NASHVILLE, Tenn. – With a global reach in its alumni base, the Vanderbilt soccer program offers a unique experience for both current and former student-athletes with its Mentor Program. In the early days of a student-athlete’s arrival to campus, the coaching staff works tirelessly to pair each individual with an alumnus working professionally in their preferred field of study.
“We ask alumni if they are interested and if so we share with them what the expectations are to be a mentor in the program,” head coach Darren Ambrose said. “Once we find the right fit, we then pair each student-athlete with a mentor based on their academic and professional interests. We have a pretty deep list of mentors who volunteer each year”
This one-on-one initiative offers student-athletes a professional pathway, bridging the gap between their college career and professional life after graduation. Using a software called ‘U Mentor,’ the coaching staff can monitor the progression of each mentorship and offer guidance to better enhance the experience for both parties. One area the program stresses is the importance of networking and building one’s professional identity prior to departing Vanderbilt and entering the workforce.
“It allows mentees to gain confidence in speaking with professionals who work in their field of interest and helps them build out their network early in their collegiate career,” Ambrose added.
Recent graduate and returning grad-student Peyton Cutshall first met her mentor, Megan Feely (‘11), during the fall of her freshman year. With no set expectations for what the mentorship may bring, Cutshall found herself turning to Feely strictly for soccer knowledge during her early days in the program.
“I was first introduced to the program in the fall, but my relationship with Megan didn’t really get rolling until the spring of that first year,” Cutshall said. “Early on it was a lot of mock interviews and resume building. Then when my junior year came around, I found myself really turning to Megan when it came to determining my minor.”
For Feely, the opportunity to help someone through the mentor program was an easy ‘yes.’
“A lot of people helped me in my undergrad when I was looking at my future and what I wanted to do,” Feely said. “When they first reached out asking if I was interested I felt compelled to do so. Paying it back was easy.”
Although their relationship started out as an avenue to navigating the everyday life of a Division I soccer player, it quickly blossomed into a friendship as both spoke of the impact the resource has had on their lives.
“Megan has taught me new ways to learn and grow,” she said. “We’ve built this friendship and she’s so easy to talk to now that I have more life experience and am seeking professional advice. We talk fashion, and Megan’s new line.”
As Cutshall prepares for her final season at Vanderbilt her focus is on what’s ahead. After pitching a business idea to her mentor, the Commodore pair will work together as Cutshall plans to intern for Feely following her career at Vanderbilt.
For any future Commodores joining the mentor program, Cutshall highly recommends taking full advantage of their opportunity to learn and grow from those that have been through the same rigors as them.
“You’ll feel vulnerable at first,” Cutshall said in her advice to any future Commodores. “Ask questions. The relationship doesn’t have to be all soccer and business, form a friendship. It’s so worth it.”
One thing the two agreed on throughout the conversation, their experience, both as mentor and mentee, exceeded all expectations. With the team philosophy at its forefront, ‘once you choose Vanderbilt, you always belong’, the mentor program continues to thrive.
“We really want to highlight the experience, network, and quality of people we have in our alumni,” Ambrose concluded. “They are accomplished women who started out at Vanderbilt and have gone on to impactful careers in a wide spectrum of professions. They are willing to give back to a version of their ‘younger selves’ and help our players navigate their professional world.”