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Seton Hall University

Empowering Pirates: How Alumni Volunteerism and Mentorship Resulted in One Sophomore’s Success Story

Alumnus Joe Testa '12

Alumnus Joe Testa '12

April is not just another month, it’s National Volunteer Month – a time to honor volunteers of local and global communities, as well as encourage volunteerism throughout the month. At Seton Hall, alumni volunteers serve as an invaluable link between the University and the professional world. Not only can volunteers offer students a wealth of opportunities and insights, but they also play a pivotal role in shaping the educational environment and fostering a sense of community. 

Sophomore Michael Puskas (Class of 2026)

Sophomore Michael Puskas (Class of 2026)

This impact was illuminated through alumnus Joe Testa ’12 and current sophomore student Michael Puskas ’26 who crossed paths through the Seton Hall Stillman Mentorship Program. Their connection turned into a burgeoning professional relationship and culminated in a golden opportunity for Puskas to kick-start his career upon graduation with a job offer from Testa’s current employer, Automatic Data Processing, Inc. (ADP). Their story is one that underscores the true potential of alumni volunteering and the possibilities it can bring forth to students.

Testa who has served as a mentor in the program for seven years shared what motivated him to become a mentor saying, “When I was a student, I had terrific mentors, and the one that always comes to light was Michael Reuter.” He explained, “Michael [Reuter] always taught me that leadership is truly what you give back to others, so when I graduated, I wanted to pay it forward and I think there’s nothing better than leaving that legacy of helping current students and the next generation.”

By engaging with current Pirates, alumni volunteers contribute with practical knowledge, inspiring and motivating the next generation. Puskas tells of his first meeting with Testa and how he was encouraged hearing Testa say, “I’m here for you.” Testa’s approach goes far beyond just resume review; he shared that his motto echoes Wayne Gretzky: “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.” He starts by helping his mentees set goals in the beginning that not only foster the growth of the program but the individual as well. By utilizing assessments like Strength Finders 2.0 – a book catered to helping people learn how to use their greatest natural talents – he is able to guide students in leveraging their strengths that will extend far beyond just their time in the program.

Connections like these create a supportive environment where students can thrive. As a veteran of the program Testa is excited to continue mentoring young students and to maintain relationships with past mentees to this day. “I’m really trying to focus on life after Seton Hall,” he said. “It doesn’t stop because the semester stops. Mentoring is a lifelong thing for me, and sophomore year is a critical year.”

Puskas shared more about how grateful he is for the opportunity that Seton Hall has given him by offering the mentorship program, which ultimately led him to an extensive network, a job offer and a life-long mentor. As he reflected on his experience, he noted that networking is one of the most valuable aspects of the program, in addition to challenging students to be open-minded and acquire a willingness to change and grow. His advice to his fellow Pirates is “to show up, which is often the hardest part, but I’m a big believer in that,” said Puskas. Testa goes on to add, “You never know what will happen if you just say yes to something.” Alumni volunteers often provide access to internships, job placements, connections and other valuable resources, opening doors to various career paths and Puskas’ story is a testament to that.

Testa shared what sets this program apart from other schools and similar initiatives is the exclusivity in having students, specifically sophomores, apply and the vast community and broad access it offers. He says, “It’s very driven. Stillman [School of Business] does a nice job with being very purposeful with what they want out of the program, while also always looking to improve. I think [the program] has over 40-50 kids now; it used to be 10-15. So, I think there’s a lot of value in that.”

Although Testa served as the mentor, he expressed that he learned a great deal from his mentee. “There’s a lot that Michael has taught me,” he says. “It’s a two-way street. Michael’s eagerness and wanting to learn has taught me that you never stop learning. It’s a fresh perspective; you’re never too old to learn something, there’s always change, and there’s always time to do something different.”

To those considering becoming a mentor, Testa notes, “It's very important to just take the chance. You’re doing a great service just by showing up and helping Seton Hall increase their opportunities for growth upon graduation.” To students looking for guidance or considering the mentorship program, Puskas says, “Do it, you’d be silly not join the mentorship program. It’s a gift for all of us.”

Puskas credits many from the University including Testa and Timothy Sporcic ’10 who led the revitalization of the program back in 2017 and still serves as a front runner for the program today. “This is by far one of one the best things I have ever participated in here at Seton Hall,” says Puskas. “Tim made it crystal clear what he wanted from day one and what this program has to offer. I am so thankful that I decided to embark on this journey.”

The Stillman Mentorship Program is only one of the ways to give back to the community while helping students prepare and transition for life after graduation. Want to get involved as a Seton Hall alumni volunteer? Fill out the volunteer form here.

Categories: Alumni, Faith and Service