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Liberal Arts Alumni Mentor Program
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Caroline Briselli

Caroline Briselli

Paterno Fellow
Major: History
Minor: Business and the Liberal Arts, Middle Eastern Studies
Hometown: Hershey, PA

How did you learn about this opportunity?

I found out about the liberal arts alumni mentor program online, through a liberal arts email newsletter.

Tell us a little bit about your experience.

After attending an information and orientation session at the end of my freshman year, I was paired with my mentor, Phil. Phil and I emailed back and forth to set up a time to speak over the phone, then had an introductory phone call where we discussed Phil's career, as well as my career and education aspirations. Phil is currently retired, but he is still active as a consultant. Before retirement, he worked at the Tennessee Valley Authority. Phil and I speak regularly, either over phone or email, and we both make a point of keeping each other up-to-date on what we are doing. When I hear about potential internship or study abroad opportunities, I like to run them by Phil to get his opinion. Currently, I'm interning with the State Department in Bridgetown, Barbados. Phil was one of the first people I consulted when I was considering applying for the internship, and he helped me with my application by reviewing my resume. We spoke over the phone right before I left and we've been in touch over email since I've been in Barbados.

"Having a mentor has definitely made me more reflective about my career goals, which helps focus me as I apply to internships and explore post-grad options."

How did this experience impact you academically?

While my mentor and I focus primarily on the internship search and career aspirations, I make a point of talking with Phil before I schedule my courses for the spring and fall semesters, and I keep him up-to-date on the projects and essays I'm working on in class. Phil and I enjoy discussing what is being taught in my courses. Phil has a big interest in history, so we often swap titles of history books we've enjoyed and Phil suggests different areas of history that I might be interested in taking a class on.

What are your career goals and plans?  How did this experience impact them?

In the time that I have been mentored by Phil, my career goals have become less focused, but I have come to better understand what makes me feel fulfilled as a professional. I thought that I wanted to work in a museum as a curator or archivist, but, after an internship at a museum, I found that I much prefer working with people and advocating for a cause, which led me to apply for a State Department internship this summer. Now, I'm becoming interested in non-profit development or communications. College is a time to discover what makes you want to get up and go to work every morning, but lots of students don't take time to reflect on this. Having a mentor gives you the opportunity to unpack your thoughts and discuss them with someone who has gone through the same process of determining a career path. Mentors can also give valuable suggestions about career paths and internships to explore based on what you are learning about yourself and your work habits. Having a mentor has definitely made me more reflective about my career goals, which helps focus me as I apply to internships and explore post-grad options.

Would you recommend this experience to other Liberal Arts students?

I would absolutely recommend that liberal arts students get involved with the mentor program. Mentors provide experienced career and educational advice, and can help students expand their professional network. Unlike family and friends, mentors are somewhat removed from your personal situation and can give very objective advice. For example, when I was having a difficult time choosing between two internships this summer, my mentor was really helpful as I decided, pushing me to weigh the pros and cons and providing a very objective perspective. Even if your mentor isn't working in the exact field you aspire to, your mentor can open your eyes to new career paths and provide applicable advice based on their experiences in the workforce. In addition, students can really craft a unique experience based on what they hope to get out of the mentoring relationship. Some students focus specifically on interview skills or resume review, while others ask their mentor broader questions about career fields and paths. Everyone can gain something from having a mentor, and I think every student should take advantage of this opportunity.

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