As Ella Fronk '22 sifted through dozens of emails during her first week at Bucknell, one stood out: the announcement of a new mentorship program pairing first-year students with alumni at Goldman Sachs.
Fronk, an accounting & financial management major from Columbus, Ohio, had 72 hours to pull together a resume, cover letter and application — no simple feat for someone just beginning college life. But she and more than 130 students managed it and of those, 70 were selected to participate.
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The Freeman College of Management has a strong relationship with the securities and investment firm thanks to Goldman Sachs' long tradition of employing Bucknell graduates. Last summer, Freeman College Dean Raquel Alexander sat down with David Granson '93, managing director at Goldman Sachs, to brainstorm ways to tap the rich Bison talent, experience and loyalty to benefit today's students. The idea of formal mentorships took hold: a program matching alumni and parent employees with incoming students from the Freeman College as well as the College of Arts & Sciences and the College of Engineering.
Unlike mentor programs that focus on juniors and seniors, the goal here is to provide first-year students with a launching pad that offers early insight into what employers will be looking for and how to stand out as a potential employee. Mentors are able to illuminate the importance of choices students will be making in coursework, internships and summer jobs, as well as opportunities like networking and study abroad, with a goal of preparing them to launch successful careers right after graduation.
"The emphasis is on maximizing your time on campus," said Granson's mentee, Joey D'Angelo '22, an economics major from Mountainside, N.J., who has a strong interest in law. Following his mentor's advice, D'Angelo has lined up a summer internship with the public defender's office in Lewisburg this summer. "The idea of focusing on first-year students is that you're graduating in four years, but your future is here, now. It's an opportunity to get advice about what you can do over the next four years to optimize your time at Bucknell," he said.
Once assigned a mentor, it's up to the student to initiate and drive the interactions, typically by phone and email. Some meet monthly, others more frequently. "My mentor and I have an incredible connection," said Fronk, who is paired with Sydney Batista '15, a portfolio management analyst. "She's in New York, but we were in contact a lot over winter break, revamping my resume, updating my LinkedIn profile and strengthening my cover letter." Fronk is seeing results. "I just received a summer internship offer from a bank based in Columbus."
The program is currently operating on a one-year model. The mentor/mentee match may be determined by career choice or other factors, including location, with preference given to a mentor who works in a mentee's hometown. Bucknellians from around the country and even overseas have stepped up, especially young alumni.
Zeke Farkas '22, a computer science & engineering major from Alexandria, Va., is paired with Brian O'Grady '16, a systems analyst and said he appreciated insights from a recent graduate. "In a field that moves as quickly as computer science, he knows what's being taught on campus and he can connect it to the working world. So it's been an advantage having someone closer in age."
"The key to the program's success," said Alexander, "is that we have highly motivated students, a passionate group of alumni within an organization and a very dedicated alumnus championing it. We are looking forward to expanding opportunities for alumni to participate in the coming years."
Granson sees it as codifying Bucknell's long-standing culture of networking. "When I was a clueless freshman in 1989, I was introduced to Lee Idleman '54, who was then chair of Bucknell's Board of Trustees. He took an interest in me, gave me a kick start and changed my life. This mentorship program is a way of formalizing what so many Bucknellians already know firsthand."
And what many Bucknellians are learning. "I would definitely advise first-year students to do a mentorship," said Farkas. "So much is new when you come on campus — you don't know what to do now to advance your career later. If you can think of it during your first year, you're miles ahead."