LEHMAN TWP. — While many colleges prepare students for their careers, Penn State Wilkes-Barre is helping students better understand just what those careers entail.
A pilot program for a small group of students that matches them up with a mentor in the community is under way.
Zachary Aciuweicz, a 23-year-old sophomore who’s majoring in business management/marketing, said he’s hoping the program will “help me out by bridging the gap between education and career.” With plenty of time remaining in his college career, the Holy Redeemer graduate and resident of Trucksville said his relationship with mentor Stephanie Sordoni will hopefully be more than a one-year deal.
“I don’t get the sense from her that there would be any reason the mentorship would end once the academic year does,” he said.
While the school only asked mentors for a one-year commitment, the potential that it would extend past that point in an unofficial capacity is possible.
“I have no doubt the networking will continue past then,” said Katherine Flanagan-Herstek, the director of student affairs for the school.
Aciuweicz has already met with Sordoni, who has worked as a staffer for U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, at her family automobile business, and as an attorney, and he feels like her insight can help him make career choices and open doors.
Jill Laing, career services coordinator for Penn State Wilkes-Barre, said the idea was a collaborative one and a dozen students were selected through a faculty nomination process this summer. Several area residents were asked to serve as mentors, and then the students were matched up with the community leaders.
Student Emily Farver, of Stillwater, who’s interested in veterinary sciences, has Dr. Jacqueline Misunas, a veterinarian, as her mentor.
Laing said the program encourages networking practice and professional growth. It not only offers a valuable opportunity for students to seek guidance from someone who is familiar with a particular field but also provides a way to nurture soft skills, or people skills.
The chance to visit a workplace or two is important as it gives a student an eye-opening view of their potential future, Flanagan-Herstek said.
For sophomore Chelsea English, a communications major from Dallas, she’s unsure if she wants to go into television or publications or something else. With 2 1/2 years left in her college life, she knows she has time to make a decision that will impact her professional life.
English was matched up with Ina Lubin, of Kingston, who retired after decades working in Penn State’s continuing education program. Lubin has built so many relationships throughout the region that her connections and understanding of the job landscape are invaluable.
Lubin said she had mentors in her career and the idea of paying it forward to Chelsea and others was important to her.
“Mentors helped me to dream even bigger than I would have and that’s what I hope to give back to this young woman,” Lubin said.