The Global Human Development Program pairs each incoming first-year student with a second-year student mentor. Arranged over the summer before arriving on campus, these student mentors can answer a wide range of informal questions such as where to find the best rent or how to study for the first semester of core classes. These mentor-mentee pairings often stay connected throughout their entire time at GHD. We interviewed Olivia Nesbit and Yinka Fakoya, Gayle Martin and Jacqueline Rojas, Mai Nguyen and Rebecca Heeb—three mentor-mentee pairs to hear about their experiences in the mentorship program.
Yinka (GHD’19) and her mentor Olivia (GHD’18) get together at least several times in a semester to check in with each other. In terms of activities, Yinka told us: “It's funny, because most of our interactions have centered around food!” When Yinka and Olivia meet they usually talk about their lives, families, and development experiences, while having ice cream or having coffee at Thomas Sweet, a pastry shop in town which Olivia introduced to Yinka. Other mentor-mentee pairs meet on a regular monthly basis. Such is the case with Jackie and her mentor Gayle who usually meet on campus for lunch.
Rebecca (GHD’19) and her mentor Mai (GHD’18) typically connect in less planned ways. “I usually bump into Mai because we often show up at the same events without any prior coordination.” The two have had a few more formal meet ups together, including tea and cookies at Mai’s house and a mentee-mentor dinner. Mai recalls, “One of the best memories that I had with Rebecca is attending a Haitian art sales together. During my undergraduate years at Vassar College, I was involved with a non-profit organization that raised funds for education and development in Haiti through the sales of Haitian art. When I found out that Rebecca was interested in going to Haiti for her summer field internship, I thought the art sales would be a great way for her to learn about Haitian culture and get some connections. It was a really great opportunity for us to connect!” It was also an eye-opening experience for Rebecca to learn about Mai’s path to development. “Mai told me her interest in development started in college when she was invited to a ‘stretching party’”—an event in which volunteers stretched canvas paintings across picture frames prior to selling the art.
Little did Mai know she would be stretching canvases for the Vassar Haiti Project, making her first trip to Haiti, and expanding her comfort zone emotionally and physically. “The two of us initially got involved in this field through our undergrad volunteer experiences. The parallel in our development trajectories is astonishing.”
Mentors and mentees are usually matched according to their shared interests. Jackie and Gayle both studied education and Latin America, are former Fulbright scholars, and speak Spanish. Rebecca says the match up of interests between herself and Mai was also spot on. Both she and Mai have worked in education and youth development, specifically in Asia; are Social Enterprise and Innovation Fellows; and came to the GHD program with intentions of exploring private sector solutions to development. Another example is how both Yinka and Olivia share their passion for girls’ education, exchanging views on how education is implemented in different parts of the world.
Not only does the mentorship program strengthen the friendship bonds formed between cohorts, it also aims to facilitate professionally and academically beneficial relationships. “For me, the most valuable part of the mentorship experience has been the support that my mentor shows consistently. Whether it be questions about professional decisions or academic experience, my mentor has always provided guidance and words of encouragement,” Jackie shares. For Jackie, her mentor’s advice has been invaluable in helping her navigate a new internship this semester. Rebecca and Yinka noted the tremendous support they received choosing courses, determining which specific skills to develop, and structuring their GHD experience. Mentors also learn a lot from their mentees and enjoy the experience of welcoming them into the GHD family. Gayle thinks the program helps first-year students transition smoothly back into full-time school and enjoys helping Jackie make decisions about her professional future. Olivia agreed, stating that “Getting to know someone who has extensive development experience and contributing in some small way to her positive experience here at Georgetown has been an unexpected highlight.”
While initially the incoming students benefit the most from these pairings, all of the mentors commented on how valuable the cross-cohort relationships have become. The mentorship program is a way to create connection and strengthen mutual support between students in the program.