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Spotlight: 2016 Mentor Program – Maryann Marks with Samantha Singer, Johnwilly Agulpos and Mic

By: Belinda Ann Deines, Vice Director of Professional Development, APA Orange Section

Mentoring has proven to create lasting relationships and APA Orange Section recognizes the importance of linking our local planning community together for professional development. APA Orange launched its first mentor program in 2015 and recognized our inaugural class at the 2016 Awards Banquet.

Samantha Singer experienced direct benefits from the mentor program and commended the group setting with their mentor, Maryann Marks. As a group, Samantha said that “we learned how to reframe our experience for future job opportunities that may arise. That exact situation did arrive for a few of us less than a year after our time with our mentor. We also learned from each other about experiences in our various job settings.” The program offers two options: one-on-one with a mentor and protégé, or a group setting with one mentor and two to three protégés.

From Left: Michael Sahimi, Willy Agulpos, Maryann Marks and Samantha Singer (Photo by Belinda Deines)

Samantha also noted that “the mentor group helped me grow my professional network as well, in a deeper and direct way than standard networking.” In the APA Orange Section 2016 End-of-Year Survey, respondents said that the top two reasons why they join APA are for professional development and networking.

As a mentor, Maryann Marks said that the experience of mentoring offered an opportunity “for having someone new to entice me to explore a different perspective from which I could examine and evaluate what I did and why I did it.” There are several benefits to mentors, including the chance to reflect on one’s own practice. Maryann said that “I looked at my work and past experiences more critically and realized that there were so many different ways that I could present and frame those experiences, both theirs and mine. I enjoyed being able to work closely with young professionals, sharing ideas and plans, helping to see the big picture of what they wanted to gain so we could establish the focus and direction of our mentoring experience.” Mentoring enhances job satisfaction, develops strong professional relationships, and enables participants to practice interpersonal skills.

The connections made through the program helped Johnwilly “Willy” Agulpos make the transition from private to public sector planning. Willy highlighted that “the Mentorship program gave me a holistic perspective of the planning profession by allowing me to meet other Planners coming from different fields and understand how my interest fit into the profession. It was nice to just be and talk with Maryann (our mentor) who not only has the professional experience but the drive to see us discover and succeed.”

After the program’s pilot year completed in 2016, the mentor program has been renamed to APA Orange PEEL (Planning: Education + Experience + Leadership). The mission of the APA Orange PEEL program is to foster a thriving, impactful mentoring program that continually builds a network of professionals to strengthen ties within the planning community in Orange County. The PEEL Subcommittee has been working hard to enhance the program’s second year with additional support, more hosted events, and monthly follow-up.

This mentor program is free to all APA Orange Section members. We encourage all planners, practicing and retired, to participate. Online applications are available now through January 30, 2017. The PEEL Kick-Off Reception will be held on Tuesday, January 31, 2017 in Irvine.

To apply, visit:

Maryann has committed to volunteer as a mentor in the second year and she concluded that “there was more to the experience that I found valuable. I believe I also made some forever friends and I will enjoy watching as their careers blossom and they know I will always be available to assist in any way I can.”


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