The Department of Community Health is launching the Community Health Alumni Mentorship Program (CHAMP) this semester, a new initiative that will match current undergraduate juniors and seniors with community health alumni, according to Department of Community Health Chair Jennifer Allen and Department Administrator Yolanta Kovalko.
Students will be matched with alumni mentors in their respective fields for two to six hours per month over a 7-month period, Allen and Kovalko said.
The job of mentors is to ensure that their mentees set development goals, build the confidence to reach those goals and expand their networks, according to a program document. In addition, the program will invite expert speakers to help further guide mentees.
Allen and Kovalko are actively working to get the program on its feet. Although CHAMP seeks to help guide current undergraduates, it was alumni interest that inspired the program, Allen said.
“It’s part of our overall effort to reconnect our alumni, for it’s been incredible how many have reached out to us,” Allen said.
Out of the over 1,200 alumni that the department reached out to, 130 offered to participate, Kovalko said. Despite 100 of those alumni being non-local, the CHAMP program is determined to connect students with them regardless of distance, she added.
“We have so many who want to mentor and we don’t want to lose them. We would be so happy to have their expertise and gifts, and we’re using other strategies such as online platforms to make sure they connect with students even if they’re not local,” Allen said.
Allen said while the program is currently unfunded, the department hopes to find sources of investment in the future.
Olivia Schultes, a senior majoring in community health, said the unique, interdisciplinary nature of the community health program results in dedicated alumni.
“People who do community health are typically very passionate about it, possibly because of the interdisciplinary nature of the department,” Schultes said. “As such, alumni are really into being alumni from the program. It makes total sense that they would mentor, and I think it will be a very positive and informative experience.”
Allen and Kovalko said alumni may benefit more from the program than students.
“Mentors get a lot more out of it than mentees. I recommend that, at one point in their lives, everyone should be a mentor,” Kovalko said.
The vision for the CHAMP program taps in on a new trend in education, Kovalko said.
“It’s interesting that maybe five or six years ago the buzzword was ‘network.’ But today, I think the buzzword is ‘mentor,’” she said
The CHAMP program comes as the community health department is growing, Allen said.
“We’re growing by leaps and bounds,” she said. “There’s an incredible student demand, we’ve been hiring new faculty, we’re expanding our research; it’s an incredibly exciting time.”