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Syracuse University, College of Arts and Sciences

Lasting Connections

The A&S | Maxwell community offers mentorship for students on their path to success.

July 17, 2020, by Dan Bernardi

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Guidance from great mentors helped Dr. Gezzer Ortega '03 achieve his goals.

“Mentors can help you persevere and push through life’s challenges.” - Dr. Gezzer Ortega '03

If one thing in life is true, it’s that the future is full of uncertainties. For students navigating their way through college, they often grapple with questions like: What major should I choose? What type of careers are out there for me once I graduate? Sound advice from mentors can help students paint a clearer picture of that landscape. For Ortega, a biochemistry graduate from the College of Arts and Sciences (A&S), finding his way meant identifying individuals he admired who were doing the work he aspired to.

“Having people who are even just one step ahead of you to provide advice and counsel is extremely important,” he says. Ortega is now Center for Surgery and Public Health’s lead faculty for research and innovation for equitable surgical care at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, and he says that he never would be where he is today without the guidance of great mentors.

Mentors in the College of Arts and Sciences and the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs come in many forms. Between peers, advisors, faculty and alumni, the A&S | Maxwell community are there to guide students on their path to growth, exploration and discovery.

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Members of the Dean's Team.

For students making the transition from high school to college, A&S | Maxwell has enlisted the Dean’s Team to help aid their peers during their move to campus and beyond. Each member of the Dean’s Team has proven academic strengths, communication skills, leadership qualities and connections to campus activities, so they are the perfect liaison for incoming students as they get their lay of the land. Members of the Dean’s Team assist new students by emailing them during the summer before their first semester, showing them around campus, providing registration advice during opening weekend and helping them adhere to registration deadlines throughout the academic year.

For many A&S | Maxwell students, the bonds they establish with their professors at Syracuse last long into their careers. Many of the lessons they learn during their time as students inform the decisions they make professionally. Andreacarola Urso ’16, who majored in biology and French and francophone studies in A&S, and is now a Ph.D. candidate at the Columbia University Irving Medical Center, recently reflected on the continued mentorship she receives from Cathryn Newton, Special Advisor to the Chancellor and Provost for Faculty Engagement and professor of Earth sciences and interdisciplinary sciences; and Samuel Gorovitz, professor of philosophy.

Andreacarola Urso
Andreacarola Urso ’16

“Drs. Newton and Gorovitz have taught me how to capitalize on all my skills and nourish them, to invest in myself and to always push harder.” Since graduating in 2016, Urso says she corresponds with Newton and Gorovitz regularly. “My relationship with them is crucial because their contributions to my life go beyond academics, which are important, but peripheral to me. They have reached the core of who I am and who I want to be.”

In addition to the connections formed with faculty, A&S | Maxwell students also benefit from mentorship from the many generous alumni around the world. Before COVID-19, hands-on experiences like our immersion programs helped students explore different career options and make valuable connections with industry leaders. While the in-person immersion trips have been put on hold because of the pandemic, the A&S | Maxwell advising team have developed a virtual mentoring program to maintain student and alumni connections. More than 195 alumni have already extended opportunities for A&S | Maxwell students for one-hour conversations via video chat or phone and the number of connections made continues to grow.

“The pandemic has disrupted our students’ lives, but it doesn’t mean they have to put their career development on hold,” says Matthew R. Wheeler, associate director of alumni relations for the College of Arts and Science’s academic and career advising team. “This provides them with another tool, shows them that their college and alumni communities are here to support them, and also provides a fulfilling experience for the alum. It’s a chance to support students during an extremely challenging time.”

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Taylor Stover ’23 receives virtual mentoring advice from Bob Wright ’71.

Bob Wright ’71 was one of the alumni to answer the call to provide mentorship to students during the pandemic. Wright is a retired Lt. Colonel who majored in geography and Soviet studies at Syracuse University and went on to work in government intelligence for over 40 years. Through the virtual mentoring program, Wright has been able to pass along valuable lessons to students interested in a career in government intelligence.

One of the students he mentored was Taylor Stover ’23, an international relations major and French minor. Her conversation with Wright exposed her to the variety of careers within the intelligence field, many of which she had not previously considered or known about.

“I got to learn so much more about the contracting side of the intelligence community,” says Stover. “It was a great complement to a course I took this semester on the U.S. intelligence community, and it provided me with a practical perspective. Bob gave me some great advice on how helpful internships can be in getting your foot in the door too.”

To help alumni start mentoring, A&S | Maxwell alumni relations has developed an alumni form to best match mentor interests with students’ academic needs. Alumni provide their graduation year, major, location and expertise or current position. Students can then search the list of alumni and select those that fit their career aspirations. Once a match is made, a representative from academic and career advising will facilitate a connection via video chat or phone. Students who would like to connect with a mentor can complete the student form.

As students continue their academic journey in A&S | Maxwell, it is important they know that there are mentors always willing to help them take the next step. The strong network of peers, advisors, faculty and alumni are ready and willing to support the next set of leaders.