As the coordinator for Career Mentoring and Internships, Josh Domitrovich is Clarion University’s matchmaker – only he’s not looking for love connections. He's pairing students with a professional mentor – and doing so with a high rate of success among participants.
As the first Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education school to implement a student-to-professional mentoring program, CUmentor is entering its fourth year of pairing students and professionals in a unique way.
"We saw an opportunity to create something no one else had," Domitrovich said.
Like at other schools, Clarion students fill out a profile through a computer software. However, Clarion's program is unique in that it was built in-house in collaboration with computer and information sciences students.
"We don't rely on the software to make matches. We ensure a human touch is always part of the equation," Domitrovich said.
Domitrovich further explained that "in other programs a software tells the students what they should be looking for or automatically matches them on a few commonalities. In ours, we let the student's rank their priorities and use our relationships with both students and professional to guide the match."
"Students share academic, career and personal goals and even LGBTQ concerns with assigned liaisons," said Erin Lewis, assistant director of career services and liaison for students in the College of Arts, Education and Sciences.
Domitrovich works with students in the College of Business Administration and Information Sciences; career development director Bill Bailey and associate director Diana Brush are liaisons to students in the College of Education, Health and Human Services and the School of Education, respectively.
The reason Career Services knows the program is successful is for the same reason they know their matches are right – they talk to the students and their mentors.
"Some of the most common feedback I'll get is that the match was near perfect," Domitrovich said.
The feedback from both mentors and mentees has been similar in that they like the informality of the program in which a student can seek advice when they need it.
"My mentor was there for me every step of the way when I was searching for an internship," said Lynae Delacour, a senior majoring in finance. "She helped me with my resume, gave me mock interviews, and told me what life was like for a woman in the business world. She helped me build my confidence in ways I couldn't imagine."
Her mentor was Lindsay Banner ('07, B.S.B.A. in international business and finance with a minor in French), who works at MuniCap, Inc., in the firm's Dallas, Texas, branch where she is assisting in operating, managing and growing the satellite office, while establishing additional Texas offices.
"Thinking back to my undergraduate experience, there are so many things I simply didn't know that I didn't know," said Banner. "The area of business and finance were so generic to me and I had no idea what I wanted to pursue. I joined the program in an effort to be someone who listens and tries to help make students think about things differently and provides them with possibilities that they didn't know existed," Banner said.
Mentors are located across the country, while some are based in Canada, Germany and Puerto Rico. Therefore, 92 percent of interactions between mentors and mentees take place through email. Another 71 percent of interactions take place on the phone and 29 percent happen in person.
The success of the program also has piqued the interest of other schools.
Domitrovich has received calls from the College at Brockport, State University of New York, the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas, and American University in Washington, D.C.
"We are providing an intentional, high-impact, mentoring model, which others want to pursue," Domitrovich said of those schools.
The good news also has spread because Domitrovich and Lewis present at state conferences
sharing the impact it's made on students. Domitrovich recently presented a webinar
through the Eastern Association of Colleges and Employers, comprised of approximately
1,800 employers and career service personnel from Virginia to Maine.
EACE reached out to Domitrovich for guidance in developing a professional-to-professional mentoring program for their organization.
"It was a humbling phone call and solidified the fact that Clarion had something special,"
Domitrovich believes the CUmentor program is a gateway for current students to become well connected, involved, alumni.
"The goal is for students to be positively impacted so that one day they will serve as mentors and remember how it made a difference in their transition from college to career," Domitrovich explained.
"As a rising senior, I definitely felt anxiety about finding a rewarding job opportunity in the career field I was seeking and making the next step into the beginning of my professional life," said former mentee Kyle McWreath ('16, B.S.B.A. in economics). "The CUmentor program was very instrumental in helping me manage this anxiety because it enabled me to build and maintain a relationship with a successful alumnus who was established in the same field I was seeking to enter."
Career Services' evidence shows students are "83 percent more prepared when they participate in the program," Domitrovich said.
Parents, who are introduced to the program on visit days, think it's a good return on investment.
"I call this a return on education," Domitrovich said.
At the same time that CUmentor was established, the CUprofessional program was developed in which students earn badges for participation in professional program topics. Before you can become a mentee, you must complete CUprofessional.
"We couldn't create a mentor program, without creating a program that prepared them to be mentored," Domitrovich said.
After participating in CUprofessional, "they feel more prepared to talk to their mentor, which is what makes the combination of CUprofessional and CUmentor so unique," Lewis said.
"The relationship that I have been able to form with my mentor has been truly incredible, and I can only hope that everyone participating in the CUmentor program will be able to have the same amazing experience that I had," said former mentee Molly Schultz ('17, B.S.B.A. in finance and marketing).
So far, CUmentor has made matches for students in the College of Business and Information Sciences, communication, chemistry and environmental science. CUmentor is ready to expand to other disciplines – only the mentors are needed to do so.
"We have amazing alumni who want to be part of this," Domitrovich said.
The good news is that mentorships aren't limited to only alumni and the program needs "more mentors to support more students," Lewis said.
Mentor Glenn Brooks is not an alumnus, but discovered the CUmentor program when he was touring the school with his daughter, who now attends Clarion.
"I'm not a Clarion alum, rather a down-to-earth-guy with many years of experience within the HR discipline - from recruiting to training and development," Brooks said.
The hope is more mentors from a variety of fields will sign on, inspiring students from other majors that have yet to be mentored to become part of the process.
"The CUmentor program has been my greatest help in entering my career and I honestly have no idea where I would be, had I not had an incredible career mentor," said former mentee Kara Knepp ('15, B.S.B.A. in management and industrial relations with a minor in athletic coaching).