UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Alumni and students are strengthening connections — virtually and literally — as part of a program launched by the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications this spring.
“Right now we are in uncharted waters with what’s going on in the world and it can be a bit tricky navigating networking and job hunting,” said Madison Lysek, who graduated from the Bellisario College in May and joined the college’s Alumni Connections Program as a mentee. “Through this program I wanted to learn how to effectively secure a job while still being sensitive to the current state of the job market.”
Since April the Alumni Connections Program has made more than 160 pairings to help students and recent graduates like Lysek connect with alumni who are willing to offer their guidance on all things college and post-graduate life. For some, like Lysek, it might be job-search advice, for others, it might be about making a connection with a fellow Penn Stater and finding another supportive voice to complement the work of faculty and staff.
Pairings are made to provide mentees with a connection to their future. Many alumni — like Linsey Shea, who earned her advertising/public relations degree in 2008 and works as a remote operations and production manager for major broadcasters and sports leagues — have participated as mentors simply because they want to give back.
“Being a mentor and connecting with my mentee has been incredibly rewarding,” Shea said. “I have been fortunate to have had many great mentors through my career, and I am thankful for the chance to share my experience. My mentee and I have discussed everything from job searching to networking, and we work to focus her career search.”
In addition to mentor-mentee pairings, the Alumni Connections Program also has more than 90 alumni who volunteered to be guest speakers in classes by Zoom this past semester. Some of these speakers included Don Roy King (class of 1969), the director of “Saturday Night Live”; and Jerry Schwartz (class of 1997), an editor for the Associated Press. The program also has more than 50 alumni who volunteered to be a recruiting resource for the Bellisario College.
The program was put together by Jose Lugaro, director of development; Robert Martin, assistant dean for internships and career placement; Mike Poorman, director of alumni relations, and Steve Sampsell, director of strategic communications.
This is the first time this program has been entirely virtual and Poorman said he sees that as a positive because it allows alumni from all over the world to connect with students. Participants include international students connecting from their homes and an alumnus based in India. In addition, the program was created because of the coronavirus pandemic but the format will allow it to be a consistent resource going forward.
Mentor Kevin Flintosh (class of 2006) felt the power of supporting a recent graduate when he helped Lysek get her first post-grad job.
"I was fortunate enough to match as a mentor with a recent Bellisario grad with an interest in healthcare communications,” Flintosh said. “I connected her with a friend who is a VP in that field, who helped her land a job interview — where she killed it — and ultimately a job offer.”
To sign up for the program each participant fills out a form and is later paired based on factors such as geographic location, their degree and career interest.
“Most of the time we have an alum who is doing what a student wants to do,” Poorman said. “That’s the joy of our college. We have 30,000 alumni, so there is someone who is already doing a job or has a definable career path that our students aspire to.”
Occasional check-ins with the mentor and mentee are done to see how things are going and how well relationships are growing. The pairs are also advised to follow the “seven tips for making a successful connection” guidelines that are given to them.
The tips include: connect quickly with the mentor/mentee; determine what technology is the most comfortable for both, and to thank the mentor/mentee for their time. Suggested initial discussion include academic success, life experiences and workplace experience, as well as cover letter and resume advice.
Any communications student interested in becoming a mentee may fill out the form at https://bellisario.psu.edu/alumni-mentoring-program and alumni interested in becoming a mentor may fill out the form at https://www.bellisario.psu.edu/alumni/alumni-connections.
“We Are” stories
The “We Are” spirit is perhaps more important than ever before, and Penn Staters everywhere are coming together in new and amazing ways. During these challenging times, our community is continuing to realize Penn State’s commitment to excellence through acts of collaboration, thoughtfulness and kindness. As President Eric Barron has written on Digging Deeper, this truly is a “We Are” moment.