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Patricia Lavelle-Zecca (’89, ’93g NUTR) and her protégé, Jessica Sieber, enrolled in the Mentoring Program in 2004 – the first year in which the program was offered to alumni and students in the Department of Nutritional Sciences.
“I hoped to help someone else avoid the stumbling blocks I first encountered after graduation,” Trish says. She also saw it as an opportunity to “give back and go back” to the University where she spent seven years as an undergraduate and graduate student. Jessica, meanwhile, was having difficulty deciding what she wanted to do after graduation and couldn’t find the information she needed on the Internet or through other sources. What followed for Jessica through the mentoring program, she says, was “one of the best experiences of my life.”
Jessica is minoring in health policy and administration and was very interested in learning more about Trish’s job as a state public health nutritionist for New Jersey WIC Services. Trish offered Jessica a one-week internship in July 2004 and Jessica jumped at the opportunity. Jessica lived with Trish and her family and made the one hour commute with her to work each day. During the week, Jessica helped Trish to prepare for the WIC Quarterly Nutrition Services Meeting, which provides professional development opportunities for local WIC nutritionists, nurses and other professionals throughout the state.
Jessica not only participated in every aspect of the meeting planning, but she also gave a brief presentation on fruits and vegetables to the 60 WIC professionals in attendance. “She did a fantastic job!” Trish shares. Jessica is equally enthusiastic about her experience. “This was a great way for me to really see what it's like to work within my field and I really enjoyed it. It confirmed my desire to work in a government setting and with public health nutrition.”
According to Trish, one of the greatest benefits of the Mentoring Program is the ability for students to learn about career options “outside the box” from alumni in traditional and non-traditional positions. In addition, the program has been an opportunity “to get to know some great people, develop professional contacts, and cultivate a mentoring relationship that I hope will be lifelong.” Jessica agrees that the ability for students to obtain “real world” advice from mentors is invaluable.
What advice would Trish and Jessica share with other mentors and protégés? “Keep in regular contact with your protégé,” Trish says. “Although our lives and careers are busy we forget how crazy student life can get and how driven these students are to be competitive in their fields after graduation. Mentors should take on the responsibility to contact their protégés by phone, e-mail, or regular mail and create opportunities to meet in person to share their experiences.”
Jessica agrees that communication is very important. “Without our communication (mostly through e-mails), we never would have been able to develop our relationship. Trish and all of the mentors are really great resources for your future and are more than willing to help you out, as long as you just ask.”
When Trish enrolled in the Mentoring Program, she “wanted to be the kind of mentor who could open up doors for students.” She has accomplished all that and more. “I have met one of the greatest people in the world,” Jessica says. “…A true role model.”
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Congratulations and best wishes to the protégés who will be graduating this May! We hope that you have enjoyed your experience in the Mentoring Program. Please take a moment to thank your mentor for sharing his or her experiences and expertise with you…and please consider becoming a mentor in the future!
Communication Sciences and Disorders
Health Policy and Administration
Hotel, Restaurant & Institutional Management
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For protégés to ask mentors: Did you have an internship while you were a student; if so, where? Did you enjoy it? Did you benefit from it? If you didn’t have an internship, what did you do during the summer?
For mentors to ask protégés: In what ways do you expect your internship to be different than the part-time jobs you may have held while in high school or college? Will it be more formal? Will you have to dress or act differently?
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April 29: Classes End
May 2-6: Finals Week
May 14: Commencement*
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