New mentorship program at Virginia Tech connects undergraduate students with alumni


BLACKSBURG, Va. (WFXR) – A new mentorship program at Virginia Tech is looking to connect current students with their alumni network.

“A lot of people are skeptical about becoming a mentor because they think they have to be an expert, and you don’t really have to be an expert, you just have to be a few steps ahead of the person you’re mentoring,” says Donna Ratcliffe, Director of Career and Professional Development at Virginia Tech.

Hokie Mentorship Connect is an online platform that will provide mentoring opportunities to all undergraduate students. According to Joy Capers, the program coordinator, 80% of the school’s mentorship programs are peer-to-peer based. The unique program will help students utilize connections with Virginia Tech alumni and allow them to ask questions and get advice from professionals in their interested career fields.

The program came as a result of the emphasis President Tim Sands has always placed on the importance of mentorship. Coordinators initiated their pilot program last spring with a group of 30 students and alumni. Ratcliffe was one of the few chosen to be a mentor. She says that by being able to meet face-to-face, she and her mentee were able to talk about a variety of things.

“We had a number of times together. We talked about her major. She wanted to be a double major, so we talked a little bit about what that might be and she went around campus exploring that opportunity. She was also interested in summer internships, so we talked about that,” says Ratcliffe.

Through an online portal, the program provides three different types of mentoring opportunities: one-on-one sessions, discussion boards, and “flash mentoring”, where students can ask basic questions to their alumni network.

“When a mentor registers, he or she puts down their career field, who they work for, their affiliations when they were students here at Virginia Tech. The matching comes from the student’s side. So the student also fills out a profile and then does some searches and a number of alumni will pop up. They can look at their profiles and then they can reach out to them,” says Ratcliffe.

Hokie Mentorship Connect will officially debut for all undergraduate students this September. Ratcliffe says that through her experience, she believes the program is a great way for current students to connect with Virginia Tech’s many alums. The program is not only flexible, but it’s also a comfortable experience for both the mentor and the student.

Since the platform became live for alums to start signing up to be mentors on August 19th, Capers says there have been over 1,700 alumni who have signed up, with numbers continuing to rise every day.

Although this is the first school year that the program will be launched, coordinators are already looking into expanding the program to other groups around campus.

“In the future, we’re hoping to open it up to graduate students and also other members of the Virginia Tech community like faculty and staff. Many of our faculty and staff have no contact with Virginia Tech students. They’re doing the work on behalf of them. They don’t necessarily have any contact with them and so they were pretty excited about the prospect of serving as mentors,” says Ratcliffe.

Information Sessions about Hokie Mentorship Connect will be held in Room A of the Smith Career Center at the following times:

  • Sept. 16 – 9-10 a.m. and 1:30-2:30 p.m.
  • Sept. 17 – 3:30–4:30 p.m.
  • Sept. 18 – 9–10 a.m. and noon–1 p.m.
  • Sept. 19 – 1:30–2:30 p.m. and 3–4 p.m.
  • Sept. 20 – noon–1 p.m. and 2:30–3:30 p.m.
  • Sept. 23 – 1–2 p.m.
  • Sept. 24 – 1–2 p.m.
  • Sept. 25 – 9–10 a.m., 11 a.m.–noon, and 1–2 p.m.

For more information about the program, visit their website here.

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