Undergraduate Mentor Program Goes International

Eddie and David in Edinburgh Student Eddie Li, left, and mentor David Vitale meet at the Edinburgh Christmas Market, November 2014

Junior Eddie Li was anxious to apply for the Economics Undergraduate Mentor Program when he first heard about it. Uncertain about what kind of career path to pursue – law school? grad school? actuarial intern? – Eddie knew talking to a seasoned business professional would help him clarify his interests and goals.

However, Eddie is in the UK this fall studying at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. Coupled with his lack of paid work experience – students who have held at least one job, the experience of which they can use as a basis for discussion with their mentor, are preferred - Eddie figured he was unlikely to be selected for participation in the program this year.

Fortunately for Eddie, his excellent GPA, application essay, and internship experience weighed strongly in his favor and he was chosen to participate. By random chance, the mentor to which Eddie was assigned, Investment Manager David Vitale, is spending this fall in the UK as well, based in London. Not wanting to waste any time, Eddie and David arranged their first mentor meeting last month – in Edinburgh, connecting at the city’s famous Christmas Market.

While the location of their first meeting was unusual – and perhaps a bit distracting – Eddie and David got right down to business. “When we met in Edinburgh, David was truly encouraging and motivating,” Eddie said. “He provided me so much instrumental information about what a career in investment might be like, stuff that cannot be learned from Google.”

While the benefits to the students participating in this program are many, mentoring an Economics undergraduate is a rewarding experience for the mentors too. David, who graduated from UW in 2009 with a double major in Economics and Finance, has been an undergraduate mentor for a couple years now. Of his commitment to the program, he said “I'm thrilled to help students moving through the Economics department in any way that I can. A positive support network is essential for success scholastically, professionally, and personally.”

He adds, “Whether students are in the early stages of the college experience and want help choosing which courses to take, have questions about transitioning from school to a professional career, or anything in between, there's value in having somebody to ask.“

The mentor program has grown exponentially since it began just four years ago, when 17 students had the good fortune to volunteer for the pilot program. This year, 63 students are working with 41 volunteer mentors, who come from all walks of life and represent a wide variety of career fields, including banking, investment management, consulting, law, healthcare administration, non-profit management, higher education, IT, and public health.

For Eddie, wrapping up his study abroad experience in Scotland is bittersweet. He says, “I'm really looking forward to continuing this mentorship in Seattle and I'm certain that it'll leave such a lasting influence on my studies at UW,” but, of course, there are many things he’ll miss about being in the UK.

And by the way, he adds: “I got David to try haggis while he was here.”


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