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Washington State University
Dividend - Fall 2019 The Next Carson Coug

Caitlyn Aune:
Mentoring First-Generation
College Students Built Her Professional Skills

Story and photo by Becky Kramer

Left, peer mentor Caitlyn Aune meets with mentee Alanna Quinn-Jones.

During her first year at Washington State University, Alanna Quinn-Jones often bent her peer mentor’s ear.

From help with an accounting assignment to hashing over her choice of major, Caitlyn Aune was there as Quinn- Jones assimilated to university life.

The two young women connected through the Carson EDGE program, which links first-generation college students with peer mentors. The program helps business students with the transition to college and gives them a jump-start on building a professional network.

“It was one of the most valuable things I’ve done,” says Quinn-Jones, a 19-year-old marketing major from West Seattle.

Quinn-Jones immediately clicked with Aune, 21, who graduated in May with a master’s degree in accounting. Both women had participated in Running Start in high school, arriving at WSU with college credits.

“I liked that she was close to my age—I think it made it easier to connect,” says Quinn-Jones. “When I had a question, Caitlyn could help answer it.”

Mentoring Honed Skills in Listening, Relationship Building

For Aune, being a mentor was valuable, too. She scheduled monthly meetings with Quinn-Jones and two other students she was mentoring. They also attended monthly Carson EDGE events together.

Aune spent a lot of time listening as students talked through issues related to classes and majors. She also coached students through Career Networking Night and met for a debriefing breakfast the next morning.

At Career Networking Night, students dress in professional attire and introduce themselves to prospective employers, asking about jobs and internship possibilities.

“A lot of freshmen don’t go to this event because it can be intimidating to network with professionals,” Aune says. “Many business students don’t get involved until their junior or senior year.”

Besides the serious stuff, “we’ve had some fun times,” Quinn-Jones says.

They took the Myers Briggs Personality Test at one of the Carson EDGE events, exploring whether they were introverts or extroverts, analytic or empathic. They also went on the McKinney Trek, a trip to learn about Seattle-area nonprofit companies.

“Getting to watch students start as freshmen—sometimes kind of scared, not really knowing a lot about college—becoming confident and a lot more comfortable was rewarding,” Aune says.

A Gravitation Toward Numbers Leads to Accounting Degree

After graduation, Aune went to work for Moss Adams, a public accounting firm in Spokane, where she had previously interned.

Aune gravitated toward accounting after she took an accounting class from her mom—Patti Aune—a business teacher at Columbia High School in Burbank, Washington.

“I like working with numbers,” she says. “I’m definitely more of an analytical process thinker.”

Being a peer mentor gave her skills that she’ll use in her professional life, Aune says.

“As a mentor, I had to learn how to help students make their own decisions, versus telling someone what to do,” she says. “I learned how to ask those prompting questions.”