University of California, Irvine, located in Southern California ~ 1 hr from both Los Angeles and San Diego, has a high concentration of local alumni, enabling them to provide an on-campus alumni mentor program. Read more about the program to learn how to develop alumni mentorship at your own school.
- Increases awareness of career opportunities available to PhDs
- Builds a supportive community where mentors & mentees can honestly discuss career preparedness
- Expands networks for both trainees and alumni
- Strengthens relationships with other university offices, such as the Graduate School, Advancement, and Alumni Association
- Engages alumni and strengthens business connections
BEST leadership, faculty and the Alumni Association help to identify potential PhD and postdoctoral alumni. Mentors are recruited into the program if they 1) live in the Southern California area, 2) hold diverse positions and 3) can commit to attending all three events. Trainees submit applications listing their professional development experience and career interests. Trainees are also required to participate in workshops that cover professionalism and tips to foster mentor-mentee relationships. For example, trainees can connect with their mentors on LinkedIn or ask to see their mentor’s resume, but are not encouraged to ask their mentor for a job. UC Irvine’s program includes roughly 20 alumni mentors and 30 trainees at a time. The program lasts for 4 months and includes three breakfast meetings to cater to people’s busy schedules.
Breakfast Meeting #1: Getting to Know One Another
A one-hour meet and greet allows trainees and alumni a chance to establish relationships based on mutual interests and complimentary personalities. At UC Irvine, the majority of alumni meet with 6 trainees or more. Following the meet and greet, trainees are tasked to reach out to mentors and alumni decide which and how many trainees to work with.
Breakfast Meetings 2 & 3: Strengthening Relationships
Once pairings are solidified, mentors and mentees hold one-on-one meetings on their own time. Breakfasts two and three provide scheduled time for people to reconnect and determine next steps. Moreover, they give everyone a chance to network outside of the mentor partnership. Both the alumni and trainees appreciated this extra networking time.
Low cost, high reward
A meeting room, food, and a gift for alumni cost no more than $4,000. Moreover, mentoring programs that empower the mentees to drive relationships increase their efforts and decrease administrative workloads. The largest time commitment for program leadership occurred during alumni recruitment and the organization of the first breakfast meeting. Importantly programs focused on alumni engagement can open doors to other collaborations, such as university partnerships and philanthropy.