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Full-circle moments: The UGA Mentor Program at its finest

[Image above (L-R) – Christina Carrere (BS ’11) and Kelly Strachan (AB ’21) on a balcony overlooking the West Wing of the White House, Spring 2021.]

In a perfect world, participation in the University of Georgia Mentor Program begins as a student in Athens and continues for a lifetime—once a Dawg, always a Dawg—once a UGA Mentee, forever a UGA Mentor. That’s what’s shaping up for Kelly Strachan (AB ’21).

Finding her footing as a first-gen student

The first in her family to attend college, Kelly Strachan realized how overwhelming navigating life at UGA could be when she moved into Creswell Hall her freshman year. Finding mentorship within the UGA alumni base helped her grow confidence and find direction. Kelly took the initiative to find three different mentors during her time at UGA. She first connected with Brian Dill (AB ’94, MBA ’19). Kelly credits Brian, VP of External Affairs for Tanner Health Systems, with helping her find her passion for health administration and policy. Later, Marylen Rimando (PHD ’19), who represents strong women in the field as a health scientist with bioinformatics firm IHRC, Inc., became Kelly’s mentor. Kelly has stayed in touch with both her earlier mentors, but it was her mentorship with Senior Medicare Program Examiner with the White House Office of Management and Budget, Health Division, Christina Carrere (BS ’11), that has proven to be truly life-changing.

From SPIA to the White House

Kelly was a student in UGA’s School of Public and International Affairs when she first reached out to Christina through the UGA Mentor Program. Christina says a part of her heart will always be in Athens, but since her work largely keeps her confined to Washington, DC, she looked for more consistent and meaningful ways to stay engaged with UGA and its students. The UGA Mentor Program fit the bill. What started as a general informational interview with Kelly, quickly grew into deeper discussions about graduate school, career paths, personal challenges each have faced, diversity in the workplace, resulting in a connection that has long outlasted the formal mentor-mentee cycle in the UGA mentor program (typically 16 weeks).

“Kelly and I initiated our mentor-mentee relationship during the COVID-19 pandemic, which was important given my work in health policy and her interest in the field. The timeliness of the pandemic gave us opportunities to discuss the different roles individuals play in responding to something of this magnitude as well as the good, bad and ugly of how policy is formed and shaped using real-world examples in real time,” said Christina.

Several months into their connection, Christina wrote a letter of recommendation for Kelly to Christina’s graduate school alma mater (John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, where Kelly is now a graduate student and a graduate teaching assistant). Later, Kelly spotted a posting on Christina’s LinkedIn page about an internship on Christina’s team at the White House. Kelly applied and got the position all on her own. It just so happened that Christina was on a leave of absence throughout the application and interview process. Back in time for Kelly’s first day, Christina counts taking Kelly on her first tour of the White House complex and grabbing a picture with her outside the West Wing (see photo above) as a cherished memory.

Christina says, “Seeing a relationship that started as a virtual connection grow into all of this is a testament to the power of the UGA Mentor Program and its ability to connect students and alumni across the world in meaningful ways.”

Paying it forward

Even while still a student at UGA, Kelly wanted to make certain that every student experienced how giving and supportive the UGA community can be. “One of my proudest roles was being an ambassador for the Mentor Program,” Kelly says. Ambassadors of the UGA Mentor Program work with other students and UGA Career Center staff to foster a culture of mentorship at UGA by developing programming, partnerships and marketing strategies that bring heightened awareness to the UGA Mentor Program.

Recently, Kelly heard from previous mentor Marylen about her current mentee, a UGA student who wants to follow a path similar to Kelly’s. Kelly was all too happy to connect with her and plans to stay in touch. Kelly described it as a full-circle moment. “I truly hope every student at UGA, who may be feeling a little lost or overwhelmed like I was, finds the support they deserve.”

January is National Mentor Month, and January 17 is International Day of Mentoring. To learn how you can become involved with the UGA Mentor Program, visit mentor.uga.edu.

You are the company you keep

Today, as part of the UGA Mentor Program‘s observance of National Mentoring Month, we’re celebrating “I am a UGA Mentor Day.” If you’re a mentor (or a mentee), you’re in fine company! Consider some famous mentorship pairings through time:

Henry David Thoreau was mentored by Ralph Waldo Emerson.

This happened back in the day when, apparently, everyone used three names.

Aretha Franklin mentored Mariah Carey.

The Queen of Soul taught the Songbird Supreme a few things about R-E-S-P-E-C-T in the music industry. In 1998, the two powerhouses joined forces to sing “Chain of Fools.”

Professor Albus Dumbledore mentored Harry Potter.

Potter’s guide at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry shared whimsy, humor and sage advice: “We must all face the choice between what is right and what is easy.”

Mahatma Gandhi mentored beyond limits.

Neither time nor geography stopped the influence of Gandhi. Even though Gandhi never met these leaders, Nelson Mandela, Barack Obama and the Dalai Lama cited Gandhi as an influential mentor.

Obi-Wan Kenobi mentored Luke Skywalker.

Examples of mentoring relationships are found throughout Star Wars storylines. You can’t talk about mentorship without mentioning Obi-Wan and Luke’s Jedi relationship.

With members like these, who wouldn’t want to be part of this club?

