By Emily Glory Peters
Marked by its close-knit community of ambitious and empathetic individuals, Scripps College forges fast friendships that often stretch far past graduation. Piloted in 2021, the new La Semeuse Mentorship program taps into this bond, linking alums across class years to extend the value of their College connection.
“Introducing an alum-to-alum mentorship program has been on our wish list for years, but the pandemic confirmed how many alums had a desire to help recent graduates,” says Assistant Vice President of Institutional Engagement Virginia Halverson. Before launching the program, Scripps’ Alumnae Engagement team worked closely with alumnae volunteers who offered feedback on how to fine-tune its goals.
“We used their ideas to pull together what mentors and mentees would want most,” says Halverson. “Our aim was to help members develop cross-generational relationships, support alums as they transition from students into the world, gain valuable career support, and enhance their existing network.”
Striking a balance between structure and self-direction was important to ensure participants could make the most of their time together. After alums submitted responses to a questionnaire, matched pairs connected through Olive Grove, the College’s private online networking platform. Scripps supplied tips on goal-setting, meeting frequency, and content for conversation starters. The participants took it from there.
Reaping the rewards of mentorship
“Scripps changed my life, so I give back when I can. I knew that if I could help a young Scripps graduate avoid mistakes I made along the way, that that would be worthwhile for both of us,” says author and college instructor Margaret Finnegan ’87, who mentored Columbia University MFA poetry candidate Ariel So ’20. The two found an immediate bond in their joint passion for writing, storytelling, and teaching.
“Given that we both had a connection with the publishing house Simon & Schuster—with Margaret as an author there for kids literature, and me as a proofreader and copy editor in their children’s division—it felt like the perfect match,” says So.
In their scheduled chats, So and Finnegan delved into a range of topics, including how to get your work to stand out, overcoming rejections, coping with burnout, and navigating career paths. The discussion prompts often led to deeper personal reflections for both mentor and mentee.
“One conversation we had came from a prompt about purpose and passion in our careers. [Margaret] gave me perspective that a greater purpose can come first, so that passion can and will follow,” says So. Taking ownership of her confidence was another key takeaway.
What a privilege it is, what an honor to share your story with someone you’ve never met and to hear their story in return.
“I’ve come to see how important it is for us, women especially, not to sell ourselves short, to see the value we bring to the table—for others to appreciate the skills and expertise we possess,” she says. “The mentorship gave me the support I needed in strengthening my sense of direction in pursuing my career and personal interests.”
For Finnegan, the experience gave her an opportunity to sharpen her skill as a listener, offer wisdom on the challenges one faces building a career, and to define mentorship in a new way.
“I thought mentoring would be a way for me to help someone identify the unspoken rules and culture of professional life. Now, I think the purpose of a mentor is to be open and humble—to meet a mentee where they are,” she says. “What a privilege it is, what an honor to share your story with someone you’ve never met and to hear their story in return. The future is in good hands. I know that because I know Ariel Joy So.”
Encouraging Scripps alums to join the La Semeuse Mentorship Program
Both Finnegan and So had ideas of what they wanted to gain from—and offer to—their mentorship experience. Both agree the benefits exceeded expectations, and encourage others to take part.
“[Mentoring] enables you to take in knowledge from an individual’s experiences, comprehend more about yourself, and maximize the opportunity to become more knowledgeable with what’s to come in the professional world,” says So. “I highly recommend that other Scripps students or alums participate in similar programs, whether it’s to figure out your path, hear about how others discovered their current field, or recognize what it takes to excel in different areas.”
The La Semeuse Mentorship is currently accepting applications to join its spring 2022 program, which is open to alums of all class years. To participate, be sure to create a free profile on the Scripps College Olive Grove platform and submit your application form here. To learn more about volunteer opportunities and the long-term benefits of belonging to the Scripps alumnae community, please visit our Alumnae Association site.