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Mentorship program helps pair students with professionals

by Emily Murphy / Beacon Staff • April 12, 2012

Three letters of reference, a transcript, and a personal essay are par for the course when applying to college.

But not everyone will tell you that, once you’re accepted, you might still need those shining, self-endorsing materials. If you want to apply for the mentor program at Emerson, you’ll need all that and a short pitch to be merely considered amid the selection process. 

Every year, about 50 freshmen and sophomores compete for a spot in the mentor program. The number accepted is small—only 10 of those students will gain a professional confidant in their field of choice, according to Carol Spector, the director of Career Services.

The Board of Overseers at Emerson helped start the program seven years ago. Spector said the board is mostly made up of alumni and other industry professionals who decided they wanted to help undergrads. 

From the original pool of 50, about 15-18 applicants get through the first round of screening, having sent personal references, an unofficial Emerson transcript, and an essay to Career Services in January. Once March and April hit, those undergrads must give a short pitch about why they should get a mentor to members of the Board of Overseers. Final decisions are usually made by the beginning of May, according to Spector.

In essence, for every student that gets into the program, a specific mentor is hand-chosen by Spector in a related career to their major, so any freshman or sophomore can apply regardless of his or her concentration. The pair maintain contact, regularly talking and meeting in person about possible job options for the mentee, said Spector.

Junior Lauren Anderson has spent a year in the program, and thinks the heavy application process is well worth the benefits of having a mentor.

“If you’re going to take the time to fill this out,” the broadcast journalism major said, “you really want this.”

Anderson said it’s a good way to weed out those students who will be dedicated to being a mentee from the ones who will take it lightly.

Spector,  who said the program is a two-year-long commitment between students and mentors, explaining that the extensive selection process narrows down the candidate pool to the most dedicated students. The pairs are strongly recommended to meet at least once a year, face-to-face. Otherwise, they can Skype, Facebook, call, text, or use any other way to keep in touch, Spector said. The more students and their mentors are in contact, the more beneficial their relationship will be.

“The program helps students have modeled behavior of what’s appropriate in the workplace,” Spector said. “They see different paths, which helps them decide what kind of decisions they should make. They get individual attention.”

For mentees like Elizabeth McGreavy, a junior communication sciences and disorders major who is interested in becoming a speech-language pathologist, having a professional in her specific field is gratifying.

“I’m taking all of the opportunities I can get to learn more outside of my coursework,” McGreavy said in an email interview, “and with [my mentor’s] help, I already feel like a part of the [speech language pahology] community.”

Since some of the majors at Emerson are so specialized, Career Services has to be sure they are finding the right professional for the right student.

“We don’t get a bunch of mentors asking to be involved in the program first,” Spector said. “We find the students in the program, and then we search for mentors, for what would specifically help them.”

Spector’s search for mentors includes contacting professors and faculty with colleagues in the field and the Board of Overseers. No mentors could be reached for comment.

Career Services raises awareness for the program on eCampus, the Emerson website, Twitter, and through faculty. Additionally, Career Services visits all 100-level communication courses in order to get student interest, said Spector. However, Anderson and Spector both agreed that the program is still not very well known. 

While Spector said it would be nice to allow more students to apply, the number of 10 mentees a year will most likely stay the same. 

“Normally it’s easier to place seven or so students,” she said, “but the last
three can be difficult to find appropriate mentors [for].”

Spector is hesitant to offer more spots to applicants, because the perfect match of mentor to mentee would be harder to find. However, according to Career Services’ website, Emerson also offers a mentor network, which doesn’t have the same rigorous application process and is an option for those who did not get into the program.

Anderson said she feels that her experience in the program has helped shape her work ethic at Emerson. Her mentor works for the New England Sports Network, and they usually meet about once a month at the Thinking Cup.

“I show her clips, some of the stuff that I’ve been doing,” Anderson said. “It helps keep me on track.”

McGreavy, who applied twice to the program before getting in, said she thinks time with her mentor has been entirely positive.

“My mentor, Jesse, is amazing,” she said. “[She] has really helped me identify what it is exactly that I want to do, and most of all, what I need to do to get there.”

Both McGreavy and Anderson expressed gratitude for their mentors, saying that once they get settled into their careers, they would love to give back to the program by becoming mentors themselves.

“Knowing that this mentorship program has made such a huge impact on who I am,” said McGreavy, “I’d love to send it forward.”