December's Mentor of the Month: Jim Bernfield CC'88

Left: Jim Bernfield CC'88 on campus. Right: Current photo of Jim Bernfield CC'88.

Congratulations to Jim Bernfield CC'88, as December 2019 Mentor of the Month. Bernfield received both his BA and MFA from Columbia. After studying at the College, he went on to get his MFA in Film from the School of the Arts in 2001. He is now a media consultant, filmmaker, and nonprofit executive. He has participated in the Odyssey Mentoring Program and has mentored three students on the platform.

Interview with Jim Bernfield CC'88

How many people have you connected with and mentored (either long term or one-off conversations) through the Odyssey Mentoring Program?


What have you gained from being a mentor?

I enjoy seeing what kind of young people come to Columbia, and who avails themselves of all the resources the College has to offer. When I attended, Columbia seemed far more hands-off; I don’t think there was anything like this mentoring program at that time. But now, by being a mentor, I have been granted the opportunity to reflect on everything I got from my Columbia experience — lifelong friendships, powerful social and career opportunities, and a strong foundation in the liberal arts, all of which I still depend on and relish as a long-time alum.

What advice you would give a student looking for a mentor?

In my experience, Columbia is where students learn how to consider the world around us all. It’s a place where young people can challenge themselves, where students can do things they might not have imagined doing before they matriculated. So my general advice to any young person is, take risks and figure out what you love. Then pursue it with all your heart.

To my mind, a mentor should be someone who supports that risk-taking and helps to disabuse students of creeping pre-professionalism that will only blinker their experience at the College and in the wider world. To that end, students should look for mentors who say it’s OK to fail, as long as that failure is part of the learning process. A mentor should tell mentees that trying new things is essential, as those trials will take them somewhere new. Finally, a mentor needs to relay that college is not the time to play it safe; college often the first chance for people to bravely express what they want from their lives.

Any additional thoughts about the Odyssey Mentoring Program?

I have enjoyed my experience with this new generation of Columbia students. I also envy them deeply — they are using their college experiences to chart new courses of action that as alums we can only watch and appreciate with the distance that comes with time and experience.

About the Odyssey Mentoring Program

The Odyssey Mentoring Program (OMP) was founded on the belief that Columbia College students and alumni want to support one another, share stories and encourage one another’s success, thus creating a strong and tight-knit community. The College has more than 50,000 alumni working in myriad careers and around the country. OMP makes it possible for community members to connect in a variety of ways, from an email exchange to in-person meetings and small group gatherings.