Chemical Engineering Academy Members Establish Mentoring Program to Prep Students for Success

Kent McAllister, B.S.Ch.E 1987, left, meets with his mentor circle as part of the chemical engineering mentorship program established in September.
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Kent McAllister, B.S.Ch.E 1987, left, meets with his mentor circle as part of the chemical engineering mentorship program established in September.

A new mentoring program in the Department of Chemical Engineering pairs industry professionals with students seeking to develop professional skills and begin their transition from college life to the workplace.

Kicking off Sept. 20, the program accepted 60 juniors and sophomores for the inaugural year to work with 36 mentors drawn from the Arkansas Academy of Chemical Engineers and alumni with five to 15 years of working experience. The students are grouped into 12 "mentor circles" that meet monthly.

Students have embraced the new program and say the mentors' guidance is vital.

"My mentors have provided me with so much insight on life after college and how to make the transition post-graduation," said junior Andie Veeder. "Being able to ask people who were in my shoes at one point questions about my future has been an invaluable experience."

One of the program's strengths is that it's tailored to individual students' needs and perspectives, said junior Hector Apodaca Reyes.

"It has been a joy, full of learning and mutual trust. I feel that we [my mentors and peers] were able to bond together and discuss many things on career framework, personal growth and technical decisions," Reyes said. "The program's aim is not to take a one-size-fits-all approach. It provides the tools and support for mentors to help mentees flourish in their own unique ways."

Students with masks seated in the Honors College lounge
Participants in the newly established chemical engineering mentorship program meet for the first time Sept. 20 in the Honors College Lounge in Gearhart Hall.

The program's founders, Mike Mourot and Kent McAllister, are members of the Arkansas Academy of Chemical Engineers, a nonprofit that recognizes outstanding chemical engineers and provides support for the Ralph E. Martin Department of Chemical Engineering. They worked with Professor Ed Clausen and Heather Walker, associate department head for the undergraduate program, to establish a steering committee that built upon a model established by the Department of Industrial Engineering.

Each mentor circle has three mentors who meet with 4-5 mentees each month to cover a wide variety of topics related to professional success. Each circle sets its own agenda and goals but relies on a disciplined approach to ensure valuable interactions and perspectives across a spectrum of experience, industries and career paths.

Mentoring is a passion for newly appointed Chemical Engineering Department Head Keisha Walters.

"I'm grateful to this enthusiastic group of mentors who are generously giving their time to make sure our students are well-prepared for their transition to working life and more likely to set off on a path to fulfillment and success," she said.

To ensure a consistent and meaningful experience for the mentees, the mentors recently held a check-in meeting to ensure the program is on track and to provide a forum for sharing best practices. Student feedback was positive. 

"I am honored to be a part of the mentoring program, as it is a way for me to hear about peoples' experiences in the chemical engineering industry and the different ways that they have used their degrees," said junior Katelyn Robinson. "I am also improving my interview skills and resume with my mentors' help."

The founders hope to expand the program to include seniors and graduate students in the coming years.

"Our vision was to bring industry experience and guidance to give chemical engineering students an advantage in the work force, but the mentor program brings much more," McAllister said. "It is an opportunity not only for the students but brings an opportunity for alumni to give back to the program that has provided them with the education and background to establish rewarding careers."

Contacts

Jennifer Cook, director of communications
College of Engineering
479-575-5697, jpc022@uark.edu

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