Seek advice from where least expected

Austin Ambrose
May 18, 2017

“Mentor program” often is equated with “career advice,” but it need not be limited that way. A mentor is a guide, someone with experience in something the mentee wants to know more about.

Salma Alokozai, a master of public administration student at the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs, is interested in education policies that focus on women’s education in developing countries. Her mentor, MPA alumnus Jon Olivito is a law clerk for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio.

What Alokozai wanted, though, was academic advice from someone who had been through similar experiences as her time being a student. Since Olivito went through the MPA program at the Voinovich School, he was able to help Alokozai through her tougher classes — particularly public budgeting — and provide insights.

“My mentor’s career path and focus was totally different than that of mine,” Alokozai said. “But he helped me with his advice about my research and how to narrow down my field of interest.”

However, their continual focus was looking at what she plans to pursue post-graduation.

“We have ongoing conversation about transitions from being a student to either PhD candidate or joining the workforce,” Olivito said. “We brainstorm on how to help her move from student to professional. Although her interests are outside [my] field, it is still relevant to learn about a job and the general attributes of a professional workplace.”

The bottom line benefit is having a resource for advice and help. The mentorship program provides a built-in support system for current Voinovich Students, giving them opportunities to network, learn about the real-world applicability of their classwork, and receive advice.

“It is helpful in many different ways, such as preparing us for our future careers, motivating us to work harder, helping us with peer advices with MPA classes and assignments and overall,” Alokozai said. “It is also helpful in cases where we can talk to our advisers about our struggles; we can talk to our mentors and seek help.”