Making Mentors

Two girls, Megan Maschoff and Emily Dietz, talking at a table, Bethany Magazine

Photo by David Norris (’91)

Viking mentors and students in different cities and states have been getting together. Megan Maschoff (’16) (left) and Emily Dietz (’23) met recently in Mankato.

Past and present Vikings connect through advice

By Emeline Gullixson (’21) – Bethany Magazine, Spring/Summer 2023

Bethany juniors and seniors certainly have a wealth of resources at their fingertips. Questions about one’s field of study might be directed toward a trusted professor, or questions about relevant job opportunities might go to Career Development. Among the questions students are pondering as they face graduation, there are many that fall into a gray area, such as: What goals do I have? How do I network? Where do I begin with financial planning? How can I find a home congregation? These are topics that the adults in their lives seemingly have figured out. But somehow, no one has kept them in the loop.

Jake Krier, Director of Alumni Relations, has a solution. Throughout the 2022-23 academic year, Krier developed the Viking to Viking Mentor program, which connects current Bethany juniors and seniors with alumni and friends of Bethany. Mentees (students) are paired with mentors (alumni) to discuss topics ranging from the professional to the personal to the spiritual.

In a one-on-one context, the pair meet together once a month for an hour, though they may meet more frequently if they wish. As mentors are spread out all over the country, many pairs meet via Zoom. For involved students and working professionals busy with their own lives, checking in once a month is a low stakes commitment that yields beneficial results. 

Krier began developing the program in the Fall 2022 semester, and February 2023 marked the beginning of a trial run for the first mentor and mentee pairs.

For their first meeting, mentors and mentees put together a plan of what they wanted to focus on, generally led by the mentee. 

“It’s important for the student to follow a plan and to take initiative with what they want to talk about,” said Krier. “We put the plan on the students: What are you thinking about right now? What are you considering after graduation?” 

The pair also have a list of topics they can begin with, put together by Krier. Topics might concern the professional realm–résumé writing, applying for jobs, networking, professional dress. Some students might be interested in the personal–hobbies, living independently, finding a church home, getting involved in the community. There are also “in-between” topics, such as budgeting, saving money, and navigating insurance. 

The pair might also set goals they want to accomplish before their next meeting, or challenge each other to try new things. 

Cianna (Hoppe ‘23) Larson, a senior elementary education and special education major, was a mentee during the trial run, and was paired with Dr. Carrie (Ketel ‘97) Opheim. Though both women work in education, Larson wondered what commonalities they would share; Opheim works as a professor, and Larson will be teaching elementary school.

Larson ended up valuing their career differences and the additional perspective Opheim offered. “To have someone a little bit different was honestly super refreshing and rewarding. It was a broadening of my horizons, knowing that there are all these other things I can do that still utilize my skills and degree.”

Larson was also interested in topics such as finance, retirement planning, volunteering, and continuing education–if she were ever to go back to school. “These are things you wish you heard from other people that you don’t often hear. When you’re one-on-one with someone who’s been there and done that, it’s so much easier to talk freely.”

There are many Bethany alumni willing to offer their perspectives as mentors, though mentors don’t necessarily have to be alumni. Friends of Bethany and professionals connected to the College are welcome to participate.

Mentors are expected to assist in the transition period from student to working professional, and potentially help build a personal, professional, and spiritual network. They give advice, offer support, and share ideas and experiences. 

Cody Hardin (‘11) is one such mentor. Hardin graduated from Bethany with a double major in music and communication, and currently works as a Senior Audio Operator at ESPN in Bristol, Connecticut. 

As a mentor, he was paired with junior media arts major, Ben Stelter. The two discussed a variety of topics, including future plans, religion, and general life tips meeting online because of the physical distance. Though mentors and mentees do not necessarily have to share the same career path, Stelter’s and Hardin’s overlapped, both being involved in media. 

“Ben is a driven individual who already has a pretty good idea of what he plans on doing, so our conversations were check-ins toward some short term goals and broad stroke discussions on the next steps to take,” said Hardin. “[We’re] cut from the same cloth, and I recognize a lot of myself in him when we talk.”

Hardin encouraged other alumni to consider being part of the program during the 2023-24 academic year. “It has been edifying to give back to Bethany in this way and help guide someone toward their goals.”

If you would like to become a mentor or hear more about the Viking to Viking program, contact Jake Krier.

BLC student Aidan Whitcomb and Christopher Harstad talking at a cafe, Bethany Magazine

Photo by David Norris (’91)

BLC student Aidan Whitcomb (’23) (left) and Christopher Harstad (’01) met at Tandem Bagels in Mankato as part of the new mentoring program.