Students at Harris Public Policy know it’s just as important to create a professional network as it is to practice problem sets.

That’s why Harris has offered a unique, top-tier mentor program since the school was founded. The program allows students to foster meaningful relationships with professionals that can last a lifetime.

“We want to build out the program to be useful to all students, so we’re continuously building out our mentor pool,” says Andrew Dawson, Associate Director of Student Affairs at Harris. “With a growing student population with a variety of policy interests, we try to give students opportunities to meet a lot of mentors.”

Dawson and Brandon Kurzweg, Associate Director of Student Affairs and Student Life, say the program is designed to span a student’s two-year enrollment at Harris so meaningful relationships can be established. During a student’s first year at Harris, they have the opportunity to attend Mentor Program events like panels, dinners, workshops, and site visits, in order to meet mentors.

While participating in these events, students practice pitching their story to professionals.

Harris student and mentor at the annual Mentor Gala.

“Students use the skills the Career Development Office is teaching them, like preparing LinkedIn profiles, getting their resumes in line, and practicing their elevator pitches,” Kurzweg says. “We’re providing students a laboratory that’s low-risk so they can see what works for them and what doesn’t.”

About 365 students in the 2018 incoming class participated in the mentor program. What makes this doable for first-year students is that, while involvement is encouraged, attendance at Mentor Program events is optional; students can choose their level of involvement. This gives students the freedom to select when, where, and how they want to network.

After getting to know the mentors, who are mostly Harris alumni and partners, students who choose to participate in the Mentor Program the second year go through a matching process for the chance work one-on-one with mentors. Students are given a list of participating mentors and they rank mentors based on who they’d like to be paired with most.

Instead of having a team pair mentors and students, Dawson says the students have “agency in that match, which helps ensure they best utilize that match.” Students consider career interests, geographic location, employment sector, level of experience, and personality when bidding on mentors.

“In 90 percent of the cases, students are matched with the person they bid on,” Dawson says. “And for students that aren’t matched with their first choice, we directly recruit mentors for those students.”

After forming a pair, students work directly with mentors. They receive assistance from Student Affairs and Harris’s Career Development Office to learn how to leverage the mentor’s network and develop mentor-mentee communication strategies as students begin applying and interviewing for jobs. Some mentors have even hired Harris students.

By providing a space for Harris students and mentors to grow and learn from each other, the team at Harris hopes to help students, alum, and partners achieve their professional networking goals.

For more information about the mentor program or to get involved, click here