Alumni Mentoring Programs: A Literature Review in 6 Articles

Alumni mentoring was the big buzzphrase in alumni relations and career services in 2016.

But the rise in such programs has some people asking, "What is mentoring anyway?" Is it a Karate Kid-style, one-on-one relationship that the institution has to set up from scratch? Or is it something more organic? What can mentees expect to get out of it, and what should mentors expect to do?

To help answer these and other questions, we picked six articles that cut past the hype and clarify what alumni mentoring programs look like at their best.

1) Rethinking Alumni-Student Mentor Programs

Rather than laboriously cultivating one-on-one relationships between students and alumni, Longwood University VP Ryan Catherwood argues, "We should build environments where introductions occur organically."

Catherwood's contention is that overly formal student-teacher type arrangements don't accurately represent how networks work in the real world. Instead, he says, we should focus our attention on teach students how to find and strike up relationships with alumni who can give them referrals to relevant opportunities.

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2) Amherst’s Mentoring Program Taps Into the Expertise of Alums

Amherst does just what Catherwood suggests, according to Ursula Olender, Amherst’s associate dean of students and director of the career center.

“We focused on building a system that empowered mentees and mentors to choose mentoring relationships that fit the developmental needs of the student. In order to accommodate all students, we could not build a program that required an administrator to match and monitor mentors and mentees.”

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3) 6 Rules of Thumb to Help Your Mentoring Program Succeed

An outline for getting your mentorship program off the ground, collated from dozens of conversations with our partner schools and experts in the field.

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4) Mentoring's Promise and Limits 

This Atlantic article explains the pros and cons of mentoring in a variety of contexts. Yes, it can have huge benefits for mentees. But broken mentoring relationships, or ones that simply never work out, can do more harm than good.

One of the most important points from this article: Encourage your mentors to have patience. They aren't going to completely change their mentee's lives overnight.

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5) What the Best Mentors Do

Your relationship is more important than mentorship. Make it about character, not just competency. Temper your criticisms with plenty of praise.

Just a few recommendations from this Harvard Business Review article you should send to all your prospective mentors.

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6) How Marquette university approaches mentoring with advancement in mind

Marquette University has made alumni mentoring a top priority, not just in career services but within advancement as well.

We spoke with folks at Marquette some time ago to learn how they see mentoring as an opportunity to engage alumni as donors.

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