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Thursday, October 30, 2014 at 4pm

Does a Mentorship Program Have to Look Forwards? MBA News

Revamped mentorship program at the Wharton School

An alumni mentorship program offers clear advantages to MBA students. Pairing a graduate with a current student means alumni can pass on the benefit of their experience to today’s intake and, of course, help them see how career options can pan out post-graduation.

But, what can MBA students learn from a mentorship program that binds them to undergraduates?

Wharton School rolls out revised scheme

This month, the Wharton School launched a revamped version of a scheme that does exactly this. Its GUIDE (Guiding Undergraduates In their Development and Education) program has now been slimmed down so that pairings are strictly made between first-year MBA students and undergraduate juniors. MBA students’ industry backgrounds are matched with an undergraduate’s career preferences.

The idea isn’t new, then, and other schools, such as NYU Stern, run similar initiatives. However, the Wharton School’s relaunch serves as a reminder that a mentorship program for MBA students needn’t necessarily revolve around forming links to those further down the line when it comes to offering personal development opportunities.

The Daily Pennsylvanian reports that 230 Wharton School students are already involved in the mentorship program, and the university anticipates growth in the near future:  

“Our hope is that the graduate students will learn something about themselves and be able to be a coach and mentor for their undergraduate student,” said Lee Kramer, director of the Wharton undergraduate division and an advisor for the program.

‘Easy win’ for both MBA students and undergrads

An easy win is how the Wharton School’s registration page describes the initiative from the MBA students’ point of view.

The premise of MBAs taking an undergraduate under their wings could work wonders in developing the kind of soft skills that employers often find lacking in MBA graduates. Mentorship skills - and the ability to encourage and nurture potential in others - are likely to prove more and more valuable as graduates climb higher up the career ladder.   

Undergraduates, too, stand much to gain – the MBA students are, in many ways, adopting the role played by graduates in a business school alumni mentorship program. MBAs have the real-world experience, and should prove easier to meet with than MBA alumni mentors, by dint of a shared campus.

Having said that, the Wharton School is operating an ‘incentive program’ designed to encourage both parties to take the relationship seriously and meet regularly outside of scheduled opportunities. The aim is to establish a strong bond over at least two years and ideally beyond this, and according to the school past participants have even ended up forming a startup together. 

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Tim is a writer with a background in consumer journalism and charity communications. He trained as a journalist in the UK and holds degrees in history (BA) and Latin American studies (MA).

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