Mentor Collective connects and empowers engineering students


By Rachel Hynds

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — For engineering students, navigating the ins and outs of their academic experience can be a hefty task, even with help from professors and academic advisers. Enter the peer and alumni mentors, who help engineering students with many aspects of their college experience.

In order to facilitate these mentorships, the Penn State School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) has partnered with the organization Mentor Collective. Through this partnership, the School of EECS is able to customize a mentoring experience that fits the needs of EECS students, according to Tammy Falls, alumni and events coordinator in the School of EECS.

“The Mentor Collective program aims to encourage student retention within the school, provide support for students, foster community among students and increase career preparedness,” Falls said.

The program has two components. Juniors and seniors have the opportunity to pair with alumni mentors in the career program, while first-years and sophomores can pair with junior and senior peer mentors. Mentors and mentees are paired up via Mentor Collective based on common interests and experiences, and they are encouraged to connect at least once a month.

Alumni mentors have the opportunity to connect with in-major students and give professional advice they have learned in their careers or wish they knew when they were undergraduate EECS students at Penn State themselves.

“It’s a fun, rewarding way to give back,” said Francisco Esqueda, who earned his undergraduate degree in computer engineering in 2009. “It’s mostly about listening, giving candid feedback and sharing your experiences. Your experience and knowledge acquired over time are the most valuable assets to a mentee. I enjoy watching my mentees grow, land that internship or job, seeing their futures flourish and being proud to have been a part of it.”

While alumni mentors help students with their post-college career aspirations and internship plans and help students with life skills they might not learn in the classroom, peer mentors have the unique opportunity to help other students navigate their early engineering experience.

Vandana Agarwala, a junior peer mentor, guides students with her experience as a computer science major.

“It ranges from classes, to clubs, to research and, of course, to internships,” Agarwala said. “Answering their questions has really helped me solidify my own thought processes and ideas about my career-related goals and plans.”

After transferring from the Behrend campus her junior year, senior electrical engineering major Sakshi Gulgulia said she faced a challenging transition in many aspects of her college experience. As a peer mentor, she shares these experiences and uses the tools she’s gained to help her mentees with problems related to time management and studying for exams.

“The most rewarding part of being a mentor is the act of sharing experiences that can help other people,” Gulgulia said. “I always thought that my challenges were irrelevant but after being a mentor, I realized that many students are in the same boat.”

To learn more about the EECS Mentor Collective program or to sign up as a mentor or mentee, visit the webpage here.


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Megan Lakatos