By Lucie Turkel
In November 2020 the Phi Beta Kappa New York Association launched a mentorship program for fellow ΦBKNY members which was met with great success. The inaugural cohort, which formally ended in April 2021, consisted of 54 mentor-mentee pairings with a total of 87 participants who shared an overwhelmingly positive experience.
The ΦBKNY Mentorship Program was created by the Young Professionals Committee and was in large part inspired by the D.C. Area Phi Beta Kappa Association’s own highly successful mentorship program, Jessica Levy (ΦBK, SUNY Buffalo), the Young Professionals chair, explained.
“It all started with knowing about the D.C. Association’s mentorship program. We heard that it was a really successful program, and we wanted to bring that to our membership as well. Historically the New York Association is the oldest association, and we wanted to make sure that benefit was added to the membership,” Levy said.
The mentorship program was the ΦBKNY Young Professionals Committee’s first foray into industry-based networking. The committee itself played an integral role in the development and success of the program, which included Vice Chair of Membership Amanda Schwartz (ΦBK, University of Maryland, College Park) and an expanded Mentorship Committee consisting of Terry Lee (ΦBK, Amherst College), Cecily Hutchison (ΦBK, Bucknell University), Jolene Singh (ΦBK, Columbia University), and Utkristaa Shrestha (ΦBK, Clark University).
“From the beginning we had the challenge of deciding how to make this a successful New York program and a remote program,” Schwartz said in regard to the committee’s brainstorming process. In fact, the group met with DCΦBK in May 2020 to discuss the necessities for starting a successful mentorship program before deciding to open up applications in fall 2020 to track with the academic calendar. Ultimately, Schwartz explained, the ΦBKNY Mentorship Program had two major ambitions: to create both solid individual matches as well as toolkits and spaces to generate a larger community.
The community aspect was certainly fulfilled by the more general kick-off and wrap-up virtual events that bookended the first cohort’s mentorship experience. At the kick-off, which was very well attended via Zoom, mentors and mentees within the same or similar industries were grouped together in breakout rooms in order to connect. The Young Professionals Committee also sent out a general toolkit early on in the program so participants could get the most out of their conversations.
“We made a toolkit that we tried to make helpful without being prescriptive, and that would allow creativity and flexibility for the matches to meet at a pace that felt right for them,” Schwartz said. While the suggestion was that matches were to meet once every other month, for a total of three meetings over the six-month period, some matches met more often and a few met less often.
On Sunday, April 25, the Young Professionals Committee hosted their virtual wrap-up event. A few different pairs of mentors and mentees shared their personal experiences with the program before the event opened up to a general audience discussion in which members spoke about advice, new findings, and their overall thoughts on mentorship. What was perhaps most notable from these conversations was the way in which both mentors and mentees felt that they learned an immense amount. Rather than being one-sided, the mentorship program allowed all parties to develop and grow.
All in all, the ΦBKNY Mentorship Program fully embodies ΦBK’s motto that “Love of Learning is the Guide of Life,” as Levy pointed out. “I think it’s really about passing knowledge from one person to another, and I think there’s a lot to be said for this exchange of ideas and information,” she said.
The ΦBKNY Mentorship Committee will post an application for the next cohort sometime during spring 2021 with an expected cohort start date of September 2021. More information can be found on their website.
Photo: Participants at the April 25 Young Professionals Committee virtual wrap-up event.
Lucie Turkel is a senior at the University of Connecticut pursuing an individualized major in comparative literary and cultural studies and was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa in May 2020. UConn is home to the Epsilon of Connecticut chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.