This Saturday’s spring homecoming at the Convocation Center will see more than 200 alumni and 200 students paired together at the kickoff event for the NIU Student-Alumni Mentoring Program.
Mentoring is a key tactic in our triangle strategic framework; it can connect students to other students (peer mentoring), to faculty and staff such as advisers (faculty and staff mentoring) and to the outside world through alumni mentors (alumni mentoring). Mentoring is valuable in providing students with the emotional and instrumental support needed to reach their goals as students and in life.
Last year, the NIU Alumni Association piloted the mentoring program, pairing approximately 70 students with alumni mentors. Senior nursing major Lizzy de Guia was among them.
“Having someone as a support system so I can bounce ideas and get advice” is a main benefit of the program, she said. She thought the experience was so valuable that she created a mentoring program for pre-nursing students to prepare them for the rigorous nursing program.
Much has been written on mentoring college students, and research has shown the positive impact of mentoring.
NIU alumni mentors serve as guides, friends and resources, sharing their educational and professional experiences to help pave the way for students to succeed at NIU and beyond. By providing information, guidance and encouragement, mentors can play an important role in nurturing students, acclimating them to campus and helping them to feel more connected and engaged, which can ultimately improve student outcomes and retention.
Not only do students reap the benefits of these insights, mentors derive satisfaction from helping students fulfill their potential. Mentorships provide alumni an important opportunity to reconnect with NIU. Our alumni want to become involved in activities that further promote and serve the university, and being mentors allows them to be actively engaged. Mentoring programs also provide alumni the chance to “pay it forward” with the gift of their experience to current students. Mentoring programs also provide our alumni the opportunity to cultivate and recruit promising young people to their places of employment after graduation.
Successful mentorships are reciprocal, comfortable relationships between mentors and mentees. The mentor learns from the mentee and the mentee from the mentor. From there, these connections grow between all points of the triangle, further enabling student career success.
With 240,000 alumni, and more than half of them in the region, just imagine the opportunities that exist for strengthening these connections on an exponential level. As the program is further expanded, it can become a strong part of our value proposition as a recruiting tool – an attractive extracurricular to offer incoming and current students as well as alumni.
Mentoring is a smart use of NIU resources; it connects students and alumni for support so they learn and network as they move through their experience at NIU into professional life. Developing a systematic way to expand these programs continues to be a priority.