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30 Minute Mentoring Program Highlights Successful First Year

April 2014

Lee-Anne Leverone, USM Media Studies student

There is power in mentoring, in facilitating a journey of discovery for another person; it’s a transformative experience. On this sunny day in Maine, eight alumni of USM, professionals all, came to the Portland campus to participate in USM’s 30 Minute Mentoring program; a new and exciting initiative that connects alumni with current students for the express purpose of connecting, networking and experience sharing through 30 minute conversations.   

“I would have loved an opportunity to do this! I would have jumped at the chance to meet with alum, to network and talk about experiences,” says Jennifer Burke (99’).

A self-described “political bug,” Burke is among the mentors sharing her professional experiences with students. “I participate in these sessions because I want to show students that they can use their USM degree and go far with it.” Burke began her career working for the Maine Legislature, serving as a legislative aid for the late state Senator Joel Abromson, for whom the Abromson Center is named. She parlayed that experience to working on Senator Snowe’s re-election campaign and that job led Burke to D.C. where she worked for Planned Parenthood and ran the national Republicans for Choice program. She now works as a consultant for a DCI Group, a large public affairs firm specializing in grassroots policy work. “I’ve done some unique things in my life so if I can share the career path I’ve taken, and that’s helpful to a student, then its well worth my time.”

30 Minute Mentoring is akin to speed dating. A date is set, mentor profiles are shared online, students have an opportunity to view them and identify the mentors who most interest them, then connections are made and the conversation begins. Students explore professional paths and opportunities; they also to tap into the rich social capital that exists within the USM alumni network.  

“I benefited significantly from the connections I made at USM,” says Jim Damicis (90’). “I know how hard it is to enter a profession or to change a job and the best way to do that is through networking. This mentorship program is just perfect for that.”

Damicis is a graduate of the Muskie School and holds a Master’s Degree in Public Policy and Management. As the Senior Vice President of Camoin Associates, a firm that specializes in economic and community development, he cares deeply about making communities a place where people can get a job, buy a house and have a decent quality of life. “I’ve always been big into making communities better places to be. USM and the Muskie school fueled that. This university gave me a lot, now its time to give back.”

Ethan Wiley is in his final semester at the Muskie School. He’s completing his master’s degree in Public Policy and Management, in addition to a few graduate certificates. Wiley would like to use his degree to pursue a career in policy analysis, research or program management in the public, private or nonprofit sector. He’s attended three 30 Minute Mentoring sessions and has spoken with alumni from varied sectors. During this particular session he met with an alumnus who aligned perfectly with his career aspirations. “He gave me a ton of useful career advice, but advice and guidance on networking in the field in general.  I’ve found the 30 Minute Mentoring Sessions to be a really useful tool.  I’ve taken away an increased understanding of what’s available, who is out there, and the value of knowing just how big a picture I fit into.”

“That’s what this is all about, says Damicis. “It’s so important for students to take ownership of their network. Today they’re making connections, they’re learning about the possibilities and while it may not get them the job a month or two from now, if they commit to building networks and fostering relationships with organizations and businesses in the region; if they do those things, that’s what’s going to get them the career that they want.”

Bottom line, adds Burke, “…its really is about who you know. You can have a fancy profile on LinkedIn but keep in mind that companies are using social network sites primarily for background checks. I would never hire somebody without a personal recommendation; LinkedIn isn’t going to do that or you. That’s why relationship building, outside of the academic experience, is so important.”

There is no doubt that the 30 Minute Mentoring program provides mentors with an extraordinary opportunity to facilitate a student’s personal and professional but truth be told, they get something in return as well.  

“I’ve had some incredible people foster my professional and personal growth so it feels good to do the same for others,” says Burke. I’m here because I want to be involved, I want to be part of this community and I want to give back to USM. I want the students know that the world is at their fingertips and that a USM grad can get to Washington D.C., they can work for the White House or for the Capital. I want students to have a big picture in mind and not be afraid to go for some big career goals because USM will prepare them for some really unique experiences. All they need to do is open their eyes to it. If I can help with that, then it’s the least I can do.”

For more information about the 30 Minute Mentoring program please contact Melissa Campbell in the Alumni Office at 207-780-4833 or

For more information, please contact the
Office of Alumni Outreach & Corporate Partners
Call 207.780.4833