Women’s mentoring program opens doors for Penn State Harrisburg students

HARRISBURG, Pa. — For women business students at Penn State Harrisburg it can be a valuable opportunity to have a mentor in the corporate world.

“It can be especially helpful for women as they navigate their careers in business,” said Darrell Bartholomew, assistant professor of marketing. “That’s why we are pleased that the Network of Executive Women’s Mentoring Program has been implemented here at Penn State Harrisburg.” 

At the initial meeting held in October, Stacey Miller, director of diversity and inclusion at Ahold USA, and Mia Tomkins, sales execution specialist at the Campbell Soup Company, gave the students an introduction to the program, which will run through April.  

Each student was assigned to a mentor, who will be able to provide career coaching and help the student learn about tools they need to be successful in the corporate world. The mentors have achieved their own success at companies that include Ahold USA, The Hershey Company, Campbell Soup Company and the Massimo Zanetti Beverage Company.

According to their website, the Network of Executive Women (NEW) has more than 10,000 members employed at 950 companies, and 100 corporate partners across 21 regions working together to advance gender equality in retail and consumer goods. Through the mentorship program, women executives provide young, up-and-coming women students with guidance as they complete their studies and approach job-searching and successful careers.

“Most of the students are seniors, and this program will help in their professional development,” said Bartholomew.

Miller formerly led the college outreach program for the Network of Executive Women and is now the co-chair of the programming committee. She continues to be the key point of contact and liaison for schools in the Central Pennsylvania area, including Penn State Harrisburg.“I guess you can say I am a mentor for all of the students,” said Miller, who created the program and continues to be passionate about it.

As she noted, women in leadership positions are still a minority, while they comprise over 50 percent of the U.S. population. Women don't feel confident to seek challenges, while male counterparts are more confident and willing to take those risks, she said.

“Development programs and mentoring are two ways organizations can help to support and change this paradigm and achieve gender parity at all levels of their organizations,” said Miller.

Rebecca Jutkus, manager of chocolate product development for The Hershey Company, is a mentor who sees her role as providing feedback, guidance, and support for her mentee.  

“I am here to listen, answer questions, and share insights as my mentee attends college and begins to pursue her career,” said Jutkus, adding that all women can benefit from a support system and someone who has been in the same position before them as they navigate their journey throughout college.

As a mentor, Jutkus hopes to share her insights, helping others to learn from her mistakes and be inspired by her successes. She wants to motivate others to achieve their goals so that they can turn around one day and be the support system and mentor to those who follow.

Arub Alvi is one of those mentees. A senior from Montgomery County, Maryland, Alvi is pursuing a dual major in marketing and management. She has high aspirations and her goal is to become a corporate executive, possibly CEO or CFO. 

“I want to make it to the top,” said Alvi, targeting the retail industry, where she has already gained experience at Victoria’s Secret and earned an internship at Saks Fifth Avenue in Washington, D.C. 

She sees the retail environment as undergoing monumental changes in shopping experiences, with increasing emphasis on online purchasing rather than in-store shopping, and ever-changing product trends.

“Having a mentor can provide me with insight, personal experiences and a different perspective,” said Alvi.

Aminah Arshad is a senior marketing major, who is originally from Indonesia but has been in the U.S. for 14 years. She hopes to pursue a career in the field of business, preferably marketing, and is looking at opportunities in sales, management and logistics, as well. 

“I think this program is important in so many ways. As a senior who is graduating in a month, I don’t know what I want to do and where I want to be,” said Arshad. 

She faces the typical dilemma for students entering the job market, because she has not yet acquired the experience needed to get that first job in her field. For Arshad, having a mentor gives her that extra boost and helps to open doors. Since mentors already know people in their fields, they can help in networking to steer students in the right direction toward the right people. 

“Sometimes you can’t aspire to be someone you can’t see,” said Arshad, noting that women who have attained success as executives have insight into some of the issues that affect women, such as equal pay, gender bias and lack of women role models in the corporate world. 

As Bartholomew explained, opportunities for mentorship are among the best ways Penn State Harrisburg can advance the careers of students. He hopes to continue the program with NEW next year and beyond.