Campus Innovation

Courtney Volturno '06, left, and Sheena Mooney '15.

Students: learn more about participating in the 2014 Winter Break Shadow Program >>

Alumni and Parents: learn more about becoming a 2014 Shadow Program Mentor >>

By Daniel B. O'Brien

Psychology major Sheena Mooney '15 thought she wanted to work with kids. Shadowing an alumna who mentors city teens about opportunities for college, and then helping a teen apply for a job, reinforced it.

"I really liked what she was doing," Mooney says. "She didn't have a set, go into an office and only know people by a number job... Her job was going out and doing whatever these kids needed her to do at that time."

As a program coordinator at Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection, an affiliate of Hillside Family of Agencies, Courtney Volturno '06 works with juniors and seniors in eight district high schools throughout Rochester, N.Y., to spark students' interest in attending college. Students meet at least two of six risk factors for non-matriculation.

"Sometimes this is the first time someone is really talking to the students about college seriously," Volturno says of her position. "... You have to be persistent – to push them and show them that you're not going to go away easily because you believe this is important for them."

While Volturno's position isn't a direct fit for Mooney's career choice, the experience gave her a taste of what working with teens would be like.

That's the mission of the college's Winter Break Alumni Shadow Program.

More than 100 freshmen and sophomores signed up for the opportunity to shadow alumni in diverse fields and disciplines during the inaugural program, held over the 2013 winter break.

Stacey Wiley, director of Geneseo's Office of Career Development, solicited alumni and parent volunteers from around the country who work in a variety of career fields, including law, financial services, education and health care. Interested students chose their top three preferences and Wiley matched students to preferred alumni on a first-come, first-served basis. Of the more than 100 students who expressed interest, Wiley was able to match 82 pairs.

The program targets younger students: Shadowing allows students to try different careers on for size and find out what does and doesn't interest them, without making a major investment of time, says Wiley.

Volturno was happy to participate.

"You know the basic professions that you've come into contact with your entire life — doctors, teachers, police officers — but there are so many different opportunities out there," says Volturno, "and I think it's important to go out and see what those opportunities are."

Feedback from volunteers and students will help Wiley improve and tailor the program to student needs.

Wiley is seeking more alumni and parents in the high-interest fields of law, health care and finance, so more students with these interests can participate.

"We talk with students every day who are struggling to choose a major because they don't know what particular jobs actually entail," says Wiley. "The shadow program allows students to explore a potential career field by spending time with someone connected to Geneseo, who is happy to help them."