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Your degree requires a capstone project. In the coming semesters, you will have to sign up for a specific course, think of a project, and find a mentor. For Interdisciplinary Study majors, that course will be IDS 499. When it comes to finding a mentor for your project, you might have a few questions like: What is a mentor? How will they help you during your project? How can I find the best mentor for my project? Continue reading and find the answers to these questions.

Notice: There are many steps to creating a capstone project and getting it approved, however, this article will mainly focus on getting a mentor. Although this article will be specific towards getting a capstone project mentor for IDS 499, these tips can be used for any class. Just be aware different classes will have different requirements.

For IDS 499, you (the student) must start preparing for the course at the beginning of the semester before the semester you plan to take the course. You will start out by planning a capstone project that accurately simulates your future career path. After creating your project and before you submit a project proposal form, you must then find a mentor. In order to find the ideal mentor, it is best to first understand the requirements of the mentor you choose. In IDS 499, your mentor:

  1. Should have professional experience in the field of your project.
  2. Must meet with you at least 5 times before, during, and at the end of your project.
  3. Can be a BYU-I campus faculty member or someone from the community.
  4. Cannot be a family member or a BYU-I online adjunct faculty member.

(1) In IDS 499, your mentor will give you feedback, advice, and tips about your project throughout the duration of the course. Their benefit comes from their expertise in their field. They will use their experience to answer your questions, give advice, and provide tips to improve the quality and professional accuracy of your project. As you progress through your project, your mentor’s input will become invaluable to not only your project, but also the pursuit of your career.

(2) It is important to understand the time commitment your mentor must give you. First, you will meet with them and they must agree to be your mentor before you submit your project proposal. During this first meeting, you will have to explain to them the course, your project, and what is required of them. It’s very important they understand their role in being an effective mentor. After your project is approved, you will then have to meet with your mentor at least 3 times throughout the class for their help on your project. You might consider meeting with them more depending on your project. Then, at the end of the project, they will evaluate your final project artifacts and will submit an official evaluation form to your IDS 499 instructor.  Their feedback will become part of your grade.

In total, it is required to have 5 interactions with your mentor. You will have to make sure they understand everything they need to do for you throughout the project. So, when asking someone to be your mentor, be aware of this and be considerate of their schedule.

(3), (4) The best places to look for a mentor would be within the professional world of your field. This can include campus faculty, members within the community, or even people you might have to contact professionally. The only people who can’t be your mentor are family members and online adjunct faculty. This doesn't mean you can’t do a capstone project that involves them, they just can’t fulfill the role of your mentor for that project. 

Considering all of these requirements, some students have a hard time finding someone who meets all the requirements, who is close enough, or who has enough time for it. If this is the case for you, then you might need to network to find a mentor. Although networking might seem like a foreign and intimidating practice to some students, there are four steps you can practice to network effectively and create mutually beneficial professional relationships: Explore, Connect, Build, and Learn.

First, explore companies, groups, and communities in your field of work that interest you or pertain to your project. Next, connect with the people in those organizations, either through email, LinkedIn, or BYU-I Connect. You might try to set up an interview with them to get to know them better, understand their work, and ask any questions you have. Then, build your relationship with them by following up with them. Continue to care about who they are as a person and let them know you’re interested in them. Finally, learn from any resources they give you. Take any advice they give you seriously, put it into practice in your work, and tell them how it worked out for you. Endeavour to improve yourself and be a resource to them. 

Practicing those four steps: Explore, Connect, Build, and Learn, is the key to successful networking. Even if you’ve never networked before and you’re intimidated by the idea, try it out. Practice and follow the learning curve and you will be able to form mutually beneficial, professional relationships. You can also find the perfect mentor for your project. 

After you find someone to be your mentor, you must then submit your project proposal form before the first day of the semester you take IDS 499. Click here to view the official IDS Capstone Project webpage. View the Project Proposal form by clicking the button at the bottom of the page. 

If you would like to learn more about networking, finding a mentor, or anything related to your future career, visit the Career Center at their website or on campus in the Manwaring Center, room 200. A special thanks to Sheila Wener, the Career Services Manager at the Career Center, for significant input in this article.