings College Career Services and the Alumni Association worked together to create a seven-week mentorship program that pairs third-year students with alumni in the students’ career fields of interest.
The program provides a flexible structure for the pair to develop a relationship through which the students gain professional and networking skills. In the program, each pair creates an agreement about how they plan to proceed and what topics to explore. They are encouraged to set at least three goals they want to achieve during their time together.
“Not only do we want the match to be beneficial for the students, but we also want mentors to grow,” said Carissa Uhrmacher ‘96, Hastings College assistant director of Career Services. “One mentor in the program said he was reminded of how you never stop growing and learning after graduation, and that’s really what this is all about.”
After orientation sessions in early 2020, the College moved online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This pushed the mentoring program fully online, as well, but the process created opportunities for students and their alumni mentors to navigate professional development skills in that setting together. Going forward, mentors and mentees will meet both online and in person, depending on where the alumni mentor is based and how schedules align.
Students and their alumni mentors meet for about an hour every week during one seven-week block. Some pairs stay in touch after the program wraps up.
Hastings College senior Joelle Derner signed up to be in the spring 2020 pilot program and was paired with Sally Jurgensmier ‘93. The two still talk a year later.
Jurgensmeier was interested in joining the program because her friend, Alicia O’Donnell ‘96, Hastings College director of Alumni Engagement and Annual Giving, asked her to participate. Jurgensmier said she felt like she had more time in her life to reconnect with the College again and provide insight for future graduates.
“I enjoyed getting to know Joelle because she is a goal-oriented person, which really helped me embark on my own goals again,” Jurgensmeier said. “I feel like we can become complacent in our goals, but Joelle has helped me see beyond my comfort zone.”
Derner said she signed up for the program to polish her resume, practice basic interview skills and explore other professional development topics.
“When you are just out of school, your connections are one of your biggest assets, so creating a relationship with someone outside of my realm has been very beneficial,” Derner said.
The Alumni Association is looking for more alumni to join the program as mentors for Hastings College students. It will run year-round, during the seven week blocks. It is an excellent opportunity for students and alumni to connect with each other and the College, O’Donnell said. Those interested in serving as a mentor can contact Uhrmacher at firstname.lastname@example.org or O’Donnell at email@example.com.
By Courtney Hanson, a senior from Brookings, South Dakota, majoring in communication studies and philosophy and religion.