Alumni Programs: Upper Canada College - Silver Medal

Category 1B: Alumni Relations Programs – Alumni Programs
Upper Canada College: Common Ties Mentorship Program

Contact: Angie Foster, manager, Common Ties Mentorship Program, Office of Advancement, 200 Lonsdale Rd., Toronto, Ontario M4V 1W6 Canada, Phone: (416) 488-1125 x3357, e-mail:

Program Description: The Upper Canada College Common Ties Mentorship Program’s mission is to facilitate mentoring relationships between students, alumni, and members of our community, to develop the skills, knowledge, and expertise needed to excel educationally, professionally, and personally.

The Common Ties Mentorship Program offers three distinct services to the UCC community:

  1. The Alumni Career Mentorship Program
  2. The IB University Mentorship Program
  3. Common Ties Events

Alumni Career Mentorship Program: Launched in May 2004, the Common Ties Alumni Career Mentorship Program differs from most other alumni mentorship programs, as it is staffed by a full-time, dedicated person who offers personalized services to every program member. The program connects alumni with experienced mentors who can provide information and advice, allowing them to advance in their careers.

Alumni career mentees are alumni of all ages living all over the world—there are no geographical or age restrictions. Mentees are typically university students, recent graduates, or young professionals who have graduated in the last 15 years. Alumni Career Mentors are alumni, parents, and friends of the college living worldwide.

The program manager works one-on-one with mentees to determine their mentoring needs, help them select mentors, and facilitate the matching process. Mentees can choose between short-term mentoring and long-term mentoring. Short-term mentoring allows mentees to connect with several mentors on a one-time or short-term basis. Long-term mentoring allows mentees to commit to one mentor over a pre-defined amount of time. If a suitable partner cannot be located from the pool of recruited mentors, the manager will recruit a new volunteer. Mentors and mentees meet in person where possible and communicate by telephone or e-mail if living in different regions. The program manager follows up with each participant on a regular basis to track mentoring contacts and conduct program evaluations.

The Alumni Career Mentorship program includes a Web-based application that allows program participants to register personal profiles online. Mentor profiles are added to the online Alumni Career Mentor Directory. Mentees can access this specialized, password-protected directory to search for mentors based on industry, profession, location, company name and post-secondary education. Mentor contact information is not available online and the manager makes first contact with every mentor to introduce the mentee and ensure his/her interest in working with him.

IB University Mentorship Program: In March 2006, Common Ties undertook the development of a student-to-young alumni university mentorship program. Known as the IB University Mentorship Program, the program facilitates the university application, selection, interviewing, and transition process and was developed in partnership with the college’s University Placement Office. Mentees are IB students (Grades 11 and 12) who are preparing for university. Mentors are young alumni who are studying at universities and colleges all over the world. The program includes a specialized, password protected online directory that students can search to select mentors of interest on criteria including university, degree program, interview and scholarship experience, and long-term career goals.

Common Ties utilizes the principles of tri-mentoring to create a solid network and build a culture of volunteerism and mentoring, ensuring that the relationships being built between the school and its constituents remain strong in future years. By engaging current students in Common Ties, we prepare them to become IB mentors, career mentees, and eventually career mentors.

Common Ties Workshops and Seminars: Common Ties has hosted 20 career workshops, professional development seminars, and other events. Guest speakers are volunteers from our community.

Topics include:

  • Film and Television Career Exploration
  • Common Ties Open House
  • Real Estate Career Exploration
  • Capital Markets Career Exploration
  • Power Networking Seminar
  • Mentor Recognition Evening
  • NGO Career Exploration
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Résumé and Interviewing Skills
  • Law Career Exploration
  • Medical Career Exploration
  • Financial Trends Seminar
  • Arts and Entertainment Career
  • “Green” Careers
  • Mentee Networking Social
  • Leadership Seminar
  • Management Consulting Career Exploration
  • Personal Branding Seminar
  • Finance Career Exploration (New York, NY)
  • Public Speaking Seminar

Program Goals and Objectives: In 2000-01, the Office of Advancement at Upper Canada College1 was contacted by an alumnus interested in funding the development and implementation of an alumni career mentorship program. In response, the office launched a pilot project which resulted in the matching of 22 mentoring pairs. As part of the 1999 and 2001 Alumni Surveys, 69 percent of respondents (2800 alumni) stated they would be interested in participating in an alumni mentorship program. In September 2003, we created a 12-person advisory committee composed of alumni, parents, and friends of the college and hired a part-time program manager to develop and implement an alumni mentorship program.
In keeping with the mandate and mission of the UCC Association2 and the Office of Advancement3, the advisory committee determined that the objectives of the alumni career mentorship program were to:

  1. Provide new opportunities for involvement in the UCC community and a way to contribute in a non-financial manner.
  2. Create a culture of mentorship and volunteerism within our community.
  3. Deliver relevant and unique services to our alumni.
  4. Develop a social and professional network among our constituents.
  5. Build strong, long-term relationships between the school and the community, and between members of the community.
  6. To develop a global mentoring network allowing constituents all over the world to participate.
  7. Provide meaningful career and professional development support to alumni and facilitate lifelong learning opportunities for all members of the community.

