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Sunday, January 29, 2023

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SDSU's Aztec Mentor Program connects students with alumni and professional volunteers. SDSU's Aztec Mentor Program connects students with alumni and professional volunteers.

Mentoring “A Two-Way Street”

This fall, more than 3,000 students are expected to sign up for SDSU's Aztec Mentor Program.
By Tobin Vaughn

San Diego State University’s Aztec Mentor Program (AMP) connects juniors, seniors and graduate students with alumni and professional volunteers who share their expertise and strengthen the students’ career development. Here are two stories that show how the opportunity can benefit the mentors as well.

Frances (Frankie) Frye has been a volunteer with Career Services’ Aztec Mentor Program for two years. As a project manager in information technology at Qualcomm with decades of experience, she has much to offer students.

Her mentees include a young woman from India who will be a management information systems senior this year. “So far it has been terrific,” Frye said.

Frye enjoys advising her mentee and watching the student gain the confidence to take on new challenges and leadership roles, but admits to gaining from their relationship as well. Frye’s mentee has introduced her to other students and young professionals who possess fresh perspectives of her industry. 

"Mentoring is a two-way street,” she said, pointing out that even the most experienced mentor can learn from someone from a different age group or background. 

“It allows me to stay current on what is exciting for them,” she explained. “The young people I am surrounded with keep me relevant, so I can continue to add value in the workplace or regardless of what I am doing from a coaching or mentoring perspective.”

Career connections

Chris Lee (’14) has mentored several students in a year as an AMP volunteer.  A graduate of the College of Health and Human Services’ Master of Public Health program, he works as a clinical solutions marketing manager for Family Health Centers in San Diego and is a career counselor for Purpose Redeemed, a career consulting firm he founded.

Lee has returned to campus several times to participate in career-oriented events.

“It brings me joy to come speak on career panels or to mentor students,” he said.

But Lee admits there’s a practical side to mentoring as well. 

“You never know who you might meet along the way,” he pointed out. “You might graduate five years before somebody, but maybe they advance faster and further in their career and maybe at one point they will be your coworker or your boss or somebody who can at least refer you or connect you with others. There’s a lot of value long-term from that mentoring relationship.”

Enhanced value

Whether it’s tapping into a fresh perspective or simply expanding a professional network, Diane Marin, Aztec and Career Development and AMP coordinator, said more alumni seem to be realizing there is value on both sides of the mentoring equation. 

“This is the kind of feedback we frequently receive from our volunteers,” she said, “which is good because it serves to enhance the value for everyone involved in the Aztec Mentor Program.”

Career Services is now registering alumni to help meet what is expected to be record demand this academic year from students seeking mentors. Over the past half-decade, the explosive growth of AMP has become one of the university’s biggest success stories.

With its goal of pairing SDSU students with supportive and experienced professionals, the program has expanded from 345 matches in 2013-14 to 2,569 matches in 2017-18. In five years, more than 7,000 matches have been made. 

This fall, more than 3,000 students are expected to sign up for AMP.

All Aztec alumni and friends of the university in any geographic location are encouraged to volunteer. Professionals from all career areas are needed and alumni who were first-generation students are urged to participate.