Students participating in the School of Urban Affairs Mentoring Program are formally paired with one or two mentors, They’re encouraged to step outside their comfort zones, broadening their professional networks by interacting with other cohort members.
Many times, however, networking proves to be a daunting task.
Four committed mentors recently made this easier for their mentees.
Bill Skowronski (former district chief of the Ohio EPA’s Northeast District Office), Dave Nash (partner at McMahon DeGulis LLP), Kurt Princic (district chief of the Ohio EPA’s Northeast District Office), and Paul Solanics (director of the City of Solon’s Water Reclamation Department) joined forces two years ago to form the “environmental mentoring team” – a collaborative effort introducing students to real-world experiences and issues.
Skowronski first volunteered to mentor students around the program’s inception in 1998, while Nash, Princic, and Solanics joined the cohort approximately 10 years ago. The four knew each other professionally, and would typically sit with one another at the annual “kick-off dinner” in the fall. Naturally, the mentors and their School of Urban Affairs environmental students would converse with one another at the introductory event because of their shared interests and backgrounds.
“Two years ago, we were all sitting around the table discussing what we did professionally and just decided to form an environmental team,” said Skowronski. “The rest is history.” The mentors realized their students shared common interests, and would benefit from group discussions, meetings, and field tours. “Each of us have unique careers, interests, areas of expertise, and different access for tours,” Skowronski added. “This expands the mentoring experience.”
The efforts of the team exemplify the mission of the mentoring program, allowing students to apply academic concepts to real-world experiences.
During the 2019-2020 program, School of Urban Affairs students Alicia Goddard, Caitlin Kohler, Jenny Payne, and Maya Tener actively participated in the team gatherings, tours, and discussions. These included presentations about the history of the Cuyahoga River as well as public health issues in El Salvador, tours of the Ohio EPA, Akron Biosolids Recycling, Solon Water Reclamation, Quasar Renewable Energy, and the Cleveland Convention Center Grind2Energy facilities, as well as a NOACA board of directors meeting.
All four mentors have gone above and beyond their voluntary commitment to the program, recognizing the lasting impact a role model makes in a student’s journey. In a jointly written statement, Nash, Princic, Skowronski, and Solanics noted they were fortunate to have mentors throughout their careers. “There are times when you just need someone to talk to, and times when it’s encouraging to hear that someone has had the same life or career experiences,” the team noted.
Even though the 2019-2020 program concluded in April, the mentors encourage all future volunteers to form teams centered on specific disciplines and areas of interest. “Partnering with other mentor/student pairs doubles the experiences and opportunities,” explained the team.
“We learned from the other mentors, as well as the students,” they added. “You are never too old to learn something new. The power of networking and building relationships are key components to being successful in life and career. It is clear that the mentors in this program have realized those rewards, and are paying it forward.”
Quasar Energy facility tour (2020)