Student News

Alumni Mentoring Program helps Lewis Honors students cultivate career readiness, well-being

UK Lewis Honors College student Kauner Shacklette (right) with his mentor, UK Honors alumnus Matt DeLuca. Photo provided.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Feb. 20, 2024) — Unique to the University of Kentucky Lewis Honors College is the Center for Personal Development (CPD) which aims to help students cultivate self-awareness, well-being and career readiness. Among the various CPD offerings is the Alumni Mentoring Program, which started in 2020.

As a result of attending a webinar during the pandemic focused on supporting students virtually, Ramla Osman, associate director of CPD, sought “to provide meaningful connections and find ways for the students to grow personally and professionally.” She partnered with Sally Foster, assistant dean for student engagement, and Beth Wells, former director of philanthropy in the college, to research alumni mentoring programs at other universities and identify potential alumni participants.

“Because everyone was remote, it actually made it possible for more alums from all over the country to participate,” Osman said.

Carla Curtsinger, a 1985 UK Honors graduate and now freelance communications trainer, adjunct instructor and keynote speaker, agrees. 

“When Lewis launched the mentoring program during the COVID pandemic, I was home alone in a bubble much like the Honors college students. I wanted to offer community, friendship and support during an extraordinary time.”

The program grew each year to reach 25 alum-student pairs who meet either remotely and/or in person. The alumni participating include a variety of professionals in fields such as medicine, law, business, science and more.

One of the original mentors is William M. “Drew” Andrews Jr., Ph.D. a 1993 graduate who is now a geologist, working as section head of geologic mapping and acting director of the Kentucky Geological Survey. He recalled the support he received from Jim Albisetti's, UK professor emeritus, involvement with the Honors program during his time at UK, and wanted to share that same guidance and perspective as a mentor with others. Andrews hopes “to help students see the open doors and recognize the opportunities” as he has benefited from being given a chance.

Unlike Andrews’ experience, cosmetic surgeon and external advisory board member Julene Samuels, a 1982 graduate, did not feel as much support as a student, which was the motivation for her to volunteer to serve as a mentor.

“I wanted to give others a chance to have that mentorship that I did not have,” Samuels said.

The formal part of the program includes a September kick-off event during which everyone meets and reviews the handbook to set expectations, a January survey to assess the progress, and an April closing meeting when participants share their experiences. It is then up to the student to maximize the mentor relationship.

"It is the student’s responsibility to reach out, learn how to initiate the professional conversations and schedule the monthly meetings," said Tamika Tompoulidis, a CPD counselor who oversees the Alumni Mentoring Program.

Sometimes the pairing aligns with the student’s career interests as it did for Kauner Shacklette, a UK Lewis Honors student from Vine Grove, Kentucky, who is majoring in architecture with a certificate in historic preservation. Shacklette has aspirations to maybe work for Lego one day, which was his inspiration to pursue architecture. Schacklette’s mentor is Matt DeLuca, an associate architect with JRA Architects. Through the program, Schacklette meets in person with DeLuca monthly and gains exposure to the field of architecture.

For others, even if the mentor-mentee pairing does not align in terms of career goals, mentors provide guidance to enhance well-being. For example, alumni mentor and campaign consultant Harry Neack, a 2007 graduate, encourages students to make time for fun in college. As a huge basketball fan, he recommends that “one of the best things to do is to go to a stereotypical thing, like a basketball game.”

Lewis Honors College students who are at least sophomores can apply during the first month of school for an alumni mentor. Alumni applications are welcome at any time throughout the year. Students and alumni can find information about the alumni mentoring program at

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