Click Selection

Search News Releases:

News Resources
on the Web

1 February 2008
Dr. William A. Meehan:
Help Tomorrow’s Leaders: STAT

By Dr. William A. Meehan
President, Jacksonville State University
Weekly Column - The Jacksonville News

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 preparations.

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 her tremendously.

“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 through mentoring.

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 after graduation.

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 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: .

Note: JSU faculty, staff and students may access The Jacksonville News online through their affiliation with the University. Those not affiliated with JSU may have to subscribe to receive The Jacksonville News online. If you already subscribe to The Jacksonville News, you receive a complimentary online membership. This provides complete access to all the content and services of the site at no additional charge. Otherwise there is an online monthly charge for their online service. Contact The Jacksonville News for information.

Submit items for news releases by using the request form at