The magazine for Western Washington University

Looking for help? Ask!

A new Alumni Association program helps students and alumni find virtual mentors

Story by Liz Hansen ('10)

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A new program launched by the Western Alumni Association makes it easy for students and alumni to connect with successful alumni around the world.

Ask! is an online program where alumni can sign up in our database to become mentors to students and also fellow alumni,” says Emily Sallee, a Western graduate student coordinating the Ask! program at the Alumni Association. “It is geared toward helping program participants make connections based on common interests and career-related goals.”

Students and alumni can search the database for mentors based on simple criteria, including industry, job title, academic background or student groups and activities, Sallee says.

A current English major, for example, could find other English majors who work at a particular company. Or a Resident Advisor could find former RAs to learn how their on-campus work experiences prepared them for their current jobs. Students having trouble deciding on a major could talk to mentors about their academic experience and how the curriculum is applicable to their professional careers. Students could ask alumni about graduate schools they attended, and if that means moving to a new city, they can find out what neighborhoods are best to live in.

The Ask! program is also for alumni to help each other.

“We have a lot of alumni who may be at a crossroads in their careers, considering changing jobs, or thinking about going back to school,” says Chris Roselli ('99), the association’s assistant director, Young Alumni and Student Programs.

It takes less than 10 minutes to fill out a mentor profile, and volunteers have flexibility in how they want to connect (via phone, Internet or in person) and the amount of time they want to commit.

“If an alumnus only wants to help one student at a time that is fine,” Sallee says. “If they want to mentor five students at one time, they have that option too.” Alumni may also deactivate their mentor accounts at any time. For example, a tax adviser who can’t commit to mentoring a student during tax season can temporarily shut off his or her account.

The program provides an additional tool that supplements the services on campus, Roselli says.

“It goes beyond our campus borders and goes right into the heart of the work force, where alumni are,” he says. “It ties faculty, staff, students and alumni all together for one common purpose, to support the students.”

But the new program’s success relies on alumni to populate the database with mentors, Roselli says. “Western is known for the graduates that we produce, and our alumni are very successful. There is a need for an avenue for alumni to share their valuable first-hand knowledge of the working world with students and alumni,” Roselli says. “We hope to be that avenue and give alumni the opportunity to give back to Western.”

If you would like to help out fellow alumni and students as a mentor, or search for a mentor to help answer your questions, go to and start today.