Among the many opportunities to gain professional experience that Auburn University supplies students, the most sought out in the College of Agriculture is the Alumni Mentoring Program. Students in various majors within the college are selected through an application process and paired with a mentor that will best suit their job interests, internship interests, and career goals.
Students participate in the 12-month program by getting meaningful first-hand experience in their prospective fields.
This program has made lasting impacts on several students in the College of Agriculture. Karri Fievet, a senior in Poultry Science production said, “Programs like this absolutely played a huge role in my time here in Auburn. Upon transferring in, I was extremely quiet and shy. I have participated in the program three times, attaining three different mentors. Each of which has given me the chance to come out of my shell, meet tons of new people, and network with industry representatives that I never would have been connected with otherwise.”
During the fall and spring semesters, mentors and mentees are encouraged to participate in monthly activities planned by Student Services Coordinators, Megan Ross, and Amanda Martin. Meet and Greets, resume building, Etiquette workshops, job shadowing, networking, and interview training are some of the various tools a mentee will have access to.
Mentors are encouraged to attend each monthly function to share experiences and give tips to the students about the professional world outside of college. During the face-to-face meetings, mentees are encouraged to introduce themselves to other mentors to further develop their professional network.
Ashley Culpepper Grant is an alumna working at Ranch House Designs in Wharton, Texas. “I was a mentee my senior year during the fledgling year of the program,” said Grant. “As both a previous student participant and now an alumni participant, I am so grateful to be a part of this program.”
Grant realized many benefits from the program after graduation, “I wish I had put more effort into the program,” said Grant. “Participating in a program like this may not be a priority to you freshman year… I know that I was too worried about what fraternity the Velcro Pygmies were playing at when I was 19, but looking back, I realized I should have focused more on professional development opportunities during my undergraduate years.”
The mentees have several responsibilities in order to gain a full experience from the program. Students must keep regular contact with their mentor via phone, email, and/or meetings. He or she must be proactive and willing to meet their mentor at least once a month and continue the relationship through to the official end of the program. Besides networking, students are taught how to act in a professional setting. They are expected to respond to phone calls and emails from their mentors in a timely fashion and act professionally at all times. These types of skills are expected in the workforce and having these skills instilled in students now will only help them in the future.
This is Bradley Cox’s first year as a mentor in the program. Cox serves six counties in Northwest Alabama as Area Director for the Alabama Farmers Federation. Cox graduated with a bachelor of science in agriculture education in 2012 and a master’s degree in the same field in 2013.
When asked about the professional experience he was able to provide his mentee, Cox said, “I have escorted my mentee around our home office and I have made all of the events scheduled by Amanda. I have made it a point to introduce her to as many people within the agriculture industry as I possibly could. These connections and networking opportunities will pay huge dividends in the future.”
One of the most common misconceptions about being an agriculture student is everyone automatically assumes every student has some form of an agricultural background. That is not always the case. Cox had the opportunity to educate his mentee about a whole new aspect of the agriculture industry.
“Being a part of the mentor program has been so rewarding for me. My mentee does not come from an agriculture background so I have enjoyed getting to inform her about production agriculture. ”
Bradley is just one of over 50 mentors participating in the program. Each mentor is a volunteer and has every intention of assisting the mentee in every way they can.
Luke Knight, a junior in agricultural communications, has benefited from the program immensely. While job shadowing, Knight was able to open many doors and gain exposure in the industry that would have never been possible otherwise.
“This past year I was shadowing my mentor, and I was able to operate a cotton module. For a kid that didn't grow up on a farm, that was pretty cool!”
The key importance of the program is to aid students in deciding whether their field of choice is right for them. For Knight and Feivet, the program has been a great help in deciding their future in the agriculture industry.
After having two mentors, Knight was fortunate enough to see two different sectors of the industry that has led him to focus in on his ultimate career goals. “The two mentors of mine had totally different work days and I appealed to both of them. So, I would like to work in sales for an agribusiness company upon graduation, ultimately leading to an organization that represents America's farmers. “
Feivet shared the same views, “This program helps to open your eyes to things that Auburn graduates end up doing after they graduate and begin their lifelong career journey!
For incoming freshman and transfer students to the College of Agriculture, the Alumni Mentoring program is something each student should make an effort to join.
Knight made a point to highly recommend the program to incoming freshman and transfer students to the College of Agriculture, “This program opens your eyes to how diverse and small the agricultural industry really is. I can say that through this program the two mentors that I have had have been extremely great to me and I want a career path much like the jobs that they have. If anything, this program provides clarity to my future and really narrows in on what I want to do. These mentors are going to be your future employers one day so it is extremely beneficial for incoming students to start networking early, and finding a path they want to pursue.”
Bradley Cox couldn’t say enough about being a part of the Auburn Family. “My time at Auburn University was hands down the most rewarding experience of my life. Auburn will prepare you for your career, but more importantly, it will allow you to meet some of the best friends you will ever make. The “Auburn Family” is one of the most rewarding aspects of being an alumnus of Auburn University. You will meet people from all over the country that will have the same love for Auburn that you do. I would encourage you to get involved, to meet as many people within the industry as possible, and to have a great time…you will be a senior before you know it!”
For more information about applying to the program or becoming a mentor visit Alumni Mentoring Program.
All photos via the Alumni Mentoring Program.
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