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Monday, March 20, 2023

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Susan Farese (left) and Kaitlin Woods were matched together through SDSU's Aztec Mentor Program. (Photo: Erik Good) Susan Farese (left) and Kaitlin Woods were matched together through SDSU's Aztec Mentor Program. (Photo: Erik Good)

Finding Connections in the SDSU Community

The Aztec Mentor Program benefits students and mentors alike.
By Erik Good

“That feeling of having somebody reach out and guide me is what I want to give to these students.”

Reflecting back on her career, Susan Farese can pinpoint the exact moment she began to live life on her own terms. As a young Navy nurse in general medicine at Balboa Naval Hospital, she worked grueling shifts, unsure of where she was going. It wasn’t until a supervisor stepped in and asked her to create a plan for her future that she finally started building toward the life that she wanted.

Now, with a daughter at San Diego State University, Farese hopes she can help other students find their path as she was inspired to find her own. In order to help SDSU students prepare for unanticipated challenges after graduation, Farese joined the Aztec Mentor Program, a volunteer-based organization run by Career Services and SDSU Alumni that pairs students with mentors from across professional disciplines to answer questions and guide them toward their future.

Created in 2013 and developed by the Division of Student Affairs as part of SDSU’s strategic plan, the Aztec Mentor Program is on track to match 5,000 students to mentors in the fall. While mentees must be junior, senior or graduate students in good standing, mentors don’t necessarily need a connection to the school to join. Alumni make up 84 percent of mentors in the program, but parents and local business leaders are also encouraged to get involved.

Farese is among the growing number of Aztec parents who have stepped into the role, quickly discovering that the Aztec Mentor Program is a great way to connect with her daughter’s campus while giving back to the community. Farese said her personal experience of being mentored by her supervisor inspired her to get involved.

“I will never forget her,” she said. “That feeling of having somebody reach out and guide me is what I want to give to these students. My purpose is to connect with people and motivate them, to make them the best they can be.”

Asked to dedicate eight hours each semester to work with each mentee, Farese went above and beyond expectations by taking on the challenge of mentoring three students for spring 2017.

Kaitlin Woods, who graduated from SDSU this spring with a bachelor’s degree in health communication, was one of Farese’s mentees.

“Getting involved my last semester at SDSU was great because my mentor, Susan, prepared me to stay on top of job searches, reviewed my resume, and encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone and attend events that Career Services had put together,” Woods said.

Drawing on her diverse professional background in nursing, the arts and communication, Farese first asked each student what they wanted to get out of the mentorship experience. Through these discussions, Farese and her mentees were able to set goals, build a plan to achieve them and look for new opportunities.

“Susan was a delight to work with, and she truly brought all her experience and life lessons to our meetings," Woods said. “After ending the program, I feel more calm and level-headed in my job search, as well as confident because now I have an amazing mentor to turn to for advice and recommendations."

If you would like to volunteer to mentor a student, please complete an application on the Aztec Mentor Program website or contact Diane Marin at for more details.