Young alums, students pair for mentoring in program

Haley Fowler, Assistant Director of Alumni Services, hopes the Mentor Connection program will help build up not only the resumes of young alumni and students, but also will push the university further into the future of education.

Fowler, along with the Young Alumni Chapter, and the support of the provost and the Council of Deans, launched the Mentor Connection program just this year and has reached its goal of 40 mentors for the programs initiation.

“Young alumni need to know they have a lot to offer,” Fowler said. “We’ve had a great response from the alums.”

Mentor Connection is a partnership between a current University of Central Arkansas student and a young alumnus, helping to establish relationships that provide a learning experience for the students and a leadership opportunity for the alumni. Mentor Connection provides a personal development relationship for everyone involved.

Students get a unique opportunity to “try on” their major before heading out into the world with degrees, while mentors get to help build up their own professional networks and get the satisfaction of helping a newbie on his or her career path.

Fowler said the Young Alumni Chapter formed a Leaders Council two years ago and the group began researching ways to get more of a connection between professionals and those about to enter the workforce, and how it could involve young alumni.

The program itself lasts only seven weeks, and during that time, the mentor and student must connect with each other at least every two weeks. Fowler said she would encourage those who wished to connect more often to do so.

“Mentor Connection stemmed from my career in Human Resources. I’m always looking for ways to engage my employees and help them gain leadership experience, especially those that are not in management roles,” said Events Chair for the Young Alumni Chapter Leaders Board Jennifer Williams. “I created a program that allowed for younger employees to mentor the newest employees. Consequently, it’s helped make the new employees feel more confident and connected with the company.”

Williams added that the program at her place of employment and reported that the program cuts down on errors made during their first three to six months of employment; and also enabled the mentors to demonstrate their leadership skills without having direct reports.

“It has been a huge success and a few of the mentors have been promoted into management positions,” Williams said. “After talking to [Fowler], I thought there is no reason why a mentor program can’t work at UCA!”

“This mentor program was really needed here,” Fowler added. “Almost every other university has a similar program, so we were very excited when we began working on this.”

Williams said Mentor Connection has been getting good feedback from participants, noting that the nature of the program is different from an internship.
“We didn’t realize at the time how much alumni and students are thirsting for a program like Mentor Connection,” Williams said. “It is so different from an internship where students get graded and still have to impress their employer. Mentor Connection allows students to be completely open with their mentor and ask those tricky questions we all had while in school.”

Fowler and Williams both see the program growing as it gains its footing.

“We are starting small but are aiming for perfection,” Williams said. “I’m expecting to see great results this spring which will allow us to gain even more support and expand the program in the fall.”

Williams said she is confident that Mentor Connection will become an esteemed part of a student’s journey at UCA.

“By interacting with alumni already working in their field of study, they are a step above the rest and have a competitive edge when fighting for jobs at graduation,” she said. “I know that alumni will feel fulfilled and students will be better equipped for what is ahead of them.”

For more information about Mentor Connection, contact Alumni Services at 501-852-7463 or alumni@uca.edu.