Everyone needs a mentor in life. Someone to help guide their career decisions. A person to bounce ideas off of, explore options, and, possibly, show you what it's really like to be in their shoes.
About a decade ago, Paul Ward, '86, then an executive vice president at Nickelodeon, had a eureka moment while visiting campus for an alumni event. Ward, who studied English and communications at Seton Hall, suggested that the University match communications students with alumni who had also gone through the program, creating a bridge between newcomers and professionals. Ward teamed up with staff from the Career Center and the Department of Communication to turn his vision into a reality.
For the last nine years, the Communications Honors Alumni Mentoring Program, known as CHAMP, has paired over 200 communications undergrads with alumni mentors who offer an inside look into their work and the career path they chose. "The outcome has been absolutely incredible," Ward says. "CHAMP students gain premium expert career advice and the mentors consistently report back how much they love helping out a fellow Pirate."
Among the companies and organizations represented by this year's mentors are iHeartRadio, Novartis Pharmaceuticals, Johnson and Johnson, The New York Daily News, Viacom, Seton Hall's Department of Public Relations and Marketing and the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce. Each student is paired with a mentor who meets with them one-on-one in their office, on campus, by phone or via Skype. The experience allows students to expand their professional network, says Career Center director Reesa Greenwald. By working with their mentors over the course of the semester, she explains, "they develop a high level of professionalism and confidence."
Liam Oakes, a sophomore majoring in Public Relations, decided to apply for the program after Ward pitched CHAMP to Oakes' PR 1 class last fall. Eager to learn about opportunities in public relations, Oakes thought the program would help him build relationships with professionals in the field. "One of the reasons I came to Seton Hall," he explains "is the vast number of professional opportunities students have. CHAMP is certainly one of them." This semester Oakes is working with Rosemary Mercedes Beepat, vice president of corporate and digital communications at Univision. Mercedes Beepat, who earned her master's in Strategic and Corporate Communications from Seton Hall, was named 2017 Pioneer of the Year by the Hispanic Public Relations Association and was recognized by PR Week magazine as one of the Top 40 Under 40 PR Professionals in the U.S. Oakes says he's looking forward to learning real-world skills, techniques, and "other takeaways" that will help him begin his own career.
Meeting with their mentors over the semester, CHAMP students can get help building their LinkedIn profile or polishing interview skills. Mentors also try to give students a glimpse into what a typical day might be like. Dana Ucciferri, '03, is the global head of video production and operations at Bloomberg Media in Manhattan. She says the mentoring experience can be "eye opening" for students. "Just being in the presence of professionals gives them a look outside of campus."
The students Ucciferri has mentored over the last five years have gotten a close look at how teams work together to develop and distribute media. "I try to give them as much of a real-life experience as I can. Sit them at a desk and give them work to do - they love being hands on!"
Joan Bosisio, senior vice president of Stern Strategy Group, has been involved with CHAMP since the program began. She sees mentoring as an expression of servant leadership and a core component of the University's culture. Through CHAMP, says Bosisio, "I've had the opportunity to guide some very bright minds who will make a tremendous impact on my profession." Bosisio remembers the valuable support she received from mentors earlier in her career. Being part of the CHAMP program now, she reflects, gives her a chance "to inspire future stars as I was inspired myself."
CHAMP is a collaboration among the Career Center and the College of Communication and the Arts. Students majoring in a program within the College of Communication and the Arts may apply for the one-credit program by contacting the Career Center. The program kicks off in January and runs through the end of the spring semester.