BY PENNY CARNATHAN ’82
With practical advice and compassionate support, Bull mentors make a lasting impact on students’ lives.
nearly twice as likely to say college was worth the money. Meaningful mentorships, along with great professors and college internships, proved more important than the type of institutions the respondents attended, be they public or private, big or small, Ivy League or less selective, according to the polls, each of which canvassed about 30,000 U.S. college grads. “Mentorships are vital at all levels of education,” says USF professor Diane Yendol-Hoppey, a College of Education department chair who has written books and journal articles on the topic. “Mentorships help avoid attrition [people giving up and moving on], and help with student success and motivation. They expand opportunities and lead to improved academic achievement.” Informal mentorships are supportive relationships, such as Eldridge’s and Walker’s, involving someone who
Photo: AIMEE BLODGETT | USF
SURPRISE PACKAGE ARRIVED in the mail as Elisa Walker, ’13, nervously prepared for her first law school finals at Florida State University. Inside, she found everything she could possibly need during that stressful time: coffee, candy, aspirin, and a note that assured her, “You can do this!” The woman who sent the box, fellow Bull Jessica Eldridge, ’01, had a good idea of how Walker might be feeling. Eldridge, immediate past president of Tallahassee Women Lawyers, also attended FSU’s law school and remembers those difficult first final exams. She’s been mentoring Walker since the younger woman’s junior year at USF and believes a timely care package can be as important as the introductions, guidance and professional exposure she provides her mentees. When the going gets tough, they need someone who understands. “She introduces us to judges and attorneys in our fields. She sends birthday cards and Christmas cards. She always knows what’s going on,” says Walker, a first-generation college student who recently earned the vaunted job of editor-in-chief of the FSU Law Review. “I never would have been able to attain my own high goals without Jessica.” Eldridge, a USF Alumni Association Life Member and board member, modestly downplays her role. “I have no doubt she could have done all these impressive things by herself,” she says. “Maybe having a mentor gave her more confidence to reach for her goals. ... Mentoring is the opportunity to impact a student’s life in some small way.” Actually, it’s a whole lot more, according to two recent Gallup polls that explored correlations between college experience and graduates’ satisfaction with work and life later on. In 2014, the Gallup-Purdue University survey found those who had encouraging mentors in college were more than twice as likely to feel they had great jobs and great lives in subsequent years. In 2015, former mentees were
Eldridge, left, and Walker, attend a gathering of women lawyers. They have been mentor-mentee since Walker’s junior year at USF.
SPRING 2016 43
The official magazine of the University of South Florida Alumni Association.