Graduate students take part in mentoring program with alumni

Elisabeth Held, Contributing Writer

Eastern’s graduate school has a mentorship program between current graduate students and alumni that participants say has created a community between the university’s past and present, while also building on the future.

The dean of the graduate school, Ryan Hendrickson, as well as the graduate program director, identify graduate students and alumnus in the department who they believe would work well together for a mentorship.

Hendrickson said in the three years of the mentorship program’s existence, it is currently the largest it has ever been, with 25 pairings.

“We want students who are responsible, who can meet deadlines and are, to some extent, engaging,” Hendrickson said.

Hendrickson had individualized meetings with potential mentees to ensure the students chosen would be prepared for the role they had in the program.

One of those mentorships is between mentor Mark Kasper and Brandon Howrey, a graduate student going for his master’s in clinical exercise science.

The two were paired together because they had similar fields.

Before becoming a director and professor for the undergraduate exercise physiology program at Valdosta State University, Kasper studied exercise science at Eastern as a graduate student.

Although he is approximately 750 miles from Howrey, Kasper is committed to mentoring and guiding him.

“(Howrey) is an awesome individual and student,” Kasper said. “But his résumé did not reflect that.”

Howrey said he never had to create a résumé before, and Kasper was a big help in turning it into something that would reflect his work.

Kasper has also helped Howrey by conducting a mock job interview with him over the phone.

Howrey said Kasper’s experience has helped him know what to expect as he continues his journey toward a career as a physical therapist.

This includes learning skills from Kasper that he may not have been able to learn in a classroom setting, Howrey said.

Kasper said mentorship is not about holding the hands of mentees, but aiding them in their aspirations.

“A goal without a game plan is just a dream,” Kasper said.

Kasper said he hopes even the little pointers he is able to give Howrey will have an impact on his future success.

Howrey, in turn, is grateful for the help Kasper has been willing to give. He said he knows that alumni are very willing to give back to the academic community, even outside the mentorship program.

“They have to see you are willing to give up your free time for them to be willing to give up theirs,” Howrey said.

Kasper said he enjoys the opportunity to mentor a current graduate student at Eastern.

“I’ve always thought that EIU is family,” Kasper said. “I think in helping a fellow EIU student, that’s my sibling.”

Kasper hopes he can connect Howrey with people across the country who he knows from his experiences.

“I think sometimes, you know, use your best resource available, and I think maybe that is some alums who are in the profession,” Kasper said.

Kasper said even if the contacts he provides Howrey with are not Eastern alumni, it still creates a connection with people from Eastern across the country.

There is a large opportunity for others to benefit from the counsel of alumni, should they make the effort to reach out, Howrey said.

“There are a ton of people out there who are willing to help,” Howrey said. “You just have to ask.”