Allen House pilots mentorship program with Osher

by Frances Cohen | 4/14/17 2:05am


Inaugural Allen House fellows (left to right) Nicholas Gladstone '17, Dania Torres '20 and Amanda Zhou '19, along with organizer Jose Burnes Garza '17.

by Tiffany Zhai / The Dartmouth

Early last week, the pilot of the Allen House Professional Fellows Program announced their inaugural fellows: Nicholas Gladstone ’17, Dania Torres ’20 and Amanda Zhou ’19.

The program, run by the Allen House residential community, connects Dartmouth students to mentors in the surrounding area through the College’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, an organization that provides educational programs for residents in the Upper Valley.

The Osher mentors are members of the institute who had notable careers and are now retired in the Upper Valley area, program organizer Jose Burnes Garza ’17 said.

The three mentors this year are Thomas Blinkhorn, who worked in international development at the World Bank, former New York Times correspondent Christopher Wren ’57 and Roland Kuchel, former U.S. Ambassador to Zambia and Haiti.

The mentorship aims to give students both insight into a career of interest and a networking opportunity, Blinkhorn said.

As a mentor, he said he loves being challenged with questions from students about his career and life.

“It keeps me alive intellectually,” he said.

The program is organized around a partnership with Osher, which was established by the College with the aim of facilitating learning for Upper Valley residents through courses, lectures and events. Blinkhorn said he thought Osher would be an excellent resource for Dartmouth to use in developing the new house communities.

“Osher has a treasure trove of experience in people who have done extraordinary things with their lives,” he said.

Applicants to the program were asked to submit a resume and a few short essays and then were interviewed over spring break. Final decisions were released last week, and the program began with an inaugural dinner on Wednesday, April 5.

The program had an acceptance rate of under 10 percent, with the organizers receiving almost 50 applications for the three available spots.

According to Garza, once paired with a mentor, the fellows can shape their inadividual mentorship relationships however they desire.

Each fellow is required to submit three goals at the beginning of the program to ensure the mentoring meetings have some direction, but otherwise the nature of the relationship is completely up to each fellow.

“It’s basically this cool, new, malleable program where the student can define what they want,” he said.

Garza said that each fellow is at a completely different stage of their career, noting that a senior with a job offer will have different mentoring needs than a freshman who is beginning to figure out his or her interests.

Torres, for example, hopes to narrow down her career options, since she is broadly interested in government but wants to learn more about her opportunities within the field.

As a current freshman, Torres has the opportunity to work with her mentor, Kuchel, throughout her four years at Dartmouth. Kuchel could even help her find summer opportunities or an off-term internship, Torres said.

Through the program, she hopes to expand her classroom work and experiences into a broader context.

“I want to know how we can actualize these concepts we’ve learned in class in the real world, since the concepts seem so abstract,” she said.

Gladstone, who is weeks away from graduation, wrote in an email that he hopes to work with Blinkhorn to establish some important next steps in his long-term goal of working in international development, as well as get answers to specific questions only someone with real-world experience can answer.

“Having access to a mentor who has worked in development for 40 years and knows exactly which decisions can lead to which career paths is invaluable,” he wrote.

According to Garza, Allen House provides all of the resources for the meetings, and the program organizers keep track of each meeting that takes place. The program has a budget of about $1,000, he said.

The program, as its name indicates, is currently only available to Allen House students. Garza said he thinks the house system is a great starting point to test out a program that will hopefully be open to all Dartmouth students in the coming years.

Blinkhorn agreed that the house system is a great opportunity to pilot the program.

“My view is that the house system is not simply social … but it’s also an intellectual experience that can benefit from an exchange of ideas such as this mentorship program,” he said.

Though only three mentors are participating in the first year of the program, Garza said they plan to extend the program to include more of the Osher members, as well as give more students a chance to participate.

Burnes Garza is a former writer for The Dartmouth. Zhou is a current member of The Dartmouth staff.