Cultivating Connections Through Mentorship 

In the heart of Northeastern University’s Planning, Real Estate, and Facilities (PREF) division, amidst the hum of productivity and the shuffle of paperwork, two colleagues find a quiet corner for a moment of reflection. Carla Morelli, Senior Project Manager, and Elaine Chan, Project Manager, share a bond that goes beyond their professional roles. Their connection, forged through PREF’s Mentoring Program, exemplifies the spirit of growth and support within the organization. 

The PREF Mentoring pilot program, launched in Summer 2023, aimed to foster meaningful connections within the office community. Beyazmín Jiménez, Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at PREF, explains, “Through the Mentoring Program, we aim to connect employees seeking organizational support with seasoned leaders at PREF who can offer guidance and camaraderie as they pursue opportunities and goals.”  However, Jiménez didn’t anticipate the depth of the connections that would emerge between mentees and mentors, wondering whether the mentorship would remain confined within the office walls or develop a deeper connection beyond work. 

Morelli and Chan, one of the program’s inaugural pairs, quickly surpassed the formalities of their mentor-mentee relationship. Chan reflects, “They had sent out a guideline, but it was just a guideline, and that was just ‘meet once a month for three months, but after our initial meeting, I started reaching out to Carla when I needed to.” Morelli added, “Which I encouraged her to do…I didn’t want it to be a formal, just-make-an-hour kind of thing.” Chan was in a safe environment where she could ask any questions or share any ideas about her career to Morelli, and Morelli took pride in knowing that she had been trusted to guide somebody who was at an earlier stage of their career.  

Their connection, rooted in shared experiences, provided a solid foundation for their relationship as both Morelli and Chan navigated the transition from architecture to project management. Their discussions on work-life balance, career development, and overcoming obstacles in their respective roles created a stronger bond between them. “Carla’s mentorship style, informed by her own journey, resonated deeply with me,” expressed Chan. “I truly value her wisdom and perspective, which have played a significant role in my professional growth and development.” Morelli’s decision to migrate conversations outside the office enabled a healthy separation from the workplace, allowing them to speak freely and objectively as peers. This aspect of their mentorship journey unlocked a more genuine dialogue.  

Morelli and Chan’s mentorship initially structured for three months, evolved into an enduring friendship that transcended the program constraints. Recognizing the depth of their connection, Chan expressed the need to continue their mentorship, “We feel like three months is too short for a mentorship program, and we have decided to keep this mentorship program going, no expiration date for us!” 

The mentorship relationship between Morelli and Chan exemplified PREF’s commitment to fostering meaningful connections and personal development within the organization. Beyond individual growth, their bond symbolized a broader “cross-pollination” effect, where diverse backgrounds and perspectives intersected to enrich the mentoring experience for both parties. 

Their story, emblematic of PREF’s commitment to fostering a culture of mentorship and camaraderie, serves as a compelling example of the transformative power of human connection within the workplace. As PREF continues to champion diversity, equity and inclusion, Carla and Elaine embody the spirit of growth and support that lies at the heart of the organization.  

by Tula Singer 
February 27, 2024