How mentoring can increase student engagement and job placement rates.
GUEST COLUMN | by Katie Connor
In 2009, the Leeds School of Business at University of Colorado established the Leeds Professional Mentorship Program, with the goal of providing individualized professional development and career support for students, as well as making a stronger connection between alumni and students. With the job market becoming increasingly competitive, we felt strongly that it was our responsibility to prepare our graduates for a career as much as possible, which included mentorship with fellow students and alumni.
After a limited pilot program, the mentoring program went school-wide in 2010, where it quickly went viral, increasing ten-fold, to over 1,000 participants by 2011. At that point we realized that our in-house solution for managing the program wasn’t flexible or robust enough for larger-scale implementations. Our in-house tool was used for matching mentors with mentees, as well as tracking activity, but it required a significant amount of manual work for our administrators and was quite difficult to update. In order to support the rapid growth and maintain the quality of our programs, we knew we had to look for a new solution that could handle multiple mentoring programs and accommodate the needs of program administrators, students, and mentors alike.
After evaluating a few different vendors, we ultimately decided to work with Chronus Mentor, who we felt had the most experience with our type of environment. The Chronus team’s experience with a variety of applications in higher education was a key factor in our decision. After adopting Chronus Mentor in 2012, we spent about eight weeks customizing the software to fit our exact needs, including uploading existing datasets, customizing the applications and website content, and implementing our university’s single sign on into the software.
Now that we’re able to automate many of our administrative tasks through Chronus, the Leeds Mentoring Office can easily oversee four different mentoring programs. They include:
- Peer2Peer (P2P) program which supports first-year students with trained peer mentors.
- Young Alumni Mentors (YAMs) program that connects sophomores with recent graduates.
- Professional Mentorship Program (PMP) which partners undergraduates and MBAs with seasoned professionals.
- CoLab: Essentials of Collaboration and Innovation in Business, introducing first-year students to key business concepts working with alumni and corporate mentors.
Before implementing Chronus, it would have been nearly impossible for our internal team to match over 1,800 mentors and mentees based on our current criteria. Now, the new bulk matching feature in Chronus allows us to improve the efficiency of the process while enhancing the quality of the match between mentor and mentee. Based on the customized criteria for each of our programs, we can narrow down options faster and earlier, saving time and effort for our staff.
Over the past year, we’ve also noticed a strong link between participation in the programs and landing that first job right out of college. Results of the Educational Benchmarking, Inc. (EBI) survey completed by Leeds in 2012 showed that undergraduate students who participate in the Professional Mentorship Program are 40% more likely to have a job upon graduation than non-participants. Today, over 50% of all Leeds undergraduates are involved in one of the Leeds Mentoring Office Programs.
In addition to the increase in job placements, our internal team spends less time administering the program and more time engaging. Our mentors and mentees are getting matched with like-minded people, improving the chemistry and results between them. The Chronus Mentor platform not only allows students and mentors to connect 1:1, but also facilitates sharing resources and connecting with the entire community of participants, creating a powerful network for professional development and career exploration. Milestones within each of our mentoring programs build upon one another to facilitate continuous progress in the mentoring partnerships from one program to the next.
The goal of the Leeds Mentoring Office is to provide professional development, counseling, and career readiness support for our students throughout their academic and professional progression. I believe we’ve certainly done that, as well as developed a meaningful way to connect our students with our alumni and corporate partners. With the efficiencies we now have through Chronus, we can focus staff resources more strategically, while we continue to improve and grow the scope and scale of our mentoring programs at the Leeds School.
Katie Connor is the Executive Director of Mentoring and Career Development at the University of Colorado Boulders’ Leeds School of Business, preparing over 3,000 undergraduates for careers in business by providing professional skills, career exploration and preparation, industry experiences, and access to employer and alumni connections. Previously, she worked for over 20 years in engineering, project management, and management consulting with Bechtel Corporation, Sohio Petroleum Company, and Decision Focus Inc., in the San Francisco Bay Area. She earned her BS in Applied Earth Science and MS in Environmental Engineering from Stanford University, and an MBA from Harvard Business School.