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Carol Pardun

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Reprinted from the Fall 2011 edition of InterCom

As I walked into a room full of tables and chairs, I immediately became excited about the many opportunities that would be presented to me at Mentor Match 2011. I registered, and Cocky was happy to take pictures with those willing, which seemed to be everyone. The refreshments at the back of the room beckoned me, but they were for later.

I sat down and observed the students and alumni arriving. The students seemed eager to meet someone who would be able to help them in their fields. The alumni looked a little confused as to what exactly they would be doing.

I spoke with a few students about their expectations for the program and from their future mentors. "I want to learn more about my field and get helpful hints. I chose this major and I don't know a lot of people in this field," said Ross Hantzopolulos, a third-year broadcast journalism major.

Every year the college's Alumni Society hosts Mentor Match to allow students an opportunity to network with alumni in the community and also learn from someone who had knowledge in their given fields. The event gives the schools' alumni a chance to give back to the current students by helping them with their future professions.

We were set up in a speed-dating setting with the alumni, with each pairing allotted four minutes to interview one another. We were provided with note sheets to help us decide factors we liked about each person and whether we would be interested in a match.

During the one-on-one interviews, I listened to conversations between the students and alumni. The alumni wanted to give but never expressed what they wanted to gain from the students. "I believe mentoring is really important because there are tons of little pieces that aren't taught in the class that we can help give to the students," said Amy Coquillard, a first-year participant in the program who works at the Richland County Library. She earned her master's degree from the School of Library and Information Science in 2000.

What Coquillard didn't consider is that her mentee may actually be able to help her. Our generation tends to be quicker to learn the newer technologies and we don't mind helping others use them.

Using social media is one such technique. Our generation picked up on it fast and we are eager to share it with those older than we are. We tend to be very passionate about this topic, and we love learning new things and contributing our knowledge.

"I've participated in the program before and I'm willing to do what I can to help the newer generation," said Van Newman, who is a SJMC alumnus and supporter of the school. Newman is the co-founder of what is now Chernoff Newman, one of the top marketing and communications firms in Columbia. Just as Newman wants to help our generation, we want to help his as well.

For example, Boo Major, the head coach of the USC equestrian team, uses communications daily in her work, but she wants to learn even more. "I think photojournalism is really interesting and I love learning about it," said Major, who earned her bachelor's degree in broadcast journalism in 1981. All students in the School of Journalism and Mass Communications take visual communications classes. Major's mentee could help her advance her skills in photojournalism so that she can use them in her profession.

Dean Charles Bierbauer said there are three very important points in the mentor/mentee experience. Find a comfortable level of interaction with your mentor/mentee, make it personal, and understand how to learn from one another. Alumni give insight to their expertise and we share our knowledge of the ways their professions are changing. In this way, the alumni have just as much to gain as the students.

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