Left to right: Luke Wheeler, Ethan Spicher, and Ben Bontrager-Singer are senior engineering majors in Eastern Mennonite University's new STEM mentorship program. (Photos by Derrick Chirinos)

EMU launches STEM Mentorship Program, senior engineers prepare to enter workforce

Fall 2022 marked the beginning of Eastern Mennonite University’s STEM Mentorship Program, which pairs EMU students with community-based, professional mentors in their fields. The program currently has 10 student-mentor pairs, three seniors from engineering—Luke Wheeler, Ethan Spicher and Ben Bontrager-Singer—and the rest sophomores through seniors from across science, technology and mathematics. Students meet with their mentors about once a month to talk about anything from networking to career prospects.

Tara Kishbaugh, chemistry professor and dean of the School of School of Sciences, Engineering, Art and Nursing—along with math professor Owen Byer, engineering professor Esther Tian and biology professor Jim Yoder—modeled the program off of one in the engineering program at Ohio State University. The four leveraged personal connections and LinkedIn to find mentors.

“It’s a mutually beneficial relationship that gives students a safe space to practice their networking skills, learn to ask good questions and listen well, hear professional perspectives, and develop long-term mentoring relationships,” said Kishbaugh. “It also gives mentors the opportunity to impart their skills and knowledge for students’ personal and professional growth.”

Luke Wheeler is a mechanical engineering major from Hudson, Michigan, whose mentor is Ashley Driver, president and owner of AD Engineering LLC based out of Timberville, Virginia. Wheeler is working part-time for Kawneer in Harrisonburg while finishing up his classes and will begin as an associate process engineer with Merck in Elton, Virginia, after graduation. Wheeler says it has been nice to have a resource to reach out to for advice and that he sees the STEM Mentorship Program as a gateway for internships and jobs for students in the years to come.

Ethan Spicher is a mechanical engineering major from Colorado Springs, Colorado, whose mentor is Gil Colman, civil engineer, owner and principal at Colman Engineering, PLC in Harrisonburg. Spicher says he and Colman have talked at length about his resume, engineering projects, and what it’s like to own a firm. Upon graduating, Spicher will work for JZ Engineering, a structural engineering company based in Harrisonburg.

Ben Bontrager-Singer is a mechanical engineering major from Goshen, Indiana, whose mentor is Kevin Nufer, an aerospace structural engineer at Leidos in Manassas, Virginia. Bontrager-Singer says Nufer looked at this resume and helped him to prepare for his job interview with Seattle-based Blue Origin, where Bontrager-Singer landed a job as a propulsion engineer starting after graduation. “It’s valuable to provide connections between students and the workforce and also a good opportunity for engineers to see what education looks like these days,” said Bontrager-Singer.

Interested in participating as an EMU student or community-based mentor in the STEM Mentorship Program? Email Tara Kishbaugh at tara.kishbaugh@emu.edu.

Read more about Bontrager-Singer’s internship at Tesla and all three seniors’ work with Engineers in Action.