New ‘Classroom to Career’ mentoring program pairs nontraditional students with working professionals

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Tuesday, January 3rd, 2017

Student Luna Burgos Moreno and Purdue staff member Kinnari Sejpal

Student Luna Burgos Moreno and Purdue staff member Kinnari Sejpal are one of the first pairs to participate in Span Plan’s new mentoring program.

It was only a few years ago that Kinnari Sejpal, Purdue’s senior manager of market research, was an international student looking to start her career in the U.S.

Sejpal recalls the struggles and challenges she faced in receiving work authorization, especially in looking for employment outside STEM-related fields. But more than the struggles, she remembers the mentors who guided her along the way.

“It’s really in large part thanks to them that I am where I am today,” she says. That’s why these days, when Sejpal encountered an opportunity to pay forward the guidance she received as a student, she was quick to volunteer.

Sejpal is now one of eight mentors associated with Purdue’s new Classroom to Career Mentor Program, which aims to help nontraditional students in their professional growth and development. Launched in fall of 2016 by Span Plan Nontraditional Student Services, the program pairs working professionals in the community with Purdue students, many of whom have children, spouses, or are returning to school after at least a two-year break in formal education.

Mentor pairs are matched by similar majors, career goals, or interests. The program is designed to foster networking opportunities, enable students to learn more about the day-to-day work involved in specific careers, or possibly provide student assistance with career placement.

Sejpal was matched with Luna Burgos Moreno, a student from Spain who’s studying aerospace engineering. The two quickly bonded at the program’s kickoff meeting over their shared experiences as international students and passion for traveling.

“I was in a similar mentoring program in Spain, but my ultimate goal is to obtain a job here in the United States, and I wanted to meet someone who could help me navigate that process,” Burgos Moreno says. “I don’t know many people here; I’m so grateful that someone is willing to share their time and experiences, because that type of firsthand guidance is not always offered.”

Span Plan Director Peggy Favorite says the new program is one of many ways her organization, housed in Student Success Programs, hopes to close educational gaps for nontraditional students and enable their degree completion.

“Each year we provide students with scholarships; however, financial assistance doesn’t eliminate every obstacle faced by nontraditional students,” Favorite says. “That’s why we also provide other supplemental resources and co-curricular programming.”

Last year, Span Plan held a professional development series, during which many students expressed a desire for additional opportunities focused exclusively on professional growth. Although the Classroom to Career Mentor Program supports participants with events and conversation prompts, Favorite says pairs are responsible for determining the communication frequency and methods that work best for them.

For Sejpal and Burgos Moreno, the program is going well so far. Moreover, they both describe their pairing as mutually beneficial.

“I came here for the American dream and I want to do everything in my power to help Luna achieve that as well, but I’m also interested in gaining a better understanding of people from other cultures,” Sejpal says. “For any mentoring program to be a success, there has to be commitment from both sides. I know she’s as committed to this as I am, and I think it can be a long-lasting relationship as a result.”

Although the mentoring program is off to a good start, there are additional ways for Purdue staff to support the success and retention of nontraditional students, such as Span Plan’s “Critical Need Fund.” This fund supports students experiencing financial hardship that severely impacts their ability to continue with their academics. To find out more about this and other opportunities, visit the Span Plan donor website.

 Writer: Andrea Thomas, Communications Director for Student Success Programs, 765-496-3754, thomas78@purdue.edu

 Last updated: Jan. 3, 2017

 


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