By Chelsea Coleman – William Jewell College offers multiple services to ensure that students are informed and ready to enter the workforce upon graduation. One of these services offered is the Career Mentor Program, which allows students to experience what a particular profession would be like on a daily basis as well as examine different employment opportunities within their field of study. The Mentor Program was created and is still led by Judy Rychlewski, who began the program in the fall of 1984 with the first group of mentees in spring of 1985. Rychlewski explains that the program can basically find any type of mentor a student may request, with mentorships covering a wide range of professions.
“I think our program is unique”, Rychlewski explained. “While many other colleges have mentorship programs, in most cases the student is picking from a set of mentors that have volunteered for the program. At Jewell we consult with the student to determine what the student wants and needs and then go out and find the match. We can set up just about anything and everything.”
In the program’s 28 years of operation students have requested mentorships ranging from a sports agent representing professional athletes to a broadcast journalist to a wolf biologist. Rychlewski said that, while students from various majors utilize the program, there are an especially large number of pre-law and pre-med students participating. “We see a lot of pre-law and pre-med students using the program. But we also have a psychologist this semester, an artist, and some students at the art museum.”
Rychlewski explained the application process for those who are interested in being matched with a mentor. “We take applications twice a year, mid semester in October and March. There is an application and resume required and the student will need a letter of recommendation from a professor or faculty member. It can be uploaded to their E-Recruiting account or can be brought in to the Career Services office.” Rychlewski continued, “The next step is a half-hour interview with a mentor commission member. We have about 20 alumni that are on the commission, and they’re responsible for training and evaluating the students, following up, and finding mentors and making sure everything is going well.”
Sophomore economics and physics student Bryson Waibel is currently participating in a mentorship with civil engineer Ron Cowger. Waibel explained, “Mr. Cowger is Vice President of AGC Engineers in Liberty. I chose to shadow a civil engineer because I wanted to explore engineering and get a better idea of what a civil engineer does.” Waibel said that this mentorship has given him a great look at the responsibilities and tasks of a civil engineer on a day-to-day basis. “Mr. Cowger has exposed me to every facet of his profession from meetings and on-site surveys to various office work and other activities. He has also taken the time to explain the business side of engineering so that I have a well rounded view of the entire experience.”
Rychlewski touched on the multiple benefits of a career mentorship. “Students get practical exposure. It’s not the same as an internship, but it’s a relationship and many students keep this relationship going. Students find their mentor helpful as a sounding board when making important study and career decisions. Mentors also write letters of recommendation for graduate school and job applications. The Career Mentor Program gives students an inside look into fields that interest them. Even when a mentorship convinces a student that a particular field is not a good fit, it’s still a valuable learning experience.”