How Having an Alumni Mentor Changed My Life

Sophie Dessart

Sophie Dessart

Alumni Guest Writer

This may sound dramatic, but it’s true: Attending Thunderbird changed my life. The Thunderbird Alumni Mentorship program was a big part of that. 

As I reflect on my time at Thunderbird from the perspective of a recent graduate, I realize that many parts of my life today (my career, industry, and place I live) all trace back to my involvement in the Thunderbird Alumni Mentorship program.

I started at Thunderbird in Fall 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. I was attending classes on Zoom from Spain, grappling with spotty internet connections and an 8-to-9-hour time difference with Arizona. Amid this challenge, I was assigned an Alumni Mentor, Lina Safronova (Class of 2019). 

Having Lina on my side changed my whole experience at Thunderbird. On our first call over a shaky WhatsApp video, we discussed how I could get more involved in the Thunderbird network, a crucial but challenging feat when I was located over 8,800 kilometers (5,500 miles) from Phoenix. On this call, Lina gave me the first piece of advice that would change my life: Connect with current students and alums.

With that, Lina opened her LinkedIn contacts to me and recommended I connect with T-birds, especially ones in my field of interest. As I began to connect with alums, I was astounded by the warm reception I received. 

One of these T-birds, Adam Hawkins (Class of 2009), changed the trajectory of my entire career. Adam worked in my field of interest (government and external relations) and amazed me as he took time out of his busy schedule as the founder of his consulting firm to become a second mentor to me. As our conversations continued, Adam offered me a summer internship with his firm.

When I started my internship, I quickly realized one important fact: I would learn a lot about the mining industry—all of our clients, except one legacy client, were mining companies.

I loved it. 

The work I did for Adam opened my eyes to a new industry I had never considered. When Adam asked me to continue contract work at his company during my last year at Thunderbird, I accepted without hesitating.

Adam continued making connections to further my career. With his help, I joined the American Exploration and Mining Association (AEMA), attended their annual conference, and joined the inaugural AEMA Society Class, a program designed to educate young professionals in the mining industry. 

When it came time for me to graduate from Thunderbird, Adam was also there to help. After graduation, I had two incredible job offers, both coming from connections that Adam made for me. 

I am proud to now say that I work as the Manager of Communications and Public Affairs for Florence Copper, an innovative, environmentally advanced in-situ copper recovery project in Florence, Arizona. I absolutely love my job.

My life now traces back to the beginning of my Thunderbird experience when I was given the incredible opportunity to have an Alumni Mentor. Lina and Adam touched my Thunderbird journey and helped me get to where I am today.

Now, I am incredibly proud to say that I am giving back by becoming an Alumni Mentor. I only hope that I can have a fraction of the impact on my future mentee that Adam and Lina had on me.

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