What makes our mentor program successful is its three tiered-system. Each mentee is paired with an upperclassman mentor and a WSU alumnus that is an established professional. This structure proves successful because it connects students to degree-specific leadership within the school and out in the work force. The on campus mentor focuses on professional development while the professional mentor informs students of industry demands. Combined, the two mentors provide resources to create competitive applicants for the state of Washington.
There are now approximately 25 additional alumni involved with the accounting program, and over 100 participants in the program’s first semester. This program cultivates leaders who are well polished, professional and will be immediate contributors in the workplace.
Today’s college grads face a fiercely competitive job market. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for 20 to 29 year-olds with a bachelors degree was 13.5 percent in 2011. In addition, both Accenture and the Wall Street Journal have reported that under-employment rates have spiked to over 40%. As students we have experienced these problems first hand and the question remains as to why we cannot find the right jobs.
Mara Swan (Executive VP of talent at Manpower Group) said that “Students have problems with collaboration, interpersonal skills, the ability to deal with ambiguity, flexibility and professionalism.” This quote identifies the key issues that cause unemployment for college graduates. At Washington State University we have implemented an accounting mentor program that is innovative and can address these problems.
What makes our mentor program successful is its three tiered-system. Each mentee is paired with an upperclassman mentor and a WSU alumnus that is an established professional. This structure proves successful because it connects students to degree-specific leadership both within the university and out in the work force. The on campus mentor focuses on professional development while the professional mentor informs students of industry demands. Combined, the two mentors provide resources to create competitive applicants for the state of Washington.
The program grew to involve over 100 people in the first semester. Over 50 of those people were student mentees, 16 were student mentors, and 34 were professional mentors. The pro-mentors represented 10 different companies across Washington State and these companies sent more recruiters to our campus this semester than ever before. These numbers will grow as the program continues to develop.
WSU’s accounting program is the largest business major at our university, with over 200 students. We were able to have an impact on close to 70 of these students (between mentors and mentees) in only the first semester of the program. All of these people were able to grow and gain something from this program whether it was through the experience of mentoring an individual, or if it was the direct knowledge and skills practiced by the mentees.
We believe that the continued growth of this program will result in more students walking out with job offers each year, even greater alumni involvement and higher quality graduates coming out of our university. As we continue to evolve, we will be able to measure our impact on the accounting program, WSU, and the state of Washington.
One of the greatest things about this program is its growth potential and replicability. The structure of this mentor program can easily be translated to almost any major in our university. We also have a continuously growing pool of mentors because our student mentees want to pass on the skills that they develop as they advance through their academic and professional careers.
In order for this program to realize its potential it must continue to have passionate and innovative leadership and a well structured framework. To ensure this, Beta Alpha Psi (our accounting organization) has created an officer position in their cabinet that will focus their time and energy solely on the program. We have also communicated expectations for meetings, feedback, goal setting, and we have created a basic curriculum. This structure has helped us measure success, impact, and effectiveness and it will give us continuity moving forward.
In the future, our student leaders will work with firms, faculty, students and the WSU Economic Development Office. They will help set up new events, foster community service, create intern housing opportunities, develop new partnerships and ultimately leverage the potential provided by this program’s expanding network.
UEDA Awards of Excellence Finalists presented at the Annual Summit in Pittsburgh on October 28, 2013. Summit attendees then voted for the best initiative in each category.