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NEW FDA Alumni Mentor Program to Begin in the Fall!

August 31, 2017

FDA’s Office of Training, Education & Development (OTED), Office of Regulatory Affairs, is announcing the new, redesigned FDA Alumni Advisor Program (FDAAAP). The new program will start in the 1st Quarter FY2018 (between October and December 2017).

The new program is highly anticipated and has been fully approved by senior leadership. It is based on the very successful, award-winning pilot program that ended last year and that was developed with the FDA Alumni Association.

Learning from the pilot, FDA has incorporated improvements into the new program. For example, the pilot matched Learners and Advisors with like leadership competencies. For the new program, FDA worked with OPM to strengthen and validate the matching process, and includes assessment of the suggestions from the final evaluations.

Denise Collins

Denise Collins, an FDA Alumni Association Member, is the program manager for the FDA Alumni Advisor Program and is a Management Analyst and Training Officer in Leadership, Management & Administrative Training, Office of Training, Education & Development, Office of Regulatory Affairs, Food & Drug Administration.

FDA has also strengthened the Learner selection process to ensure that the right people are selected. An Advisor Selection Panel will be made up of OTED program administrator personnel and at least three ORA senior leaders. This panel will review and rate application materials against a set of standardized criteria. They will then convene to make the final selections based on the ratings and the program needs. Additionally, as a long term goal for future cohorts, ORA Senior leaders will be directly involved in the selection process for alumni advisors.

FDA has added five Webinar Learning Panel Discussions with topics ranging from “Political Savvy” to “Developing Others”. These developmental panel discussions will be headed by FDA retirees/alumni, giving the current managerial workforce additional organizational awareness and increased learning in MLDP competencies. FDA continues to finalize improvements to the framework for the program, including a clear selection and evaluation process.

The FDA Alumni Association is very proud of this collaboration with FDA and considers this program to be a perfect example of how FDA alumni and active FDAers can work together to further the mission of the agency. Mentors have also experienced great personal satisfaction from sharing their experience and knowledge.

Background: The FDA Alumni Advisor Program (FDAAAP) is an in-depth mentoring program created by ORA in partnership with the FDA Alumni Association. The program pairs retired FDA Alumni (Advisors) with current ORA managers and supervisors (Learners) and focuses on leadership competencies for career development. The voluntary pilot program was approved for six months and began in June 2015. Due to the overwhelmingly positive response from both Advisors and Learners, the program was granted a three month extension and concluded in March 2016. The pilot included 24 ORA managers and supervisors, and 12 rehired annuitants, and due to the success, many of these mentoring relationships were allowed to continue past the formal close of the pilot.

The mentoring relationships were facilitated using the Open Learning Network (ORA’s web­ based learning environment), Microsoft Lync, and the telephone.

Program Overview: 80% of the Learners and 100% of the Advisors responded to numerous beginning, mid-point, and program-end evaluations. The evaluation questions were rated on a 6 – point scale ranging from Strongly Disagree to Strongly Agree. The evaluations covered the following seven topics:

  • Skill Level
  • Effectiveness of Mentoring Relationships
  • Transfer of Institutional Knowledge
  • Organizational Satisfaction
  • Value of the FDA Alumni Advisor Program
  • Developmental Activities
  • Recommendations for Program Improvement

Overall, the program pilot was a success and provided growth opportunities for current ORA Managers and Supervisors. The program consisted of regular check-in meetings between Advisors and Learners with all mentoring relationships lasting the entirety of the program (some even wanted to extend beyond). The program matched Learners based on leadership competencies they wanted to learn from Advisors. This unique mentoring opportunity offered individual and differentiated mentoring, which, from Learners’ feedback, is one of the success factors. In order to strengthen the results as stated in this final report, OTED has sought feedback from the Advisors and assistance from the Office of Personnel Management to identify opportunities for program improvement, specifically identifying a more robust and valid selection and evaluation process.


August 31, 2017
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