A Guiding Hand

CAES alumni and students benefit from UGA Mentor Program

One year removed from its highly anticipated launch, the University of Georgia’s student-alumni mentor program has already established a broad range of opportunities for success, leadership and connection within the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES) community.

Under the UGA Mentor Program model, students and alumni, including faculty and staff members, interested in volunteering create a personalized online profile. From there, potential matching candidates have the ability to share interests, experiences and personal backgrounds.

“While there are older mentoring programs on campus, the UGA Mentor Program is the first comprehensive mentorship initiative,” said Jeremy Daniel, associate director of the program in the UGA Career Center. “We have established a culture of innovation by listening to our program participants and evolving features to better serve them.”

A key feature of the program’s selection process is that the student has ultimate control of choosing a desired mentor to fulfill their specific needs.

“What I like most about the program is that I have the power to choose my mentor,” said Tina Green, a senior animal and dairy science student who worked with CAES alumnus Jake Williams (BSA — Poultry Science, ’08). “Other mentorship programs choose people for you based on what they think is best for you, but often the only person who knows exactly what you need is you.”

Experiences and interactions are not limited to the Athens community. Often mentees choose a mentor who can help them to gain a head start and develop hands-on experience in a particular industry of interest.

“My mentor opened many doors for me to be able to gain real-world experience, such as shadowing my mentor, writing articles for a local paper, attending a large professional conference and participating in mock interviews with a real company,” said Bailey Lawson, a senior agriscience and environmental systems major and CAES ambassador who paired with CAES alumnus Jeff Cook (BSA — Plant Pathology, ’97; MPPPM — Plant Protection and Pest Management, ’99). “There are so many great opportunities within this program for professional development and I encourage all UGA students to take advantage of this awesome resource.”

The simplicity of the process and the access to all generations of alumni has been vital in establishing a strong foundation of diversity and support. The inaugural year of the program has already yielded alumni with years of developed industry experience who are looking for ways to give back.

“The individual success in programs like this is based on what you want to get out of it,” said Cook. “By coming in with a plan and expectations, it is easier for a mentor to navigate assisting with opportunities, internships and scholarships. In most cases, the reason that someone is a good mentor is that they have a really good mentee.”

For recent graduates, the willingness to participate in the program is already paying off.

“The program connected me with Andrea Pierce (BSA — Biological Science, ’11), who has been through what I am currently going through as a student working to enter the health care field,” said Savanna Finley (BSA — Biological Science, ’19). “I was afforded the opportunity to participate in the alumni network sooner and it means a lot to have someone by my side cheering me on, especially during a pandemic.”

Each student-alumni pairing is allowed to develop organically, allowing mentors and mentees to build unique relationships with someone who shares similar goals and challenges. For program leaders, it is about building a broader community by creating and maintaining valuable connections.

“We are committed to creating a culture of mentoring across campus and throughout the Bulldog Nation,” said Daniel. “Bringing the University of Georgia family together and forming meaningful, lasting connections is the cornerstone of Dawgs serving Dawgs.”

To become a mentor or mentee, or to learn more about the UGA mentor program, visit mentor.uga.edu.