Let’s talk about mentoring: Program prepares engineers for life after graduation

Civil and environmental engineering alumni mentoring program guides students to success
mentor has a conversation in office with student

Penn State CEE alumni interested in participating in the CEE mentoring program should visit cee.psu.edu/alumni/mentor.

Credit: iStock/@1218975578

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A rush of questions often enter the minds of engineering students as they prepare for their careers: “What courses should I take?” “How do I write a resume?” “How can I improve my interviewing skills?”

But what about, “How do I negotiate a raise?”

“They do not know what they do not know,” said Willy Heisey, chair of the Penn State Civil and Environmental Engineering Alumni Society (CEEAS) mentoring committee. “It is the mentor’s job to open students up to these topics so they can hit the job running.”

Established to “facilitate a bridge of understanding” between the classroom and the professional world, the CEEAS mentoring program matches civil and environmental engineering students with a department alumnus based on their educational background, career goals and professional interests. Through one-to-one interaction with a CEEAS mentor, students become mentees and are encouraged to ask questions about the workplace and how to prepare for their chosen careers. 

Last year, 135 students were enrolled in the program.

“Whenever there is an opportunity for the students to interact with a practicing engineer, they leap at the opportunity,” Heisey said. “Being mentored throughout my career was really crucial in my success, and we now have an opportunity to have a major impact on current students.”

At the start of the mentoring relationship, mentor-mentee pairs are encouraged to create an “action plan” to define the student’s professional goals and mentoring expectations, including preferred appointment time and frequency and method of communication.

“It does not require a lot of time, but it does need intentionality,” Heisey said. “Getting to know your student and developing open communication is very important.” 

Heisey explained that a mentor can help illuminate the day-to-day activities of a practicing engineer, but they may also act as career coach, sponsor, job reference, friend, advocate and role model. 

He added that through consistent encouragement and support, the students become well-positioned to hit the ground running toward a successful career upon graduation.

“Sharing your work experiences and helping them to understand what it takes to succeed is the objective,” Heisey said. “I find it extremely rewarding to work with the students and watch them grow into self-assured, eager and well-prepared engineers.”

Those interested in participating in the CEEAS mentoring program should visit cee.psu.edu/alumni/mentor.

The CEEAS mentoring program is jointly sponsored by the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the Penn State Civil and Environmental Engineering Alumni Society, in cooperation with the Penn State student chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers and the Penn State Harrisburg Civil Engineering Advisory Board.