The relaunched Webster Mentoring Program allows students to connect with Webster Alumni. There are no deadlines, and students can decide how long the mentorship will last.
Students can now sign up for the newly relaunched Webster Mentoring Program. William Ratz – director of Parent Engagement and one of the program’s original creators – said the new format came from years of student feedback and research into other mentorship programs.
When the program started, Ratz worked with then-director of Career Planning and Development Tamara Gegg-LaPlume to match students with alumni through interviews. Ratz said it would take about a month to pair a student with a mentor, and the application process would also place a mentee with one mentor for a predetermined length of time.
“Students [would] say, ‘Well I have loved my mentor, but I’d really love to be able to talk with more than one during the course of a year,’” Ratz said, “or some would say, ‘well my mentor and I really don’t have much in common’ and they were just kind of like going through the motions for the six months.”
The new version of the Webster Mentoring Program is designed to allow students to form more “organic” connections with mentors and determine the level of interaction they have with mentors.
As a first-generation college student, Sarah Hill said she was excited when she learned about Webster’s mentoring program because she looked forward to the opportunity to expand her network. Hill said her classes teach her a lot but added that mentors or internships can offer insight that cannot be found in the classroom.
“It’s really valuable to me to hear from people who are where you want to be so that you can just really absorb all of their wisdom,” Hill said. “So even part of that, again, is the day-to-day what an actual job looks like. And then part of it is just, um, you know, what steps did someone take to get there? What are those steps that you can replicate, or are there similar experiences that you can replicate?”
Hill was able to find mentors outside of the Webster Mentoring Program and she was grateful for the knowledge those mentors have given her. Now, she is excited to continue expanding her network.
Ratz said students are not the only ones excited about the program. He said the mentor database already has nearly 200 alumni. The mentors range from recent graduates to people who have been out of college for many years and are located across the globe.
“They love to give back with their time and talent,” Ratz said. “We have amazing alums who do so much out there … and they’re eager to help our students and to be there for our students.”
Benny Roberts, who lives in Minnesota, is one such alumnus. Roberts graduated in 2008 with a Bachelor’s Degree in sociology and a double minor in communications and multicultural studies. Roberts said he was very active in student life and recalled mentoring younger students as an upperclassman.
During his time at Webster, Roberts also had the chance to make mentors of his own. These mentors helped him academically but were there for him off-campus, as well.
“So it extended beyond just academic or like career development,” Roberts said. “It was also personal development and, you know, helped me come up with goals for myself and support me and adventures that I was going on. So, it was a great friendship too, you know?”
Janet Baron graduated with a Masters Degree in teaching in 1980. Baron mentored three students from past years of the program and she said is excited for the possibility to mentor a student again.
She said she loves having conversations with students and getting to know them. Baron also hopes to teach students it is okay to try new paths and that failure is a teacher.
“I guess what I want to express to them is not to give up …” Baron said. “Sometimes the next path is much better than the one that, you know, it didn’t work out. And I have found that to be true for myself and I would hope that it will be true for them too.”
Another thing the Webster Mentoring Program will teach students is how to make connections, Ratz said. Rather than students being paired with mentors, students will reach out to the mentors themselves.
“No matter what profession you want to get into, networking is always going to be one of the number one things you are going to have to do. Just cold call and cold emailing and introducing yourself to somebody,” Ratz said. “It’s a life skill that everybody is going to have to have.”
Students wanting to join the mentoring program can apply at Webster Mentoring Program. Ratz said there are no deadlines, and the application is only to make sure the person applying is a current student.
Once students have access to the database, they can email mentors or look at their professional website or LinkedIn. They can search for mentors based on their name, where they live, what their major was, what industry they are in or where they currently work. Another new feature of the Webster Mentoring Program is The Connect – an option which connects Black students or students of color to Black alumni or alumni of color.
Roberts is one of the mentors signed up to be a part of the connect. He said while Webster is a diverse school, it is still helpful for Black students or students of color to have a safe space or person they could turn to.
“I like to use the metaphor of like windows and mirrors. Black students, for the majority of their life, they live around windows, looking in other people’s worlds and cultures,” Roberts said. “But they very rarely have a lot of mirrors in their educational experience. So having a mentor allowed you to see somebody that’s been where you’ve been and, and know what you experienced and can support you to your success.”
In the end, Ratz said he is excited to see the Webster Mentoring Program receive so much support from students, alumni, faculty and staff. For students who are interested in joining, Webster Mentoring Program offers a guide to building a relationship with a mentor and a spreadsheet to list goals.
Baron said while forming a natural relationship is a great thing, it is helpful to have an idea of what you are hoping to get out of the experience.
“I think having some sort of a plan is good because what happens is, I think the informality is great, but the questions maybe never get answered,” Baron said.
Hill has already applied to the program and has looked at the database. She said she has not seen many mentors in her field of study yet, but has spent time looking into some of the mentors listed.
Hill also hopes to use the Webster Mentoring Program as a chance to connect with Webster students after she graduates.
“You can reach out to people anywhere and your network can be anywhere, but it is really unique to have Webster people because a Webster experience is different from every other college and university,” Hill said. “So to have someone that can say, here’s how I applied my experience from Webster to what I’m doing now, that is invaluable.”