Alumni Lend Insights to Career-Minded Students

Ami Hernandez, right, offers career information to Jessica Todd, an Oxford rising sophomore.

Knowing that someone out there has been in your shoes, talking with them about the path they chose, and learning about their successes, failures, and bumps along the way provides encouragement and affirmation. That is exactly what the sophomore students participating in the Oxford College Mentor program are looking for at this crucial time for them—someone outside their sphere of family or friends to talk with them candidly about career choices and provide insight and perspective based on personal experience. 

“I achieved a sense of confidence and optimism for my future given all the wonderful suggestions and advice provided by my mentor,” says Mia Benevolenza 15OX 17C. “I know I am supported and cared about by someone who is genuinely interested in my progress.” 

Created in 2008, the program is a collaborative effort between the Office of Development and Alumni Relations and Oxford’s Office of Student Career Services. Students are paired with alumni in their chosen career field to serve as mentors. The students and mentors are asked to commit to connect with one another—either to talk on the phone, email, or meet in person—once per month. It doesn’t matter where alumni live; about half of the current participants are “e-mentors” who don’t live within driving distance of campus. 

Senior Director of Alumni Relations at Oxford College Tammy Camfield 89OX 91Chighlights a specific benefit of the mentor program; all Oxford graduates share the unique collegiate experience of two years at Oxford before transitioning to their junior year. Alumni mentors speak with mentees about their personal continuation process, the experiences they went through, and adjusting to the Atlanta campus. 

Sophomore students attend an information session about the program and complete applications in October. Alumni and students are then matched based on their academic interests, career fields, and student activities. The program begins with a kickoff reception on campus in November when students and their mentors are introduced and have their first opportunity to informally meet, and alumni share Oxford stories and their professional experiences with the group. Forty-five students were mentored in the 2014–2015 academic year. 

Mentors often participate year after year and see spending time with the students as a meaningful way to give back to Oxford and be engaged in the life of the college from near or far. Warren Brook 70OX 72B lives in Atlanta and has been a mentor for several years. “I’m still in contact with all three of my Oxford mentees. One graduated in 2014 and another in 2015. My third mentee will be a junior this fall,” remarks Brook. “I stay in touch with them over meals, over the phone, and via email and Facebook.”

Coordinators are exploring ways they can expand the program in the future to possibly incorporate elements of internships, job-site shadowing opportunities, and networking. “There is a high correlation between mentoring and networking opportunities and job placement upon graduation,” says Ami Hernandez, coordinator of Student Career Services. “The more access we can give our students to exploring the marketplace, the more they learn about themselves, the better they can articulate the ways in which their strengths can make a positive impact on the workplace, and the more confident they are in assuming their professional identity.” 

For more information about mentoring an Oxford student, please contact Tammy Camfield, senior director of alumni relations, at 770.784.8414.—Ansley Holder

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