Mentorship molds future leaders

This is the third installment of our Mentor Program feature. Read the first and second installments to learn more about the program and its participants.

For college students, the connection between coursework and a career can sometimes seem hazy. It’s hard for emerging professionals to imagine how their education will one day be relevant in staff meetings or during sales pitches. The CFANS Mentor Program was created to help ease young adults into the transition between student and professional. The program matches current CFANS students with industry professionals in their chosen career field. Through monthly meetings and a job shadow experience, students catch a glimpse into the professional world. They are given the priceless opportunity to ask questions, network, and observe careers that interest them.

Both mentors and mentees alike boast the benefits of participating in the Mentor Program. Mentees describe experiences that changed the trajectory of their career paths, and mentors reflect on the insights gained from working with enthusiastic students. With about 400 participants yearly, the program is proud to help mold our future leaders in food, agriculture, and natural resources. Local and long-distance mentors have been matched with students in every major, from Agricultural Education to Plant Science. Here are stories from a few outstanding mentors and mentees who have participated in the CFANS Mentor Program:

Mentor, Alatheia Stenvik

After participating in the Mentor Program during her senior year, Alatheia Stenvik ‘15 came back to become a mentor herself! Alatheia graduated with a degree in Food Systems and uses her experience working at CoBank to help college students excel in the professional world. Alatheia says:

“I really enjoyed learning more about my mentee and helping her craft her career goals. It’s easy to be overwhelmed as a soon-to-be graduate and picking a career path can be stressful... Having someone who is currently working in the field to talk through these things can help create some clarity. I valued this experience as it gave me a chance to give back to my college community. I also gained a relationship with a great person.”

Mentee, Alex Franzen

Alex Franzen ‘20 is a passionate CFANS student. He is currently working towards a degree in Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology and joined the mentor program to learn more about his future career options. He was matched perfectly with Brian Nerbonne ‘99, a fisheries manager at the Minnesota DNR who graduated from CFANS with a Masters in Fisheries and Statistics.

Alex says:
“[The] job shadow impacted my career goals in a number of ways. First, I was able to get an inside look at what fisheries management encompasses. The opportunity to network with individuals… was very beneficial and strengthened my drive to become a fisheries biologist. I was also able to decide what area of fisheries I wanted to pursue. I think the reason that Brian and I are a great match and that my job shadow was so successful is because we both share similar interests and the level for which we are passionate about them is nearly the same. ”

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 mentor Paul Hugunin, “The CFANS mentor program has changed many lives – mentees and mentors alike. It doesn’t take much time (one to two hours a month) and it isn’t a long term commitment. Give it a try.”

Visit for details on volunteering.