Reprinted here in its entirety.
The Seventh Annual National Mentoring Month, January 2008, is
headlined by General Colin L. Powell and highlights Maya Angelou, Clint
Eastwood, Quincy Jones, Sting and Usher. According to a proclamation by
President George W. Bush, the month is dedicated to honoring caring individuals
such as these “for their dedication to changing our country one heart and soul
at a time.”
This year’s campaign theme is not a suggestion for success, but a declaration
of it: “Share what you know. Mentor a child.” JSU and its alumni association
challenge community members to inspire, educate and encourage college students
through Students Today, Alumni Tomorrow (STAT), a mentoring program matching
student members with JSU alumni in their related field of study.
Alan Renfroe, assistant director of the alumni association, explains, “We’re
trying to educate students on real world experiences they don’t get in the
classroom so they will be better prepared for their future careers.”
When JSU alumni were surveyed several years ago, most of the responders
agreed the degrees they earned at JSU were beneficial, but wished they would
have been more prepared for the career world. Therefore, in 2005, the alumni
association created STAT: a four-year, non-academic process preparing students
to become successful professionals within their chosen fields.
“We felt in establishing the club, that a strong part of it would be the
mentoring program,” says Renfroe. All student applicants are accepted as
affiliate members and may interview to reach the leadership council level and
are then matched with a mentor who helps them progress in their professional
STAT Chapter President Sabrina Ussery, a senior majoring in applied
mathematics with a minor in physics, says, “As a member of STAT, I have learned
the importance of networking, professionalism and work experience.”
After completing her degree at JSU, Ussery plans to continue her education in
Aerospace Engineering at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. She says her
mentor, Brenda Anderson, a physicist at the Huntsville Space Center, has helped
“Through the club, I have had the opportunity to learn how to build my
resume, how to succeed in an interview and how to organize my time,” says
Ussery. Most of all, Ussery says these skills have given her the confidence
needed as she works toward pursuing her future career goals.
Confidence is not a quality easily gained; few are born ready for the hot
lights and amplified action of the stage. Students spend the majority of their
educational experience learning while sitting in a desk—quietly.
Encouragement of class discussion and hands-on learning techniques through
new programs such as the Alabama Math, Science and Technology Initiative (AMSTI)
are helping younger students cultivate confidence at an earlier age. What
students begin to learn in the classroom can reach a higher level, enforced
As a mentor, Ussery says Anderson kept her informed of the many co-operative
educational programs UAH and the space center have to offer students as well as
provided advice concerning possible job opportunities and educational routes
The relationship Ussery and Anderson have built as student and mentor proves
the success of mentor programs such as STAT. Ussery hopes to be working closely
with her mentor in the fall as a student co-op at the Huntsville Space Center,
soaring to heights she may otherwise would not have known existed or had the
confidence and skills to reach.
In his proclamation of the national month, President Bush said, “Mentors are
soldiers in the armies of compassion, and they encourage children to set goals
and achieve their dreams.”
Jim Epik, Continuity of Operations manager at the Securities and Exchange
Commission in Washington, is one of the strongest soldiers in STAT. Epik has
been a mentor for the club since its inception and continues to keep in contact
with each of his mentees throughout the year. “We all try and get together at
least once each year during Homecoming for dinner, and spend the evening
catching up on each others’ lives,” says Epik.
“I think students who have completed the STAT program have numerous
advantages over their counterparts,” says Epik. “The STAT program takes students
through a four-year professional, personal learning, developmental process that
goes beyond traditional university courses.”
Epik, who has worked for the federal government for more than 20 years,
stresses to his students the importance of understanding that the actions they
take on campus at JSU directly impact their future careers. “Attending JSU is
more than just going to classes,” says Epik, “it is their first job, and their
transcripts tell an employer what kind of candidate they are talking with.”
The practical knowledge and advice from experience alumni can provide a
student is worth more than any text in the bookstore. As a mentor, you have the
chance to impact a student, optimizing the future success of the city, state and
country. Be a mentor. Begin the success of tomorrow, today.
For more information about STAT, visit http://www.jsu.edu/alumni/stat or
call Alan Renfroe at 256-782-8256.
Erin Chupp, a graduate assistant in the Office of Marketing and
Communications, contributed to this article.
About William A. Meehan
Dr. William A. Meehan is president of Jacksonville
State University. His column, "Town & Gown," appears in The Jacksonville News.
See story at The Jacksonville News's website: www.jaxnews.com