College of Design to host mentor orientation

Matching students with mentors is said to ease the transition from school to a career.
November 01, 2010

Jessica St. George will graduate from the University of Minnesota’s College of Design this year, but her transition from education to employment won’t be too big of a leap, thanks to a program matching students with professionals.

The apparel design major is one of 210 CDes students entering the mentorship program this year. The program will hold its kick-off at McNamara Alumni Center on Monday night.

The program is optional for third- and fourth-year undergraduate and graduate students in all design fields — including architecture, landscaping and clothing design.

Design students have been matched with professionals in their chosen careers for the past 15 years. When CDes became official in 2006 through a merger of two separate colleges, the program was also merged. 

The program teaches things that might not be covered in a studio course, CDes career coordinator Lucy Reile said.

“It focuses on career development,” Reile said. “Students get to meet someone who is working in the field they want to work in. It’s a great supplement to what students are learning in the classroom.”

Students and mentors must meet at least monthly, and both partners are responsible for setting goals and maintaining contact with one another.

Interior design senior Caitlin Barta was matched with a mentor last year and said the program helped her earn an internship with Pope Associates, Inc.

“[My mentor] was amazing. She helped me with things that you can’t go to a teacher for,” Barta said. “She has great insight into the business.”

 Mentors give feedback on projects and offer a different perspective, Reile said. “They can also teach professional skills, as simple as writing an e-mail — things students don’t get in classes.”

St. George compared the program to a “buddy system” that provides security as well as networking contacts and connections to a job market. She also said it helped bridge the gap between education and employment.

 “Design is such an opinionated field. The work you do [in courses] is for a teacher, but with a mentor you can relate what you learn and get a sense of what you need to do to prepare.”

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