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Eagles Helping Eagles – Perspectives on BC Mentorship Experiences

By Tori Scarzello ꞌ13

From externships and internships to research projects and panels, there are countless opportunities both off and on campus for alumni to work with students through mentorship roles. Each mentorship experience serves as a unique opportunity for alumni to strengthen bonds with the Boston College community, keep up with campus events, and, perhaps most importantly, meet and work with future alumni. Several BCEEAN mentors and a mentee recently shared memorable moments and valuable insights they gained from their own mentorship experiences, demonstrating how mentoring can be as gratifying as it is a great way to give back.

Last winter, Liz Delaney ꞌ00 of the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) participated as a mentor in Boston College’s 2014 Externship Program, hosting a student at the organization’s Boston office. Her reflections on the program conveyed a fun and engaging experience. “I think it is a very simple and easy way to give back to BC,” she stated about the program, further recommending it to other alumni. The activities Delaney organized for the day-long externship involved informational interviews with key staff and opportunities for the student to shadow her during meetings. For Delaney, the experience was mutually beneficial, providing both mentor and mentee with new perspectives on policy work and corporate sustainability: for the student, a behind-the-scenes look at the work being accomplished by the organization; for the alum, the chance to see and understand the organization’s work through the student’s eyes.

Patricia Randolph Williams ꞌ77 of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, along with fellow colleagues and BCEEAN members Amir Ingram ꞌ02 and Tim Sullivan ꞌ02, hosted three students at the Agency’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. The agenda organized by the alumni was filled with opportunities for learning and career exploration, covering topics from the development of environmental policies to career paths in the field. The alumni provided the students with a learning experience that highlighted the daily operations of a federal agency and illustrated the breath and complexity of issues the organization faces.

For Williams, the mentoring experience was made meaningful and enjoyable by the opportunity to work with fellow Eagles. “What made the experience worthwhile and valuable was meeting the incredible, knowledgeable, and exciting young people who will join the ranks of BC alumni.” She also noted that EPA staff were highly impressed by the professionalism and curiosity the students demonstrated during their visit. The students’ interest in the Agency’s work, coupled with their expressed ambitious personal and professional goals, instilled a sense of pride in Williams and her fellow mentors. The high esteem and admiration of the students conveyed in Williams’ reflections on the program leave no doubt that the externship was an enriching experience for the mentors and mentees alike.  

As an undergraduate interested in regulatory affairs and considering law school, Elizabeth Gavin ꞌ14 leapt at the opportunity to connect with the EPA through the externship program. Gavin’s interest in learning more about the Agency was first sparked when she had the opportunity to meet an EPA professional while she served as a Legal Intern at the U.S. Department of State. The prospect of experiencing a typical day at the Agency, coupled with her own curiosity about a career with the EPA, prompted Gavin to apply. Her acceptance into the program introduced her to Tim Sullivan ꞌ02, a supervisory attorney in the EPA’s Office of Civil Enforcement. Throughout the day, Gavin learned the ins and outs of Sullivan’s role within the organization, and gained valuable insight into the work of other EPA employees as well. Attending meetings, meeting other staff in the office, and experiencing the “collegial environment within the halls” of the Agency left Gavin feeling “fully engaged in the issues of the week.” In reflecting on her experience, she highlighted the opportunity she had to chat candidly with Sullivan about topics such as the law school process and job hunting. Having recently accepted a position as a paralegal for the firm White & Case in Paris, France, Gavin acknowledged that her interest in law was heightened as a result of her externship experience.

Phil Jutras ꞌ65 has enjoyed working with students interested in sustainability and the environment through unique opportunities for mentorship and career guidance. From supporting student field research projects to conducting energy tours of local facilities, Jutras has facilitated student learning both on and off campus. Recently, he collaborated with the Career Center to host a seminar on sustainability practices among businesses and non-profit organizations, where students engaged in dialogue and learned more about issues such as energy, water, and waste conservation. Throughout the session, Jutras assumed the role of both teacher and mentor, providing insight on topics from the practical benefits of sustainability to careers in the field.

Similarly, and on behalf of BCEEAN, Jutras assisted the Environmental Studies Department and the Career Center in organizing a Green Career Night last March, an event attended by over 70 undergraduates and 25 participating organizations. For Jutras, an important component of the event was the subsequent feedback provided by students, which revealed insight on the types of organizations students are most interested in learning more about at future events. Jutras’s mentoring style truly demonstrates that meaningful engagement with students can be achieved by answering questions – and asking them.

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