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Mentor Program Story

Mentoring fuels success. By partnering alumni with current students in one-on-one relationships, the Webster Mentoring Program provides an exciting opportunity for learning and networking. Mentors can prepare mentees for the workplace and help them map a clear path for career success. Here are the stories of four of these alumni-student mentoring relationships.

Shelby Wratchford (Class of 2018) and Jane Robert (BA ‘69)

Shelby Wratchford with fellow Gorlok Sofia Gianino presenting a Degas exhibit in French at the Saint Louis Art Museum. Photo courtesy of Jane Robert.

Jane Robert is passionate about France and the French language. After earning a bachelor’s in French from Webster University in 1969, and subsequently a master’s in French language and literature from the University of Missouri in Columbia, she taught the language for many years at Parkway West High School. She helped found a French-language school in the city of St. Louis and has been recognized by the French government for her efforts to encourage interest in France. She was thrilled to be matched with current Webster student Shelby Wratchford, whose love of French rivals that of Robert’s.

Why did you want to participate in the Mentoring Program?

Shelby: I met Jane early in my time at Webster, and I was immediately drawn to her personality. She was engaging and extremely helpful, sharing her vast knowledge of the French language with me, as well as her experience in teaching the language and traveling to France. We decided the Mentor Program would be the perfect opportunity for us to set learning goals and specific meeting times.

Jane: Shelby is gifted, brilliant, and passionately interested in France and the French language. I wanted to help her so she wouldn’t become discouraged since the benefits or rewards of a language major in the United States aren’t obvious.

How does your mentoring arrangement work?

Jane: This is our third year. While we don’t get together frequently, we often work on projects together or she’ll ask me questions via email and I offer suggestions. I keep her aware of French opportunities in town, and she helps keep me aware of what’s going on at Webster.

Shelby: Some of our projects together have included developing educational worksheets that employ popular French culture for use in French classrooms at Webster.

What’s a specific problem you tackled together?

Jane: The most profound was helping her make a decision between two internships, and weighing the pros and cons of each. She was torn between them and came to me for some advice.

Shelby: She helped me in deciding to apply for the internship program at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and to continue to immerse myself in the French language and culture, and for that I am forever grateful.

How has the program helped you?

Shelby: Jane has given me professional and life advice that I will always carry with me. For example, she gave me the invaluable insight to never say no to an opportunity. You never know where it may lead you!

Jane: Shelby’s enthusiasm reminds me to keep my own fire alive. I have loved getting to see my passion, the French language, being continued on by someone locally.

What do you most admire about each other?

Shelby: Jane is one of the most personable individuals I have ever met. She makes a conscious effort to get to know individuals personally and to help them in whatever way she can. She has also taught me to be more diligent and to never let opportunities fall to the wayside. She is a wonderful leader and she inspires me to continue to grow.

Jane: Her seriousness, her follow through, and her polish and diplomacy in spoken conversations. Also, Shelby’s very positive. Whenever I see her, she has a huge smile on her face.

Why should others participate in the Mentoring Program?

Shelby: I can’t stress how important it is to make these connections, both for personal and professional reasons. As Jane taught me, never say no to an opportunity!

Jane: The strength of the program is, of course, sharing a mature alum’s knowledge and experience with a student. But, the positive for me, was the optimism I had renewed, just by speaking with Shelby. If anyone is considering this kind of relationship, take it seriously, know that someone is counting on you, and know that it could last for a lifetime.

Jenna Hopkins (BA ‘15) and Roelof van Laar (MBA ‘14)

Jenna Hopkins and mentor Roelof van Laar together in the Netherlands, where Hopkins completed an internship in Dutch Parliament. Photo courtesy of Jenna Hopkins.

As if earning an MBA weren’t time-consuming enough, Roelof van Laar did it while serving as a member of Dutch Parliament. He retired from his government position in 2017, and now advocates for children’s rights. That impressive resume perfectly complemented his mentee, Jenna Hopkins, who studied political science and international studies at Webster University. Since graduating in 2015, Hopkins has worked with the U.S. Department of State in Germany, on an Illinois State House race, as an intern on a Congressional committee, and now as a legislative correspondent with United States Congressman Vicente Gonzalez's (TX-15) office.

How did your mentoring arrangement work?

Roelof: Jenna emailed me updates and questions and I tried to help her reflect on those. And I provided my perspective.

Jenna: Roelof was incredibly open, accessible, and encouraging when discussing ideas with me, be it about my schooling, career, or aspirations.

What’s your favorite memory from the experience?

Roelof: Jenna came to visit me and did a short internship in Parliament with me. She got to know Dutch politics from the inside that week.

Jenna: I spent a week interning and shadowing Roelof as a member of the Labour Party. I got to help with taking notes, editing speeches, and conducting meetings. I helped facilitate a meeting with a citizen advocacy group that was meeting in regard to aid funding to Uganda. The experience was just a great opportunity to exchange ideas, immerse myself in a new political environment, and understand a different culture.

How did the program help you?

Jenna: It increased my political understanding of the Netherlands by leaps and bounds, and gave me the opportunity to boost my career experience. It also provided me with the opportunity to expand my reach as a global citizen.

Roelof: I like helping exceptional people reach their full potential. I enjoyed the experience, and I think I made a good friend.

What do you most respect about each other?

Jenna: Since day one, Roelof has been incredibly honest and straightforward with me—and for someone looking to start their professional career, I have found it to be a blessing to have someone I can count on that is like that. He’s also incredibly conscious of helping others less fortunate than him, and that is something I hope I’m able to emulate throughout my career, too.

