Alumni-Student Mentoring Program Stretches to Afghanistan

Whitmans photo

Two of the “dots” in Eastern Kentucky University’s “Connecting the Dots” student/alumni mentoring program are approximately 7,000 miles apart.

Adam and Katie Whitman, forensic scientists currently stationed in Afghanistan with the Expeditionary Forensic Division of the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Laboratory, are mentoring Armanda Pennington, a forensic chemistry major from Marengo, Ohio.

The pilot program, in its first year at Eastern, allows current students to navigate university life with the help of EKU grads who have already made the journey into successful careers. Pennington is one of 15 first-generation freshmen at Eastern to be paired with alumni mentors who serve as guides, resources and friends.

The primary goal of the Connecting the Dots program is to increase the retention rate of first-generation students by providing them with a service not previously offered. The other student-alumni partnerships range across a wide array of professional fields, including aviation, police studies/criminal justice, occupational therapy, paralegal studies, communication disorders, biology/pre-veterinary, and history, among others.

The pilot program is the result of the collaborative efforts of the university’s Educational Extension Agents Program, Alumni Relations, Admissions, Advising and the Noel Studio for Academic Creativity, and received funding from Belk Inc.

The Whitmans, husband and wife, are both 2007 graduates of EKU’s nationally recognized forensic science program. Katie was also a first-generation college student.

“It is important to us that graduates from our former program continue to represent EKU and the Forensic Science Program as highly accomplished, well-trained individuals because our own reputations in our respective fields continue to be tested by today’s college graduates,” Adam said.

He said they would stress to Pennington the need to always do her best at EKU.

“In our job environment, they take only the best of the best, so an excellent personal and academic record is paramount to success,” Adam said. “We can provide advice on how to accomplish this.”

Pennington, a 2011 graduate of Highland High School whose perfect 4.0 GPA this past semester landed her on the President’s List, said she is “really excited about having a mentor who is doing such exciting things so far away.”

Pennington, who is minoring in Spanish, will also benefit from an additional mentor in that field -- Chris Daniel, an EKU Information Technology employee.

For more information about EKU’s Connecting the Dots program, contact Terry Wilson, educational extension coordinator for the university, at terry.wilson@eku.edu or 859-622-7264.

Published on February 16, 2012