Stefanie Baroutoglou ’16 credits her experience as a mentee in William Paterson University’s Pesce Family Mentoring Institute with helping her better find a way to the law degree and law career of which she’s always dreamed. In fact, five years after graduating, she still keeps in touch with the mentor she was paired with through the University’s Career Center.
For that reason, Baroutoglou has decided to return to her alma mater as a career mentor—becoming the first mentee-turned-mentor in the Pesce Family Mentoring Institute’s history, which dates back just over six years ago, to the fall of 2014. Prospective mentors are required to have five years’ relevant professional experience to be considered for the role.
“I wanted to give back to the William Paterson University community, as the University will always have a special place in my heart…I experienced four of my greatest years there and I do miss it and hope to stay connected in any way I can,” Baroutoglou explains. She is also a member of WP’s Young Alumni Association, where she helps to connect new graduates with veteran alums.
Baroutoglou says that as a student, she thought going to law school directly after WP was her only option with a bachelor’s degree in legal studies and history. She hadn’t considered first pursuing a career as a paralegal, where she could gain first-hand experience in the legal field, until she learned more about that profession from her Pesce mentor—Debbie Gantert ‘77, who is a paralegal and serves on the WP Alumni Association Executive Council.
Gantert, who has been a mentor at the Institute since its inception, still keeps in touch with her first two mentees, of which Stefanie is one. She continues to serve as a mentor in the Institute for students pursuing degrees in legal studies largely because of the great experience she had with her first two students.
“College students are not always sure what they want to do afterwards, and so by sharing positive and negative experiences, it helps them; sometimes they change their minds of what they want to do,” Gantert explains, noting that her previous mentee did just that.
She says she feels “very lucky” to have met the students she’s worked with through the Institute, adding that her current mentee—finance major Nicholas Goodwin ’22—is a “great human being” with whom she has a lot in common.
Baroutoglou will start working on her law degree at Pace University this fall. She says Gantert “celebrated that win” with her, and still provides professional motivation and a listening ear all these years later.
Now, Baroutoglou wants to pay it forward.
“I hope to motivate her and confirm with her all the resources, so she never feels like she’s alone in figuring out what the journey looks like,” she explains in discussing her mentee, Kavonna Pemberton, a junior in the political science/legal studies program who plans to pursue law school and a career in family law.
Mentors, aside from sharing career motivation and insight, help mentees with resumes, networking, interview skills, job searching, and overall life skills, notes Deborah Feingold, coordinator of the Pesce Family Mentoring Institute. Some mentors have even hired their mentees as interns or full-time employees.
“Mentors get as much out of this program as mentees do,” Gantert adds. “It is fun, rewarding and fulfilling. This program means a great deal to me.”
This summer, the Pesce Family Mentoring Institute will be accepting applications both for professionals who want to be mentors and for students who want to be mentees starting in Fall 2021. Students of all majors are eligible to participate. To learn more or to apply, visit the Institute's website or email Deborah Feingold at FeingoldD@wpunj.edu.
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