At the meeting, 23 juniors - selected by the deans of the four undergraduate schools for their leadership potential - were introduced to their mentors for the start of the 30-month pilot program which will encompass the balance of the students' undergraduate careers and the year after graduation.
The alumnae, successful professionals in a wide variety of fields, will communicate at least twice a month with their students - in person whenever possible - over the period of the program.
"It's not just career mentoring," said program Co-chair Mary J. Steele Guilfoile '76, a University trustee. "It's much broader than that. We want to emphasize the idea that the students are not just going to be making career decisions during the period of mentoring, but life decisions as well."
Guilfoile said the program was an outgrowth of the Alumni Association's Task Force on Women, formed four years ago to examine, expand and promote professional and personal development.
"We did a lot of research, getting feedback from focus groups and through telephone surveys," she said. "What alumnae seemed to want most was involvement with the students."
Mentors from Boston, New York and Chicago, each with a minimum of 10 years of professional experience, were matched with undergraduates having similar career interests and residing in the same geographic area, which will allow for personal contact during vacations and semester breaks.
"We are very confident about the potential of the pilot project, given the quality of the people in this room today," program Co-chair Susan McManama Gianinno '70, who is also a trustee, told undergraduates and mentors at the meeting.
"Many of these women who are going to be your mentors were pioneers in their own professional fields," she said. "You will have the chance to become pioneers yourself with the opportunities to do some things that we never thought possible.
"We want to know what it is like for you," Gianinno added, "and then share some of our own experiences with you. There are many decisions that you are going to have to make. We are not here to provide answers, but rather to be a sounding board so that you can work things through."
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