Alumni Association starts first widespread mentor program on campus


Jordan Rusche, Co-Editor-in-Chief (She/Her)

Starting this fall, South Dakota State University will begin a mentorship program partnering upperclassmen students with SDSU alumni to help prepare them for their professional careers after graduation.

The SDSU Alumni Mentor Program was created by Travis Jensen, Alumni Association vice president of leadership initiatives, and through partnerships with different organizations and offices on campus.

“I think many of us –across the university, and working with alumni and leadership– have recognized that the professional landscape is ever changing, especially over the past three years,” Jensen said. “We feel strongly that our students deserve to have as much support as we can possibly give them in helping and making that transition into working professionals.”

The first cohort, which will begin matching mentor-mentee pairs around the end of September, will include students from the Van D. and Barbara B. Fishback Honors College, who will serve as a pilot group for the program.

“There’s a natural affinity for students from all different background and interest areas to come in through Honors,” Rebecca Bott-Knutson, dean of the honors college, said. “So, it’s a great place to begin if you’re trying to have that broad reach.”

Other students eligible for the first cohort of mentees include LeadState graduates and Students’ Association members.

Alumni mentors will come from various backgrounds and will be matched with students based on four factors ranked in importance by the student: career, location, gender and major. Students will work on different skills with their mentors, identify industry trends in their chosen careers and begin developing professional networks. The goal is to have about 30-50 pairs once the program kicks off.

Bott-Knutson said this program is the first formalized, widely available mentoring program at SDSU. There are other smaller mentoring programs on campus for peer mentoring or major-specific mentoring, as well.

She also said she has already seen excitement about the program and the opportunities it will bring.

“We had Travis come and speak at the Honors Summer Summit, and at those events, we have current students, former students, community members, faculty,” Bott-Knutson said, “and there was a lot of buzz afterwards, a lot of excitement about that.”

Jensen added that alumni are also excited to be a part of the program and to share their experiences with the juniors and seniors involved.

“SDSU alumni are always looking for ways to be able to give back, so I shouldn’t be suprised by the positive response that we have received from our alumni thus far, but it has been very incredible,” Jensen said.

Applications for the SDSU Alumni Mentor Program are open until Sept. 23. A kickoff event for the program is scheduled Oct. 13, and the program will run through mid-April 2023.