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Graduating seniors envision peer mentor program

By Megan Schneider
On April 15, 2011


As outgoing seniors, Chris Coraggio and Lucy Qian hope to give back to their school by creating a peer-mentoring program that will hopefully launch in the fall.
"In our own separate ways, we thought of the same kind of program," said Coraggio. "We are both graduating seniors so we wanted to do something special."
The Robert H. Smith School of Business currently has mentor programs run by faculty, such as the fellow program called Quality Enhancement Systems and Teams (QUEST) that enhances student's professional and personal development. However, Coraggio and Qian envision a program for students by students.
"We find that undergraduate students learn best from other undergraduate students," said Coraggio. "We want to build a database of mentees and mentors, who can say what their experiences have been, what advice they are able to give, and what advice they are seeking. We hope to match up personalities, along with the students' goals."
Because the business school advisors are only available to those who have already declared their business major, Coraggio and Qian imagine this program to help students who are trying to enter the business school.
"Recently, I went on a trip to Dubai and made relationships where before I didn't talk to anyone. Underclassmen then came to me for random questions," said Qian. "I could casually help them through casual conversations and then connect them with one of my friends. It is cool to do it on a bigger scale and reach more people in the school."
Qian says this program will be casual, yet professional at the same time. She and Coraggio want it to be fun, but have a structured environment where professional advice can be given.
Qian sent out a survey and used those results to assess whether this kind of program would be successful. After students expressed the need for peer mentoring, this pilot program will run for three weeks.
On April 26, the results will then be presented to Jeff Kudisch and Rachel Loock of the Office of Career Services in the Robert H. Smith School of Business. Coraggio and Qian hope this office can help fund their program.
"This program will give you a sense of community," said Qian. "Students will have a core mentor group of about six. That's your home base. That's who you go to for casual things. If they need more advice aligned with their specific interest, we will contact them with others."
Even if students cannot attend a planned event, Coraggio will ensure that they will have other means of contacting him and Qian.
"We've already had one student request. This person wants help trying to manage both a marketing major, as well as a psychology major outside the business school," said Coraggio. "People really do find value."
Coraggio outlines two main aspects of the program: directing pair up students within a social environment and creating networking by inviting alumni to events.
"Next week there is an alumni networking event. Mentees can come to get tips and feel more comfortable with networking," said Coraggio.
Coraggio and Qian will ensure that younger students will always have someone to rely on so they do not feel uncomfortable.
"A key point of our program is inviting Maryland alumni from various firms. We will have small group lunches to learn what they've been doing and what general career advice [they have]," said Qian. "It's good exposure for students at an earlier stage."
Currently, these seniors are calling their program "Project F.I.N.I.S.H." yet they hope to create a new name once the program becomes official.
"For us, F.I.N.I.S.H. means we want to finish the pilot mentor program," said Coraggio, who considers this name an inside joke between the two of them. "We want to design it enough so we can give it to more students who can finish it once we graduate."
While they finalize their vision for this program, Qian and Coraggio need to find underclassmen and upperclassmen to continue this program. They hope to get in contact with at least two upperclassmen and two underclassmen who would like to lead this program.
"We have an idea for the leadership structure. We definitely want a group as exited and passionate about it as we are," said Qian. "They can take it however they see it fit best."

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