Summer 2024
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‘A Win-Win’

Students and alumni create meaningful relationships through The Bridge Network and IGNITE mentoring programs By Ellaynah Brown

“I invest in him with good advice, and he invests in me with good-looking hair,” jokes George Fox alumnus Keenan O’Hern.

O’Hern and sophomore business administration major Victor Mendoza Soto were paired with one another as part of the university’s IGNITE mentorship program in August. Ever since, Mendoza Soto – a pro with a pair of clippers – has been keeping O’Hern looking good during their monthly meetings.

“It really is a win-win situation,” O’Hern says. “As people invest in you, you want to invest back in them. Victor’s done that with me, too. He’s given me a lot of excitement about my own business and wanting to bring a more youthful and day-to-day vigor to it. It’s cool to see somebody with so much energy and so much excitement.”

IGNITE, an advisory initiative that pairs students from the university’s College of Business and College of Engineering with industry professionals, gives George Fox students the opportunity to not only gain valuable career insights, but to form lifelong friendships.

“As advisors, we not only care about what you’re going to do in class that day, but what your future looks like and how we can partner with you in walking toward that future and whatever that passion is,” O’Hern says. “In the future, if Victor ever needed a connection or wanted to meet, we’ve established that relationship, and my door is always open to him.”

IGNITE isn’t the only mentoring program on campus that connects George Fox students and alumni. The Bridge Network, founded by Craig Inglesby, associate athletic director of faith formation, seeks to do the same, connecting more than 100 athletes and non-athletes alike with fellow students and business leaders.

It’s all about developing meaningful relationships and discipling the leaders of tomorrow, preparing students for both life and career after college. “The heart of why I started this program was to help students dream about their vocational and spiritual future at the same time,” Inglesby says.

It’s something alumna Sarah Kolodge experienced firsthand.

“When I talk to people about my experience at Fox, I often say that it was life-changing to be known and loved, and that’s unique to a smaller Christian environment,” says Kolodge, now a Bridge Network mentor.

In her years as a student, before a structured program was ever created, Kolodge felt the impact of mentorship through her relationships with professors, coaches and administrators. It inspired her to do the same. “I love to be a part of loving students by meeting them where they’re at and encouraging them in their journey,” she says.

At their core, The Bridge Network and IGNITE programs provide structure to the formative relationships already happening on campus, emphasizing the importance of walking alongside students from college to career.

Family dinner with Shelby

Communication major Shelby Larson (far left) gets ready to enjoy a family dinner at the home of her mentor from The Bridge Network, alumna Sarah Kolodge.

“We are a culture of people who want to pour into others,” says senior communication major and track and field athlete Shelby Larson, who is being mentored by Kolodge. “There’s a reason people pay as much as they do to come here. It really is for the experience and the connections and how they grow and shape you as a person.”

For students like Larson, experiencing what it’s like to be encouraged throughout her college journey inspires her to do the same for others. “It subconsciously inspires me to start pouring into people now. I don’t have to wait to graduate to say, ‘Hey, I’d love to get coffee with you on a regular basis.’”

It’s an experience that has resonated with students and alumni alike.

“There’s an ethos that so many people from George Fox cultivate and then, after leaving, kind of yearn for,” O’Hern says.

After being approached by former business professor Laurie Kohler, founder of the IGNITE program, O’Hern found himself jumping right back into the George Fox community. “Truly being a steward is cultivating a community and a future for that community and the next generation,” he says.

Mendoza Soto, Larson and the hundreds of other students connected with George Fox alumni through mentorship programs across campus have seen the fruit of their relationships play out in more ways than one. “If it wasn’t for Keenan’s advice, I don’t think I would have passed my accounting class,” Mendoza Soto says. “Keenan told me I should try staying for both classes so I could just observe in the first and learn more in the next.”

It was invaluable advice that came from experience – O’Hern had taken the same class with the same professor years before.

Larson has had the same experience with her mentor, Kolodge.

“It has been really sweet to be able to share our experiences in both of our times here, recognizing the timeless themes of George Fox,” she says. “It’s a very unique and special opportunity to be mentored by someone who has been in your shoes.”

“As alumni, there are so many experiences we’ve had that are similar to what current students are going through that we can speak into or just encourage them in,” adds Kolodge, also noting the benefits alumni receive from the relationship. “Just to have this space to come alongside and be with a student, loving them and encouraging them in their journey and to be encouraged in your own at the same time, is just a win for everybody.”

George Fox mentor programs are sustained by incredible donors and volunteers. If you are interested in mentoring a George Fox student, email or call 503-554-2110.

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Summer 2024 Journal Cover

Cover of Summer 2024 issue

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