When talking of mentorship, we often think of an undergraduate university or corporate setting. At Mentor Collective, after 7+ years of setting the standard for scalable mentorship programs, we know relevant professional relationships can develop anywhere, and we make it a priority to find them. We take what we learn from our partners and in-house team of researchers and add services and programs to elevate competencies, self-efficacy, and the human experience at every stage of the mentorship lifecycle.
Our Career Readiness Programs aren’t solely for upper-division undergraduate students—they’re ready to implement at the graduate level of your institution to facilitate meaningful connections between scholars and alumni. Every program is fully customizable to suit the needs of your student population, is a manageable time investment for alumni and administrators, and offers comprehensive mentor and mentee training and resources.
Here are 5 reasons to consider alumni mentorship for graduate students:
Support for Online Learning & Adult Learners
Many adult learners are shifting toward remote learning for their graduate studies to accommodate changing family and employment needs since the start of COVID-19. This presents opportunities for universities to recruit and retain new post-baccalaureate students but also new challenges. Depending on the degree path, remote learning has some drawbacks when it comes to showcasing university resources or fostering valuable connections with faculty. This becomes exacerbated at the graduate level of learning when the lens tightens on scholarly investigation.
Alumni mentorship bridges this virtual divide with more human interaction and gives the student an ally familiar with university resources, support, and faculty. Alumni within a similar field of study are also able to leverage real-world experience to further challenge the student’s understanding of their course and lab work.
Establishing a Career Plan
When graduate students enter this phase of their educational development, having a mentor is more than a guide to their field. Whereas a mentor within an undergraduate program may have a different career trajectory, an alumni mentor at the graduate level is a future peer that models best practices for teaching, learning, and research within the mentee’s desired field. Through scalable mentorship programs that focus on career readiness, graduate students are positioned to gain insights into potential career pathways and begin building social capital within their profession. Mentor Collective’s programming is now additionally integrated with evidence-based mentee training that emphasizes the latter with Connected Futures curriculum that educates on the benefits of non-kin mentorship and the skills needed to grow professional networks.
Dynae' C. - Mentee at Indiana University, O'Neill School of Public & Environmental Affairs
Developing Persistence and Sense of Belonging on Campus
The identity of “the graduate student” is evolving. According to a report from the Council of Graduate Schools, out of the 1.8 million first-time graduate students enrolled in post-baccalaureate programs in Fall 2019, 12.1% identified as Black/African American, 11.9% identified as LatinX, 0.5% identified as American Indian/Alaska Native, and 0.2% identified as Pacific Islander. While the landscape has gradually become more diverse, it shows these individuals remain substantially underrepresented. Accompanying these statistics is the qualitative data we hear from senior leaders across the country—many of whom pushed through their graduate and doctoral programs with few peers sharing a similar background, race, or ethnicity.
In a recent Mentor Collective webinar, Dr. Emmanuel Collins, Dean of the J.B. Speed School of Engineering at University of Louisville shared:
"When I got to graduate school, I went through a year of struggle as a researcher, and the journals that I would read would have pictures of people who were doing work in that area. Not once did I ever see anybody that was Black, African American, African, West Indian – not once. And so I wondered did I actually belong here, in that program.”
For BIPOC individuals and women in STEM career pathways, the graduate school expectations also create equity gaps. A study conducted by Walsh et. al. entitled “Historically Underrepresented Graduate Students’ Experiences During the COVID-19 Pandemic” mentions:
“For example, some STEM programs may reinforce the “ideal worker norm,” which insists on “commitment to the job through long hours. This affects graduate students of color, particularly the career–life balance of women of color, as they have to navigate family responsibilities or decisions about having a family with the expectations of uninterrupted long hours and social expectations of their program, which compounds the social exclusion they may experience (Kachchaf et al., 2015).
Mentor Collective’s proactive approach to addressing these challenges is visible in the Career Discussion Guides that give alumni mentors guidance to approach sensitive (but relevant) subject matter in an authentic way. Topics include self-advocacy, civic engagement, networking, discrimination in the workplace, navigating privilege, and more.
Aditya K. - Mentor at The Pennsylvania State University
Accessible and Non-Threatening Guidance
Demanding hours aside, a graduate student’s work load can differ substantially from what they may have experienced in their undergraduate career. Another consideration is whether individuals have taken time off between their undergrad and graduate programs and need to reacclimate to a learning environment and/or schedule amid other responsibilities (such as acting as a caregiver and/or being employed full-time). Alumni mentorship with Mentor Collective allows mentees and mentors to communicate often and in a way that’s accessible to them through texts, calls, emails, or in-person meetups. In addition to a mentee having real-time guidance from someone familiar with their situation, mentor/mentee conversations are logged and categorized to give universities insight into the student experience via their partner dashboard.
Mentors are also able to quickly flag mentee concerns that require university intervention and support. These Flags give student success services on campus the ability to act quickly if a student is experiencing urgent academic, financial, or wellbeing challenges.
Developing Lifelong Connections with an Alumni Network
Although many alumni have the desire to be active within their alma mater’s community, not all alumni are in a position to give back to their universities financially. Alumni mentorship is a rewarding alternative, but many online networking platforms fall short by making the experience less personal—leaving alumni and students less engaged. Using Mentor Collective’s Career Readiness program, universities can conduct outreach to alumni without making a financial ask. Mentorship ultimately contributes to a lifelong cycle of creating brand ambassadors for a university through positive psychosocial, academic, and professional development opportunities.
Grant M. - Alumni Mentor at Creighton University
To learn more about how your graduate programs can benefit from alumni mentorship, reach out to your University Relations Director or fill out this form.