Milken Scholars Program: Mentoring Ahead

Written by Sarah Hsu, Karen Li | 02/25/2021

The characteristic that best defines the quality of a Milken Scholar is the ability and desire to be a leader and to give back to others through mentorship. The efforts to facilitate these characteristics are a cornerstone of the Milken Scholars Program.

Mentorship is an undisputed ingredient to academic and professional success.  Regardless of what one is trying to accomplish, where one is trying to accomplish it, or when in their lives they are trying to do it, having a good mentor is invaluable to bringing one’s abilities and passions to fruition.  

The characteristic that best defines the quality of a Milken Scholar is the ability and desire to be a leader and to give back to others through mentorship.  The efforts to facilitate these characteristics are a cornerstone of the Milken Scholars Program. 

Program staff provide mentorship opportunities in a myriad of ways, both formally and informally.

Becoming a Milken Scholar means being exposed to mentorship continually, during the first year of college and beyond.  Milken Scholar mentorship is the ideal avenue for experienced undergraduate, graduate, and professional Scholars to fulfill their promise as mentors.  

Many Scholars find themselves being mentored one year and later returning this gift to younger Scholars.  The best part of Milken Scholar mentorship is that it benefits both the mentor and mentee simultaneously and helps to build a long-lasting bond.

As Sarah Hsu, MS ’13, explains, “as someone who has benefited so much from the kindness and generosity of my own Milken mentors, it is an honor to be able to give back to mentor our newest Milken Scholars.  The mentor-mentee relationship is certainly not a one-way street, as I am learning so much from the resiliency of my mentees and re-learning what it takes to be an effective and supportive mentor. As someone who hopes to be involved in medical education and teaching in the future, this experience is invaluable.”

The formal component of Milken Scholar mentorship begins in earnest as soon as the newest class of Milken Scholars is selected and announced.

One of the very first acts of support by Milken Scholars staff is to carefully match each of these New Scholars with Current Scholars who share their academic interests and attend their respective schools whenever possible.  Even when it is not, the assigned Milken Scholar mentor will still be a valuable source of support during the transition into college life.    

Introductions are made prior to the school year.  These introductions  occur at the annual Milken Scholars Summit held each summer.  Despite the current restrictions, virtual introductions are made, and relationships are fostered.  In this way, a Milken Scholar will enter school with peer support before their first class even begins.

During the school year Milken Scholar mentors are asked to check-in monthly with their mentees, and the program helps to facilitate these check-ins by reimbursing meal  expenses at their meetups.  It is one of many ways the Program incentivizes Scholars to come together.  A mentor-mentee meeting is an excellent way to enjoy a great meal in addition to a great deal of knowledge!

2018 Milken Scholar and mentor, Karen Li, reflects on her experience as a mentor during this challenging time of virtual classes, illustrating the importance of Milken Scholar mentorship.

“This year has been especially hard for all of us and with everything being virtual, it has been even harder to connect. By being a Milken mentor, I have been able to grow closer to a younger member of the Milken family I otherwise would not have met and give her advice about shared struggles.”

Karen adds that in addition to being a mentor, she is grateful to have been a mentee in the Milken Scholars Program, “because I have a wonderful mentor that I have been able to lean on throughout my gap year. It has been hard to not be able to see any of my friends since I am not on campus, but my mentor and I have continued to grow closer and I cannot wait to see her in person again.”

At the end of the year, this formal mentorship element ends, but that does not mean the support ends.  Milken Scholar mentors remain ready to help in many different capacities throughout their academic careers.  In addition, Alumni Milken Scholars often take on mentorship roles for those Scholars who are graduating and seeking to make the transition into graduate school or professional life.  Alumni Milken Scholars continually give back to younger Scholars through personal outreach and group programming.

Mentorship has always been an essential element of the Milken Scholars Program, and it has always been fostered in numerous ways, whether assigned or whether it has emerged organically through gatherings large and small.  Being a Milken Scholar means being a member of a vast network of Lifelong Leaders for a Better World.

milken mentorship