Over the weekend, the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ODEI) hosted the annual fall Alumni of Color Mentoring Initiative Weekend. At the event, students had a chance to meet their mentors in person. ODEI staff also hoped that it would serve as a networking opportunity and encouraged students to remain in contact with alumni mentors throughout the year.
“The initiative is really the whole year,” Jacky Neri Arias ’13, assistant director of ODEI, said. “The goal is always to have students build strong connections, reduce some of that anxiety of networking with professionals in general, but also to create some support networks based on affinity groups.”
Alumni were paired with students who share their career interests; through the mentorship, they provide advice about college and life after Kenyon with their mentees. This year, 18 alumni and 25 students attended the multiple events during the program. Mentors came from a range of different career backgrounds, including education, law, medicine and various graduate schools.
Nicolyn Woodcock ’12 has been a mentor since 2015. As a student at Kenyon, she participated in many diversity programs, including Recognizing Each Other’s Ability to Conquer the Hill (REACH) peer mentoring. “To me, it was time to give back to support students who were like me and figure out how I could help them in the real world,” she said.
Woodcock provides her mentees with advice about going off to graduate school and navigating the field of academia. She values sharing her experience with first-generation students, as she herself was one.
“Especially for students who are first-generation, our families have no idea what our lives are like at college — there is a big separation — and so I like to check in with people,” Woodcock added.
The program, which started on Friday evening and continued through Sunday afternoon, featured several events, including a meet-and-greet, a panel and a networking activity. It was held in conjunction with Alumni and Parent Engagement volunteer meetings and Homecoming.
The panel, held in the Kenyon Athletic Center (KAC) Theater, was tailored for alumni. The alumni received updates about ongoing diversity efforts on campus, and also learned about the ways they could get involved and how to recruit students. Members of ODEI and the Office of Admissions spoke during the panel, as did President Sean Decatur.
“To see President Decatur at that event, even though it was a small event, that was really awesome, to know we have his support and that he is really trying to get more going for people of color here at this school,” Sasha Fanny-Holston ’11 said.
The panel was followed by a networking session in the KAC Multi-Activity Court, where students could do mock interviews, draft résumés or just talk with their mentors one-on-one.
“At Kenyon … any connection we can make here today is something that could last for years,” Alison Bellamendoza ’12, one of the alumni mentors, said of the program.
In the past, Nontokozo Mdluli ’18 attended the event as a student, but this year she returned to campus as an alumni mentor.
“Fun fact is my first mentor is actually here, which is really nice,” Mdluli said. “As an alum, this is not about me. It is always about the students, and how we can be more helpful.”
Amarachi Nzogbu ’22, Mdluli’s mentee, said she found the experience to be very helpful. “I am not really used to this mentoring process, but I’m really glad I did it,” Nzogbu said. “It’s probably going to go beyond this one-hour talk and two emails. It’s nice to be connected with someone who can always give me advice.”
The Alumni of Color Mentoring Initiative Weekend is also hosted annually in the spring. Neri Arias noted that all students are welcome to join this mentorship.
“I would really stress that this initiative is for all students, not just students of color,” Neri Arias said. “Even though the title of the group is ‘Alumni of Color Mentoring,’ current students from other underrepresented [groups] — like LGBTQ+, low-income, first-generation — are welcome and encouraged to join because you don’t have to be a person of color to give advice, you can share other identity markers.”