Avalon Kandrac and Pravalika Irukulla

“It is so helpful to talk with someone who’s been in our shoes …”

In honor of Asian Pacific Islander Desi American Heritage Month, the UGA Mentor Program is highlighting the pairing of mentor Avalon Kandrac (BSBE ’19) with mentee Pravalika Irukulla (BSBE ’22). Both have paired with other people through the program, but they admit their connection with each other was special.

Finding a connection

Avalon: I vividly remember being a young engineering student and longing for guidance and camaraderie in such a male-dominated program. Connecting with Pravalika, we immediately shared that unique bond of both being females with a similar ethnic background in the biological engineering realm.

Pravalika: It is so helpful to talk to someone who has been in our shoes and can help us learn from their experience. Having a mentor to guide you through your college journey and beyond is helpful. Professionally, Avalon helped me figure out if I’m making the right decision about the path I am taking.

Sharing experiences

Avalon: I saw myself in Pravalika when she talked about her future and what she hoped to accomplish with her biological engineering degree. I remember all those same feelings while working toward my degree at UGA. Being a student engrossed in obtaining an engineering degree can be so overwhelming in the moment. I was able to share some perspective and help Pravalika look toward the future, while also appreciating her current time as a student.

Pravalika: We ALL come into college with a bunch of questions in our heads. I wish I had joined the Mentor Program my freshman year and had someone to help guide me right from the start. It would have enhanced my UGA experience. After having such positive experiences as a mentee, I became a Mentor Program Ambassador so that I could make an impact and help show students that we should see our mentors as friends—someone that has been in our shoes and will help us.

Choosing a path

Avalon: Since my career began at Walt Disney World as a Construction Project Manager (Avalon recently accepted a new position with Choate Construction in Nashville), I have connected with students from various colleges interested in both the hospitality and construction fields. While I have enjoyed all the students I have met, I feel I have a special connection with the female engineering students I have been able to mentor.

Pravalika: Even though Avalon wasn’t in the career field that I’m interested in, she helped me reach out and connect with people in fields that did interest me. From there, I learned how to network and find even more people that would be helpful for me.

Creating a network

Avalon: Building a network within the female engineering community is so important. I remember all the women in engineering who gave me guidance and support during my time as a student. One thing I always do as a mentor is connect students with resources and with other incredible mentors.

Pravalika: Being included was the most meaningful part of the mentorship experience. I enjoy talking to people, but I also am shy. It can scare me to take that first step. Avalon’s introductions helped me step out of my comfort zone in a good way and strengthen my communication skills. She gave me many resources and helped me make connections, improving my soft skills and growing my confidence.

Getting with the program

Summer is a perfect time to sign up to be a UGA mentor! You can get your profile together, have your questions answered and familiarize yourself with the resources available online all before the students return in the fall. Registering for the Mentor 101 webinar scheduled for August 3 at 3:30 p.m. ET will allow you to hear from successful pairings, learn best practices for forming a strong connection and discover tips and tricks to becoming the best mentor possible.

Pravalika noted that she appreciated the opportunity to connect with multiple mentors in a variety of ways—be it a 16-week mentorship or 15-30-minute informational interviews. She also loved that there is a diverse group of mentors in the program—and there is always room for more!

A student is coming in the fall who can benefit from your unique perspective and experience. And it may just surprise you how much you get from giving back this way. Sign up today!