This is Lucy Qian and Chris Coraggio, 2011 Alumni of the QUEST Program (Cohort 16 woot woot!), collaborating from opposite coasts. As alumni, we wanted to share a program coming soon to students of the Smith School: SmithPeers, (in pilot mode through Fall 2011). In short, it’s a mentor program where we pair “underclassmen” – freshman and sophomores – to upperclassmen. We would love for our fellow QUESTees to get involved with the program and help officially get it started!
The idea for some sort of formalized peer mentoring program was one that we both had thought of individually, and for different reasons. We ultimately merged together in the middle of last spring (yes, spring semester senior year) because QUEST had taught us that two heads are always better than one, and that teamwork, collaboration, and a multi-disciplinary approach is how it’s done. Having worked together in the past through QUEST, we knew we could tolerate each other for half a semester.
I’ve always wanted to have a mentorship program as part of the undergraduate program at Smith.I knew there were very limited opportunities to connect underclassmen with upperclassmen. The reasons for these connections are numerous – sharing experiences about Maryland in general, internships, choosing majors, careers, navigating the business school, and even life advice. It’s too bad that SUSA didn’t have the resources to implement the program because it would clearly be very beneficial to new students. Then came along the end of my term as SUSA President and a conversation with Lucy Qian…
I had offered to have a casual Q&A session with a few eager beavers I met studying abroad in Dubai. We met at Rudy’s one afternoon, where I pulled Chris and a few other Cohort 16 passers-by into the discussion. After getting positive feedback from my new freshmen friends, I felt that this kind of informal mentoring session with upperclassmen would have been extremely helpful when I was an “underclassmen”, and that wide-scale implementation could have extraordinary benefits for students. This type of mentorship and simply learning from peers is exactly what helped me decide on which major to focus on and ultimately find my career path.
More Juicy Details
Besides pure mentorship, another beneficial aspect we are hoping to maximize is networking, a concept that is hammered into our heads since orientation day, and one at which all business school students eventually become pros. However, we think there is a distinct difference in the type of networking that can be done in a casual environment, which forges real bonds, versus networking done in a forced, business-type environment. Who knows where these relationships can lead in the future – friends, business partners, job recruitment…
To put our idea into action, we took a quintessentially QUEST-y approach: we launched a survey, held focus groups, and initiated a small pilot program. Our presentation of results to the Office of Career Services was well-received, and we obtained the mandate to find an Executive Board to continue the program after our graduation. After three days of rigorous interviews, we found confidence in a diverse, cross-class team of five students, three of whom are current QUEST students (Brian Daisey – Cohort 17, Elaine Hui – Cohort 18, Austin Lee – Cohort 19). They, along with Joey Maretens and Executive Director Doug Kletter, are tasked with building up the strong program we envisioned.
What’s Going On Now
Phase II of the pilot program will be underway right when school starts. The exec team has recently selected a group of 12 highly qualified mentors from various majors and backgrounds, who will undergo training this week. A group of 30 mentees will also be selected to participate in this pilot (please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested!). As co-chairs of the nascent alumni board for SmithPeers, we both are gearing up for selections for the new board, and garnering support for this program from other alumni.We look forward to the future of the mentorship program as alumni and have confidence that it will provide enormous benefits for participants. We thank the QUEST program for its support!
UBS Investment Bank (New York City)
Teach for America, College Ready Middle Academy #7 (Los Angeles)
P.S. Feel free to ask us any questions about our experiences at Maryland, Smith, QUEST, or this program!