A model of mentorship: Alumni pay it forward to the next generation of Gettysburgians

Richard Kampert speaking to anstudents
Richard Kampert ’10, a VP at Goldman Sachs, returned to campus last summer to speak to students about the world of financial advising.

As undergraduates, Gettysburg College alumni engaged in a host of academic and co-curricular experiences, all designed to provide them with the knowledge and enduring skills needed to achieve professional success and personal fulfillment. Those same alumni are now paying it forward to today’s students, engaging with students through the Center for Career Engagement (CCE) to create opportunities for growth and exploration.

This mentorship model is a key component of the Gettysburg Approach, the College’s renewed and intensive focus on its signature undergraduate experience designed to benefit the whole student now and into the future. Alumni will have an important role to play in the lives of our students, teaming with campus partners on  Personal Advising Teams and supporting students as they embark on Guided Pathways during their undergraduate careers.

With  Personal Advising Teams, each featuring a faculty advisor, co-curricular advisor, and career advisor, Gettysburg students receive 360 degrees of support. At the conclusion of their sophomore year, students can add an alumni mentor to their team. Beginning in the fall of 2025, the Class of 2027 will be the first to be offered the opportunity to connect with alumni mentors as part of their Personal Advising Teams.

Read on to learn more about Gettysburg’s model of mentorship or click these links to jump to a specific topic.

What is alumni mentorship?

“[Mentorship is] the act of assisting people in their efforts to further themselves or enhance their position by imparting knowledge and providing resources,” said Eric Handler ’86, vice president of communications at the YES Network.

Handler, who hired Delaney Donohoe ’25 for an internship at the YES Network this summer, is just one of the dedicated and passionate alumni supporters ready and waiting to make connections back to campus and help guide students to their future pursuits.

Alumni mentorship can take all kinds of shapes for Gettysburg students. It could be a phone call to an alum to learn more about a particular job or industry. It could also be direct supervision as part of a summerlong internship experience. No matter the level of engagement or length of contact, mentorship through the Gettysburg Network opens doors for advanced learning outcomes.

“I see myself as a guide, someone who can—human to human—give a sense of my career path and encourage students to speak to others about their career paths,” said Stacy Godnick ’84, who recently retired as associate dean for Student Academic Life at Boston University. “It’s an opportunity to guide students in a way that allows them to learn about themselves and shine a light on what they're interested in and not interested in.”

Self-discovery has been a staple of the mentoring process for many Gettysburg alumni working with students. As they enter college, students may not realize all the opportunities available to them and it can be daunting to plan academics and co-curricular activities that will build the foundation for their professional pursuits. Our alumni aim to impart the knowledge they’ve obtained through their own experiences in order to help students gain greater insight into who they want to be, what they want to accomplish, and how they will define and lead their own consequential lives.

“[Gettysburg College has] a super welcoming community,” said Meredith Bove ’97, P’24, who is senior director and business technology leader at Aurinia Pharmaceuticals and majored in history and women, gender, and sexuality studies. “People are really willing to offer their counsel and retrospective. There's so much diverse experience in the Gettysburg Network that if you’re looking for anything, you can find it.”

What resources are available to support alumni mentorship?

Today, connectGettysburg, the College’s official online engagement, networking, and mentoring platform, enables students to reach alumni through virtual means. This growing virtual community with more than 3,800 members can help students and alumni build their professional networks, share and pursue career opportunities, and learn about events and ways to get involved.

“When students have reached out through connectGettysburg, they often want to know answers to some general questions about the field,” said Senator John Heinz History Center senior curator and former art major Leslie Przybylek ’88. “They should never hesitate to ask those questions, even if it seems like a simple answer. If someone can help them allay one little concern that helps them with their future, it’s a step in the right direction.”

The Center for Career Engagement
Located on the second floor of the College Union Building, the Center for Career Engagement supports students as they prepare for careers beyond Gettysburg.

In addition to connectGettysburg, the Center for Career Engagement provides a valuable hub of career preparation resources to students, including resume and cover letter writing, mock interviews, and a Career Framework. CCE staff works with students throughout their undergraduate and even postgraduate careers to help them discover opportunities and make valuable connections with alumni through the Gettysburg Network.   

“It’s truly the network you build which gets you in the door,” noted Tori Hickerson ’79, senior vice president and senior technology manager at Bank of America. “Networking, in my opinion, is a key element—and the College is being much more intentional in building that network and building confidence within the students. I think it's wonderful.”

Why do alumni provide mentorship to students?

For many alumni, the desire to work with students stems from their own personal experiences interacting with mentors as undergraduates at Gettysburg. Sierra Green ’11, an archivist at the Senator John Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh, taking a historical methods class with History Prof. Michael Birkner and serving as an intern in Musselman Library’s Special Collections under Catherine Perry were important moments in her undergraduate career that helped her discover a passion for history and the archival field.

“Gettysburg has incredible assets in its faculty. In my experience, those faculty members are dedicated to the students and to that undergraduate experience,” said Green, a double major in history and Italian studies at Gettysburg. “When you bring those people together with the resources at the Center for Career Engagement and match it with alumni support, it feels like it's harnessing so much of what the institution has to offer in order to set that student up for success.”

Prof. Nyiwul
Interactions with faculty and staff during their own time as undergraduates are often the primary reason Gettysburg alumni seek to guide today’s students.

