Student Chapter Feature: Mentoring Programs

Mentoring programs can be a great way to connect alumni or upperclassmen with underclassmen in a Student Chapter. Many AIChE Student Chapters use mentoring programs to help young students adjust to college life or to help prepare them for industry upon graduation. The Executive Student Committee (ESC) is excited to feature a few Student Chapters with an outstanding mentoring program.

University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (UIUC)

For years, the AIChE Student Chapter at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) has held their "Mentor Program", a mentoring program open to all Student Chapter members. The Mentor Program at UIUC seeks to facilitate the personal and professional development of its participants in a relaxed, safe setting. Under the program, each mentor works with a mentee group of approximately 3-5 students for a semester. The mentor helps address mentees' questions and help connect mentees with campus or departmental resources for additional support.

As the internal vice president at UIUC AIChE, Hannah Chait has been organizing the program and its events this year. When speaking on the value of the program, Chait says, "mentors gain meaningful leadership experience and mentees gain helpful advice and an avenue to meet other chemical engineering friends." Under Chait's guidance, the mentor program this year has focused more on professional growth through monthly professional topics including interview skills, career fairs, and time management. The program also hosts social events including participation in corn mazes, ice skating, and potlucks. We asked Chait what advice she has for AIChE Student Chapters interested in starting a mentoring program. "I would suggest having a clear goal of what you want from your mentor program, and clear ways both mentors and mentees will benefit from it. Since chemical engineering is a difficult and time consuming major, it can be hard to sell the mentor program to students. However, mentor programs can be such a valuable resource, so finding ways to make them meaningful is essential."

To find out more about UIUC AIChE, please visit its website.

Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI)

The AIChE Student Chapter at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) welcomes all chemical engineering students at their school to participate in their AIChE Mentor/Mentee Program. The program seeks to provide underclassmen a different perspective and guidance when adjusting to college life. Christine Schondek, WPI Student Chapter president, explains that the program "provides support academically as well as socially" and "gives upperclassmen a chance to develop their leadership and mentoring skills which are valued in the workforce."

The Chapter's vice president uses an interest form to pair mentors and mentees based on similar interests and goals. Once mentors and mentees are paired, special events are planned for mentor/mentee pairs to attend, including social events like bingo or ice cream socials, and professional development events such as resume critique workshops or joint four-year schedule planning. Schondek has personally participated in the Chapter's Mentor/Mentee Program. She and her mentor, Cindy Bukowski, became close and co-chaired the conference planning for the 2017 Eckhardt Northeast Regional Student Conference that was held at WPI. Schondek encourages other AIChE Student Chapters to start a similar mentoring program because of the program's ability to foster "a sense of community within the department."

Christine Schondek, left, and her mentor Cindy Bukowski, right.

To find out more about WPI AIChE, please visit its Twitter account.

Wayne State University (WSU)

The AIChE Student Chapter at Wayne State University (WSU) invites its sophomore members to participate in its Industry Mentorship Program. The Chapter works with the WSU Chemical Engineering Department and Alumni Office to find alumni to participate in the program. Under the program, students have the opportunity to talk with a chemical engineer alum about his or her industrial experience. In one instance, a mentor arranged for the mentee to tour the refinery where the mentor worked.

Abdul Rihan, past president of WSU AIChE, explains that the program provides students with "an avenue to express questions about the field and gain insight to what real-world chemical engineering offers and entails." When asked what advice he has for AIChE Chapters that might be interested in starting a mentoring program, Rihan suggests partnering with the school's ChemE Department to help find alumni mentors.

To find out more about WSU AIChE, please visit its Facebook page.