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3 ASU 'generations' find mentor, friends

Caleb Ecklund, Brian Mattson and Zeb Toman

Caleb Ecklund, Brian Mattson and Zeb Toman found friends and a mentor in a “three generation” student household.

September 01, 2016

Luke Skywalker had Yoda. Harry Potter had Dumbledore.

Guides and mentors sometimes appear in unlikely places, willing to share wisdom and experience.

Brian Mattson, who’s worked at Arizona State University for nearly 10 years, just began his first year in a doctoral program at Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. He placed an ad for housemates, and found a freshman and a master’s student, both from out of state and in their first semester at ASU.

The three ‘generations’ of ASU students decided to share the house owned by Mattson. The oldest at 37, Mattson is referred to as “Pops” because he serves as informal mentor for the other two.

A freshman in technical communications, Caleb Ecklund is a veteran who joins ASU from El Paso, Texas. Ecklund welcomed rooming with two graduate students while earning his bachelor’s degree. “If I have any questions about anything, I always ask Brian first and he tells me what to do. When I needed to get my GI bill and benefits, he pointed me to the Tillman Center.

Zeb Toman, a civil engineer, moved from Cincinnati to Arizona to become a solar engineer and is in a first semester master’s course at the W. P. Carey School of Business.

He worked 18 months for NRG, an integrated power company in Scottsdale as a sales and owner engineer in their renewables group before joining ASU. With NRG, he worked in South Africa for two months as one of the leads for solar energy development. “I’m pursuing a MBA so I can expand my international business opportunities and become more proficient in my business development skills.”

Mattson volunteers a wealth of experience, says Toman. “In engineering we use the term SME (pronounced smee) which is the subject matter expert, the knowledge resource. To live with a SME right in your own house has been great. We call him Pops because he’s the oldest and wisest one in the household.”

Mattson earned his bachelor’s and master’s degree at ASU. As the associate director of Curriculum Development and Program Management in Graduate Education, he wants to continue in an administrative capacity. “Graduate education is my passion. I want to find innovative ways to improve programs, and to help graduate students achieve their goals.”

If you don’t have the advantage of a live-in expert, Mattson has some advice to share: “Build a relationship with your staff advisor. Forge a relationship with other students in your program. Get advice from your professors. The more involved you are in your program, the more successful you will be. You will find people who have faced the same challenges you are facing and might have some answers for you.”

Guides, mentors and friends are plentiful at ASU and can help you at every point from your first transition to college to realizing your career plan and life goals.

• First Year Success for undergrads and first generation students (those who are the first in their families to attend college) provides free peer coaching services customized to individual interests and strengths. The centers operate on all four campuses.

• Celebrating 10 years of success is the Peer Mentor Program at West which helps freshman and their peer mentors develop academically and professionally.

• For veterans, active military and ROTC there is guidance available. A recent panel of ASU veterans from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines offered seven tips on successful transition from military to college.

• Educational Outreach and Student Services (EOSS) is an excellent resource to discover support services, student organizations and other involvement opportunities at ASU.

• Graduate Education has resources for current graduate students and undergrads aspiring to a graduate degree, including the Shades Multicultural Peer Mentoring Program.

“Emerging leaders need mentors to guide them, but they also need a network of peers to reassure them that they are not on the path alone.”
— Alyse Nelson, CEO of Vital Voices.

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