Smeal Mentoring Program Frequently Asked Questions

Smeal Mentoring Program Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the role of a mentor?

A mentor serves as a role model to a student protégé by providing advice and guidance, as well as sharing their personal experiences. Mentors should be willing to give constructive feedback to students, in an effort to help identify goals, develop strategies, and instill confidence. A mentor can be a recent graduate or have many years of working experience; they can come from various academic programs with experiences and careers in a wide range of industries. 

Who are the students?

This program is for the following Smeal students:

  • Undergraduate students in their second, third, or fourth year.
  • Undergraduate students who are in the Division of Undergraduate studies tracking for Smeal.
  • Undergraduate students who are at a Commonwealth Campus tracking for Smeal.
  • Graduate students who are in a One-Year Residential Master's Program.
  • Some students may be studying abroad or doing a co-op, and they are still eligible to apply to the program.

What is the time commitment?

The formal program lasts through one academic year (late Aug.- early May). Each pair determines the time commitment based on their goals for the year. It is important that pairs engage in consistent communication, and have mutual expectations for the frequency of interaction (about once a month is recommended). If they choose to, pairs can continue their relationship beyond the school year, outside of the formal program. 

How are the matches made?

The matches are made by the Smeal Alumni Relations Office, based on answers provided in the mentor and protégé applications. Similarities in a mentor's career expertise and a student's industry interests are the top criteria taken into consideration. Also considered are similarities with each person's academic program, how long since a mentor graduated/student class year, location, and hobbies. Unfortunately not all criteria can be matched perfectly, so we ask alumni to keep an open mind when working with their student protégé. Every effort is made to allow all applicants a chance to participate in the program. However as the program grows, having a quality match for every applicant is not always possible from year to year. 

What types of topics do pairs discuss?

Some areas where a mentor can be of assistance are guidance in selecting a major (for undergraduate students) understanding career paths, discussing a professional area or a specific industry, refining leadership skills, building a professional network, resume, cover letter, and LinkedIn support, interview preparation, negotiating job offers, transition to the workplace, workplace experiences, and considering an advanced degree.

Are alumni required to return to campus to participate in the Mentoring Program?

No, we understand that our alumni cannot always get back to campus easily. Technology allows for very successful mentoring relationships to take place!

What resources are provided to mentors?

  • A Program Guide is provided at the beginning of the academic year, which includes tips and conversation starters that can be used to assist with discussion topics during the mentoring relationship. 

  • An orientation is conducted via an in-depth Webinar hosted by the Smeal Alumni Relations Office.  

  • Mentors are given insight regarding additional resources available at the college and University that may be helpful to the students.

  • Periodic (about monthly) e-mail reminders are sent and typically include a reference to a relevant topic in the Program Guide.

  • Two Mentoring Program Lunches are coordinated throughout the school year, which offer an optional opportunity for the pair to meet in person. 

How many students and alumni typically participate in the Mentoring Program?

Last year, there were about 375 pairs participating in the Mentoring Program. We anticipate that the program will continue to serve additional students and involve more alumni over time.

How will I benefit from the Mentoring Program?

Mentors benefit by experiencing the personal fulfillment that comes from helping your protégé achieve his/her goals; contributing to a richer, more interactive experience for our students; and networking with other mentors. The program is also a great way to stay connected to the Smeal and Penn State community.