University News

College of Engineering Hosts 20th Annual Alumni Mentoring Program

Published: October 13, 2021 | Categories: Alumni, Engineering, All News
student learning via computer

Over 180 first-year engineering students and 45 alumni volunteer mentors joined the 20th annual Western New England University College of Engineering Alumni Mentoring Program event on Thursday, October 7.

Embarking on the second decade of the program, an academic requirement for first-year engineering students, the event has expanded into the virtual space, now providing students with the opportunity to engage with alumni on an international stage, regardless of distance from WNE. Through the engaging Zoom event, that featured 20 breakout sessions for intimate round table discussions, students connected and networked with alumni mentors from as far away as Israel in addition to 15 different states.

"As benefactors, our first-year engineering students get an insight into their area of career interest by interacting with engineering alumni," said Dr. Richard Grabiec, assistant dean for the College of Engineering. "Students build personal and professional contacts and develop a supportive relationship."

With the participation of alumni mentors from every decade from the 1960s to 2020, the event celebrated not only the 20th anniversary of the program, but also the Class of 2025 as the largest College of Engineering freshman class in University history.

"You're in for a serious treat by having the opportunity to meet those who have walked the hallowed halls and the grounds that you are now covering," said President Robert E. Johnson. "They’re going to help you understand how to prepare for the powerful preparation of work. They're going to help you understand the importance of learning, unlearning, and relearning as a steady state. They're going to help you know the importance of being an agile thinker and help you to also understand that everything you do as an engineer-as you're building, constructing, designing-to do it with a sense of humanity that leaves the planet better than the way you found it."

In recognition of the hard work and dedication of College of Engineering students, the event also included the presentation of the Walter J. Azar Award, an annual honor granted to a student who is entering their sophomore year, after two full semesters of study, and who has demonstrated exceptional academic achievement in engineering computer courses. Selected by the vote of faculty in the College of Engineering First Year Program, Helen Gillespy, a mechanical engineering major from Hanscom, MA, was honored as the 2021 Azar Award recipient.

"I'm truly honored and humbled to receive the Walter J Azar award this year. Last year was a difficult year for many and I'd like to thank all of my professors who went above and beyond to educate me, despite the circumstances," said Gillespy, who is also a peer advisor, treasurer for the Society of Women Engineers, and member of the WNE women’s ice hockey team. "It's because of their hard work and dedication that I was able to get so much out of my freshman year."

WNE College of Engineering Alumni are encouraged to stay connected and get involved with the mentoring program through three additional virtual alumni panel events this fall, scheduled for October 29, November 5, and November 19 at 3:00 p.m. ET. For more information, contact Sophia Rios at or 413-796-2181.

Learn more about the WNE College of Engineering Freshman Engineering Program at