search button
newscenter logo
Monday, March 20, 2023

Follow SDSU Follow SDSU on Twitter Follow SDSU on Facebook SDSU RSS Feed

Through the Aztec Mentor Program, Kevin Barcelona ('08) helped Susan Nguyen ('16) see her potential in a student development career. Through the Aztec Mentor Program, Kevin Barcelona ('08) helped Susan Nguyen ('16) see her potential in a student development career.

Aztecs Find Post-grad Success

Many recent SDSU alumni owe their post-graduation success in part to guidance provided through the Aztec Mentor Program.
By Mallory Black

Although she’s no longer a student at San Diego State University, Susan Nguyen (’16) continues to make her mark on campus.

With a degree in public administration, Nguyen is on the way to a career in student development, a path that seemed to be right in front of her all along.

“It all started with my mentor in the Aztec Mentor Program,” said Nguyen, now assistant to the director of the SDSU Housing Administration. “He showed me how to really utilize my experiences and skills. I knew who I was as a worker, but he showed me how to maximize my eligibility for the positions I wanted after graduation.”

Today Nguyen plays a key role in supporting campus housing initiatives and increasing student engagement. While she credits her alumni mentor, Kevin Barcelona (’08), for showing her the way, he says it was Nguyen who did all of the legwork.

“When we first met, I was very impressed with how motivated and determined she was to narrow her path — she’s a real go-getter,” said Barcelona, assistant director of Enrollment Services at the University of Redlands in nearby Mission Valley. “The best part of our relationship was seeing her grow; not only as a student, but also as a professional implementing what we talked about into her career.”

As a participant in the Aztec Mentor Program (AMP), Nguyen drafted a plan to reach her career goals with Barcelona providing valuable insight and support. “She had all the ideas, but I don’t think she realized she had all of the answers already,” he said.

The next Aztec generation  

A collaboration between Career Services--within the Division of Student Affairs--and the Office of Alumni Engagement, AMP pairs juniors, seniors and graduate students with professional mentors over the course of a semester. Mentors are encouraged to review their student’s resume, encourage job shadowing and offer real-world insight into specific industries or topics.

The Aztec Mentor Program began three years ago with a grant from the Aztec Parents Fund, which financially supports programs that have tangible benefits for students.

“This is a shining example of how parent contributions and support help the university enhance transformational services for our students,” said Vice President for Student Affairs Eric Rivera. “Mentorship is key for students to gain a foothold to their future career after graduating. We couldn’t provide programs like AMP without help from the Aztec Parents Fund.”
Since its inception, AMP has grown rapidly, from 345 mentor-mentee matches in 2014, to 1,266 pairs in spring 2016. This growth reflects the demand from students for mentors and the desire for alumni to help.

Boosting San Diego’s workforce

Like Nguyen, Anthony Roberts, who received his business degree in management information systems in May, didn’t have to look far for his first job post-graduation. Roberts is now a materials planner at Cymer, Inc., a San Diego-based technology company.

As a graduating senior, Roberts was matched with SDSU alumnus John Day (’07), formerly of VM Ware and now of Microsoft. Roberts said the Aztec Mentor Program made it seem less intimidating to reach out to professionals in the industry.

“John gave me lots of advice and guidance through the process, and I practiced interviewing with him,” Roberts said. “It helped me land this job.”

SDSU alumni have a strong representation at Cymer. Currently about 100 Aztecs are employed in science, business and engineering at the company, which develops light sources to create semiconductor chips for electronic devices.

The power of networking

The AMP is one of two initiatives that the Division of Student Affairs and the Office of Alumni Engagement are undertaking collaboratively to increase post-graduation success for SDSU students. A second initiative, Aztecs Hiring Aztecs (AHA!), has the goal of increasing the numbers of recent SDSU graduates and alumni hired by firms and organizations owned or run by former Aztecs.  

Diane Marin, alumni and career development coordinator for Career Services, said alumni often don’t realize the value of the wisdom they can offer students or the impact they can have on the confidence of another Aztec.

“I am continually impressed by our alumni who volunteer their time and give back. “The students who invest in the experience make the most of it,” Marin said. “It’s just so important for students to get to know our alumni while they’re in college because you just never know where your dream job will be.”