UBC Reports | Vol. 50 | No. 6 |
Jun. 3, 2004
Paying it Forward
Mentors pass it on
By Cristina Calboreanu
Trying to find your way and your place in the world as a
university student can be exciting and rewarding. It can also
be overwhelming, confusing and frustrating.
A new mentoring program developed by UBC Career Services
with support from the Counselling Foundation of Canada is
helping students gain clarity about their educational and
career paths. The program's tri-level structure gives mentoring
an innovative twist. Third- or fourth-year students are matched
with faculty or industry mentors in the students' areas of
study. These students, in turn, mentor first- or second-year
"There are only three Canadian universities funded to
pilot tri-mentoring programs and UBC is one of them,"
explains Diane Johnson, mentoring projects manager with Career
Services. "There is great interest from other universities
and organizations in what we're doing here."
Approximately 300 students and 140 mentors from industry
and academia are currently involved in the program and, starting
in September, close to 525 students and 260 mentors will participate
in tri-mentoring in areas such as agricultural sciences, applied
science, dentistry, computer science and life sciences.
Julianne Sun, a third-year food and nutritional sciences
student, says meeting with her industry mentor gave her confidence
to proceed on her chosen career path.
"I know now it will not be easy to search for my first
job once I graduate and that I should be getting as much experience
as I can during the summer or working part time during the
next school year," she explains. "Therefore, right
now I am busy planning and searching for appropriate companies
and workshops to help myself gain knowledge and experience."
The unique structure of the program allows senior students
to benefit from the knowledge and experience of their industry
mentors, while at the same time building mentorship and citizenship
skills. In turn, junior students receive information and suggestions
on matters such as course selection and volunteering. For
some, the lessons learned go well beyond career advice.
In a survey of program participants, a third-year horticultural
student wrote, "At first I was disappointed that my industry
mentor was not a professional agricultural researcher, but
then I was inspired by the fact that my mentor was able to
bring her other job experiences into her current career as
a landscaper. Instead of learning how to get from a degree
to my dream job, I learned how a person can make the most
of their experiences to do something they love."
For a group of engineering students, tri-mentoring provided
an opportunity to address a social need, according to PhD
candidates Donna Dykeman and Erin Young, the program co-ordinators
of the Engineering Mentoring Program pilot in the Faculty
of Applied Science.
"We wanted to provide a support network for women in
engineering," explains Dykeman. "Twenty per cent
of all engineering students are women, but the number of women
actually working in the field is much lower, around five per
cent. We would like to see women not be a minority in this
With support from the Association of Professional Engineers
and Geoscientists of British Columbia, the Engineering Mentoring
Program pilot started in January 2004 with 30 students and
15 academia and industry mentors. There are also plans to
expand the program to all engineering students in September.
"The program is showing students that there's a great
variety and a broad spectrum of careers in engineering, not
just your stereotypical manufacturing environment," says
Young. "The field is very broad and can be broadened
further to fields like law, ethics, and medicine."
The Faculty of Agricultural Sciences was the first unit at
UBC to implement the new program. In September 2001, 42 students
were matched with 21 industry mentors.
Community Partnerships Co-ordinator Cathleen Nichols says
that before implementing tri-mentoring, she had co-ordinated
other mentorship programs in agricultural sciences, as well
as developing internship and co-operative education programs,
but she found tri-mentoring opened new doors.
"What I like about tri-mentoring is the fact that it
is self-sustainable," says Nichols. "You're linking
junior students with seniors, and if you do it right the juniors
will stay connected with the program and come back as seniors.
Our senior students soon realize the value of mentoring for
all parties and come back as alumni.
"Tri-mentoring is helping us reconnect with our alumni,
which is a struggle for all the faculties on campus,"
she adds, "and it's also helping students make good decisions
in terms of their chosen path and career development."
While there are great hopes for tri-mentoring at UBC, for
some the program has already proven successful for all involved.
For mentors, explains Johnson, this is an opportunity to network
with other professionals in the field and especially to "give
back to the community."
For the students, Nichols says tri-mentoring "gives
them self-esteem. It gets them asking some really good questions
about career development, and it's helping them to see into
the future. It's exciting to see the growth in them, and it
would be wonderful if tri-mentoring was implemented campus-wide."