Alumni form new mentor program
By Leslie Adkins, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Monday, February 16, 2009
Dartmouth students interested in media and entertainment careers now have the opportunity to form connections with Dartmouth alumni currently working in the media profession. The Dartmouth Alumni in Entertainment and Media Association, a shared interest group of over 600 members recognized by the College's Association of Alumni, recently began a new, six-month mentorship program that matches current students and recent graduates with alumni who have experience in a specific field.
"The program was started because of the recognized value of mentorship in entertainment," DAEMA mentorship program coordinator Diahna James '05 said.
James explained that because careers in arts and entertainment rarely follow a predetermined formula, a network of contacts is especially important.
The program solicited applicants through the Career Services BlitzMail bulletin as well as a web site during the Fall term.
Based on a written application, resume, statement of interest, phone interview and two recommendations, DAEMA selected eight out of the 15 students and recent graduates who applied to participate in the first run of the program.
"I think there are some promising people for great matches," DAEMA President Jethro Rothe-Kushel '03 said.
While acting, directing and producing were the most popular areas of interest represented in the applicant pool, other areas included cinematography, editing, screenwriting, marketing and music composition.
The mentorship program will require mentors and mentees to be in contact at least once or twice a month. Based upon the relationship that develops, the correspondence could either take the form of e-mail and telephone conversations or of face-to-face meetings, organizers said.
It is this chance to cultivate a relationship that encouraged some students to apply.
"I was hoping to gain insight and guidance in all aspects of the marketing industry," program participant Zakieh Bigio '10, a former member of The Dartmouth staff, said. "But more importantly, I wanted to develop a relationship with a successful and empathetic Dartmouth alum."
Certain mentors have indicated that job-shadowing opportunities may be available to participants. It will be up to the mentees, however, to develop the sorts of relationships they want, James said.
"Mentees will have to take the initiative once they feel they've developed a rapport with the mentor," she said.
DAEMA located mentors its their alumni directory and through the personal connections of both James and Rothe-Kushel. In keeping with the interests of the mentees, most mentors come from a background in film or television. There are a number of accomplished alumni in the group of mentors, including producers at New Line Cinema and NBC, a prominent television writer and an entertainment attorney, Rothe-Kushel said.
The program, however, has been limited by geographic constraints, Rothe-Kushel said. The mentorship program is currently open only to Dartmouth juniors and seniors and recent graduates living on the East or West Coast. Of the eight applicants selected, most are current Dartmouth seniors.
"The challenge has been focusing on [finding alumni] on the East Coast, since there are a lot of people looking for mentors there," Rothe-Kushel said.
The program accepted only one applicant from the West Coast; the remainder of accepted applicants were from the New York and Boston areas. Because of the high concentration of East Coast applicants and low concentration of East Coast mentors, several matches have yet to be finalized.
The brief window of time for application submissions was an additional difficulty.
"One of the challenges was the application was due around finals period," James said. "Initially the application period was going to be longer, but with issues with getting information on the web site, students had the submission period shortened to about five weeks."
Despite these obstacles, the program will continue . James said that in the future she would like to see the program open up to older Dartmouth graduates.
She would also like to see former mentees become mentors.
Rothe-Kushel added that he hopes the program will expand over time to develop into an even more enriching experience for its participants.
"I'd like to see something like a Hollywood education program, where a group of current students could come to L.A. for a term, go to major agencies, studios, networks and get internships," he said.
DAEMA is taking several steps to expand the opportunities it offers. Career Services recently issued a bulletin announcing the DAEMA Scholars Program, which will provide selected students with a 10-week introduction to their entertainment industry of interest. The program application deadline is March 10.
"The advantage of going to a school like Dartmouth, or any top-ranking school, is the network that you have access to," James said. "Sometimes you don't know the network that exists because it is a nontraditional route, especially coming out of a school like Dartmouth, so it is important that students have access to that type of network as well."
Bigio agreed, emphasizing the importance of career contacts in media and entertainment.
"Getting input from someone who has been there is extremely helpful," she said. "It's such an amazing opportunity because there are a lot of resources for kids who want to go into law and medicine and business, but not a lot of resources for students who want to pursue something creative."