The Center for Career Development and the Chidsey Center for Leadership Development teamed up this year to design and implement the first campus-wide mentoring initiative. Participating students connect with alumni, parent and community mentors who show them how to translate their liberal arts experience into meaningful careers.
"We're always looking for new and better ways to connect students with career advisers external to our office who can provide them with a more in-depth perspective on different career fields," said Ashley Neff, assistant director for internships.
This initiative differs from other campus mentoring programs in that it is open to all students, caters to a variety of career fields, connects students with mentors from across the country, and approaches the mentor-mentee relationship holistically.
In designing the program, Neff worked with Julia Jones, director of the Chidsey Center, who had experience running mentorship programs. Jones had planned to restructure the mentoring component of the Leadership Davidson program run through Chidsey program and proposed that the two offices work jointly, focusing the new program on both leadership and career development.
"I wanted to make mentoring more available to all students, and make it more of a choice for them rather than a duty," said Jones. "I also wanted to create another avenue for the college to connect with members of the local community."
Mentors and mentees were matched based on their interests and experiences. Students were asked to view mentor profiles and select up to three mentors to whom they then submitted resumes and cover letters. The match process resulted in 42 student-mentor pairs.
Students and mentors located in the Charlotte region met for the first time at an October orientation, while students and mentors located elsewhere completed an online orientation. The pairs are expected to commit to at least two hours to mentoring per month. Activities include resume critiques, mock interviews, job shadowing and advising in career-related areas.
Jim Fuller '65, who practices law at Macintosh Law Firm in Davidson and is on the Town Board of Commissioners, and his mentee, James Mooney '14, have attended events together, including a political debate in town.
"I've been able to shadow Mr. Fuller at a motion hearing as well," said Mooney. "I really appreciate the program because it has given me a combination of career mentoring, application consulting for law school, and most importantly direct experience in my field of interest."
Fuller has shown Mooney the variety of career paths available to someone with a law degree. They had a LinkedIn discussion with a Duke Law School graduate who is now the president of a bank, and met with an attorney who runs the town's affordable housing program.
"I confess I enjoy it. Talking with James has been a delight, and the program allows for good cross-generational conversation and experiences," said Fuller.
Fields such as journalism and nonprofit management also are represented. Anne Hayes Browning '79 recently retired from the Catawba Lands Conservancy and worked at Bank of America for 25 years prior. Mentor Jennie Buckner, parent of a Davidson alumna and former James K. Batten Professor of Public Policy, previously served as the editor of the Charlotte Observer.
Jones believes that the program is a great way for mentors to stay connected to the college community and share their experiences, while providing students with advice from an adult who doesn't have an agenda for them.
"They are there to listen and be a sounding board without giving a biased opinion," she said. "I hope students can gain perspective on something they might not have thought of otherwise, because mentors are an amazing resource for learning to navigate uncharted territory."