Mentoring: Advice doesn't end with the semester

How do you find a mentor and why do you need one? In a three-part series, we look at different kinds of mentoring relationships students can seek out. Some are more formal while others grow through time, but all mentorships have benefits for students in the classroom, in their career and beyond.

Senior Kelly Tunney may not have a personal chef, but he does have John Beale.

“A mentor can give you specific information. It’s like having a personal chef versus going to McDonald’s,” Tunney said.

Beale, a senior lecturer in the College of Communications, taught an introduction to photojournalism class that Tunney took early in his college experience. Later, they met again when Tunney, majoring in visual journalism and English, took an upper-level photojournalism class with Beale. What began as a rough start to the semester grew into an unofficial mentoring relationship.

“I missed an assignment and the next one (I turned in) was really crappy. He called me to his office and said, ‘I know you’re better than this and you need to try harder than this,’ ” Tunney said. This interaction was the first mentoring experience Tunney had with Beale.

That wake-up call encouraged Tunney to frequent Beale’s office hours to talk not only about assignments for class, but about Tunney’s career path. Tunney never felt the need to formally ask Beale to be his mentor. “It just kind of happened organically,” Tunney said. “He held me to a higher standard.”

Last year, Tunney was searching for a summer internship. Beale referred him to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, a recommendation that landed Tunney the position. “It’s especially helpful to have a mentor in the field you’re studying,” Tunney said.

For Beale, being a mentor is a part of the job. “It’s just the way we do things here in the College of Communications,” he said.

This job extends way past the normal business day, too. “It’s not unusual for students to contact us for advice, whether it’s here, or after hours, or weekends, or holidays, or whenever it comes up,” Beale said.

Beale has kept in touch with students since he began teaching at Penn State in 2001. His former students contact him with anything from seeking professional advice to updating him on their personal successes. “When students are successful, I’m successful,” he said.

Tunney knows that Beale is always available to help. “When those dedicated students walk across the stage at graduation, we don’t say goodbye, we say ‘call if you need us,’ ” Beale said.

In the future, Tunney hopes to be a mentor to return Beale’s help and to pay-it-forward. Tunney wants to pursue a career as a photojournalist, and he knows that Beale will always be available for advice.

“I’ll never really graduate from John,” Tunney said.

Last Updated April 01, 2014