University of Washington

Students and mentors


Alumni give back to students as mentors


When Crystal Zhu, an international studies major, was trying to decide whether she wanted to apply to graduate school, she had the help of two alumni mentors who shared their professional experiences with her. Zhu and 25 other students participated in the first year of the Jackson School Mentor Program in 2011. This year, the program grew to 48 pairs of students and mentors.

Participants have the option of meeting in person or, when this is not practical, visiting on the phone or via an online service such as Skype.

After she graduates this spring, Zhu plans to start working. She and her mentor this year, Jessica Kuhn (B.A., ’10), have been talking about what types of jobs interest her. Zhu said she has learned from the experiences of Kuhn and her other mentors and is exploring jobs in international business and human resources. Talking with her mentor helped her realize that she didn’t have to find the “right” job immediately. “She showed me you might have to try several things out and that’s OK,” she said.

After graduating from The Jackson School of International Studies, Kuhn worked for a year, first as an intern at the Seattle International Foundation, and later as a foreign affairs fellow in Sen. Maria Cantwell’s Washington, D.C., office. She is now a Rangel Fellow at The Fletcher School at Tufts University pursuing an M.A. in law and diplomacy.

She credits Jackson School professors and mentors in her own life with helping her figure out what to do after graduation. She said, “I think it’s a fulfilling experience to give back to the school that meant so much to me and give back to the students.”

The two first met during the annual spring networking reception. Several months later they were paired together for the mentorship program. “There is something that is really special about Jackson School students,” Kuhn said. “Crystal is ambitious and professional and that comes across in all our interactions.”

This year, Zhu is mentor program coordinator intern for the mentorship program. “International Studies is one of the most versatile majors out there. It’s good to see alumni in all different fields of work,” Zhu said.

Zhu works with Kelly Voss, director of career services and alumni relations, who started the program. Voss said alumni love the program because of the impact they have on students’ lives. “They are reinvigorated through the students’ passion and energy. It helps focus their career paths as well,” she said.

Alumni are invited to become mentors by submitting an alumni interest form. They can also learn more about the program during the annual alumni reception on April 9. Students have an opportunity to attend an interest session in October.

Written by Kristina C. Bowman