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Alumni-Student Mentorship Program: Bridging the Gap between Academia and the Workforce


Mentors and Mentees share their experiences participating in the Woodsworth College Alumni-Student Mentorship Program.  

By Emily Allison, Staff Writer 

As an undergraduate student, choosing the career path you want to pursue can often feel like an intimidating task, especially when nearing graduation. The Woodsworth College Alumni-Student Mentorship Program gives upper year students the opportunity to explore their career interests and goals with U of T alumni mentors. In turn, this program also gives mentors the chance to stay connected with their alma mater and fellow alumni by sharing their knowledge and professional skills with the next generation of movers and shakers.

The Alumni Office at Woodsworth College puts time and care into the pairing process between mentors and mentees, ensuring that matches are based on occupational interests and similar undergraduate degree tracts. Jenny Zhang, both a former mentee and current mentor at Woodsworth College, explains that pairings are “done through the Alumni office at Woodsworth College. On the mentee side, they consider educational background as well as career goals. On the mentor side, they consider educational background and work experience. However, I would say that the pairings are a lot more art than science, as a lot of work goes in on the program side to take into account not just these aspects, but also the intangibles, like personalities and overall fit."

The Alumni Office strives to make the Alumni-Student Mentorship Program both memorable and instructive for mentors and mentees, helping mentees navigate through career questions and aspirations. “For my own case, I was interested to learn more about the HR industry, and I was eventually successfully paired up with a mentor from HR. My mentor shared a lot of experience and advice with me, and I finished the program with a much better understanding of the industry I was interested in, it was very helpful,” said Susan Fan, a Woodsworth College mentee.

For mentors, sharing career advice and educational experiences about the field you are passionate in can be gratifying in itself. “My experience with [the] mentorship program has always been positive. It gives my mentees the opportunity to have an ’eye opening‘ understanding that working in jails is not just about correctional officers and inmates. It also allows my mentees to see what it's like working as a probation officer, social worker, psychologist, etc., in a secured custody environment,” said Maria Farol, a Woodsworth College alumnus and mentor.

Woodsworth College is committed to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of everyone in the U of T community, and in light of COVID-19, in-person mentor/mentee meetings are recommended to take place virtually. Although socially distanced, the Alumni-Student Mentorship program has so much to offer to both current students and Woodsworth College alumni. Having experience as both a mentee and a mentor, Zhang says “As a mentee (and an undergraduate student), it's so valuable to hear first-hand the insights of someone who has already experienced this next chapter. As a mentor, I've found it very valuable to stay connected to Woodsworth College, whose environment has really helped shape where I am in my career today”. As a student, Fan shares how the program also serves as a great networking opportunity for undergraduates wanting to break into the workforce after graduation. “I would recommend this program to others because it's just helpful for students to figure out what they want and what they need to do to prepare for it. You can learn so much from people with experience in the fields, and it could be a great head start in students' career lives,” said Fan. For Maria Farol, who now specializes in law enforcement and corrections, it was difficult as an undergrad to connect with professionals who worked in fields that interested her. As a mentor, she can now “give mentees the opportunity to consider working in corrections (law enforcement) not only as a corrections officer but as a social worker, probation officer, rehabilitation officer, classification officer, or psychologist."

The Alumni-Student Mentorship Program bridges the gap between academia and the workforce by giving students the ability to connect with professionals in their interested field of study, ask insightful questions, and further their career exploration. Alumni, in turn, have the ability to reconnect with their Woodsworth College community and share their experience and knowledge with the next generation of workforce innovators. “It's all about giving back to the community by being a positive influence in the lives of young people particularly in seeking meaningful careers," said Farol. For more information about the program, please check out the program page.  The 2019-2020 program received the sponsorship of MBNA Canada

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