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Counseling Center and affiliates seek alumni to mentor students of color

Navigating a high-level university education is a stressful, mentally taxing undertaking. For many students, having someone who understands and can relate to them can make all the difference.

A new program, initiated by the Counseling Center and in collaboration with other Colgate departments, is seeking alumni of color to volunteer as mentors for students of color.

Najla Hrustanović

Najla Hrustanović, PhD, MS

Najla Hrustanović, a staff counselor, said that not all students need the services of a licensed mental health counselor, but that a relationship with a mentor can help students remain proactive about personal experiences and challenges while at Colgate.

The new program, Virtual Alumni Mentorship (VAM), hopes to put alumni — who have experience navigating both Colgate and the working world as people of color — in touch with students seeking mentorship through use of technology.

“Connecting to another person who has actually been through really challenging times and who has experienced similar barriers can be invaluable support for students,” Hrustanović said.

Mentors will hold live video chats, text conversations, and phone calls with students, offering advice and acting as a sounding board for their ideas and difficulties. Hrustanović said this supportive relationship can make a difference to the students’ long-term success.

Alumni interested in volunteering for the VAM program can e-mail Hrustanović at

Beyond mentorship, the Counseling Center is working with BetterMynd, which will virtually connect Colgate students with licensed counselors of color. BetterMynd is aimed at overcoming barriers students face in seeking mental health treatment.

“We acknowledge that our office is not as diverse as we would like it to be,” said Hrustanović.  BetterMynd offers more options than currently available through the center’s staffing. “We recognize the need for different forms of support for students of color, and with these programs, we’re trying to increase the possibilities.”