Mentor a Student in the Plant Sciences

Each year, the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences matches over 150 students with mentors working in the career field. The Mentor Program is always seeking mentors to develop the next generation of professionals in horticulture and accepts applications year round.

What does it take to be a mentor? As mentor and Plant Breeding alumnus Jim Radtke puts it: “Do you have experiences beyond attending classes? Can they be communicated? Then you have value to add as a mentor.” Radtke and his student mentee, Sarah Hoerth, reflect on what the program means to them:

James RadkeJim Radtke
Ph.D., Plant Breeding, ’81 VP of Product Development Cibus Corporation

“I think back to when I got my first job, and I realize it would have been nice to know a lot of things as I entered the career field. I felt like I wanted to give something back. I’ve had a varied career in breeding, research and the seed industry, and part of my role involved sitting on management teams. With all of that, I felt I could share some perspective with a student.

At first, I had no idea what I should be doing — we came together and said, where do we go from here? So we both learned as we went along. Conversations don’t take a lot of work — I shared experiences and ideas, learned about the courses Sarah was taking and her interests, and made suggestions. A mentor can even learn a little something from a mentee.”

Sarah HoerthSarah Hoerth
B.S., APS, ’15 Horticulture minor CFANS

“I was looking for someone who had more life experience and could give me advice for what I can do with my future and how to get there. When I started, I was cautiously optimistic — you hope the person is going to be helpful and that the experience will be worthwhile.

Jim gave me great feedback, and he even helped me find an internship that got me interested in tissue culture, which I think is the direction I want to head career-wise. I would recommend the program for people who are looking around and not sure what they want to do after graduation. It’s really valuable to talk to someone who has been in the same field.”

Interested in becoming a mentor? 

At a minimum, mentors commit one hour per month to having conversations with mentees about career goals, knowledge gained from working in the field, and plans and ideas for opportunities to pursue. Mentors also offer the opportunity for mentees to participate in a half-day (or more) job shadow.

For more information on becoming a mentor, contact Masha Finn at or (612) 624-9957.


November 14, 2014

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