New Program Pairs Alum with Honors Student
Katie P. Desiderio, chair of the department of economics and business department and associate professor of management, knows that great outcomes can be achieved when people work together. “I am always scanning our world for opportunities to build bridges and bring meaningful connections to campus,” Desiderio says. And she saw one in an honors mentor program that pairs an alum with an honors student throughout the process of researching, developing, and defending a thesis.
She piloted the program successfully in the 2016-2017 academic year, connecting Perry (PJ) Mindo, a 2016 honors grad and financial analyst for Tiffany & Co. in New York City, with then honors student Alyssa Torrisi ’17 for her thesis “The Effects of Extracurricular Engagement on Self-Efficacy in Leadership Ability: A Study of Women in the Workplace.”
Desiderio facilitated the connection, and Torrisi ran with it, scheduling check-in dates with Mindo that served as benchmarks. Mindo made himself available to discuss Torrisi’s work, answer questions, and offer advice. “We left the structure open for fluidity,” says Desiderio, “and we hope to continue to embrace the organic connection of mentors and mentees as we grow this program.”
Torrisi regularly received important input and direction from her faculty advisors, Desiderio and Patrick van Esch, assistant professor of management, but also benefited from the different perspective of her alumnus mentor. “PJ was so helpful because he truly understands the demands of the honors program,” says Torrisi, “but also because the mentor-mentee relationship is less formal than the student-faculty interaction, so we were able to connect in a way that wasn’t as intimidating.
“His feedback was essential,” Torrisi adds, “and he prepped me for my defense in a way that was relatable because he was in my shoes last year.”
Desiderio’s vision for the program involves support for student learning but also further opportunities for alumni to engage with their alma mater and with students in a lasting relationship that extends beyond the bricks and mortar of the college.
“I enjoyed that this was a way for me to stay involved on campus,” shares Mindo. A few weeks after Torrisi submitted her final paper, Mindo invited her and Desiderio to lunch in New York to discuss Torrisi’s findings and her feelings about the honors program. “It was a great experience to be on the other side of the process, and I found it rewarding to see that Alyssa had followed some of my advice in her writing,” says Mindo. “We also spoke about Alyssa’s employment plans post-graduation, and like our relationship over her thesis, I shared some candid thoughts from the perspective of a young employee. I am excited to see what she does in the workforce as a research analyst.”
The research mentor program run for another year out of the Economics and Business Department and Desiderio plans to share a formal model with the campus at large for the 2018-2019 academic year. To participate, alumni must have graduated with honors and be willing to serve as a mentor for both the fall and spring semesters. “I am delighted to share that Alyssa will serve as an alumni mentor along with PJ in the fall,” says Desiderio, who advises other interested alumni to contact her directly.