The following article appeared in the Mars’ Hill, Volume 22, Issue 6.
Written by Katie Maryschuk.
Currently in its pilot stage, the brand new Trinity Western Alumni Association Mentorship Program pairs students with alumni mentors, giving them the opportunity to connect, be known and gain confidence in their field. The program was created by Brady Schlecker, Alumni Association Executive Director and Scot Sustad, alum and CEO of Digital Hot Sauce, a boutique digital growth agency based in Vancouver. Further, the connection also provides an opportunity for alumni to re-engage with the Trinity community.
Officially starting on October 16th, the program consists of 25 personally selected pairs from diverse disciplines, including human kinetics to arts and everything in between. The process for pairing was simple: figure out what mentors and mentees wanted through a series of surveys throughout the summer, combine it with research on other mentorship programs and best practices, then, make recommendations based on applications, career, experience, and a host of other qualifications.
“Our desire was to create a program that fit the needs and desires of the students rather than just prescribing what we think they wanted”, Sustad says, “we then created curriculums and used frameworks that encourage cohesion but provide a lot of freedom and personalization in order to balance both the organic yet organized structure we were aiming for.”
In particular, they felt there needed to be a level of expectation and accountability in order to see real growth and connection. In their empirical research, Schlecker and Sustad found that if there was no bar to aspire to, or guidance in terms of materials and interaction, the odds of students losing interest was often greater.
As well, “one of the things that we heard again and again from mentors from past programs was a frustration with students not taking it as seriously as they could be,” Schlecker says, “when there are higher stakes in something, people are forced to take it more seriously.”
Pairs are encouraged to meet bi-weekly, and are given access to resources that show tips and tools for dialogue, goal setting and personal growth. While career advice and suggestions are the immediate grab for any student in this program, Schlecker and Sustad didn’t want to create any run of the mill program where students were simply left to seek out career advice.
The four specific goals of the program, that can be found on the Alumni Association website, depict a framework that is not solely determined to give students a step ahead in their career. The first goal doesn’t even touch on career advice, but instead states that the program seeks to help students in “[operating] from a greater level of confidence because they are seen, heard, challenged and encouraged.”
The fourth goal is perhaps what truly sets the program apart. “Experience living examples of how faith and career can be integrated” it reads. Schlecker reveals that mentees are meant to ask tough questions, and ask their mentors, “What would faith and vocation truly look like if you mixed them together?” Due to the very nature of Trinity being a place where students learn and find vocation within a Christian context, the program encourages a Christian perspective once students graduate and leave campus. It helps students understand what faith looks like in the workplace once they reach that stage, regardless of a workplace’s secular or religious nature. Learning in this context gives a mentee the chance to learn from a real-life ambassador, while at the same time encouraging them wherever they might be in their faith journey.
Down the road, the Alumni Association hopes to see the program become something that can be easily adopted by all interested schools and programs on campus. With new software algorithms readily available, they hope to utilize an easily facilitated system of pairing mentees and mentors so the program can grow and take away administrative burdens that might come alongside traditional programs.
“We kept it small so we could build some structure but left enough leeway and flexibility for the pairs to adapt it as need be,” Schlecker adds. On top of an immense amount of interest from alum (over 400 noted interest), Sustad notes that they’ve seen an increase in alum wanting to reconnect to the university by way of this program.
Interesting in finding out more? Head to https://www.twumentorship.org/ for more details and answers to FAQ.