Mentor program guides students on a path to success
College is a time when students need extra guidance to reach their full potential. With that in mind, Wayne State's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS) has adopted a mentoring program connecting students with alumni mentors in their field. These seasoned professionals provide students with guidance and feedback during a critical time in their academic careers.
Initially developed in the College of Engineering, the program was adopted by Wayne State's chemistry departments in 2018, and in 2021 the mathematics depart started its own mentor program. Now more than a dozen CLAS mentors and students connect each semester.
The roles of the mentors vary depending on the needs of the students. They meet throughout the year to answer questions or guide students who need an inside perspective on their study area. Pre-med students applying for medical school might look to their mentor for help with applications and essays or even help figure out their next steps in their careers.
Special care is taken to pair students with alumni mentors. Steve Zoski is the alumni relations officer for CLAS. With the help of academic advisors, he makes sure to pair students with mentors that have similar educational and professional goals and backgrounds.
"The purpose is to give students a chance to meet alum from Wayne State, someone whose footsteps they can follow and someone who worked in jobs and roles they may want to work in," said Zoski. "So the students can start to think about their goals and where they see themselves in a couple of years and what they need to get to where they want to be."
Zoski said that they have a diverse group of mentors from all over the country that offers a wide variety of knowledge and connections to the students they work with. This makes the program helpful to a wide range of students looking to achieve different career goals.
"Our CLAS alumni are fascinating and work in diverse areas," said Zoski. "There is a math mentor who works in New York for an actuarial company, there are others who run non-profits, some work in the chemical industry, and some are medical doctors."
Dr. Larry Roy is one of the mentors in the program. He is a medical doctor who received his undergraduate degree in chemistry from Wayne State and went to medical school at the University of Chicago.
Roy said he was privileged to have such a wonderful experience as a student at Wayne State and wanted to find a way to give back to the school that gave so much to him. When he was contacted about the mentor program, he knew this would be a rewarding experience and a way to help students enter his line of work.
Roy lived in Chicago when he started as an alumni mentor, but that didn't stop him from finding a way to help. He developed an entirely virtual schedule where he could still help his first student.
"Our shadowing was done virtually," said Roy. "I would FaceTime her on my phone and give her a virtual tour of the hospital that I worked in to show her what it was like working here and even introduce her to people."
Roy is currently working with his third pre-med student and finds the relationships rewarding for him and the student. He explained that he is paired with the student early in their academic career to be there every step of the way to medical school.
"For the pre-med students, it is important that you are with them early on," said Roy. "There is so much that has to be done, including the MCAT and guiding them in ways to volunteer so they have a fighting chance to getting into medical school, which is very competitive."
Roy has been an incredible mentor to all of his students and said that he is proud to see their success after they graduate. His first student, Titiana Gorges, is still in touch with him and said that her time with him was critical to her success today.
"Dr. Roy gave me valuable advice on career paths and became one of my greatest supporters," said Gorges. "I still keep in touch with Dr. Roy and am grateful to network with such an experienced and brilliant doctor."
Gorges is currently finishing up her second year at the Kentucky College of Optometry and will be receiving her white coat in April. She looks back at her time at WSU and sees the industry mentor program as an invaluable resource.
Students and alumni mentors interested in connecting can contact firstname.lastname@example.org to get further information about how to become part of the CLAS mentor project.
By Hannah Naimo, CLAS student writer