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Otago mentor match – a great chance to pay it forward

Monday 30 September 2019 3:07pm

Do you want a chance to help Otago students find their place in the world? The University of Otago has recently launched a new programme called “Otago Mentor Match”. The programme is a chance for Otago alumni to help our current students who are preparing to enter the workforce.

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Mena Taripo and Jackie Dean

University Career Development Centre Manager Jackie Dean says recently appointed Programmes Coordinator Mena Taripo has been employed to co-ordinate Otago Mentor Match, find mentors and mentees for the programme and work with them during the semester long programme.

“We’ve been really pleased with the response from the students and the fact that we can engage with our alumni as well is a real win-win,” Jackie says.

“At this stage we’re working with three majors at a time. Word of mouth means that more and more students are coming along asking to join the programme.

“Our alumni are our greatest asset, they are an amazing resource, and it’s good to know that they can contribute so much to the lives of our current students.”

Programme Coordinator Mena Taripo says at the start of the programme a targeted email was sent to alumni in the areas of Tourism, History, and Physics through the Development & Alumni Relations Office. In addition there were three International Business students and two Human Nutrition students who joined the programme through word of mouth.

“Alumni register to join the programme with their credentials and preferences and how they would like to help their mentees. We then manually match them up with students taking into consideration the information provided upon registration.

“It’s been very successful and our students have been really happy with the matches. We’re talking to IT Support about automating the process in the future what has been a manual job so far.

“So far 64 mentors have signed up from across all three disciplines. The programme has mentors from all over New Zealand and a few international ones including alumni in the US, the Netherlands, Germany, Japan, Singapore and the UK.

“We’ve had some mentees who’ve met their mentors in their study breaks or when they return home to places such as Auckland and Christchurch. This year we have focused on setting up the programme and we aim to engage a new cohort of alumni for each semester. The programme runs for a minimum of three months, with a minimum of three hours contributed by the mentor.

“There have been three workshops for students, which have included information on boundaries, safety and ways to maximise their benefit from the programme. Mentors also benefit from the programme through coaching, mentoring and giving back to the Otago community.

“We haven’t limited the programme to Dunedin alumni, because with Zoom video conferencing, social media platforms and other technology students can contact mentors all over the country and beyond.

“Most of the mentees are in their final year of study and thinking of their future careers. For mentors it’s a chance to pass on their knowledge and ideas on transitioning from university to the working world.

We ask the mentees to step outside their comfort zone and engage with their mentors. Students taking part have been both domestic and international.

Otago alumna, senior solicitor at the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, Monique Esplin has really enjoyed her mentoring role. Now based in Wellington, she had mentored students at the Victoria University Law School and loves that she can now ‘pay it forward’ to Otago students too.

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Sarah Wilson

“My mentee has been open to answering difficult questions and thinking about issues in a different way. Although my mentee is studying a different subject matter than me, I am finding that the general concerns of students are similar across the board regardless of the course of study.

“Inevitably everyone wants a successful career and the “Otago Mentor Match” provides an opportunity for practitioners to share their knowledge and experience, and for students to feel more confident that the University provides an excellent foundation for future success.”

Alumna Sarah Wilson says she met up with her mentee every three weeks on Skype. “Mentoring has given me an opportunity to reflect on my own journey, which is very rewarding.”

Law student and mentee Nikita Rosenbrock says, “my mentor is great to talk to and has given me excellent advice so far, including sharing her own experiences.

“It’s really great to talk to someone who knows what you may be feeling about coming to the end of your degree, and they can give a lot of advice in regards to your field of study.”

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Science student and mentee Wanli Cheng

Science student and mentee Wanli Cheng says the programme was a chance to find out more about future careers in business. He recommends future mentees prepare the questions that they’d most like answered before meeting their mentor.

“I was an international students’ mentor at high school, and that helped me as I became aware of the importance of caring, empathy and most importantly the impact of language,” Wanli says.

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