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From speakers to field trips, MPA and MPP students have many opportunities throughout the year to network and learn from experienced professionals. However, the mentorship program stands out because it fosters relationships over several meetings with seasoned professionals from the public sector. Interested students are identified during orientation at the start of the academic year and paired with volunteer mentors from the community.

While every mentorship relationship is unique, the reason students participate is shared. Jared Gray, Nathan Smith and Soon Ho Shin, all first-year students, jumped on the opportunity to learn from the wisdom of an expert, emphasizing the value of building a relationship. Nathan has met with his mentor a few times; the latest included attending the annual Lexington State of the City Address together. Soon Ho has plans to visit his mentor with his family at her home in the near future.

While students may attend events or socialize with their mentors, often their meetings are over coffee, discussing not only career paths and strategies for success, but also favorite books, sports, and hobbies. Any given session may include the game last Saturday and the contours of the agencies, non-profits, local governments, and private organizations that are involved in a public policy area, for instance. These conversations can also include interdisciplinary insights and practical advice for the job search. Jared Gray shares the following as a valuable lesson he’s learned from his mentor:

“If you treat everyone with kindness, honesty, and you work hard, no matter what the policy issue or how differently individuals thing about certain policy issues, you’ll always be able to find a solid solution if the working relationship is built on this sort of trust.”

These relationships are a wonderful exercise in developing professional relationships outside your organization and can provide valuable feedback to MPA and MPP students!