Ӱ mentors draw on life experiences to help students envision their futures

Published May 28, 2024

Juggling lectures, friendships and jobs – all while planning for life beyond graduation – is a common experience for college students. When Beach students need help, they can turn to mentors whose advice comes from places of shared experience.

Cal State Long Beach offers a multiplicity of mentorship programs, many of which facilitate connections with peer students or alumni. These can be tailored to distinct life circumstances, such as and the , the former being suite of services for students living with intellectual disabilities. Others, like the Graduate Business Mentor Program, are focused on specific disciplines. Whatever the niche, mentors help with day-to-day challenges while guiding students toward long-term goals.

“I spend a lot of time not just talking about jobs and school, but balancing their lives,” said Mike Elmore, ‘86, who participates in the Graduate Business Mentor Program.

Mentoring is among the services that accord with Cal State Long Beach’s vision of creating a national model for student achievement, empowerment and equity via its No Barriers campaign. The campaign, which has raised more than $275 million, is set to wrap up in June.

Elmore and his wife, Tina, ‘90, have given to the Graduate Business Mentor Program, Beach Fund and other programs within the colleges of business and education. They plan to continue supporting the campus for the rest of their lives.

“Tina and I believe in giving back,” Mike Elmore said. “We both were fortunate to go to Cal State Long Beach and have a really lucky life.”

Think Beach

Peer mentoring is essential to Think Beach, a specialized program for intellectually disabled students. Participants, called Beach Scholars, attend with the objective of earning a Certificate in Integrated Career Studies in two years. The Beach Scholars include Priscilla Tapia, who started during the 2023-24 academic year and shared time on campus with fourth-year psychology student Jaiden Hickey.

Hickey, who this May joined other successful College of Liberal Arts students , met with Tapia two times a week during the school year. Hickey assisted Tapia with study sessions and typical student tasks, like emailing a professor. They also found time to talk about their lives during lunch breaks and Hickey sat in the audience for a ballet folklorico performance including Tapia.

"We talk like we’re friends, but we still have the role where I’m supposed to help her out with what she’s doing,” Hickey said.

Tapia is interested in working in theatrical makeup. During the spring semester she secured a part-time job at the Community Clinic for Counseling and Educational Services.

“They’ve been very helpful,” Tapia said of the Think Beach team. “They’re kind.”

Cal State Long Beach and five other CSU campuses received $750,000 from state government in early 2023 for programs like Think Beach. The ӰState University awarded an additional $100,000 to support Think Beach, plus similar work at Cal State San Marcos. Kristin Powers, professor of advanced studies in education and counseling at this campus, said Think Beach will help Beach Scholars prepare for meaningful employment while experiencing college life.

“Real true friendships are being forged here,” Powers said.

First-Gen Spring Mentor Program

The First-Gen Spring Mentoring program, introduced for the Spring Semester, assisted first-generation students like Alexandra Schaper. Schaper spent the term as a psychology major in her second year of studies who was still figuring out her post-graduation plans.

Campus mentoring network Beach Nexus linked Schaper with mentor Yesenia Pablo, a former first-generation student who earned a degree in psychology in 2013. Speaking after their first meeting, Schaper was looking forward to becoming more comfortable reaching out to others, planning for her future, and discussing whether graduate school may be right for her.

“She’s gone through the same experiences that I’ve been going through right now,” Schaper said. “She’s able to tell me how to it.”

For Pablo, completing her degree and moving on to graduate school was often a trial-and-error process. She’s mentoring to provide first-generation students with guidance – and the reassurance that they belong at The Beach.

“What I want to be for the first-generation undergraduate student is everything that I wish I had when I was in their shoes,” Pablo said.

Schaper picked up a marketing minor over the course of the spring semester. Her mentor observed that this move, along with other activities like attending on-campus workshops aligned with discussions about trying new activities at The Beach.

"She has accomplished quite a bit in terms of putting herself out there and getting involved more, instead of only attending her classes and then going back home," Pablo said. "I am very proud of what she has accomplished in such a short time and I really do believe she is going to continue achieving more academic and personal goals."

Graduate Business Mentor Program

The Graduate Business Mentor Program is for students seeking a Master of Business Administration or Master of Science degree from the College of Business. The MBA Advisory Board initiated the program six years ago.

“The main theme is just support,” said Michelle Levy, assistant director of Graduate Business Career Services. “They often talk about how their mentor is always there for them, encouraging them, and is there to answer any questions.”

Mentor Karita Webber, ‘83 holds a senior position for a major aerospace firm and mentored two graduate students, plus a pair of undergraduates, this past spring term. She wants to help students advance to the next level of their professions and although she suggests options, it’s up to mentees to pick a course of action.

One mentee who worked with Webber is Allura Butron Jackson, ‘23, who earned her Master of Business Administration after also completing a Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering from Cal State Long Beach. Jackson said she was interested in a career path that would position her to see work from a company-wide perspective, as opposed to taking a close look at focused projects as an engineer.

Webber helped Jackson to understand how to shift her career from engineering to business. She now works as an analyst for the same aerospace firm as Webber.

“I think it helped me gain a lot of clarity in my career outlook,” Jackson said.

Webber, who earned her bachelor’s degree in business from The Beach and serves on the MBA Advisory Board, encourages other alumni to become mentors.

“My philosophy is look forward, but reach back and pull others forward,” she said.