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The Case for Alumni Mentoring

The Case for Alumni Mentoring

In This blog i will be making the case for Alumni Mentoring. 

The provision of mentors to students and alumni used to be a low priority for education institutions.

A service offered by the alumni career services department to the few.

Simply put, it was a ‘nice to have’.

Not anymore.

Alumni Mentoring is fast being recognized as perhaps one of the most, if not the most, critical components of our formal education experience, and key in driving the long term success for college alumni.

At last week’s CAAE Institute Winter Meeting in Scottsdale Arizona, I had the privilege of hearing a remarkable presentation by Brandon Busteed, the Executive Director Education and Workforce Development for Gallup, of a study commissioned with Purdue University. Brandon outlined what drives long-term alumni success and the role alumni organizations can have in impacting graduates’ well-being.

You can download the full report and also see an excellent article by Brandon on their findings.

For anyone working in a University, I don’t think it gets more fundamental than improving the long-term well-being (both socially and financially) of their graduates. The Gallup-Purdue study found that where you went to college matters less to your work life and well-being after graduation than how you went to college.

In particular, the study found that students being ’emotionally supported’ during college improved the chances of them being engaged in their work more than two-fold, and the chances of thriving in their well-being more than three-fold. Moreover one of the most important ways to be emotionally supported is by having ‘had a mentor who encouraged their goals and dreams.’

Just 22% of respondents could answer affirmatively that they had access to such a mentor. As Brandon put it,

Feeling supported and having deep learning experiences during college means everything when it comes to long-term outcomes aftercollege. Unfortunately, not many graduates receive a key element of that support while in college: having a mentor. And this is perhaps the biggest blown opportunity in the history of higher ed.

So why are schools not providing mentors?

Firstly, there has been a general lack of awareness of the importance of alumni mentoring and student mentoring.

Secondly, schools tend to think about facilitating mentoring in very resource heavy and unscalable ways. The careers department will typically manually match and connect individuals to each other. This takes up a lot of time and is obviously not suitable if you need to do this for thousands of students.

The answer lies in a combination of leveraging your alumni and technology.  It’s worth viewing the Mentoring case study by Tulane University. Your alumni are a readily available army of experienced and motivated mentors willing to help and guide your students. In fact you probably only need around 5-10% of your alumni to volunteer to have more mentors than you need. Technology has also changed meaning that you can literally provide alumni software or an alumni directory within days and enable students and alumni within the alumni portal to choose and connect with each other.

The onus will clearly still remain on students to take advantage of the mentoring opportunities being made available to them. However let’s at least provide that opportunity to all of our students. Moreover, I believe there is an argument that facilitating mentoring should be seen as a life-long service offered to students and senior alumni alike.

The case for mentoring seems clear. How will schools respond to this opportunity? Do you agree with the case for schools to provide mentors? Do you have experience of implementing such a provision and what were your biggest challenges?

I would welcome your thoughts.

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