When Charles W. Zobell (BA ’74) studied communications at BYU in the 1970s, faculty member Nelson B. Wadsworth took a particular interest in the budding journalist.
“His mentoring made a huge difference in my education,” Zobell explains. “He saw promise in my writing and editing and gave me a teaching assistantship. Not only that, he helped me sell my first story to the Associated Press and assisted me in getting my first job. I have long anticipated a time when I could mentor others.”
Now the managing editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Zobell had the opportunity to serve as a mentor earlier this year in a pilot program launched by the Department of Communications in the College of Fine Arts and Communications. Zobell was one of nearly 150 BYU alumni who signed up to advise students in advertising, public relations, broadcasting, and journalism.
Zobell worked with Brooke A. Self (’11), a senior majoring in journalism from Apple Valley, Calif., who says she was excited when she learned a mentorship would be part of her course work. “I had a great mentor,” she says. “He asked for samples of my writing, critiqued them, and gave me excellent feedback. I learned, for example, that I needed to tighten my copy and discard unnecessary words. He even came to Provo from Las Vegas and met with me one-on-one. He gave me a copy of Strunk and White’s classic Elements of Style and told me he reads it once a year.”
When Self expressed concern about the future of journalism, Zobell assured her that though the medium may change, there would always be a need for good writers and editors. “It was great to meet somebody in my field and learn about his experiences,” she adds.
The pilot launched during winter semester 2011 and is a program long envisioned by Stephen M. Jones (BM ’83), dean of the College of Fine Arts and Communications, and Brad L. Rawlins, chair of the Department of Communications.
“In the fast-paced, ever-changing world into which our students graduate, they need guides who can help them bridge educational and professional worlds,” Jones says. To help, the college recruited BYU alumni—communications professionals, says Jones, who “have already found their way into positions of influence and responsibility in their disciplines.”
“The college has always wanted a stronger bond with its alumni in a meaningful way, and our mentorship program provided that connection,” says Rawlins. “I knew this could be good for students because they would have the chance to interact with professionals in their areas of interest. But our alumni benefited as well. Many told us they believed they had something meaningful to offer the students and were pleased we contacted them.”
Also key to the success of the pilot program was Gary J. Dixon (MA ’76), president of the Foundation for a Better Life and director of the college’s alumni board. “As a board, we proposed several ideas,” he says, “and came to see that a mentoring program could be a valuable experience from both an academic and spiritual perspective. Academic guidance is vital for our mentoring program, and a spiritual component helps students realize how people maintain their values in the workplace.”
Dixon mentored Jessica Hoffman Porter (’12), a senior from Draper, Utah, majoring in advertising, who says she just got “really lucky” in the mentorship program. She says she can contact Dixon anytime. “He is a big name in his industry, but he made me think he would be thrilled to continue working with me. Our first phone conversation lasted more than an hour. He gave me a lot of feedback and provided some interesting tips I had never considered. For example, he suggested I create my own advisory board and use it throughout my career. It’s an interesting way to have a network.”
Sean C. Good (’11), a senior from New Hampshire who hopes to work in advertising, feels equally fortunate. He worked with Kirk L. Tanner (BA ’84), chief marketing officer for Fishbowl in Orem, Utah, and says, “He reallypainted a detailed picture of what can happen after you graduate with a degree in advertising. He has worked on all sides of the marketing and advertising field and gave me some great advice.”
Info: Alumni communications professionals who wish to be mentors should contact Jacey Carpenter at 801-422-4510 or firstname.lastname@example.org.