By Amy SpoonerJuly 15, 2014
When at first you do succeed, grow and grow again.
So said the creators of Michigan Law's alumni-student mentoring program following a successful launch in Washington, D.C., last summer. The one-on-one mentoring program, which is co-sponsored by the Office of Career Planning (OCP) and the Office of Development and Alumni Relations, was piloted at Reunion 2012 before being rolled out in D.C. in 2013. Based on the enthusiastic response of both alumni and student participants, organizers added a Chicago-based component this summer.
"We've learned things at every step of the way that have allowed us to improve the program," said Lara Furar, director of alumni engagement and programming. "One of the most encouraging outcomes from our perspective is the number of new alumni we've engaged."
Furar said the program originally launched in the nation's capital because of the high number of alumni and students working in the private and public sector. Chicago was a natural next step because of a similarly strong presence of current and future alumni. Each city has matched about 75 students and alumni this summer, which represents a healthy climb from last year.
To participate, alumni and students must commit to a minimum of six months of contact. Each pair also is expected to meet in person at least once. Because the Office of Development and Alumni Relations hosts social events in each city during the summer, "The participants don't have to try to create something on their own," Furar said.
"Those events were very helpful because I not only got to spend time with [my mentee], but I was able to introduce him to other alums and he was able to introduce me to some of his classmates," said Mark Stichel, '83, who participated last summer. "I had a very positive experience with the program, and a significant factor was that we had similar interests and hit it off on a personal level."
The hitting-it-off factor isn't a fluke. Furar and OCP recruitment manager Kim LeClair work hard to pair alumni and students who share not only a career path, but also similar backgrounds, interests, and hobbies. And they would rather have a match go unmade than create a less-than-ideal partnership. "We try to match everyone who applies, but we don't guarantee anyone a match because we want to make sure they're the right matches," Furar said.
"The matching is personal and carefully considers a number of factors in order to give it a good chance of being successful from both sides," added LeClair, who also will be working with Furar on a virtual mentoring program for African American alumni this fall.
Students have welcomed the chance to meet and learn from alumni with similar interests. "I think the mentoring program is amazing. I'm interested in civil rights and education law, and I was paired with an attorney at the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights," said rising 3L Josh Arocho, who is working this summer in the Educational Opportunities Section within the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division. "She knows a ton of people in the field, so she's been putting me in touch with other attorneys in D.C. and beyond. She also knows a lot about D.C., so she's been giving me great advice about living in the city."
While student participants can gain a wealth of insider knowledge and connections, alumni benefit from the program as well. "I enjoy working with talented and enthusiastic young people, and helping them to grow," said Alec Rogers, '93. "The program facilitates the ability of alumni to give back to current students, provides a structured means of so doing, and makes it easier for those who wish to participate by pairing us up rather than just sending students blind contact information." Added Anne Collier, '91, "I always enjoy meeting new people. It's a good excuse to get together with other Wolverines doing something important and helping the next generation."
That sense of giving back to the Law School lies at the heart of what makes the Michigan alumni community special and ultimately will drive the success of the mentoring program, said David Callahan, '91. "This is what Michigan should be all about—reaching across generations of alums and students, making connections, and helping our newer alums get up and running in an increasingly challenging profession."
To learn more about the alumni-student mentoring program, contact Lara Furar at email@example.com.
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