Suzanne Rauscher ’93 still remembers how she felt on graduation day. “It was a mixture of excitement and total fright about my future,” said Rauscher.
That was 26 years ago. Today, she’s risen to the top of the television production industry as executive producer of Discovery Studios. And now, she and 26 other accomplished Wildcats, are back to help University of Arizona students, in the same position they once were in, as mentors in the Wildcat Mentor Society.
A Transformative Program
Launched in August 2018 by the University of Arizona Alumni Association, the Wildcat Mentor Society was created with one goal in mind — to connect world-class alumni with the UA’s thought leaders of tomorrow in a mutually beneficial mentorship.
“Our vision was to provide a structured, supported program to connect a small group of mentees with an accomplished Wildcat mentor,” said Andy Harris, a mentor and founder of the Wildcat Mentor Society. “These interactions lead to breakthroughs, and allow our students’ lives to take a different trajectory personally and professionally.”
In eight short months, the transformative program has done just that and more.
For example, Don Powell ’69, an attorney and industry expert of law, has helped his mentees explore a career in law.
Once a month, Powell drives down to Tucson to have dinner with his mentees. As part of his visit, he brings along a dinner guest in a different area of law practice. Thus far, guests have included a United States prosecutor, Superior Court judge and an immigration attorney.
Powell has also connected his mentees to the UA College of Law and trial advocacy trials with UA law school students to help them learn more about law school.
“Many of us are applying to law school and the advice, connections and experiences that we’ve received from Don will play a big role in our success,” said mentee and UA senior, Rob Mitzel.
Powell’s mentorship has already paid off. At their last dinner, some mentees shared they had received acceptance letters into law school.
“The most rewarding part of this experience has been the opportunity to shape the career goals and opportunities of my mentees,” said Powell. “I know they’ll be successful in their future endeavors and will positively contribute to society.”
Creating Special Connections
Meanwhile, Rauscher has spent her time helping her mentees gain experience in television production.
Even though she lives in California, Rauscher connects with her mentees on a weekly basis, providing guidance on how to find entry-level jobs to break into the entertainment industry.
As a part of their mentorship experience, Rauscher’s mentees, which consist of two film and television majors and one nutrition major, have worked together to produce a YouTube video about healthy eating.
“The most rewarding part about this experience has been seeing the special connections my mentees have created with each other,” said Rauscher. “Through this program, they’ve created a unique partnership and now have a special connection that they didn’t have before.”
In addition to her monthly meetings, Rauscher has also made time to check in with her mentees individually.
“She’s helped me with my resume and cover letters, and she’s given me guidance on what to do as an undergrad and where to look for entry-level experience,” said mentee and UA junior, Jessica Beauvais. “Suzanne always asks us how things are outside of school, and to call her whenever we need. She’s really sweet and cares a lot about us.”
“When I needed help fixing my resume for an upcoming production position, Suzanne was more than willing to set aside time in her day to call and help me,” said mentee and UA junior, Kam Kindschi. “I couldn’t be more grateful for her help and I feel very confident that being her mentee has allowed me to gain more potential as a Wildcat and entertainment professional.”
Plan for Expansion
Today, success stories continue to emerge from participating mentors and mentees. Due to the success of the program in its inaugural year, the Wildcat Mentor Society will expand to support 50 mentors and 200 mentees in 2019.
“We want to continue to connect our amazing alumni with outstanding UA students and recent graduates, ensuring we support the next generation of UA leaders for years to come,” said Melinda Burke, president of the UA Alumni Association. “We want this program to be truly differentiating for the University of Arizona, our students and alumni.”