Munya Choga ’12, senior technical program manager at LinkedIn and co-founder and president of CareerPalz, sought guidance from staff at Gettysburg—vice president of Information Technology Rod Tosten ’85 and associate vice president for Information Technology Gavin Foster—after a job interview didn’t go well. Thanks to their advice, Choga, who majored in computer science and economics, learned from his mistakes and was more prepared for future interviews.

“[They] coached me on how to be an engineer and how to think about solving business problems using technology,” Choga said. “By the time I got back to my junior year fall semester, I could confidently reapply to get another internship. That ended up opening the doors for me. I can't think of my career being where it is now if it wasn't for Rod and Gavin.”

How do our alumni create opportunities for career development?

Experiences on campus like Choga’s have set the stage for alumni to return to their alma mater with creative means to support career development and pay it forward to current students. Working with CCE, many alumni offer students on-the-job experiences, including weeklong immersion trips, summer internships, and daylong job shadowing.

A sociology major as an undergraduate, Godnick has been a consistent donor since graduating from Gettysburg, but she wanted to create even more of an impact on the students at her alma mater. Outreach by CCE prompted her to begin hosting students as interns at Boston University, an experience she’s found extraordinarily fulfilling. One of her first interns, Julianne Cabour ’12, assisted Godnick with first-year orientation and provided support to admissions, enrollment, and the provost. In 2022, Cabour rejoined her former mentor as an international student advisor at Boston University.

“It’s opening their world a little bit,” said Godnick. “To me, that is paying it forward, because that's what my mentors did. They opened worlds to me that I didn't even know existed. Even though I didn't pursue some of them, it still made me a more complete person. It made me understand how much is available to pursue as a career.”

Greg Edelson ’87, P’18, P’21 to guides students on a career immersion experience
Career Engagement partnered with Greg Edelson ’87, P’18, P’21 to guide students on a career immersion experience in Orlando, Florida, during J-Term.

For both Handler and Scott Estill ’96, former student-athletes in football and soccer, respectively, they wanted to expand the resources and networking opportunities for students beyond campus. Their respective approaches create a constellation of alumni advisors, all seeking to discover what students are interested in and find ways to help them reach their professional and personal goals.

“There are three goals to what we're trying to do with the football program,” said Handler, who majored in management. “One is to help players identify their interests and potential professions or career paths. It's creating a list of what you enjoy doing, creating a list of what you're good at, and finding something that marries the two. The second thing is putting them in a better position to land an internship or full-time employment. How can we enhance their marketability and get them prepared? The third thing is giving them the tools to succeed once they are there. Once they have their foot in the door with an internship or an entry level job, how do they take advantage of that?”

A double major in economics and business as an undergraduate, Estill’s approach with the men’s soccer alumni program is similar in positioning students to succeed in their professional pursuits. Through the GOAL program (Get started, Organize your plan, Attain an internship, and Land a job), current student-athletes are paired with multiple alumni, creating a unique web of connectivity spanning generations that will help students progress through the process.

“We built a matrix and model that includes healthcare, industrial, technology, consumer, political jobs—you name what you want to do and let's figure out all the alumni [in that industry],” said Estill, managing partner at Lancor. “We're very excited because we have 100% success rate in getting the students a job right out of college. The students and their parents love that reality and it helps the coaches recruit the most well-rounded athletes.”

Jake Ecke ’18 (standing right) connected Gettysburg students
As part of the Eisenhower Institute’s Inside Washington program, Jake Ecke ’18 (standing right) connected Gettysburg students with public policy experts..

What do students gain from alumni mentorship

With these mentorship experiences comes a refined sense of direction and continued momentum for students. They are empowered by alumni mentors with knowledge and enduring skills such as adaptability, communication, creativity, intercultural fluency, leadership, problem solving, and teamwork—skills that are most desired by today’s employers

Through the Guided Pathways and specifically the Career Development Pathway, students can align their interests with relevant opportunities so they can leverage every experience with intentionality to foster those enduring skills and articulate their application. Alumni will play an impactful role in this transformational learning experience by providing career opportunities, helping students build a strong network, and offering insight and direction as members of a student’s Personal Advising Team.  

“[Alumni] help them come up with their North Star to define the type of industry and the types of companies they want to work in,” said Choga, whose company  CareerPalz guides international students and immigrant jobseekers in their own career pursuits. “We’re trying to coach students to be more proactive, rather than reactive. The liberal arts education teaches us, at the end of the day, if you don't lean in, you won't get the benefits of it.”

A graduate
Supported by alumni, faculty, and staff, Gettysburg students gain knowledge and enduring skills that will prepare them for a lifetime of career advancement and personal success.

With her son, Alex Bove ’24, preparing for his graduation from Gettysburg in May, Bove sees the potential in the College’s Strategic Direction in bringing even more alumni mentors to the table through increased outreach and programming. Following The Summit on the Future, a campus gathering of key stakeholders and supporters last September, Bove showed her support of Gettysburg’s distinctive approach to advising and mentorship, noting the need for students to be “prepared for the broader, changing world—professionally and personally.”

Bove believes alumni like herself, by being more involved and engaged with the student body, can help the College achieve its mission of preparing students to be the leaders of tomorrow. Said Bove about the Gettysburg’s continuing focus on mentorship, “I think it's going to be an enriched experience for students to have it be more intentional and formalized. I just feel the beauty of a place like Gettysburg is that the world's your oyster. If you want to pursue something, you’re going to find it.”

Learn more about the Gettysburg Approach and how it prepares students and alumni for a lifetime of career advancement and personal success.

By Corey Jewart
Photos by Jason Minick, Abbey Frisco, and subjects
Posted: 05/01/24