Mentoring Program

Puts Students on Path to Success

By Brian Wallheimer - Published May 12, 2016

Purdue College of Agriculture senior Mindy Boyer (right) and her mentor Kenda Resler-FriendPurdue College of Agriculture senior Mindy Boyer (right) gets mentoring help from Kenda Resler-Friend, a Purdue graduate and now with Dow AgroSciences. (Photo by Tom Campbell)

Kenda Resler-Friend, external communications and media relations leader at Dow AgroSciences in Indianapolis, remembers looking out from West Lafayette as a student and wondering about opportunities.

Back then, she notes, it wasn't so easy to find people who could answer her questions or help guide her during her early professional years. Google was still a ways off when she obtained her master's degree from Purdue University in 1991.

"I really didn't have anybody back when I was in college," she says. "I didn't know what the options were. I was a granddaughter of farmers and the daughter of teachers. I didn't know what existed. I don't think I knew how to pursue someone in industry."

It's About Giving Back

Today, as part of the Purdue Ag Alumni Mentoring Program, she enjoys showing today's students the world that's out there.

"It's like being able to tell your younger self things you wish someone would have told you. It's a way for me to give back, and it's not really that big of a time investment."

Donya Lester, executive director of Purdue's Agricultural Alumni Association, says the program is simple—pairing students with alumni who can give advice and become a foundational part of student networks—but provides significant benefit to both sides.

"The thing that adds value for alumni is when they feel like they've made a difference for a student. All of us identify with that. We all remember people who helped us," Lester says.

The informality of the program allows paired students and alumni to make the relationship their own, based on their connection. The only real rule for mentors: Be available.

That means different things to different people. Some mentors can visit campus often or host students at their place of business. But most often it involves frequent emails, some phone calls or a Skype session.

"That just means that no matter where you are, you can be a mentor," Lester says.

Boost to Confidence

Mindy Boyer, a senior from Kirklin, Indiana, majoring in agricultural communications and applied agricultural economics, has received advice from her mentors on time management, campus clubs that can help her gain valuable experience, and career path options she might have not considered. But just as important as all that has been the comfort of knowing that others have been in her shoes and that she's doing well for herself.

"I've been able to build my confidence," Boyer says. "Seeing their paths and following in their footsteps reassured me that I'm doing this Purdue thing the right way."

Zach Frazier, a senior from Butler, Pennsylvania, majoring in animal sciences and agricultural economics, says his mentors helped reset his career path. He had been intent on finding a career in policy in Washington, D.C., out of school but took an internship in industry based on their advice.

He encourages friends and peers to join the mentorship program.

"Do it because of the intangible benefits," Frazier says. "You can learn something about yourself, learn something about the world. Things will happen you don't expect."

An expanded version of this story is available on Connections Alumni News.