Penn State Scranton’s Linde Mentoring Program began nearly a decade ago as a way for campus students to get a real-world glimpse into their future careers in the business world.
Now, the program is changing its criteria so that even more students have the chance to reap its benefits.
Established by longtime campus benefactors Mary Anne and Eric Linde, the mentoring program initially was tailored specifically to upperclassmen majoring in business. Recently, though, those guidelines were altered so that students from all campus majors could participate.
Meanwhile, freshmen and sophomores are now allowed to participate in the program for the first time. And, there’s no longer a GPA requirement.
“I want to see how we can incorporate new things and improve what we already have,” said Henry Matute Coello, campus coordinator of co-curricular programs and the program’s new adviser. “All students could use a mentor, because it can really help clear the path for them career-wise. This gives them that opportunity.”
Eric Linde said he and his wife are hoping the reworked parameters will allow the mentoring program to grow and flourish over the next few years.
“Mary Anne and I are very passionate about the program,” said Linde, the owner of Honesdale-based Leeward Construction and a current Penn State Scranton and World Campus business student. “I’ve always believed in mentoring and job shadowing as a way to get students on the right track for their future careers.”
Currently, there are five campus students paired with local professionals serving as their mentors. For the 2020-21 academic year, Matute Coello has the ambitious goal of finding mentors for 25 students.
“Sometimes, it can be a challenge to get students involved,” he said. “They say they don’t have the time, or they have jobs, or family commitments. But, if they can see that it won’t take up too much of their time, and the real benefit they can get out of the program, they might be more willing to get involved.”
Despite its changes, the program’s core principles remain the same – to enhance a student’s educational experience by providing them with learning and growth opportunities outside of the classroom.
Through their mentors, the students have access to a seasoned professional who can show them the ins and outs of their field via job shadowing, advising sessions and other professional development opportunities.
Not only does the experience give students hands-on experience in their fields, but also allows them to broaden their professional network and develop the types of soft skills that employers highly value.
In addition, participants have the chance to attend conferences, workshops and talks. For instance, this spring, Matute Coello plans to take the current group of Linde students to the 2020 Symposium for Teaching and Learning with Technology at University Park.
“Once the students commit to the program and meet with a mentor, they then follow a path,” he said. “When they’re shadowing their mentors, they learn a lot. They’re getting to know a lot about that specific company and that industry. And, they’re networking.”
Among the current students in the program is junior Ryan Choa, a business major with a focus in accounting. He said he was immediately interested in the program when Matute Coello first mentioned it to him last summer.
“What piqued my interest was the concept of having the privilege to speak with a professional in the field of my interest,” Choa said.
Choa’s mentor is campus alumnus and current Advisory Board member Dave Tomassoni, the sales director at PacketFabric, a next-generation, software-defined network start-up based in Culver City, California.
Though Choa’s business focus differs somewhat from Tomassoni’s, the two have had plenty to discuss during their meetings. They’ve worked on enhancing Choa’s LinkedIn profile, and talked about relevant issues like work-life balance. Soon, they’ll conduct a mock interview on Zoom.
Also, Choa attended the recent Eastern Region Collegiate Internship & Career Expo at the Woodlands Inn in Wilkes-Barre, as well as a workplace cybersecurity talk presented by Penn State Scranton and Wilkes University’s Family Business Alliance.
Choa believes the knowledge he’s accumulating now will put him at an advantage by the time he graduates and begins looking for his first job.
“It’s been an overwhelmingly positive experience so far and I’ve had a wonderful time talking to and learning from Mr. Tomassoni,” Choa said. “I am still learning a great deal from him and his experiences and I am very thankful for his wisdom and guidance thus far.”
Tomassoni said he’s been encouraging Choa to aggressively pursue networking opportunities, whether it’s joining new groups or connecting with people outside of the Penn State system. And, he recently introduced him to a potential internship opportunity.
“I think it is a great program and I’ve enjoyed helping Ryan. He is eager to learn and open to new ideas,” Tomassoni said. “I would be happy to do this again next semester, or next year as well.”
Senior corporate communication major Lucines Polanco first heard about the Linde Mentoring Program during her freshman year, so when the opportunity came to participate in it this fall, she jumped at it.
Polanco is currently paired with Penn State alumnus and campus Advisory Board member Robert Luciani, an executive at Prudential. She’ll be shadowing him next semester, but she stressed that he’s already been extremely helpful in terms of offering advice and introducing her to people in his network.
“This program is definitely giving me some good insights into my future career. It has led me to realize that I can see myself in the corporate world and working within a marketing department,” Polanco said.
Sophomore Deymeliz Desarden-Ruperto joined the program while she mulls over whether to pursue a bachelor’s degree in corporate communication or human development and family studies (HDFS). Though her career outlook is still undecided, her mentor, Pedro Anes, local partnership specialist for the U.S. Census Bureau, has nonetheless provided her with plenty of insights on the professional world in general.
“The knowledge from the program will help me determine how I will continue to pursue my education,” Desarden-Ruperto said.
When asked, Choa, Polanco and Desarden-Ruperto all said they would recommend the mentoring program to other students.
“My overall impression of the mentoring program has been wonderful,” Polanco said. “It has worked with my school schedule as a senior and I’ve been gaining a lot of knowledge. It is a great opportunity!”