We Are All Marquette: Building networks — the Minority Scholar Mentorship Program

Kaitlin Johnstone (left) and Sunitha Doreivelu (right), co-founders of the Minority Scholar Mentorship Program.

By Saul Lopez, graduate assistant in the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion

A newly formed student organization aims to help underrepresented students build their professional networks: The Minority Scholars Mentoring Program (MSMP). Led by Kaitlin Johnstone and Sunitha Doreivelu, seniors in the Klingler College of Arts and Sciences, MSMP aims to connect students of color with peer mentors in their respective colleges in order to start networking as soon as they enter Marquette.

A driving force behind the creation of the MSMP comes from the personal experiences of the two founders. Johnstone recalls her time in the College of Health Sciences: sitting down in large lecture halls and being one of two African American students, she felt isolated from her classmates.

“A lot of minorities could benefit from peer support navigating college,” says Johnstone when reflecting on what sparked the idea behind the program.

The idea then grew into a plan, and with the help of Dr. Joya Crear, assistant vice president for Student Affairs, MSMP became an official student organization this year.

The program aims to lessen anxieties associated with the transition into the professional world by focusing on internships, academic success and community resources. In the beginning of the year, mentors are given information about their mentees and they are responsible for staying connected with them throughout the semester. In addition, monthly meetings with mentor and mentee pairs are held to further discuss professional opportunities in the city.

Like similar organizations such as Black Student Council, Indian Student Association and the Latin American Student Organization, MSMP offers students the ability to form relationships with their peers, which Johnstone says is one of the organization’s biggest strengths. But MSMP goes beyond social and cultural programming and centers itself on the professional needs of underrepresented students.

The program so far has far exceeded expectations, and the high response from the student body has caught both student leaders by surprise and points to a real hunger for this type of programming. “One of the hardest things has been managing this many people. We did not expect have this many [students],” says Doreivelu.

Johnstone and Doreivelu had initially anticipated around 30 students to sign up. Currently, there are more than 70 students participating, with 50 mentees and about 25 mentors. They attribute a lot of their success and growth to Instagram, a platform through which students have reached out directly to see if they could join.

Before Johnstone and Doreivelu graduate, they would like to set a foundation of success so other students can continue to develop their professional networks. In the future, they hope to add graduate students and minority faculty mentors.

For now, they are focused on their first student panel, which will take place on on Wednesday, Feb. 5, from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the 707 building, where they will have seniors discuss tips on how to apply for internships.

To learn more, follow @mu_minoritymentors on Instagram.

Celebrating diversity and inclusion at Marquette University