Mentor Program bonds professionals with students

From inspiring bosses who've taken the time to guide us through workplace challenges to friendly coworkers who’ve pointed out the best spot to sit in the lunchroom, we’ve all been influenced by professional mentors. For current college students, thoughtful mentorship can make a huge difference in their professional lives.

Every year, the CFANS Mentor Program matches over 200 undergraduate students with professionals in their chosen field. Beyond equipping students with practical experience and career insights, the program creates lasting bonds between mentors and mentees. Mentors who participate span from recent college grads to seasoned professionals, and hold degrees from all across CFANS. Some are maroon-and-gold clad alumni, while others are passionate professionals searching for a way to give back. Mentors meet with their mentees monthly, some over hot coffee and others on virtual conferences, to  exchange questions or offer professional advice. The program is proud to have paired mentors as local as Dinkytown and as distant as Peru!

Through the Mentor Program, countless professional connections and friendships have been formed. Mentors have felt the satisfaction of sharing their knowledge and helping a student grow, while mentees have furthered their education and prepared for their future careers. Below are a few notable mentors and mentees who’ve enjoyed their experience in the program. Here’s what they have to say:

Mentor, Paul Hugunin

Paul Hugunin and mentee.

A previous chair of the program and mentor to many students, Paul Hugunin ‘89  is a proud advocate of the Mentorship program! Paul graduated with a degree in Agricultural Business Administration and currently serves as the Marketing Division Director for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. He says:

“I love knowing that I’ve been able to make a difference in the life of a student. I’ve been lucky enough to have had a long career doing what I love and sharing what I’ve learned is one way of paying back all those who’ve helped me along the way...being matched with a motivated, inquisitive student is energizing and motivating. A good student makes you think about why you’re doing what you’re doing and can be a link to new ideas and new ways of looking at the world.”

Mentee, Paige Hildebrandt

Paige Hildebrandt and her mentor, Robert Johnson.

Paige Hildebrandt, a current student and Agricultural Communication and Marketing major, was ecstatic that the Mentor Program matched her with Robert Johnson ‘12, a summer camp director and Recreation Resource Management major. Paige was able to explore the logistics of her dream job through her job shadow experience. She says:

“This is my second year participating in the mentor program and this was another fantastic year with my mentor... I was matched with Robert Johnson, Camp Director at Esquagama Camp in Gilbert, MN. Robert and I were a perfect match to say the least. I was very excited that I had been matched with a Camp Director because it completely aligned with my career goals of owning and operating a camp someday in my future. ...I truly believe that this was a valuable experience and I am so thankful for the opportunity!”

In the upcoming months, we’ll be featuring more stories from our influential mentors and mentees. Interested in being part of the Mentor Program ? The CFANS Alumni society is always looking for dedicated professionals who want to participate. In the words of Paul Hugunin, “The CFANS mentor program has changed many lives – mentees and mentors alike. It doesn’t take much time (1-2 hours a month) and it isn’t a long term commitment. Give it a try!”.

Visit z.umn.edu/mentor for details on volunteering.