A Career Mentor Program Builds Personal Connections, Too

A remote environment is allowing Manhattan College students and alumni to connect in unexpected ways.

By Camryn Holly ’21

Manhattan College offers many career services and programs to help students find success after graduation. One of the most popular and beneficial is the Mentor Program, which connects students with a professional mentor — typically a Manhattan College alumnus/a working in their intended career field. 

Caitlin Duggan, assistant director of employer relations in Career Development, oversees the mentor program, which requires students to meet regularly with their career counselor, attend professional development events that are hosted by departments or employers and maintain frequent contact with their assigned mentor.

The program runs for one academic year, but, according to Duggan, many of the mentor/mentee relationships extend further. “It’s really quite special, watching some of these mentoring relationships that get formed,” she says. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, program participants are encouraged to operate virtually, which has its benefits. For example, mentors might have more availability to schedule a Google Meet with mentees in the middle of the day than find a time to meet in person. Students can also connect virtually with alumni who are located outside the New York metro area. This has given the program a larger pool of mentors who might have otherwise not been able to participate.

Meet a few of this year’s student participants during the 2020-21 academic year:

  • Timmy Kwong ’23 & Alexis Montagano ’16

    Timmy Kwong Head Shot

    Timmy Kwong is a communication major with a concentration in public relations. His mentor is Alexis Montagano, who works in human relations at CitiBank. The pair arrange monthly virtual meetings where they get to know each other, talk about Kwong’s past summer internship experience, and review his resume and cover letter. Montagano has also connected Kwong to other human resources analysts at CitiBank who he can talk to for further professional development and networking. Kwong says that these monthly meetings are his favorite part of the mentorship. “It’s great to have someone that you can talk to who’s in a different stage of life, who also knows more about a business that you’re interested in,” he says.  

    While Kwong is more of a face-to-face person, he says that COVID-19 has helped both himself and Montagano have flexibility in their schedules for their monthly meetings. All of this has led to the pair getting closer not only as a mentor/mentee pair, but also as friends who update each other on how their lives are going. “It’s more like a friendship right now, which I really appreciate,” Kwong says.

  • Patricia Wright ’21 & Maria Fotinis ’90

    Patricia Wright Smiling

    Patricia Wright is a childhood/special education major with a concentration in mathematics and minor in psychology. Next year she will be pursuing her masters. Wright aspires to be a tenured teacher — likely a special education teacher — in the next five years, and after that, eventually move up to a managerial position within the New York City Department of Education.  Her mentor is Maria Fotinis, District Special Education Counselor for Related Services at the Department of Education. The two have had various meetings together where they’ve discussed Wright’s progress as a student and worked to prepare her for applying to jobs this year. 

    Wright says she’s gotten a lot out of the Mentor Program thus far. 

    “COVID-19 has actually made our experience more effortless. Since we use a lot more technology to get in touch, it is very easy to meet with my mentor for help and guidance,” she says.

  • Caitlin Ficarra ’23 & Jesse Aversano ’79

    Caitlin Ficarra Smiling

    Caitlin Ficarra, a sophomore marketing major and economics minor, is very passionate about the fair trade movement, and in the future hopes to develop marketing campaigns for companies whose values align with her personal beliefs. Ficarra’s mentor is Jesse Aversano, the Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing for IndoorMedia Marketing. Ficarra and her mentor have been able to develop a great relationship through phone calls, Google Meet, and emails. Together they’ve reviewed her resume, her LinkedIn profile, and improved her networking skills by contacting Manhattan College alumni that work in her preferred field, all while participating in the program virtually. 

    Ficarra notes that she is incredibly grateful for the program. “[The Mentor Program] has further strengthened my passion and knowledge for the marketing industry,” she says.

  • Raziel BenReuben ’22 & Christopher Dusovic ’17

    Raziel BenReuben Smiling

    Raziel BenReuben is a computer science major, who, after graduation, aspires to work as a software engineer. He was paired with mentor Christopher Dusovic, who works as a software engineer at Google. BenReuben says that his mentor has not only been a great help to him professionally, a professional standpoint of navigating the industry, but also as a Manhattan alumnus who can give insight based on his student experience. “He’s as close to perfect as a mentor that I could have expected,” BenReuben says.

    The pair’s meetings typically focus on professional development, navigating school and classwork, checking in on mental health and maintaining a work/life balance, negotiating salaries, and even ways of getting involved at the College and in the surrounding community. BenReuben and Dusovic have made an effort to not let being virtual hinder them, and they meet as often as possible. 

    To any student considering participating in the Mentor Program, BenReuben says, “Just do it. Take advantage of every single opportunity that you possibly can.”

  • Mario Flores ’24 & Steven Eriquez ’95

    Mario Flores

    Mario Flores is a freshman transfer student and electrical engineering major whose career aspirations include creating his own business focused on helping individuals with disabilities and impediments. Flores was paired with Steven Eriquez, a senior project manager at Construction Lendlease. So far, Eriquez has been helping keep Flores on task in his classes. Now though, the two are beginning to focus more on preparing Flores for his future career. He is even looking forward to visiting Eriquez’s office for the first time soon and finally meeting his mentor in person. 

    During their conversations, they often talk about life and make sure both he and Eriquez are doing well, physically and mentally. In terms of participating in the program during the pandemic, he says, “Since I don’t meet and talk to other people often, he doesn’t as well, so we can give each other company.”

    Flores also adds that the program has given him the opportunity to take some things off his mind and know that he has someone to support him if he needs help. He said he’s very happy the program is offered at Manhattan College, because “at my last school there was no such thing.”

Interested in participating in the Mentor Program? Applications for the 2021-2022 academic year go live on June 1. Requirements for applying can be found on the Mentor Program page. Contact cduggan01@manhattan.edu for more information.
By MC Staff