Western Michigan University’s Office of Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay, and Transgender Student Services implemented a career-mentoring program that matches undergraduate students with working professionals.
The LBGTA Career Mentorship Program, which officially kicked off Oct. 18, is a piece of a larger career-readiness series, entitled, “Ready to Work.” Features of the mentoring program include job shadowing, resume building, and networking.
Jennifer Hsu, coordinator of the Office of LBGT Services, recognizes the importance helping students transition from college to the workplace.
“This is a unique opportunity,” Hsu said. “It’s not only an excellent way to connect students with local professionals, but also a way to transfer knowledge among generations.”
Alex Susienka, a graduate student interning with the Office of LBGT Services, has been creating and coordinating the program since April. Currently, there are 12 mentors paired with 12 mentees, a number that is expected to increase in the following months.
“We want this program to become a staple of our office and our institution,” Hsu said.
Generally, WMU students are supportive of the new program’s implementation, citing discrimination, stereotyping, lack of confidence, and acceptance as some of the issues that could be resolved.
“In a college setting, there are so many stereotypes of what it means to be gay, bi, or transgender,” senior Natalie Kelber said. “It’d be great if this program could help eliminate some assumptions about who can work where.”
However, some students are wary of the program, worried that pointing out students’ differences will overshadow the similarities.
“I think it’s a little bit of good and bad,” junior Mallory LaPorte said. “I think it’ll give them a good idea of how their lifestyle and their field of choice will mix, but, at the same time, I feel like it’s almost separating them from everyone else going into that career.”
Hsu knows that the program is a start, but hardly the finish line.
“We’d like this program to be so successful that we won’t need an office,” Hsu said. “However, as it’s still legal in Michigan to be fired for identifying as lesbian, bisexual, gay, or transgender, we still have a lot of work to do. We will continue to support student success in the workplace and educate the larger student body.”