New mentorship program connects KPU students and alumni, one virtual coffee at a time

The program is a partnership between KPU Alumni and Ten Thousand Coffees

(Kristen Frier)

Merging career ambitions, computer algorithms, and virtual coffee, the KPU Alumni Association is looking at joining a new mentorship program to connect the leaders of today with the leaders of tomorrow.

The partnership is between KPU Alumni and Ten Thousand Coffees, a program that uses an algorithm to match students with like-minded alumni based on similar fields of study, interests, and career goals. Students then chat online with their mentors over coffee and have career-focused conversations that can include networking, preparing for a future in the workforce, and the steps necessary for alumni to achieve their goals.

“In terms of alumni, it really responds to what we hear their key desire is: to share their knowledge and to help support somebody who is in the position they used to be in — to give back,” says Nancy Armitage, executive director of the KPU Alumni Association.

For Armitage, this opportunity is the perfect catalyst to foster KPU student-alumni relationships in a virtual world. According to Ten Thousand Coffees, 45 per cent of participants said they gained helpful insight into their careers during their coffee chats.

“Our mandate is to engage alumni,” she says. “And currently we have about 60,000 alumni, and for years now we recognize that mentorship is key to engaging our alumni.”

In prior years, career and development services focused on face-to-face mentorships, but this is the first program that organizes virtual meetings. Prior to the pandemic, the Association was interested in partnering with Ten Thousand Coffees, however, COVID made organizing in-person engagements much more challenging, so they decided to get the project up and running virtually. According to market research she says, alumni want to be engaged with students and share personal experiences and wisdom.

“Students talking with and networking with alumni is the best of all worlds,” she says.

They’re currently in the first phase of signing up alumni to join, and come early January they’ll begin advertising to students. By late January, the algorithm will match current KPU students with alumni.

“We’re really wanting to help youth grow their network while engaging our alumni,” says Armitage. “Our mandate is to find ways to keep our alumni close to KPU, and provide them with value-added opportunities and initiatives, and this answers this mandate.”

Armitage says there are 75 post-secondary institutions currently part of the student-alumni mentorship program, and they’re optimistic that after promoting the program KPU might have as many as 300 pairings, which fulfills KPU Alumni Association’s mandate of keeping alumni engaged with KPU while also supporting a sense of community with current students.

Armitage is confident the program will offer students a fun and informative way to think in a broader sense about what they want their careers to look like.

“It will open doors for our students,” she says, adding that it’s a chance for students to “come away with a more solid idea of what’s possible.”

Students and alumni interested in signing up for the program can do so on its website.

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