Internships landed, self-confidence built: Pilot mentor program exceeds expectations

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Mentors and mentees celebrated the end of the first cycle of the Runner Alumni Mentor Program with a gathering on campus May 24.

BY CHRISTINE BEDELL
Alumni Engagement Specialist
cbedell1@csub.edu

Ariana Mariscal landed a dream internship after heeding a simple tip: To attend a meeting of the Air and Waste Management Association at Hodel’s in Bakersfield.

Mariscal, a 22-year-old senior studying public administration and interested in urban planning, went to the gathering and chatted with the guest speaker, Kern County Planning and Natural Resources Director Lorelei Oviatt.

Mariscal explained who she was and why she was there and at the end, Oviatt invited her to apply for a nine-month paid internship in her office. Mariscal applied, was interviewed and got the position.

“It’s really relevant to what I’m studying and the skills I need,” she said.

The tip to attend the association meeting came from Jason Goklaney, Mariscal’s mentor in the CSUB Alumni Association’s new Runner Alumni Mentor Program.

The program matches up CSUB alumni and friends with juniors, seniors and graduate students in the schools of Business and Public Administration and Social Sciences and Education. In all, 51 mentees and 42 mentors signed up.

Not every mentee secured an internship, but all learned valuable skills including networking, resume writing and how to shine in a job interview. The program was so successful the Alumni Association plans to expand it during the next academic year to involve students from the Schools of Arts & Humanities and Natural Sciences, Mathematics and Engineering.

"We began this mission with the hope of helping a handful of students, and we are overwhelmed to see how many students were helped in one way or another through this pilot program in just four months,” said Nancy Solis-Vargas, chair of the Alumni Association’s Mentorship Committee.

“I thank all of our volunteer RAMP mentors for all the support they have provided their mentees, from job shadow and internship opportunities, to teaching them life skills, helping them strengthen their interview skills, and simply being there to listen to them."

INTERNS FILL 'CRITICAL' NEED

Mariscal’s internship is part of a program Oviatt created for CSUB students to attract, develop and retain staff planners at the Planning and Natural Resources Department.

Ariana Mariscal

Mentee Ariana Mariscal landed an internship with the Kern County Planning and Natural Resources Department as a result of her participation in RAMP.

“All over California people are hiring planners,” said Oviatt, who earned her master’s degree in public administration from CSUB in 2007. “Even when I get planners, we’re like the farm team. They get really good and then go someplace else.”

Oviatt’s interns work as “extra-help” employees for nine months at a time. So far she has hired three interns as full-time planners.

The group of interns Mariscal joined is helping launch the next phases of the county’s general plan update. A general plan is a set of policies, programs and maps that guides a community’s future development.

The interns work on teams assigned to different topic areas such as healthy communities, economic development and water. Day-to-day tasks will include creating power point presentations, scribing and summarizing comments made at workshops, maintaining lists of interested community members and preparing hearing notices.

“Here at the Planning and Natural Resources Department, they are critical,” Oviatt said of the interns. “They are a critical way we are stretching our dollars. And they provide opportunities and growth for people who could be interested in being permanent planners.”

The internship is right up Mariscal’s alley. She chose to study urban planning because it provides a real public service: helping communities develop the infrastructure and services it needs to thrive.

“I wanted to do something that could reach a lot of different members of our community,” she said.

MENTORS BENEFIT, TOO

Greg Wright, a research and development lead for Campbell Soup Company, became a RAMP mentor because he could have benefited from one when he was in school. Wright earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business administration from CSUB.

“All the mistakes I made in college and early in my career I could have prevented with a little guidance,” said Wright, whose job involves managing information systems and other initiatives in the Fresh division of Campbell Soup.

His mentee was Cuiwen Tang, a junior from China who is studying business administration and is interested in starting a company back home that produces healthy, quality food.

Wright started out asking about Tang’s goals and thought of ways he could help her. He talked her through grad school application and testing processes, looked over her resume, encouraged her to read “How to Win Friends and Influence People” and connected her with Campbell’s marketing team in Malaysia.

The team taught Tang the six key principles of marketing.

“I was learning this stuff with her,” Wright said.

Using a donation from Campbell Soup (the company matched Wright’s volunteer hours by giving money to the Alumni Association), Tang was able to attend the Bakersfield Women’s Business Conference.

Just by happenstance, Tang met a woman there from her hometown of Guangzhou and they struck up a rapport. Wright told her it’s great to make those kinds of connections because they could lead to professional opportunities like an internship.

Tang, 22, loved the conference, especially learning how to cope with stress: Clear your mind for five to 10 seconds, take deep breaths, and repeat that two or three times.

“When I’m studying for finals, I need this,” she said.

Wright said mentees don’t just benefit from RAMP; mentors do, too.

“A long time ago I told myself, ‘When I get in a position to give back, this is where I am going to make a difference,’” he said. “RAMP created that avenue for me to give back, and I’m grateful. “

Nancy Solis at RAMP EOY May 2018

Nancy Solis-Vargas was chair of the CSUB Alumni Association Mentor Committee and a mentor.

The experience of mentor Jason Goklaney shows mentors and mentees don’t have to have the same career interests to build a fruitful relationship.

Goklaney, an environmental engineer with EnviroTech Consultants and a 2010 CSUB chemistry grad, is the one who encouraged Mariscal to attend the Air and Waste Management Association meeting.

He knew she was interested in urban planning and that she could get valuable face time with Oviatt there.  Little did he know it would lead to an internship.

“I said, ‘Look, you’re going to have to do some networking,’” Goklaney said. “I guess I hit it on the head the first time.”

Learn more about RAMP, including how to sign up as a mentor or mentee.



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