The advisory committee set the following program goals:

  1. To offer opportunities for alumni and members of our community to network.
  2. To offer opportunities for alumni to learn through mentorship, career workshops, and professional development seminars.
  3. To promote the program globally and offer services to constituents around the world.
  4. To continually expand the mentoring network with a goal to recruit 150 mentors and 100 mentees within the first year.
  5. To expand the mentorship program to include current students.

The program manager researched best practices employed by other educational institutions and developed a mentoring framework that would complement the UCC community and the objectives established by the Advisory Committee. Six months later, the Common Ties Alumni Career Mentorship Program was formally launched and in January 2007, the Common Ties IB University Mentorship Program was launched.

Target Audience: The Common Ties Mentorship Program is the only alumni relations program at Upper Canada College that is accessible to all members of our community, regardless of age, location or affiliation with the school.

Common Ties Alumni Career Mentorship Program

  • TARGET: 8,000 alumni, parents and friends of the college living worldwide. This represents the total number of living and addressable alumni and parents in our community.

Common Ties IB University Mentorship Program

  • TARGET: 345 Grade 11 and 12 students.
  • TARGET: 700 young alumni who graduated from UCC in the last five years and are studying at universities and colleges worldwide.

Program Budget:

  • A leadership donation of $100,000 was made in 2003-04 to develop and implement the Common Ties Mentorship Program. This was directed primarily toward salary/benefits and the development of the program’s Web-based applications.
  • Between 2004 and 2006, the program’s annual operating budget ranged between $70,000 and $75,000. Half was raised through fundraising and half was absorbed by the Office of Advancement.
  • Resources are allocated toward salary and benefits, improvements, and maintenance of the Web-based applications, events, marketing/ communications, and other miscellaneous costs.
  • Beginning in 2007-08, the Common Ties operating budget will be funded entirely by the Office of Advancement, reflecting the college’s belief that it is a critical program for alumni relations and the community.
  • Over $167,000 has been donated to Common Ties from 27 donors (alumni and parents).


  1. Within one month, 60 mentees and 73 mentors registered for the Common Ties Alumni Career Mentorship Program.
  2. Within one year 102 career mentees and nearly 200 career mentors had registered.
  3. Today (Feb. 2007), 240 career mentees and 317 career mentors participate in Common Ties. This includes participants in Canada, the United States, Hong Kong, Korea, England, Australia, France, Ireland, Mexico, Hungary, the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, and more.
  4. Over 350 career mentoring contacts have taken place between mentors and mentees.
  5. Common Ties has hosted 20 career workshops/professional development seminars.
  6. Over 850 members of our community have attended Common Ties events.
  7. In November 2006, Common Ties hosted its first regional event—a “Careers in Finance” workshop in New York. An event is planned for London, England in fall 2007.
  8. In January 2007, Common Ties launched the IB University Mentorship Program.
  9. Within one month, 50 young alumni registered as Common Ties IB University Mentors.
  10. Over 390 alumni, parents and friends have volunteered for Common Ties since its launch.
  11. Over 1,000 students, alumni, parents, and friends of the college have been involved with the program in some capacity.
  12. Common Ties engages the largest alumni population on an ongoing basis of any friend-raising program at Upper Canada College.


“It says something about UCC and the Mentorship Program that a kid like me can meet with a CEO of downtown firm because we went to the same high school.”
Alumnus 2003

“I have attended three career evenings--all of which were terrific! I find that the workshops fit my personality type and current career situation better than formal mentoring. I applaud the school tremendously for establishing this program.
Alumnus ‘94

“My mentor is solid as a rock and I am forever grateful to him and to UCC for putting us in touch. I know I can always count on him and I believe he feels the same way about me. Hopefully at some point I can return the favour to him.”
Alumnus ‘98

“Mentors made an enormous difference in my life. This program empowers our alumni to create and implement their own vision for future success.”
Alumnus ’67


  1. Upper Canada College (UCC) is a school for boys located in Toronto, Ontario, which includes the Preparatory School (SK to Grade 7) and the Upper School (Grade 8 to 12). Boys are educated in a rigorous liberal arts tradition in preparation for the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma, the principal diploma of the College.
  2. The purpose of the UCC Association is:
    - To serve as a link between UCC and its members;
    - To provide programs and services for its members;
    - To engage its members in the service of UCC.
  3. The mission of the UCC Office of Advancement is to nurture and strengthen relationships in order to maximize goodwill and financial support, thereby enabling UCC to achieve its mission.