Connecting alumni and students

Victoria’s Alumni as Mentors programme connects students in their penultimate or final-year at university with alumni in the workforce.

Sophie Bartleet and Jane Wrightson as part of the Alumni as Mentors programme

Reinvigorating a  connection to Victoria

Jane Wrightson, chief executive of New Zealand on Air, always remembered her time at Victoria fondly, but hadn’t had much to do with the University since graduating with a Bachelor of Arts.

That changed when she signed up to be involved in the Alumni as Mentors programme.

Buddied up with then arts student Sophie Bartleet, she was grateful for the opportunity to give something back to the Victoria community.

“It’s interesting to get yourself out of your bubble, especially if you don’t have much contact with millennials,” says Jane.

“In the media industry, it’s incredibly important to be in contact with young people. It really challenges you. And you can have grown-up conversations that don’t result in mother–daughter arguments!”

As a result of the relationship the two have built, Jane raised an eyebrow when Sophie mentioned heading to study journalism without having an immediate reason to study at postgraduate level. Instead, she’s now producing and hosting a podcast called What’s next?, a move described by Jane as very enterprising.

One thing that Sophie has learnt from the mentoring experience is to keep her options open. “Opportunity dances with those who are already on the dance floor.”

It was this attitude that inspired Sophie to respond to the email she received about the programme. “I thought I may as well apply, and nothing but good has come from it.

“I would like to mentor in the future and be able to help somebody else along the way.”

Richard London and Cara Askew working together as part of the Alumni as Mentors programme

Drawing from  alumnus’ experience

Being part of Victoria’s Alumni as Mentors programme gave Master of Building Science student Cara Askew the opportunity to develop personally and refine her career path.

“As a student, I felt like I got lost within my studies and forgot about my own development and where I wanted to go with my degree.”

Being matched with Richard London, a senior technical engineering and project adviser at the Ministry of Education who has been involved in the programme for three years, allowed Cara to focus on what she really wanted, which has led her to postgraduate study at Victoria.

The duo had a number of discussions around the benefits of further study or further experience in the sector, says Richard.

“I drew a lot on my own experience. In hindsight, continuing to study at postgraduate level straight after finishing my undergraduate degree would have been a lot easier for me.”

Richard understands the pressure of being a new graduate. “It’s tough trying to figure out what you want to do, but for a new grad, getting involved in the programme is a bit like finding a trailblazer who’s done it before—someone able to tell them, here’s what I learnt and what I’d do if I had my time again.”

But it’s not all giving for Richard. “Cara gave me a lot of insights into the way I interact with people and the opportunity to hone my own skills.”

And although the six-month programme has ended for both Cara and Richard, they still keep in touch.

“The construction industry in New Zealand is small. There are people I know who Cara interacts with too, so we have the opportunity to continue our discussions.”