Daniela Bellini ’22 poses outside Dana Engineering Building on the science quad.

Engineering Students and Alumni Build Bonds in New Mentoring Program

April 12, 2021

by Marielle Miller

Daniela Bellini ’22 connects with alumni mentors through the College of Engineering's Engineering Buddy Program. Emily Paine, Communications

It isn't just in their hands-on classes and labs that Daniela Bellini '22 and Jonathan Stiefel '23 are learning the skills they'll soon put to use as professional engineers. They're getting the chance to explore that practice in the world of professional engineering.

That's because both engineering majors are part of the Engineering Buddy Program, a new initiative in the College of Engineering that connects groups of 5-6 students with two alumni mentors as a way to network and gain knowledge of their craft.

Bellini, a computer engineering major from St. Petersburg, Fla., says her experience in the program has shown her how to further her career after graduation and learn valuable networking skills. "I learned about the Engineering Buddy Program through fellow engineering students and it stuck out to me because I had been networking with alumni for a few months, and this seemed like a perfect opportunity to get to know new alumni on an even more personal level."

She was paired with Scott Higgins '82, director of operations of pharmaceutical firm Merck's Merck for Mothers initiative, and Laura Cook '10, M'11, an engineer for Corning Inc. Bellini and her five fellow group members met with Higgins and Cook throughout the semester to get career advice, network and explore opportunities waiting for them in the world of professional engineering. 

"Scott and Laura were so helpful, and thoroughly answered all of our questions — and we asked a lot of questions!" she says "Each meeting would have a theme as a focus for our questions, but we discussed everything from school advice to resumes and cover letters to the best ways to land summer internships and post-graduation jobs." 

Bellini also gained a sense of clarity about her future from the program.

"I would encourage any and all engineering students to take part in this program, regardless of what year they are in," she says. "You learn about so many things that can help you both during and after your time at Bucknell, plus you get to meet some cool alumni and fellow engineering students."

Stiefel, a civil engineering major from Blairstown, N.J., comes from a family of engineers. Both his parents and older brother work in the field.

"Growing up in my family, I was taught to find the solutions to any problem by thinking outside of the box. They've instilled in me the creativity and innovative thinking it takes to be a good engineer," says Stiefel. 

Jonathan Stiefel outside Dana Engineering Building

"I want to explore all the routes I can take with a civil engineering degree," says Jonathan Stiefel ’23, "I am looking at the world and constantly thinking of ways I can make it better and contribute to society in a positive way." Photo by Emily Paine, Communications

But when approached by a senior engineering student about joining the program, he still jumped at the chance to learn from more industry professionals. Alumni Winnie Okello '10, a civil engineer for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, and Bill Smith '70, a mechanical engineer with the Exelon Corporation, facilitated discussions with Stiefel and his fellow group members about the vast opportunities the engineering world has to offer. 

"While engineering was a sure thing for me, I want to explore all the routes I can take with a civil engineering degree. I am looking at the world and constantly thinking of ways I can make it better and contribute to society in a positive way." he says. 

While the program typically lasts for a semester, students are encouraged to keep building a relationship with their mentor long after the experience. 

The Engineering Buddy Program was launched in spring 2020 by the Bucknell Engineering Alumni Association (BEAA), alumnus John Madison '81 and the Engineering Student Board. 

Madison says he was asked to help launch the program by BEAA as another way for the college's passionate and engaged alumni to support engineering students of today. 

"I am hopeful that by having the alums and sometimes upperclass students share their experiences and perspective, we will help students make the most of their time at Bucknell, and help them prepare for success in whatever comes next," Madison says. "The discussions in the Buddy Program cover a wide range of topics and I'm optimistic that the students walk away with useful information and new perspectives."

Madison and the College of Engineering are looking to grow the program in coming semesters to engage with even more students.


How you can explore real-world engineering at Bucknell