CoB Mentor program takes students on a career trip to St. Louis

Southern Illinois University



CoB Mentor program takes students on a career trip to St. Louis

March 18, 2016, Svetlana Bondar


Current mentees and mentors who went on the career trip had a chance to meet with graduates of the SIU College of Business in St. Louis.

Early in the fall semester, marketing alumnus Rich Klassen had the idea of helping students build business relationships by connecting them with College of Business graduates. His idea became a reality in February, when College of Business students who are part of the Mentor Program attended a career trip to St. Louis to meet with area alumni.

“We see this as building a bridge between the classroom and the business community.  This is an opportunity for students to open the door and experience the business environment before they enter it full time,” said Klassen.

Klassen, a marketing consultant and College of Business External Advisory Board member, was instrumental in organizing the event. In partnership with the College of Business Career Placement Center, he brought the alumni together to meet with the student mentees.

Klassen reached out to fellow external advisory board member and accounting alumnus Ron Wienstroer to help with this initiative. Wienstroer, a principal of the Compardo Team at Moneta Group – an independent financial advisory and wealth management firm – was one of the event sponsors.

Mentees who attended the event took advantage of multiple professional opportunities, including:

  • Learning how to carry themselves in a room full of professionals.
  • Studying what the various divisions of a company do.
  • Gaining insight on how some alumni and employees have found success.
  • Honing the skills of effective networking.

In addition to Klassen and Wienstroer, students had a chance to meet other fellow Salukis and graduates of the SIU College of Business, including Nicole Bailey, Ranie Verby and Drew Stoker.

“I’m personally grateful for the opportunity to give back to SIU by participating in the program, as not only did I really enjoy my time there, but SIU opened doors for me that at the time I thought could never have been possible,” Wienstroer said. “Helping future SIU business leaders achieve success is a very gratifying experience.”

Bailey, a professional consultant on the Gast Team at Moneta Group, said it was encouraging to see how well-prepared students were at the luncheon.

“Their professionalism was evident in the little things, like professional dress, and carried through to big-picture questions on how they can succeed in their careers,” she said.

Bailey and her colleagues agreed that the students seemed to be more professionally polished than they were at that age. She also said that it was educational for her “to have a window into the thought process that will direct these students in their respective career choices.”

Bailey also endorsed the Mentor Program itself, saying: “I hope the student mentoring program continues, because not only can the students learn from us as business professionals, but we can learn a great deal from them.”

The students who went on the trip were buoyed by the experience as well. Brian Ta, a freshman in the College of Business, said, “It was a great experience and opportunity to work with professionals. It definitely gave me an open mind for the future.”

Ta added that he appreciated the alumni giving their time to help students jump-start their careers.

Another freshman in the College of Business, Hannah Pineau, said she had been looking forward to the event since winter exams, and added that she had a great time during the visit. Pineau said she hopes to come back for more networking opportunities.

The trip was one of the many professional development opportunities mentees have access to through the Mentor Program. The program serves as a bridge between and the students’ academic world and the professional business world.

The Mentor Program provides business students an opportunity to receive career choice advisement from the college’s alumni, some of whom also are members of the College of Business external advisory boards and are successful in their respective fields.

According to the College of Business mission statement for the Mentor Program, it is designed as a support and network program that connects students with alumni mentors, and its goal is to encourage graduation for the participants while leading to a successful career path. It is an embodiment of the college’s dedication to providing educational opportunities for students with a diverse background.

The Mentor Program is open to interested CoB students of any major enrolling as freshmen, but the number of students who can participate in the program is limited. Every mentee is assigned a mentor – a volunteer who will guide the mentee through their undergraduate career at SIU. Every mentor, in turn, “adopts” two freshmen per year, increasing the size of the volunteer’s mentee group to at least eight over the course of four years. As mentees move through the program and reach upper-class standing, they also become involved in working with new mentees.

Mentors provide students with professional development advice and encouragement – and, most importantly, real-world perspectives on the business world. They share relevant experiences and valuable lessons they have learned in their careers. Because the Mentor Program follows a “family” structure, mentors also provide academic and personal development support to their mentees.

If you are an incoming freshman or a high school student who would like to take advantage of the excellent professional opportunities the Mentor Program provides, now would be a perfect time to act, since the program is already accepting applications for the fall semester. If your company would be interested in hosting a career trip, please contact the College of Business Placement Center at 618/453-2603, as trips are being planned for the fall semester.