Alumni Compass Project
Alumni play a large role in shaping our current program, but their impacts are often unrealized by current students. Together we can connect students with alumni in a very personal and meaningful way that demonstrates the generosity of the Warnell family by providing each student with a mentor and compass.
The Alumni Compass Project (ACP) provides Warnell students with yet another resource to help ensure that they are prepared to enter the workforce (or graduate school) by the time they complete their undergraduate degree. The program is a work in progress, and we are constantly making adjustments to benefit everyone involved in the program. This guide is part of that process. If you have any comments or suggestions, please contact Emily Saunders at email@example.com or 706-542-1465.
The Mentor Role
A mentor is described as a wise, trusted, influential counselor, teacher, sponsor or supporter (Dictionary.com). At Warnell, our ACP mentors give of their time and resources to a specific student. By developing a one-on-one relationship with a student through the Alumni Compass Project, mentors help each student navigate through the myriad of academic and professional experiences they will encounter while attending Warnell.
More specifically, ACP Mentors:
- Provide encouragement for students as they transition into the Warnell School, and again as they graduate and become young professionals.
- Demonstrate the importance of networking, and provide suggestions on opportunities to network.
- Encourage students to pursue relevant field and/or volunteer experiences.
- Help students discover the breadth of the field of natural resources careers.
- Give honest feedback related to communication, resumes, and other job searching skills.
Mentors reap benefits too! Mentors:
- Develop leadership skills.
- Improve communication skills – especially listening and questioning.
- Contribute to the success of individuals, the School, and the profession.
- Stay connected with UGA and Warnell by supporting their alma mater.
- Learn about new & developing talent.
ACP Mentor Basic Eligibility Requirements
- Graduate of any Warnell degree program (BSF, BSFR, MS, MNR, MFR, PhD)
- Active in the field of natural resources or a related profession. You do not have to be currently employed in the natural resources field, but you should have a strong tie to the profession –either through hobbies or personal interests. We also have a need for mentors that are active in the military. Not sure if you meet the requirements? If you are interested, we can definitely use your help! Contact Emily Saunders, and we can discuss how you can fit into the program.
What does the commitment include?
- Sign up! Email Emily Saunders at firstname.lastname@example.org to get matched with an incoming student.
- Write a letter of welcome and introduction to your mentee before Professional Orientation.
- Send at least two “check-in emails,” and respond to your mentee if he/she initiates contact.
- Give a $40 gift to the Forestry Fund to purchase a compass for your mentee.
- Provide feedback about the program by completing an evaluation.
Proposed timeline for new Fall mentors
- Emily Saunders emails mentor with students name and interests
- Mentor submits personal welcome/introductory letter to student before orientation
- See additional notes regarding welcome letter in the FAQ section.
- Attend the Virtual Networking Hour – not required!
- Emily will prompt mentors to check in with their mentees. Suggested topics include:
- How was your semester?
- Given any thought to a summer internship?
- Have you created a resume?
- Note: Mentors are not under any obligation to critique resumes, but it would be helpful for students to have a professional look over their resume, and this is an easy way for mentors to be actively involved with their mentee. Feel free to refer them to on- campus resources like Ami Flowers or Emily Saunders.
- LinkedIn is also a great resource for connecting with your mentee. Not on LinkedIn yet? Keep reading…
- Check in with mentees and encourage them to attend Roundtable. Again, follow up regarding internship plans, resumes, interview skills, etc…
- Wish them luck during final exams, and congratulate them on landing a great internship!
Most collegiate mentoring programs require that students choose to participate in the mentoring program. At this time, we have decided to match each incoming professional student (usually junior standing) with an alumni mentor and provide them with a gift (compass) and a warm welcome to the professional program. Although there are many potential benefits to this program (for both students and mentors), it is important to realize that some participants will be more engaged than others. Each student will be encouraged to reach out to their mentors, and establish contact shortly after professional orientation. They are provided your information, and some helpful tips for reaching out. However, we cannot guarantee that each student will follow through and reap the benefits of this program. Regardless of how each student responds, your willingness to participate is extremely valuable to our students! Many mentor-mentee relationships were slow to start, but resulted in a strong impact.
Great mentors will:
- Maintain professionalism, confidentiality and follow-through
- Be available to answer questions and provide honest feedback to mentee
- Offer guidance and encouragement to your mentee regarding academic and professional goals
- Support Warnell’s mission to develop leaders in natural resources
- Exhibit strong leadership skills, and demonstrate credibility in the field
Mentors are NOT expected to:
- Be experts in every area of natural resources
- Offer the mentee a job, internship or other specific job related opportunities
- Recommend his or her mentee, or make personal introductions
- Meet with their mentee in person. There will be opportunities for students and mentors to meet. However, most of our mentors are out of town, so we realize this is not always practical!
Here are a couple of comments from grateful students about the program:
“My mentor was very helpful in my transition to Warnell, set up a lunch meeting with me, and responds promptly to any questions I have (regarding Warnell or just life after Warnell in the "real world"). Honestly, my mentor has been an integral part in my success as a student, in Warnell relations, and as a first semester student after I felt lost after the first few classes.”
