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Mentoring program launched

Like ripples in a pond, mentoring relationships resonate far beyond the original connection.

On a visit to RIT, Paul Brown ’84 (center) chatted with his first mentor, Barry Culhane (left), executive assistant to President Albert Simone, and second-year software engineering student Jaden Bruun.

Because his own mentors had such a positive influence on his life, Paul Brown is spearheading an effort to connect alumni volunteers with students. Brown ’84 (biomedical photographic communications) and members of the Student/Alumni Committee of the Alumni Network Board of Directors are working with RIT’s offices of Alumni Relations and Co-operative Education & Career Services.

“We hope eventually to involve a thousand students and mentors,” Brown says.

The concept involves fostering one-on-one relationships between alumni and students. Career guidance could be one area of connection, but it is not intended to be the sole focus. Alumni who have been out of school three years or more are encouraged to participate. They don’t have to live in the Rochester area; mentors can keep in touch with students via e-mail and telephone. The key is a willingness to share time and experience, says Brown.

Project coordinator Michelle Magee of Co-op and Career Services explains that the past academic year was devoted to building a strong foundation. “So many alumni have been very willing to help. We want to reach out especially to those who may not have had the opportunity to be involved in other alumni volunteer programs and projects.”

At minimum, mentors give of their time and knowledge. But sometimes, lifelong bonds develop and enrich both parties in countless ways.

Brown found his first mentor, Barry Culhane, at RIT. Culhane, now executive assistant to President Albert Simone, was associate vice president for student affairs when Brown became his first student ombudsman. After graduating, Brown earned a master’s degree in education from the University of Vermont and now works as an associate partner for IBM Business Consulting Services based in Philadelphia,.

“Barry showed me many faces of success,” says Brown, “his professional career, his family, and his volunteer and community work. Being a role model is a big part of mentoring. But equally important are the guidance, ideas and the provision of feedback and suggestion as I chose a path forward.”

A good deal of Culhane’s work today centers on efforts to facilitate student success. He believes the mentoring program could become an important tool in those efforts.

“I’m ecstatic,” says Culhane. “We should have been doing this a long time ago.”

The Student/Alumni Committee sponsors other activities as well. For instance, 30 students participated in a dinner presentation on business and social etiquette in March.

Joining Brown on the committee are: Mary Jo Savino ’90 and ’03 (hotel and resort management and interdisciplinary studies); Bryan Hensel ’00 and ’01 (biotechnology and MBA); Andy Zach ’03 (industrial engineering); Tara Locastro ’98 (MBA); Elaine O’Connell ’97 (computer science); Tracey Jarvis Gamble ’98 (professional technical communication); and Jack Whitney ’68 (business administration).

Alumni interested in learning more about the mentoring program can contact Michelle Magee at 585-475-7824 or mamoce@rit.edu. Those interested in volunteering their time, talents or resources to support other projects can contact Stefania LoMonaco, assistant director, Alumni Relations, at 585-475-4930 or salrar@rit.edu.