Six years after the successful launch of the first Mentor Connections teams, the UAFS Alumni Association is launching Mentor Connections 2.0.
The first Mentor Connections teams, assembled in 2016, consisted of a third- or fourth-year student at the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith, a recent graduate of the university, and an executive mentor, a successful member of the business, industry, or nonprofit sectors in the greater Fort Smith region.
Executives and young alumni from more than 75 area businesses, including ABB, ArcBest, Hanna Oil & Gas, and Propak, have participated as mentors.
“Our mission with Mentor Connections is to create a tradition of mentoring within the UAFS community that will encourage students to stay in the Arkansas River Valley,” Alumni Director Rick Goins said. “We want our graduates to become actively engaged business and civic leaders. It’s part of our commitment to our community.”
Mentor Connection teams meet at least once a month, with students directing the topics of discussion. But for the fullest experience for all three team members, communication is more organic. Young alumni members say they appreciate the chance to work with a successful executive in the area, and the executive members appreciate the insight into younger generations. The students value the chance to discuss concerns in real time with people who have been in their shoes.
Mentor Connections 2.0 opens the program to second-year students, who will be paired with a young UAFS graduate.
“We want to allow students to extend their experience from one or two years to three years,” Goins said. “And we want to connect them with graduates who can help them navigate their college years and talk through career options.”
The student-graduate team will add an executive mentor when the student becomes a junior. The student can proceed in the third year with the same team for consistency or with a new team for additional insights.
In the future, students who are not part of the 2.0 program still will be able to participate in Mentor Connections, but Goins hopes that opening the program to younger students will give them a richer experience while adding depth to Mentor Connections membership.
“We hope 2.0 will increase student awareness of the program and let young people start with a less intimidating team,” Goins said. “The young alumni will be able to give students advice about their academic careers and urge them to think about internships before their senior year.”
For the 2020-2021 year, Goins has created five 2.0 teams and 20 Mentor Connections “classic” teams.