Duke Student Government recently launched its newest pilot program, Blue Devil Bridges, a mentorship program designed to give students the opportunity to connect with a Duke alum.
Over a thousand alums have since signed up for the program, many of whom are willing to take on multiple student mentees, according to Stacy Peterson, senior director for campus engagement at the Alumni Engagement and Development Office.
“One of the best resources that Duke students have is our amazing Blue Devil alumni,” Greg Victory, assistant vice president of student affairs and Fannie Mitchell executive director at the Duke Career Center, wrote in an email to The Chronicle. “To be able to connect with professionals who hold positions in every industry and learn from their experiences at Duke and beyond is an amazing resource.”
Peterson said that the new program was modeled after DSG’s Blue Devil Buddies program, which she called “such a success.”
“It's just a natural extension of that program, where Blue Devil Buddies connects the upperclassmen to underclassmen, to then connect students who are further along in their experience to alumni on the next step of their path,” she said.
Senior Navya Belavadi, a DSG senator for academic affairs, and junior Heather Raslan, DSG vice president of academic affairs, along with other DSG members, spearheaded the pilot program.
According to Belavadi, Blue Devil Bridges is a student-alum mentorship program in which sophomores, juniors and seniors can complete a survey to get matched with a Duke alum who might be in the same industry they want to enter, share similar academic interests or be in the same location they would like to move to after graduation.
Belavadi also emphasized that the program provides an opportunity for current students to gain insights about future career paths, learn about life after Duke or just get to know a Duke alum.
“There are a lot of benefits to current students connecting with someone who has been through Duke and wants to give back to current students in a different way,” Belavadi said.
Raslan explained that half of the questions in the survey ask about identity and background, while the other half touches on academic and career interests.
“Those survey responses go into an algorithm that then matches an undergrad with alumni based on compatibility,” she said. “The nice thing is that all of the questions are also optional … and they also get to choose what the priority is in matching.”
The survey also includes a question about affinity group affiliation, which was prompted by conversations with multicultural group leaders on campus, according to Belavadi.
Raslan noted that the program stood out from other current alumni engagement programs, which are geared toward specific student populations, such as the Pratt alumni-student mentorship program.
“Any student on this campus could fill out a survey that's like five, 10 minutes and then be paired up with an [alum] and have a one-on-one personal relationship with them,” she said.
Belavadi emphasized that the program is meant to work in tandem with other alum engagement opportunities, such as Ask a Blue Devil and the alumni LinkedIn group, but it reduces the student hassle of forging these connections on their own.
“As soon as we send out the pairings, we're also sending you their contact info, and we're sending them your contact info,” she said. “You can immediately start talking to your match … we're directly creating a mentorship relationship for you.”
Engagement in this program has been incredibly high on the alum side, but the team is still encouraging more participation from students, according to Belavadi and Raslan.
Belavadi, Raslan and Peterson all expressed that they have been receiving positive student feedback, but are hoping to see more students sign up to match the amount of alums before the Nov. 1 deadline.
“Having regular conversations with Duke alumni will help students build a community of "helpful humans" who will continue to be a valuable resource in their professional and sometimes in their personal lives,” Victory wrote. “Duke alumni are some of the most valuable career readiness resources that students have access to.”
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