College and Career

A new mentorship platform helps College students and alumni connect and share experiences.

Friday, July 24, 2020

By Lauren Rebecca Thacker 

When we talk to Penn Arts & Sciences alumni, we hear two things over and over again. First, their career paths have taken unexpected twists and turns. And second, that their College experience helps them navigate, pivot, and adapt along the way.

Reema Shah, C'94

And when we talk to current College students and young alumni, they want to hear stories from alumni who have gone before them.

That’s why we launched Ben Connect, a platform where alumni and students can share their stories and form long- or short-term virtual mentorships.­­

Reema Shah, C’94­­­­, signed up as a mentor right away. She thinks that College students can benefit from hearing about how alumni have shaped their post-graduate careers.

“When you have a liberal arts background, you can pursue a variety of careers,” she explains. “It’s valuable for students to see there doesn’t have to be one linear career path, but instead, you can pivot as your interests change and your experience grows.”

Shah knows firsthand that things can change and how a liberal arts education provides a strong foundation. A psychology major as an undergrad, she credits the variety of courses she took at the College with a strong understanding of the human behavior and individual motivation that helped her as she worked in consulting, finance, and equity research before pursing her M.B.A. And she pivoted again, shifting her focus to social impact work, with an emphasis on supporting female entrepreneurs and advising graduate students pursuing social ventures.

Joining Ben Connect is quick and easy:

  • Visit us online
  • Sign up with  your email address, Penn Key, or LinkedIn account
  • Create your profile to connect with fellow alumni and students
  • Check out flash mentorships for quick connections and formal mentorships, which pair a student and alumnus for the fall semester

The Ben Connect pilot program launched this spring and is now open to all alumni. Kathe Archibald, Director of Global Alumni Engagement, is excited with the early response from students and alumni to this new platform. “Ben Connect provides students with the opportunity to interact with alumni all over the world and learn more about their professional journeys and seek career advice. In these uncertain times these connections are an invaluable resource,” she says. “I encourage interested alumni to join this growing community.”

Shah agrees, and adds that the platform can offer powerful connections for mentors, too. “I see real value in building this network for College alumni because it hasn't traditionally existed,” she says. “And it’s interesting to talk to students and learn about their experiences and goals. Penn has done amazing things for me, and there are so many College success stories. It’s great to make sure we stay connected.”


A student perspective

Indya Gettings, C'23

Indya Gettings, C’23, a student Ben Connect user, is exploring a lot of interests and hoping they come together in a career that allows her to practice international law, travel and consult around the world, and potentially work with the United Nations. A rising sophomore, she plans to declare a political science major after taking a course, Politics of Reproduction, that solidified her passion for politics  and her inclination to question why things are the way they are. In the fall semester, she’s looking forward to taking Intro to Africana Studies and Poverty, Race, and Health.

Through Ben Connect, she contacted Jenny Zurawell, C’08, Director of­­ TED Translations. Zurawell’s career has allowed her to work internationally and dedicate herself to engaging with global audiences. Like Gettings, she was a political science major.

“I filled out my profile and it showed me alums I had things in common with,” Gettings explains. “I matched with Jenny and we got to chat. It was really wonderful.”

Gettings encourages fellow College students to sign up for Ben Connect and reach out to alumni. “Even if you don’t know what path you want to take, you can foster connections,” she says. “And maybe signing up will lead to a conversation that will help you find your path. I’ve already created some meaningful relationships.”