29.08.2019

Teaming up for social democracy – the FES Alumni Mentoring Programme

Former scholars pass on experience to the next generations in the mentoring programme, open to international and German students.

iStockphoto.com / smartboy10
iStockphoto.com / smartboy10

The scholarship program of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) was born of a commitment to provide equal access to higher education. More than 22,000 young people in Germany and internationally have already received FES scholarships to develop their talent pursuing studies in various areas. As part of the full spectrum of support they also benefit from a mentoring programme.

Launched in 2007, the Alumni Mentoring Programme brings aboard former scholars who accompany new ones along their trajectories of educational, professional and civic engagement for the duration of their scholarship. The programme is the brainchild of the FES scholars’ alumni association “FES Ehemalige e.V.” (link in German), a registered non-profit organization, and the FES Scholarships Department. Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the Federal President of Germany and alumnus of FES, oversaw the mentoring programme for some years as honorary chairman. The programme is supported by the Alumni Council, an advisory body composed of outstanding FES alumni.

“At the Alumni Council we think about how best to support the FES Scholarships Department in their role to accompany scholars even better,” says Antje Draheim, a former scholar and long-time member of the Alumni Council, now state secretary for federal affairs of the northern German state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, and plenipotentiary of the state on a federal level.

“One of the ideas that came through from the Alumni Association was to set up a mentoring programme. We loved it from the start because this brings scholars, from the get-go, into contact with members of the FES community who have already walked the line, have studied a comparable subject or can provide career tips,” explains Draheim.  

“The promotion of young talent is one of the founding principles of the FES. We can address social disadvantages by supporting students who actively work for freedom, justice and social cohesion, or will do so in future,” attests Katja Meyer, head of the FES alumni work team since summer 2019.

“According to the principle of classical mentoring, the role of the mentor is to support and advise their charge on questions around university and career planning – and quite often even far beyond mere professional issues,” explains Meyer. “It’s a community with shared goals built on the direct exchange and knowledge of past and current scholars”.

Antje Draheim. Photo by photothek/Thomas Trutschel
Antje Draheim. Photo by photothek/Thomas Trutschel

“I’ve accompanied four scholars for almost two years each and with some I am still in touch today,” says Draheim, who became a mentor not long after the programme was first introduced. In early August one of her former mentees called to tell her about exams he had passed and to talk to her about the next steps.

“I am proud of them” Draheim confesses. “It’s remarkable to see former and current members of the scholarship community being in touch and it’s a true joy to be granted the possibility to take part in the life and growth of young and engaged award holders,” she adds.

Any current or former scholar can join the mentor programme.

Upon registration into the programme database alumni enter up to five different sectors, competences and areas of work. Based on this profile, current scholars select from the available and desired mentors. Every few months, an automatized digital matching process pairs new mentees with one of their selected mentors. “After they are notified of the matching outcome, it is on the users to set the dynamics, frequency and engagement,” explains Meyer. “All the work mentors put in is on voluntary basis.”

Currently, more than 1,600 mentors and 928 scholars are registered, and 921 active pairs have been successfully formed.

“We look forward to seeing this budding network for academic, professional and political orientation grow further. We’d like to encourage more FES alumni to join and this is one way they can contribute collectively to building a just and democratic society based on freedom, solidarity and justice,” concludes Meyer.

“We have talented and committed people, but everyone needs a hand”.

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For more information on the FES Alumni Mentoring Programme email the FES team at mentoring(at)fes.de. If you are an FES scholarship alumni and would like to join the FES alumni network, you can do so here.

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