Meet Brandon Grant.
Brandon graduated from UM’s College of Literature, Arts, & the Sciences in 2016 with a degree in Psychology. Since then, he’s spent his time furthering his education with a Masters of Public Health and establishing himself within the University of Pennsylvania Health System as the Strategic Support Manager for the Office of the CEO of Penn Medicine. A native Detroiter, he is now based out of Philadelphia.
Meet Keith Hudson.
Keith is a current LSA senior who anticipates graduating in the Winter of 2022 with a degree in Biology, Health, and Society (BHS). He is on the pre-medical track, and has supplemented his classroom studies with his work experience as a pharmacy technician.
This past summer, Brandon and Keith were matched through the recent launch of the Hub’s formal mentorship program and as a pair, they connected multiple times over a span of three months. The outcome? Read on to find out.
Why should alums engage in mentorship?
Why mentorship? The value for students in an alum-student relationship is evident: students get advice when they need to make important career decisions, support while identifying and pursuing professional goals, and specialized industry knowledge that only experienced professionals like alums can provide. Best of all, they get advocates in their corner who can help demystify their undergraduate experience and professional journey and who can also be on the lookout for potential career opportunities.
But why do alums choose to mentor? For 2016 LSA alum Brandon Grant, it was an innate desire to give back to the university and even stronger compulsion to help LSA students succeed.
“I saw this as not only an opportunity to stay connected to my alma mater, but to support LSA students and help guide them through undergrad,” Brandon explains. “After graduating, I remember saying, ‘Man, if I could do it all over I probably would have explored this degree or I would have taken this class as opposed to that class.’ I was hoping to prevent [LSA students] from having to look back so that they could say instead: ‘I did it exactly how I wanted to do it.’”
Brandon was paired with third year LSA student Keith Hudson, and the two had their first meeting shortly after in February of 2021. Brandon came in hopeful, but not sure what to expect.
“I was hoping to establish a sufficient relationship with my mentee, and I also wanted the ability to positively impact someone's life from the program,” Brandon reflects. “I’m happy to say I accomplished that. It was also great to talk to someone that's currently at Michigan and to understand the current landscape there, and it gave me the opportunity to self-reflect as I was helping them navigate their path. It helped me think about what kind of questions I should be asking myself—so I like to call it a little bit of reverse mentorship.”
Brandon and Keith had some foundational commonalities. Both were liberal arts students, raised in suburban Detroit, and passionate about healthcare. They clicked almost immediately, bonding over shared identities and interests.
“It was nice to get his perspective on things, especially with him being an African-American man,” Keith explained. “I definitely appreciated his perspective because a lot of times, it’s easier to resonate with someone that looks like you. And seeing that he was able to succeed in the medical field—that was really nice to see.”
As they continued to meet, their relationship grew, and the mentorship Brandon offered extended beyond academics and career exploration.
“I would talk to him about how I was running and he pushed me to run three miles a day instead of two,” Keith explained. “So my main takeaway was not to be too hard on myself, but also to step out of my comfort zone and always strive to be a little bit better.”
Despite the success of his mentorship relationship, Keith admits being initially reluctant to participate.
“I didn't know if I wanted to do it because I didn't want to add anything else to my plate,” Keith recalls. “But then I realized that especially during the school semester I had so much going on, and I felt that I was checking in on a lot of other people but no one was really checking up on me.”
He says that ‘helping hand’ has been essential to his recent success as a student, particularly in this predominantly virtual environment.
“It's always nice to have someone to talk to who’s been through what you've been through, and to help guide you through it,” Keith explains. “I know for me being a mentor, it's not about being perfect, it's just about holding the person accountable while also giving them a helping hand. And I feel, especially in the last year and a half that we've been through, everyone needs a helping hand.”
The Formal Mentorship Program
The Hub’s Formal Mentorship program is just one of many offerings within the Gerstein Family Mentorship Program at the Hub. It was launched through LSA Connect: a platform designed to provide unlimited student access to any and all LSA alums. The Formal Mentorship Program was designed to match one alum with one student for a deeper connection, more enriched learning, and opportunity to cultivate a more enduring professional relationship.
Throughout the program, mentors (alums) and mentees (students) meet three times, with each meeting assigned a specific theme. The ultimate goal is to help build the student’s networking skills, encourage relationship building as the pair gets to know each other individually, and teach students how to maintain a long-term connection.
The Formal Mentorship Program is built around developing a professional and mutually beneficial relationship, but it also aims to build bridges between LSA’s student and alum populations.
Although mentors and mentees are only required to meet three times during the program, Brandon and Keith met more frequently and continued to keep in touch over the summer. Now with this iteration of the program wrapped up, Brandon and Keith intend to continue their mentorship relationship, keeping in contact on a bi-weekly basis.
When asked about recommending the Formal Mentorship Program to other students, Keith responds with a resounding ‘yes.’
“I would,” Keith affirms. “I understand why people might be hesitant… but this program has guidelines for you, sets meeting [checkpoints], and [agendas]. But at the same time you still have that flexibility.”
Advice to potential mentors
For alums considering ‘taking the leap’, Brandon also offers some advice.
“When you're having your one-on-one sessions, you have to think about how you want to spend your time with your mentee,” Brandon says. “What type of advice are you giving them?”
He recommends taking the time to get to know your mentee, offering a reminder that everyone’s experiences and needs are different.
“You want to make sure that you actually learn about your mentee first,” Brandon advises. “If you're able to understand your mentee from a holistic picture of what's going on within their life, then you're able to give the best guidance. Be conscious about what you're saying and how you're talking to your mentee, and just try to understand their world.”
Brandon believes in this: using his experiences to help guide his mentee’s. Taking what he’s learned, what his mentors have taught him, and passing it on.
“I didn't get here alone,” Brandon emphasizes. “Nobody gets anywhere alone. So having that mentor, or having individuals that are vouching for you truly makes a difference.”
If you’re interested in participating in the formal mentorship program for Winter 2022 or in future semesters, please visit LSA Connect to fill out our interest form. Questions? Please reach out to Hannah Rickers at firstname.lastname@example.org.