“My mentor was and still is willing to give of his time for me and not to mention he originally gave money so I could have a compass that I have cherished and loved, and that was a cool and true blessing to me.”
“My mentor has helped to encourage me and lead me in the right direction. She gave me advice on how I can use my interests of scientific illustration along-side my wildlife degree and has told me of local events that I would not otherwise have known.”
“With the rising cost of textbooks and class supplies things like this go a long way and actually do help the students out a lot. My mentor provided his personal email and personal telephone number to reach out to him if I had any further questions I needed to ask him, which to me provided a personal connection with a former Warnell student.”
Frequently Asked Questions
What should I write in my welcome letter?
The letter you write to your mentee should welcome them to the Warnell family. The tone should be encouraging and enthusiastic. The first semester at Warnell is extremely time intensive, and many students are surprised to find out they will be in class from 8-5! Let them know they can do it! Be sure to introduce yourself, your career, and include your preferred contact information, so they can follow up with you. Let him or her know that you are available to answer questions, and you’d like to help them take advantage of different opportunities. You are in the best position to tell them about the challenges they will face, and why it will all be worth it!
The letter can be handwritten or business professional. Use your own style. Some alumni have even sent cards decorated with drawings of wildlife and nature scenes! Just be sure to adhere to the deadlines! You don’t want your mentee to be the only student without a welcome letter at orientation.
Can I be a mentor if I live in another state?
Yes, of course! Because of modern technology, it is very easy to establish a long distance mentoring relationship. Many students and ACP mentors have communicated solely through email, and others have utilized Skype, LinkedIn and even Facebook. Most of our mentors are out of town, so we do not expect mentors and mentees to meet in person. We are scheduling an event to facilitate networking between students and their mentors, but we understand that most mentors will not be able to attend. We have several local mentors that will fill in and meet with all students.
If you do not yet have a LinkedIn profile, we would encourage you to sign up. This is an easy way to show your mentees your career history, and to demonstrate social networking. A helpful LinkedIn Profile guide is included in the additional resources section at the end of this document.
How are the students matched?
We review the list of incoming students each semester (which constantly changes as students appeals are accepted or denied), and consider the interests, talents, and demographics of the mentor volunteers. Every effort is made to pair students with mentors working in their field of interest. Understandably, this is not always attainable, as we have more forestry mentors than forestry students, and we do not have enough wildlife veterinarians to match up with all wildlife pre-vet students. We will then take things like personal interests, geography, and other characteristics into account. Remember – every student can benefit from an encouraging mentor and sound professional advice regardless of his or her original career goals!
Why can’t you share each mentee’s full name and contact information?
Student information is protected by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). The University of Georgia is legally and ethically obligated to protect the confidentiality of student records. Because we assign all of our students a mentor before they enter the professional program, our students have not had an opportunity to “release information” for this program ahead of time. To comply with FERPA, we only release the student’s first name and interests as specified in their program application. Students can then contact the mentors to facilitate the mentor/mentee relationship. For more information on FERPA, please see the Office of the Registrar’s site: https://apps.reg.uga.edu/FERPA/
Who is mentoring?
The Warnell School is excited to have alumni of all majors and degree programs participate in this new program. All of our alumni have unique experiences and wisdom to offer our new students, and our students, School and profession is benefitting from their contributions!
How to Give
As tempting as it may be to dust off the old compass, and pass old trusty along to a new student, we are currently ordering Silva Ranger compasses in bulk from Forestry Suppliers so each student receives a new compass at professional orientation.
There are three ways to give your gift in support of the program:
- Write a check ($40 per compass/mentee) to “UGA Foundation” and in the memo line, write “Forestry Fund – Alumni Compass Project.”
- Mail your check to: Emily Saunders, Warnell School of Forestry & Natural Resources, University of Georgia,
Athens, GA 30602
- Pay online: https://gail.uga.edu/give via credit/debit card.
- Under designation, select Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources. In the “Special Instructions/Comments Box” write “Forestry Fund – Alumni Compass Project.” You may select a one time gift of $40 or you can select “Recurring gift” and give a smaller gift over a period of time (e.g. a $5 gift on the 1st of every month for 8 months.)
- Support additional students or potential mentors with your gift! Companies/organizations can purchase compasses and then appoint specific mentors from their organization, or larger gifts can be used for mentors willing to take on additional students that have not yet been matched with new mentors. We are also looking for sponsors for a mentor student event in the fall. Please speak with Emily Saunders if you or a group would like to give in support of this program.
- UGA Career Guide (with resume, cover letter, and professional development tips)
- UGA Social Media Guide (LinkedIn Info pages 4-12)
Stanford University, Pennsylvania State University and the University of Reading all have submitted materials regarding their mentorship program to the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, where they can be viewed by other CASE members. The materials were extremely helpful in formulating this guide, and their programs serve as an inspiration to the future!