Affinity Leaders and Learners Mentorship Program seeks to connect students and alumni with shared identities

A Venn diagram with two faces on either side and the acronym ALL in the middle.

Photo courtesy of the Affinity Leaders and Learners Mentorship Program

The new Affinity Leaders and Learners Mentorship Program. Launching this month, the program is looking to give a unique mentorship experience and connect students and alumni based on their identities.

Davis Giangiulio, Reporter

Northwestern Network Mentorship Program is responding to student demand for more identity-based programming opportunities with the Affinity Leaders and Learners Mentorship Program. 

The new program seeks to complement other network mentorship initiatives by striving “to create a more tailored experience for students seeking identity-based mentorship,” according to its website. 

First-time mentor Jacqueline Torres (Weinberg ’18) said she’s hoping to give her first mentee something similar to what she got out of the mentorship program as a student.

“I got the self assurance and confidence to navigate a place like Northwestern,” Torres said. “My experiences as a mentee really propelled me to be a part of ALL as a mentor… I hope my experience at NU and post-grad can really help someone who is looking for guidance.”

The program is a result of the collaboration of many identity-based alumni organizations, including the Black Alumni Association, Latinx Alumni Association, Asian and Asian American Alumni and the Pride Alumni Club.

Bradley Grams (School of Professional Studies ’17) was the Pride Alumni Club’s representative in creating the new mentorship program. They emphasized creating the program was a collaborative effort. 

“There were many contributors,” Grams said. “Every (alumni board) has received extensive feedback for more tailored mentoring, so our boards have been invested in that for some time.” 

Students and staff have advocated for more identity-based programming since before Grams arrived at campus seven years ago. They said those working on the program developed ALL to create a more “experience-specific” direction for students based both on their academics and identities.  

After years of discussion, the mentorship program officially proposed the new addition in fall 2020 and piloted it between February and June this year. It made for a unique test of the new program, Grams said, since relationships between mentors and mentees developed virtually due to the pandemic. 

Makda Fessahaye (Communication ’11) found out about the new mentorship program through the Black Alumni Association and signed up to be a mentor in the pilot program. She said it was her first time participating in NNMP.

Fessahaye said she appreciated that the new program is designed for specific communities of students.

“There was specificity to students of color to ensure that they had an experienced mentor that could relate to their student experience on campus,” Fessahaye said.

After participating in the pilot program virtually, she said she’s excited to see how it develops as more in-person programming is possible. The program’s website said the organization hopes to expand further into other underrepresented groups, beyond the ones included in the founding alumni boards. 

The program is accepting applications from students and alumni through Thursday, after which the organization will release the mentorship pairings, which will last through the academic year. 

Grams said he doesn’t think the program is for everyone, but believes students who are looking for a multi-faceted, multi-layered mentoring experience should consider applying. 

Fessahaye encouraged alumni to join to give back to the Northwestern community.

“We all had our various challenges navigating the Northwestern experience,” Fessahaye said. “How cool would it be to make the next generation’s experience that much easier?”

Correction: A previous version of this story misspelled a source’s last name. The Daily regrets the error.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @GiangiulioDavis

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