You've Got a Friend
UMass Amherst is a big place. Whether you’re a new student on campus or an alum freshly stepping into the workforce, it can be hard knowing where to turn for support. But in between the frantic shuffles to class and scrolling through job postings, there is a wealth of opportunities to find community, seek help, and connect with those who have been in your shoes before. You’re not in this alone — mentors of all backgrounds, disciplines, and professional paths are available at every leg of your UMass Amherst journey.
A HOME AWAY FROM HOME
With an institution as large and diverse as UMass Amherst, there are ample opportunities to explore, affirm, and celebrate the multitude of cultures represented on campus. The Center for Multicultural Advancement and Student Success (CMASS) acts as a hub for students to deepen their understanding of their own and others' multifaceted identities, as well as provide a nurturing and welcoming space for studying and meeting new people.
CMASS also connects students to the varied cultural centers on campus as a way to offer a home away from home. The Josephine White Eagle Cultural Center, Latinx American Cultural Center, Malcolm X Cultural Center, and Yuri Kochiyama Cultural Center act as collaborative spaces that partner with student organizations, residential communities, and academic programs.
For students in search of academic and professional guidance, CMASS Success Coaches are available and give a holistic, intersectional, and strength-based approach to supporting undergraduate Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC), first-generation, low-income students, foster youth, and any student seeking to thrive in their college experience.
By creating an inclusive, student-centered community, CMASS provides a multifaceted toolkit that advances the personal growth and success of campus's diverse populations.
FINDING THE RIGHT FIT
A rigorous academic schedule on a 1,450-acre campus sometimes leaves little wiggle room for personal exploration — finding folks that vibe with your identity can help you not only make friends, but also foster growth and a sense of belonging.
To start, the Stonewall Center on campus has been a cornerstone of support for the LGBTQ+ community for more than 35 years. The center has its own program that offers trained mentors who are knowledgeable of campus and community resources to first-year and transfer LGBTQ+ students. Through the program, Stonewall Center mentors aim to promote a sense of belonging, positive identity development, personal and academic success, and healthy practices for LGBTQ+ students.
For students looking to live in an environment designed for those who identify as LGBTQ+, the Spectrum Defined Residential Community in Baker Residence Hall offers a safe space, as well as its own mentoring program. The Spectrum Mentoring Program is a collaborative initiative between Residence Education and faculty and staff, with support from the Office of Equity and Inclusion. The program aims to match LGBTQ+ staff and faculty mentors with LGBTQ+ student mentees, as well as provide mentees with guidance that will facilitate the mentee’s journey towards self-acceptance, empowerment, comfort, as well as contributing to a positive overall experience at UMass Amherst.
Whether you are just dipping your toes into the pool of the job market or well on your way to establishing a career path, professional mentorship can be an invaluable resource. Making connections, finessing a resume, and honing interview skills are just the beginning. These are just a few avenues to elevate your professional profile on campus — most schools, colleges, and departments offer specialized mentoring and advising opportunities, too!
The College of Engineering’s Connect for Success Mentoring Network is designed to connect undergraduate engineering students with peers, graduate students, and alumni in the industry. The college also provides more informal mentoring opportunities, such as its ambassador program, which seeks to help first-year students find resources to ease the transition to college.
The College of Humanities and Fine Arts (HFA) offers its own advising and career center to help students navigate their academic pursuits and blaze a trail toward their professional careers. One-on-one mentoring, student programs, workshops and events are designed to foster critical thinking and empower students to become engaged citizens and professionals in a global world. HFA also offers its Student Leadership Board, an active student-led group of undergraduates whose mission is to foster a sense of community by organizing events and projects that enable HFA students to make connections outside of the classroom.
The Berthiaume Center for Entrepreneurship provides students access to entrepreneurial inspiration, connections, and resources that play a central role promoting innovation throughout campus and the region. In 2020, the center launched its latest counseling initiative, Office Hours, where UMass students from across campus discuss venture ideas and evolving business plans with entrepreneurial MBA students. Chemical engineering student Connor MacFarlane, whose venture titled “Improved Insulin Delivery” won several awards through the center, asserted, “I couldn’t have done it without the advice and encouragement from Katy Moonan,” a recently-appointed Office Hours counselor.
A FOOT IN THE DOOR FOR GRADUATE STUDENTS
As graduate students define their studies and begin the search for a niche in their disciplines, personalized mentorship avenues are available to elevate their efforts. For graduate students in the Mark H. McCormack Department of Sport Management, the Graduate Mentorship Program is designed to provide graduate students with a year-long connection by matching them with industry professionals, most of whom are alumni of the program. The mentors serve as a sounding board for career questions and regularly meet with their assigned students virtually and in person.
“The relationships forged through this unique program often endure well beyond our students’ time on campus,” says Graduate Program Director Will Norton. “We intentionally match students with mentors who will offer invaluable personal and professional insight while bolstering the students’ growing sport industry network and helping instill confidence in the professional development process.”
JOIN ALUMNI NETWORKS
After you’ve collected your cap and gown, what’s your next step? With so many options to choose and places to go, the possibilities can feel endless. The UMass Amherst Alumni Association is a robust resource to not only help you stay in touch with your alma mater, but to find your groove and make new connections as well— and with 278,000 alumni worldwide, there’s bound to be a mentorship avenue that will meet your needs.
Through Connect UMass, students, staff, and alumni are able to join an online community for personal and professional conversations, exclusive to those affiliated with UMass Amherst. One-on-one career advice, access to the alumni directory, job listings, interest groups, and upcoming events are all available through a centralized hub.
"I enjoy being available to answer questions about my career path and encourage students who like to study diverse things," says Connect UMass user and alum Genevieve Tocci '03. Tocci invites others in the UMass community to use the platform to connect with friends and career-oriented communities, as well as help the next generation.
For a more personalized experience after graduation, there are a multitude of professional, regional, and affinity networks available across the country, each of which contains a wealth of resources and opportunities for forming friendships, gaining career advice, and finding community.
Mentorship through UMass Amherst is the chance to find your footing, make a connection, or try something new — and with campus as the common denominator, starting a conversation is that much more attainable.
This story was originally published in January 2022.
Find a Mentorship Opportunity
Where will you go for mentorship, and who will you inspire? Explore these resources for ways to get involved.