Gratitude Stories: Virginia Alumni Mentoring

Virginia Alumni Mentoring

Genesis M. Rodgers, Fourth Year, Jacksonville, FL

At the start of my second year, I was really struggling to push through architecture studios. Was this really the job I wanted to do? To find answers, I wanted to reach out to someone who had been in my shoes. I heard about VAM at the Career Center and searched for architecture school alumni. Once I filtered them, I wanted to find someone that was working outside of architecture.

Then, I found Juliana Gutowski's profile, saw that she was working in advertising, and was really inspired by her website portfolio. I decided to reach out for really open-ended advice about her experience in the architecture school and how she was using those skills to be a big-deal art director in NYC. Our first conversation helped me realize I didn't have to end up at a traditional architecture firm. After that, I started exploring so many different graduate programs and other creative industries (business, communications, food studies, to name a few). Soon after our phone conversation, I connected with her on LinkedIn to stay in touch.

About a year later, I reached back to see if she would review my new portfolio website. We phone chatted again for a quick 20 minutes, but the advice she gave me really transformed my portfolio. I've passed her insights on to my other creative peers. A few words shared between her busy work days, but I know that she is eager to mentor students because she 'wished she had had a mentor too'. Her story and her advice have inspired me for the long-run. Thank you Juliana!

Dean See, Second Year, Singapore

I’m Dean See, a prospective second year Cognitive Science and Media Studies double major. The mentor I connected with was Katya Davydova, and I connected with her because of our shared interest in Cognitive Science. Connecting with Katya helped me tremendously because she showed me the wide range of careers available to Cognitive Science majors through the roles she has worked at, which was something I was overwhelmed by initially but am now incredibly excited about!

A meaningful takeaway I had from this connection was learning more about the Career Peer Educators (CPE) program, which Katya loved being involved in back in college. She encouraged me to apply for the role, and it’s one of the best decisions I’ve made this year because of the incredibly supportive community and opportunities for growth here! Additionally, I’ve been sending emails to Psychology labs on Grounds with her help - she emphasized the importance of human connection, and gave me a solid piece of advice: don’t email professors about a lab position immediately, but schedule an appointment with them to talk about their research first. I was initially intimidated by reaching out to alumni, but Katya was such a warm and nurturing mentor that I’ve also become a lot more confident about making more connections on VAM. 

Regina Taylor, Fourth Year, Sterling, VA

I began using VAM this semester when I was faced with the questions of what to do during my gap years before Med school, and how I can get involved in business as a public health student. I am so happy that I took advantage of Virginia Alumni Mentoring because the alumni I spoke with reminded me that my career did not have to be the static, one-way path I had always pictured. Speaking with mentors helped me to realize that I could find meaningful ways to combine my diverse interests and skills while growing as both a person and professional.

One mentor I spoke with was Ryan Orr, who studied Global Public Health (like me) and was on the Pre-Med track and now works in consulting. Hearing about his ability to switch career paths reminded me of the transferable skills I have gained that I can apply to different industries. Ryan also had a positive impact on me by suggesting that I create my own opportunities that engage my talents and passions in order to advance myself professionally, which was very inspiring seeing that he came up with a platform to help Pre-Med students who were switching careers. Another mentor I spoke with was Martha Shenkenberg, an experienced professional in the healthcare consulting field with a nursing undergrad degree and an MBA from Darden. She really explained the realities of the job and the everyday challenges healthcare consultants face. Being completely new to exploring this career, I found this conversation helpful because it provided me with the insight and candid advice from an extremely knowledgeable individual, which I needed to feel confident that this is something I want to pursue.

Another person I talked to was Whitney Nichols, a medical student who has worked in consulting and the data/business side of healthcare after graduating from UVA. Her experiences encompassed all of the aspects of my interests and served as a real-life example of what my future could look like. Seeing all of the skills she gained before medical school and how valuable her gap years were encouraged me to take my time before medical school and explore my passions, even if they weren't clinical. Overall, the conversations I have had since joining VAM have had a huge impact on my own career goals and plans, and I am extremely thankful for the individuals I have spoken with. Seeing the positive impact it has had on me makes me so excited to be an alumni mentor when I graduate!

Virginia Alumni Mentoring - Bridges Program

Molly West, Third Year, Barrington, RI 

Before starting my VAM Project, I did not know much about the program, but I was very interested in the Social Justice Project. After applying, I was accepted and put in contact with Emily Hodge, who is an Assistant Professor in Educational Leadership at Montclair State University. I was eager to learn more about her work, as much of it centers around racism and how it is ingrained in many aspects of our lives. We quickly began work on a research project to provide resources and lesson plans for teachers to learn more about inequality and how this impacts their students. I have already learned how to research and sift through information more effectively, and I have gained so much insight into the less obvious forms of racism that exist in our country. This has been a very eye-opening experience for me, and I am so grateful for the opportunity to work with Emily. 

Throughout the process, Emily was eager to learn more about my aspirations and always made sure that the project was in line with my goals. When she learned that I was interested in law school, she was excited to connect me with her sister-in-law, a very successful lawyer. I was able to speak with her as she helped me brainstorm ideas for internships and learn more about her experience. 

Emily also helped me with a project for school, and I got the chance to interview her about her experience as an academic leader both in research projects and in the classroom. Emily has a busy schedule and was more than willing to take the time to answer my questions with in-depth and helpful responses. Not only has Emily been a great academic mentor, but she is also super friendly and easy to talk to. It is so great to connect with someone who attended UVA, and I love relating to her about the amazing aspects of UVA life. I am so grateful for this opportunity and for VAM for connecting me with Emily. 

Learn more about the Bridges Program

More to Explore

Connect with alumni for insights about the process of choosing and starting a career in their specific field. 

Networking is one of the most successful ways to develop your career path. 

Schedule a virtual or phone appointment through Handshake, or by calling the UVA Career Center at 434-924-8900 M-F from 8am-5pm.