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Penn State Smeal Mentoring Program provides students with window to real world

May 16, 2017

Mentoring photo
Whether it's in person, by phone, or by email or text, mentors can impart wisdom and advice to proteges in Smeal's mentoring program.
Marissa Presser remembers being overwhelmed by the breadth and depth of possibilities Penn State offered as a freshman in 2009. In a stroke of good fortune, she learned about the Penn State Smeal College of Business Mentoring Program, which was in its first year. The program had recently been formally established by the Smeal Alumni Relations Office and the Smeal Alumni Society Board.

Her decision to participate influenced her four years in the Business Building, as it has for many other business students. The 2013 marketing graduate, now a senior consultant at IBM, is still involved, having transitioned from protégé to mentor. 

“Each mentor had a different story, perspective and advice to share. My freshmen year mentor, Matt Vidic, helped me get acclimated to the college and get involved in student organizations. My sophomore year mentor, Mark DuMars, explored my interest in entrepreneurship and helped me write a business plan,” Presser recalled. 

“In my Junior year, I decided I wanted to explore careers in higher education. My mentor, Elisha Snedeker, had experience in this area and provided beneficial insight. Assisting me with the transition from college to the workplace was the primary focus of discussion with my senior year mentor, Michelle Harmon-Madsen.” 

The program offers students the opportunity to explore topics such as academic majors, internships, career planning, college-to-career transition, and leadership development with an alumni mentor. Mentors can share their perspectives and experiences from the business environment, assist students with activities like resume reviews and mock interviews or discuss the pros and cons of important decisions. 

“Penn State prides itself on the reach of its unrivaled alumni network. The Smeal Mentoring Program magnifies the epitome of that school spirit. Mentors eagerly share with current students the lessons they learned as undergraduates as well as the experience they’ve accumulated in the workforce,” said Charles H. Whiteman, John and Becky Surma Dean of Smeal. 

Alumni share stories about mentoring Smeal students.

In the first year of the program, 90 students signed up and were connected with 44 mentors. Those numbers have swelled to 335 protégés and 320 mentors in 2017. In total, there have been more than 2,500 participants since 2009. 

Through those eight years, the Smeal Alumni Society Board Mentoring Task Force has worked diligently to evaluate feedback and improve the quality of the program by providing a wider array of resources to mentoring pairs. These resources include suggestions for conversation topics, areas of focus for particular groups of students, and tips for maintaining a successful relationship.

“Students today have the same concerns and challenges that we had as students: what major to study, what types of internships or jobs to pursue, how to develop a strong resume, and how to best prepare for interviews; understanding what is really going on in an interview and thus how to stand out,” said Clare Frissora, Alumni Society Board member and outgoing chair of the Mentoring Task Force. 

“As alumni, we’ve dealt with these anxieties and can share an independent perspective from our experiences. The students value this very much.” 

Applications are now being accepted for prospective mentors and protégés for the 2017-18 school year. The deadline to submit the online application is June 2. More information about the program can also be found online.

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Andy Elder
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