Thomas Tinlin, MPA '10, knows the value of good mentoring. The Commissioner of Transportation for the City of Boston, Tinlin went back to school late in life, attending Suffolk's Master of Public Administration (MPA) program as a Menino Scholar while working full time for the city and raising a family.
Without a formal mentor, Tinlin turned to his advisor, Douglas Snow, associate professor of public administration. "I leaned heavily on him. When I thought I had nothing left to give, he would talk me off the ledge, saying, 'Tom, let's keep this in perspective, let's take a breath and work through this.'"
Now a recent graduate, Tinlin volunteers as a mentor with the Institute for Public Service's MPA Mentoring Program. "It's a nice opportunity to support an existing student and help someone who is balancing home, work, and school as they try to better themselves," said Tinlin.
Since 2007, the Mentoring Program has helped mentors and students integrate academic theory and professional practice, network with professionals, and reflect upon career goals, according to Aimee Williamson, faculty advisor for the MPA Mentoring Program. Williamson runs the program with Leann Baldwin, associate director for the Institute. Baldwin carefully matches students with mentors based on interests, career fields, and location.
Recent MPA graduate Anna Freedman, '12, saw the Mentoring Program as a way to connect with a professional in her field. "Since I hadn't worked in the public sector before, I wanted to learn from a practitioner, pick up on key management skills, and find out what skills are most valued," said Freedman. She also sought general advice, networking support, and someone to bounce ideas off of to help her think about her career goals in new ways.
Baldwin matched Tinlin with Freedman. The two met at Tinlin's City Hall office every 5-6 weeks, having conversations about classes, career ambitions, strengths and weaknesses, networking, résumés, interviews, and time management.
To help guide Freedman, Tinlin drew on his experiences with Snow. "His mentoring me allowed me to shape the discussions with Anna," Tinlin said. He reminded Freedman to take a breath and look at the bigger picture during times of stress.
He also opened doors and opportunities for her. "Anna had questions about municipal finance, so I had her sit with the CFO for the City of Boston, someone she could talk to about how city finances work and what goes into the planning of the budget."
"He taught me not to be worried about networking," said Freedman. "He reinforced my career goals and gave me a perspective of government at the local level I wouldn't otherwise have gotten."
Alumni mentors often go above and beyond to help their mentees. Since the program started, 50-60 alumni have participated as mentors. "Many of our mentors participate year after year. Particularly successful matches, like Anna and Tom, are as much of a credit to the effort they put into the program, as they are to the program itself," said Williamson. "We are fortunate to have such outstanding students and alums to work with each year."