National Mentoring Month
Aztec Mentor Program Seeks Alumni Volunteers
January is National Mentoring Month and SDSU Career Services is using the designation to encourage alumni to join the Aztec Mentor Program (AMP). The remarkably successful program has gained popularity among SDSU students with demand for alumni mentors reaching an all-time high.
SDSU Career Services Executive Director James Tarbox, Ph.D., says AMP is gaining popularity among students.
One hundred students participated in AMP’s inaugural semester just four years ago. Last fall, more than 1,800 signed up to participate and program organizers expect even more this spring.
“The word is out among students that the Aztec Mentor Program is a great way for them to gain insightful career advice and establish or expand their professional networks,” said SDSU Career Services Executive Director James Tarbox, Ph.D. The challenge, he said, is registering enough alumni mentors to meet the rapidly growing need.
Last fall, for example, almost twice as many students as mentors signed up for the program. To help balance the disparity, alumni who wish to do so may mentor more than one student per semester, although Career Services staff members recommend new mentors start slowly to learn the ins and outs of the program first.
AN EXCELLENT RELATIONSHIP
One student looking for a spring semester mentor will be Cooper Abrams, a 21-year-old senior marketing major who describes his fall 2016 AMP experience as “fantastic.” Although Abrams and his mentor, Paul Escajadillo (’05) never met face-to-face, the student said their email communications and phone conversations were nonetheless valuable.
Although he already has a job lined up after graduation, Cooper Abrams plans to sign up for another mentor this spring.
"Our relationship was excellent,” Abrams said. “We structured our conversations so we had something (important) to discuss every time we talked.”
Escajadillo, who studied political science and computer science at SDSU, also put Abrams in touch with professional associates and former classmates from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business where he earned his MBA. Abrams was able to conduct informational interviews which he said opened his eyes to different career possibilities and potential paths to success.
But Escajadillo’s mentoring was helpful in other ways. “He also gave me a lot of personal advice about work-life balance and making sure I set aside time for myself, take care of my health and different things like that,” Abrams said.
This spring, Escajadillo, who works as an associate marketing manager for the Clorox Company in Oakland, will sign up for his fourth consecutive semester with AMP. So far, he said, he has enjoyed working with students through the program.
Paul Escajadillo ('05) has mentored three SDSU students over the past three semesters and says he will participate in the Aztec Mentor Program again this spring
"It has been phenomenal,” he said. “I have had some very, very engaged people and sometimes it's hard for me to realize that they are only 21 or 22. They are incredibly ambitious.”
The 34-year-old Escajadillo said he would recommend the mentoring experience to other alumni. "I would say first and foremost, it is actually not that much of a time commitment,” he explained.
"Secondly, remember where you were when you were 21 or 22 and look at the life experience you currently have that you can impart to people. Your life experience alone will be something that can help these students."
SMALL COMMITMENT, LARGE IMPACT
Abrams agrees. He said the support his mentor provided was reassuring as well as instructional.
"Paul always offered to be available if I needed to call or text him if there was something going on or if I was worried about something or if something was bothering me,” Abrams explained. “He's an all-around great guy."
Abrams already has a job lined up after graduation, but he still has a final semester to get through and he’s counting on the support of a mentor to help him. Like Escajadillo, he advises alumni to sign up for AMP and become mentors.
"The commitment is very small, but the impact you have it is very large,” he said. “I got a lot more confidence and a lot more knowledge about marketing and the business world out of it.”
To learn more about the Aztec Mentor Program or to become a mentor to an SDSU student, please visit the AMP website at amp.sdsu.edu.