Why mentorship matters

Mentoring is a great way to share your hard-earned career knowledge with students who are seeking advice. Each year, the CFANS Mentor Program matches around 200 students with alumni and professionals from around the country. As a mentor, you’ll get to help students explore possible career paths, learn how to build their networks and enhance their professional skills. It is worth it. Take Alex and Liam’s word for it.  

Alex Schlueter ('12, '14), Recreation Staff Officer on the Monongahela National ForestMeet Alex Schlueter, a graduate of Recreation Resource Management (’12) and Natural Resources Science and Management (’14). He cites his wonderful experiences as a student in CFANS as an impetus to give back to current students. Alex works as a Recreation Staff Officer on the Monongahela National Forest, but he didn’t let his distance from campus stop him from connecting with his alma mater. “Since my job as a wilderness ranger after my freshman year, I knew that I wanted to work for the Forest Service. Navigating the bureaucracy to attain a government job, however, can be difficult. My hope is that I can support students with similar aspirations by helping them leverage the network I’ve built and by assisting them through processes that would likely be confusing for the uninitiated,” said Alex. He applied to be a CFANS mentor and was matched with a student for the 2016-2017 academic year.

Meet Liam Gilson, a Forest and Natural Resource Management (FNRM)graduate of the Class of 2018. By the time you read this story, Liam will have a Bachelor of Science in hand and bags packed for a cross-country move to Oregon State University for a Master of Science in Sustainable Forest Management.Liam entered the FNRM program as a transfer student with a previous degree in music performance, so he applied to the mentor program to learn about what the field of forestry had to offer. “The semester that I was in the mentor program was a critical one in determining what direction I’d take. It was my second semester after returning to school as a transfer student, and I was starting to get deep enough into the curriculum to understand that there was a lot more to forestry than I’d assumed,” said Liam. Alex encouraged Liam to network with professionals in different areas of forestry. When Liam was offered two different forestry internships for two different agencies, Alex helped him evaluate his options to make the most informed choice. “It sounds simple, but some good directions will put a candidate way ahead of other applicants,” said Alex about governmental job applications. Liam recalled that it was nice to have someone else to bounce ideas off of. “At the end of the semester, I had some strong ideas about what I wanted to do, and I was able to start making moves towards graduate school applications,” he said.

Liam Gilson, 2018 FNRM graduate 

Whether it was applying for graduate school, working through a tough interview, navigating USAJOBS.gov or best communicating with landowners, you have acquired substantial expertise and knowledge. Why not pay it forward and help students by serving as a mentor? Liam noted, “I personally find learning about people’s journeys very helpful, as it gives me an opportunity to see how someone else navigated the choices that a particular situation offered them. My hope in applying to the CFANS Mentor program was that I’d get a better idea of what my own path would look like.” Applications for the CFANS Mentor Program are accepted year-round, and like Alex, you can apply even if you live outside of Minnesota. Information and applications for the CFANS Mentor Program can be found at z.umn.edu/mentor