Seeking professional help
Mentor program pairs students with business executives
Like many sophomores, Elizabeth Donkoh's academic and professional directions tended to be more exploratory than precise. College is, after all, much about self-discovery.
"I viewed myself as being in a pre-business mode, and my specific interests were beginning to focus more on information systems," she recalled. "But I had no experience, and I didn't know anyone in the field. Before I made an investment of my life in it, I wanted to know more."
"Mr. Ghoshal widened my perception of possibilities, along with providing a very helpful list of 'do this' and 'don't do thats' that I plan to keep"
-sophomore Elizabeth Donkoh
The RealWork Mentor Network helped. A new program designed by Business Career Services, it introduces students in their early college years to professionals in the students' career field.
The mentorships are short-term meetingsan hour to a day. Donkoh was matched with IBM solutions strategies manager Koustuv Ghoshal.
Donkoh rates the session among the most enlightening of her collegiate experience. "He knew right where I was in terms of career dilemmas," she said. "He talked to me about what a day of corporate life was like, and he gave me advice on everything from the specific courses that I should take to the kinds of internships that would put me on the fast path.
"I was particularly interested in programming, but in a general kind of way. Mr. Ghoshal widened my perception of possibilities, along with providing a very helpful list of 'do this' and 'don't do thats' that I plan to keep."
Donkoh believes the meeting with her RealWork mentor affirmed her decision to change her career path in favor of information systems.
Such revelations are exactly what the program's creator had in mind.
"We get our seniors in here (Business Career Services) when it's time to graduate, when they're already looking for a job," said Felicia Vaughn, a BCS counselor who conceptualized and maintains the network. "But I was concerned about getting our freshmen, sophomores and juniors some more tools for career development."
Vaughn enlisted 17 executives as mentoring volunteers from industries ranging from information technology and finance to manufacturing and retailingexecutives from companies like IBM, Chase and TXU.
Several, such as Ghoshal ('91 BS), are UTA graduates, which gives them specific, been-right-there, done-exactly-that experience.
Vaughn wants to eliminate as much of a "cold call" feel to the mentor-student meetings as possible. Participants fill out a questionnaire, then meet with a counselor who suggests several business mentoring possibilities. Once a business is selected, a pre-meeting orientation is conducted.
"Both the student and business have some preparation involved, so that when they get together they'll have the basics covered and won't have to spend too much time in the get-acquainted phase," Vaughn said.
Although RealWorks is still in its infancy, Vaughn predicts that it may one day involve seniors and graduate students. She also emphasizes that RealWorks is available to all students interested in a career in business, whether they're a business major or not.
"For example, a student might be a psychology or public relations major who's interested in marketing," she said.
And that student, too, can benefitjust like Elizabeth