Matching undergrads with mentors goal of program

Kyndal posing with a sleeping tiger in its denFor many undergraduates, the choice of a major is made without much experience of the actual jobs included in the major. Mentor Connection set out to change this, and has been rousingly successful for its participants.

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, according to information provided by Haley Fowler, Assistant Director Alumni Services.

Two of the matches recently reported on their own experiences.

One of the most successful partnerships, according to Fowler, is that of student Tyler Rodgers and alumnus Ike Linck. Linck and Rodgers met several times a week, allowing Rodgers to consult not only with Linck, but with many of Linck’s colleagues at American Management Corp, an insurance firm located in Conway.

“I am someone who places high value in stability and security,” Rodgers said. “When I heard about this opportunity to actually get in the field and get some hands-on experience, I jumped right on it. In today’s world, any experience you can get before joining the workforce is essential.”

Rodgers learned about every aspect of the insurance business, from underwriting to claims to loss control, which Rodgers said allowed him to pinpoint which aspects he liked and which he didn’t.

Linck said he also learned a lot during Rodgers’ meetings with other departments.

“His opportunity turned into an opportunity for me that I didn’t have a chance to experience when I was finishing college and entering the insurance field,” Linck said.

Linck said he took a second glance at the Mentor Connection program while looking through a recent alumni newsletter and realizing the importance of mentoring those who are entering the workforce.

“One of the most important steps in advancing in a career is helping others,” Linck said. “It is my opinion that the golden rule should apply in business as well. Years from now Tyler and I may be working on the same team somewhere, and together our relationships and connections may prove beneficial to both of us in the long run.”

Student Kyndal Saverse and alumna Courtney Dunn have also forged a bond in their shared love for animals and conservation.

“While I was an undergraduate, I struggled to find other students who were interested in the same field as I was – conservation and zoological biology,” Dunn stated. “I knew that by participating in Mentor Connection that I would be able to help students overcome those hurdles that I once faced myself.”

Dunn and Saverse found they had many common interests in their initial meeting, and Saverse said she was “inspired” by Dunn’s work. Dunn helped Saverse with resume support and introduced her to opportunities for her to pursue in the future, one of which involved a trip to Branson, Mo.

“The most influential activity we participated in was a full shadow day at my place of research, the National Tiger Sanctuary,” Dunn said.

During the shadow day, Saverse helped lead educational tours for the public and provided “enrichment” in the form of large barrels as toys for the animals in the sanctuary. The tigers at the sanctuary come from several different backgrounds, including good homes in which the owners passed away to being confiscated after being sold illegally. Some have been abused or neglected.

Dunn explained that the barrels give the tigers a chance for fun activities and help them lead a stress-free life. During the shadow day, Saverse learned the steps to caring for the big cats, including feeding them a proper diet.

“This day gave my mentee an introduction to how amazing these critically endangered animals are,” Dunn said. “Experiences like these often inspire students to do more to preserve our natural world and, thus, overcome any obstacles they may have in their academic career to get to that point.”

Saverse echoed Dunn’s statement, adding that the experience “opened my eyes to other issues I wasn’t even aware I would become concerned with.”

Each participant has expressed their appreciation for the program, and its benefits to both mentor and mentee. They also encourage other students and alumni to participate.

“It is all rewarding and beneficial,” said Rodgers. “Don’t be afraid to take it and run with it. If you play your cards right, put in the effort and shake a few hands, it might even lead to a job.”

For more information, contact Alumni Services at 501-852-7463 or