Roelof: Jenna is exceptionally bright and committed. It was a pleasure to be a small part of her path from university to professional life.

Why should others participate in the Mentoring Program?

Jenna: This program allowed me to do things I never thought possible. Not only was I able to participate in an incredible short-term internship, but I also have a lifelong mentor and confidant.

Roelof: It’s nice to meet new people, and it allows professionals to help students find their way in the ‘real' world.

Roshan Adhikari (BA ’17) and Dr. Jim Sass (MA ’93)

While serving his country in the U.S. Navy, Dr. Jim Sass earned a master’s degree in computer research and information management from Webster University’s Bolling AFB campus in 1993. Since retiring after a 26-year naval career in 2001, he’s been working as a consultant to the government and as an adjunct professor. Sass recently mentored Roshan Adhikari, who earned a degree in management, international business from the Thailand campus in 2017. Adhikari is now an international marketing executive at Vejthani Hospital in Bangkok.

Why did you want to participate in the Mentoring Program?

Roshan: I was actively looking for opportunities to help me advance my professional career and I was stunned by the mentor profiles. I love learning by absorbing useful experiences of the veterans.

Jim: One of my passions is mentoring, which as a Navy officer and teacher you kind of do by default. I wanted to do it in a more focused environment.

How did your mentoring arrangement work?

Roshan: For six months, we emailed frequently and also talked online via Skype one to three times a month. We talked about a lot of topics, including mapping goals, time management, starting a professional career, and personal growth.

Jim: Early on, we set goals he wanted to achieve, and during our meetings we walked through the progress he was making on his goals. At the end of each meeting, I would usually give Roshan something to think about or look at to discuss at our next meeting.

How did the program help you professionally?

Roshan: The mentoring experience substantially helped me in mapping out my academic and professional goals, making decisions regarding my startup project, exploring new opportunities, and achieving work-life balance.

Jim: Ultimately, my goal is to be a business coach. Mentoring is a close relative to coaching and this program has provided me an opportunity to practice techniques I have learned.

What do you most respect about each other?

Roshan: He’s very energetic and self-driven with hands-on knowledge of many realms of professional life. Without a doubt, he’s the best mentor I ever had.

Jim: He's an awesome young man with strong ambitions, and I enjoy keeping up with his progress.

What’s the greatest benefit of having or being a mentor?

Roshan: The greatest benefit of having a mentor is truly connecting with a role-model and fostering that connection. Sharing academic and professional matters with mentors hugely helps in your career advancement. Mentoring equips you with a big picture of your life and can be a huge help in creating a well-thought career roadmap, and in learning to maintain work-life balance while juggling your commitments and ambitions.

Jim: Having a mentor in the senior year is an excellent way for the student to have help focusing on what comes after graduation. The best part of being a mentor is the friendship or bond that you make with each other. Even though Roshan's mentorship ended in May, we stay in touch to discuss how he has done with his goals.

Jeannie Liautaud (BA ‘16) and Maarten de Boer (BA ‘00)

Maarten de Boer graduated from Webster University in 2000 with a Bachelor of Arts in special education. Rather than teach, however, he decided to pursue his passion for photography. It paid off. Today, he’s a sought-after celebrity photographer for magazines like People and Esquire. He served as a mentor to Jeannie Liautaud, who graduated in 2016 and now runs a commercial photography business and works as a freelance photo assistant on projects for major brands, including Target and Panera.

Why did you choose Webster?

Jeannie: Webster offered two different photography majors (one in the Art Department, and one in the School of Communications). I also appreciated the small class sizes more than I expected. My experience was very individualized.

Maarten: I became aware of Webster from a recruiter who visited my high school in Norway. I had never lived in the U.S. before, and figured it would be an adventure to attend the St. Louis campus!

What drew you to the Mentoring Program?

Jeannie: I actually applied to the mentor program hoping to be matched with Maarten. I was involved in Student Ambassadors, and our advisor hinted there would be an amazing celebrity photographer in the mix. Of course, I wanted to see what expertise Maarten could share with me. I wanted to pick his brain and have an industry role model. Luckily, we were matched!

Maarten: I’ve taken a less direct path to where I am in my career, and it would have been nice to have more clarity about the field when I was younger. The Mentoring Program allows me to feel like I’m making a difference, helping and giving back to a student who has questions about the realities of working as a photographer.

What value did you get from the program?

Jeannie: Maarten gave me unfiltered advice about how to be a valuable photo assistant/intern, someone who would get called back. He explained what he looks for in a good photo assistant, and his hiring process. He also gave me a solid portfolio review. He approached it with a straightforwardness that was eye-opening to me.

Maarten: I think it helps me most by giving me an opportunity to be reflective about my own career. My mentee’s questions sometimes makes me discuss and talk about things I don’t usually think about—things that have become routine or automated. It allows me to analyze myself and my work.

What do you respect about each other?

Jeannie: Maarten’s work is exceptional. He has an incredible sense of control with lighting, and a way of portraying his subjects so honestly. I would love to see him in action one day. I also admire his sense of self. He’s undeniably confident, decisive, but relaxed at the same time.

Maarten: I was impressed by her openness to discuss and share her work, to be truly respective to feedback, and then seeing her implement some of those changes in her photography or website.

Why should others participate in the program?

Jeannie: It provides a direct flow of communication between someone successful and someone about to launch their career. People in many industries go through intensive legwork to create a connection like this, and the Mentoring Program does it for you. It’s a no-brainer.

Maarten: I’d encourage anyone to become a mentor because I’ve enjoyed my time doing it and find it incredibly rewarding.

To learn more about how you can get involved with the Webster University Mentoring Program, visit