lights a fire
Alumni Mentorship Program sparks rewarding, ongoing alumni
engagement with students and recent graduates
network at Kellogg is one of the school's great strengths.
But how does a student or recent graduate gain access to those
peers who might be most helpful in providing career advice?
One way is by leveraging the Kellogg
Alumni Network's recently improved online database and
then cold-calling people.
While this method
can yield results, many Kellogg alums have worked with the
school to create another forum to bring their fellow graduates
together in mutually beneficial ways that strengthen the network's
overall bonds: a mentorship initiative.
for increased connectivity among Kellogg grads led Jason Apple,
and others in The
Managers' Program, the Kellogg School's part-time MBA
curriculum, to revive the concept of a mentorship program
in the late 1990s. The goal was to match students and younger
graduates with more senior alumni who shared the same industries,
career paths or other commonalities.
"It's hard to say,
'I see you're class of '89; will you talk to me?'" says Apple,
business development manager for Deloitte Financial Advisory
Services LLP in Chicago and a 2000 TMP graduate. "The mentorship
program is a good tool to promote interaction and target it
to areas of interest. I encourage alumni to sign up for this
opportunity. It's a great way to stay connected to the university.
You give back to the school, and you meet really good people."
Alumni Mentorship Program (KAMP) began as a TMP initiative
in 1997 and expanded to the full-time program in 2002. KAMP
established more than 400 pairs of mentors and "mentees" last
year, with hopes for 500 matches this year, says Gina (Chiasson)
Bates, assistant director of corporate relations, who manages
"It's a formal
opportunity for students to develop a meaningful relationship
with an alum," she says. "It's somebody they can reach out
to, to help them with their Kellogg career or with career
planning. They don't have to worry about the mentor being
their employer. In addition, the alumni volunteer for this
experience; the students know this when they're reaching out
to them. This interaction is something both parties have agreed
to do, which helps them to communicate and establish a stronger
"We realized that
Kellogg has this huge alumni network, but short of tracking
someone down individually, there was no systematic way to
be connected to someone who was more senior and able to give
you advice in a buddy-buddy type of way," says Brian Fitzpatrick
'03, who was among full-time students helping to migrate the
program school-wide three years ago.
John Gambs '74, a Kellogg Alumni Advisory Board member, say
their own relationship, forged through KAMP during Fitzpatrick's
final year at Kellogg, has been a win-win arrangement. They
talk about once every six months.
"I always like
to meet interesting people and folks who are serious about
life and their work. That's a positive," says Gambs, retired
executive vice president and chief financial officer of Charles
Schwab Corp. "There's nothing tangible in the sense of a business
contact or anything like that in it for me. But that's why
"I was very fortunate
to have the opportunity to develop a mentee relationship with
John," Fitzpatrick says. "John, having had a long and successful
career within financial services, is someone whose brain I
can pick, someone who, to this day, I can seek guidance from,
and off of whom I can bounce different career ideas."
Gambs says he is
happy to serve as a sounding board for Fitzpatrick. "To the
extent that he has issues, concerns or ideas about anything,
I'm a safe person to talk to because I'm not his employer.
[Our conversations] are mainly about things involved with
his career goals and best strategies and tactics."
The program is
also about networking. Gambs has been directly helpful in
that regard for Fitzpatrick, who would like to work in Latin
America when he finishes his two-year tour of duty as chief
of staff for the customer engagement group at Citicard, a
division of Citigroup, and thinks about his next move within
"John put me in
touch with a friend of his and fellow Kellogg alum, someone
who works at Banamex, Citigroup's Mexico division," Fitzpatrick
says. "His friend, in turn, put me in touch with other Kellogg
alums who work at Banamex. That was an example of the network
in action. I probably wouldn't have gotten in touch with them
He adds that Banamex
remains a "down-the-road [employment] possibility" for him.
"You're always trying to build contacts, especially in a large
company where you have to be proactive in your career planning.
It's always nice to build those relationships early."
The concept of
an alumni mentorship program had been tried before but with
"lots of stops and starts" before the late 1990s, Apple recalls.
KAMP started small, with about 50 to 100 students in the part-time
program in each of the first couple years matched with the
150 to 200 alumni who responded to the then letter-based solicitation.
"We didn't have
the same type of [electronic communication] tools that they
have now," he says. They used "whatever database the university
had back then to generate some names and labels." Apple remembers
that it was "hard to do precise matching with the old system.
As a consequence, [only] a fraction of the students who signed
up felt satisfied."
But the idea made
too much sense to drop again. "There seemed to be a big need
for the students to get some type of career guidance, input
on their choices about professors, input on their choices
about course-work, and just how their decisions in class,
as a student, could play themselves out in three, five, 10
years down the road," Apple says. "A lot of students would
be in one, maybe two, industries before they started Kellogg.
There was a big demand to learn something about another industry
In the years since,
the program has not only gone school-wide but also grown considerably
more technologically advanced with help from the Kellogg Alumni
Network. This system provides significantly more updated contact
information, including reliable e-mail addresses that ease
solicitation greatly, Bates says.
the mentorship program for myriad reasons, Bates points out.
"Their motivation could be anything from 'help me manage my
career at Kellogg' to 'I'm interested in that industry, and
I'm really interested in your experiences in the industry,'"
she says. "Some students are looking for people working in
organizations that they're also looking to be involved in.
Some are interested in finding out about what leadership is
like at a higher level."
The onus is typically
on the student to reach out, Apple says, adding that each
relationship develops individually. "It depends on how they
click," he says. "It's still human nature. The computer can
match you. I still see and keep in touch with the person I
got matched with back in 1997. It runs the whole spectrum."
Gambs says he's
been matched with mentees each year since Fitzpatrick but
has not developed the same sort of relationship with them.
One contacted him a couple times but "he's never had anything
to talk about. I think he thought it was more of a job-hunt
supplement," he says. "It all depends on the match-up. Of
course, it's up to the student to take advantage of the offer.
Some people are more naturally inclined to bounce ideas around
and ask for input than others."
A current goal
for the program is to widen the pool of alumni who participate
beyond "folks who fit the typical buckets: general managers,
consultants," says Alain Breillatt, a member of the TMP Class
of 2007. Breillatt is a KAMP co-chair this year and business
development manager at Macrovision. "There's been a desire
to encourage those who might be in less typical roles."
This is great news
for alumni from across all fields to make a special contribution
to the Kellogg School network - and to individual students
looking for their expertise and insight.
information on KAMP and to get involved, please visit the
Web site, part of the Kellogg