Not every famous person is mentored by a celebrity. Sure, Oprah was mentored by Maya Angelou, but she also counts Mrs. Duncan, her 4th grade teacher, as a mentor whose influence was vital to her development. Neither woman was famous at the time.

Socrates mentored Plato … and Plato mentored Aristotle.

Don’t get too philosophical about it, but these Greeks made it clear that the gift of mentorship keeps giving.

Mentorship has its privileges.

Mentorship is a two-way street. There are benefits to both sides of the relationship. Check out a few of the UGA Mentor Program’s successful pairings.

As the saying goes: “You are the company you keep.” Make sure it’s Dawg-gone good company. Join the UGA Mentor Program.

Happy New Year + Happy Mentor Month

Happy New Year

As we celebrate the arrival of a new year, January marks the beginning of a new semester on campus. This means that UGA students will be looking for new mentors. Now is the perfect time to log in to the platform and update your UGA Mentor profile.

January is National Mentoring Month, an opportunity to recognize the power of helping young people identify and follow their passions. At the University of Georgia, we are celebrating all month with special emphasis on these dates:

I am a UGA Mentor Day – January 6

This is your day to celebrate your role in empowering the leaders of tomorrow. Use these social media graphics to highlight your participation in the UGA Mentor Program. There is a Zoom/video conference background you can use to show others how much the program means to you.

International Day of Mentoring – January 17

Internationally, this day recognizes Muhammad Ali’s birthday and his six core principles: confidence, conviction, dedication, respect, giving and spirituality. Those principles apply to mentoring relationships, too! It just so happens that this year, the date falls on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service – January 17

Today is a day to honor the memory of Dr. MLK Jr. and elevate the spirit of service through volunteerism. If you are paired with a mentee, this is a good day to reach out and share your experiences giving back to your community. You might find that you share common interests! Explore volunteer opportunities through Engage GA.

I am a UGA Mentee Day – January 25

Today, we celebrate the mentees. Take a moment to acknowledge the student you’re mentoring by posting a social graphic and/or photos of your current and/or former mentees.

Follow along with our National Mentoring Month celebrations by following the UGA Mentor Program LinkedIn page anad the UGA Mentor Program Instagram account @ump_ambassadors.

Interested in becoming a UGA Mentor? Learn more at mentor.uga.edu!

Mentorship smooths the path for a first-generation UGA student

The UGA Mentor Program is celebrating first-generation students during November. Here, in their own words, is the story of a first-generation student, Tatiana Anthony (BS ’20, MED ’23), and her mentor, alumna Shanelle Smith (BS ’16, MED ’18).

FORGING A CONNECTION

Shanelle: I have always valued mentorship. As a dual-enrollment student in high school, I received a mentor to help me navigate both the academic and personal challenges of being in the accelerated program. When I learned about the UGA Mentor Program, I knew it was my time to help others just as I had been helped.

Tatiana: When the UGA Mentor Program launched, I was extremely excited! I connected with my mentor, Shanelle, through the program during the first semester of my senior year in Fall 2020. As a first-generation college student that wanted to pursue mental health counseling, I have always valued representation and mentorship by other Black women in the field. The UGA Mentor Program was the perfect platform to find additional support during the graduate school admission process.

I was drawn to Shanelle’s profile because she was an alumna of the graduate program I wanted to pursue, and she has proven to be a great resource for me!

Shanelle: I had the pleasure of connecting with Tatiana at the beginning of her senior year. I was both shocked and honored to know that she had chosen me to be her mentor. Witnessing her journey to graduate school has been the most remarkable part of this mentorship.

A BUMP IN THE ROAD

Tatiana: When I was not accepted into the graduate program the first time I applied, I was devastated. During this time, Shanelle was very intentional about providing me with emotional support and encouraging me to apply again.

When I decided to move to St. Louis during my gap year to do service work as an AmeriCorps member, she was genuinely happy for me. We had dinner the day before I moved, and she got me housewarming gifts for my first apartment.

My entire gap year away from home, she called me regularly and helped me apply to graduate school again. The time difference between Georgia and Missouri did not stop us from connecting.

When it came time to interview for graduate programs, she and I interview-prepped in the evenings to make sure I was prepared. Once I was accepted into my graduate program and offered an assistantship, she was one of the first few people I called.

Shanelle: Many believe the idea of mentorship is to help the mentee grow both professionally and personally, but I can say Tatiana has pushed me to grow in many ways as well. Tatiana taught me that perseverance is always the answer, and to pursue my true wants in life. From getting to know each other, to processing all the nuances of a counseling grad program, this has been an exceptional journey.

The mental health field is forever growing, and it is an honor to work alongside such an inspiring Black woman—one who I know is going to do incredible things in this field. This is only the beginning for Tatiana.

WHY MENTOR?

Shanelle: Since 2020, it has been a pleasure getting to not only provide insight and knowledge to Tatiana, but also grow from the experience myself. I am grateful to the UGA Mentor Program for the connection to not only such a great mentee, but also with a lifelong friend.

I truly believe that in order to impact future generations, no matter what your academic field may be, becoming a part of the UGA Mentor Program is a meaningful way to not only give back to UGA, but also to grow personally as well. 

Tatiana: Shanelle has been through this journey with me every single step of the way. Even now, she continues to support me in my graduate program. I can confidently say that I would not be who and where I am today without her support. Thank you, Shanelle! And thank you, UGA Mentor Program.

Discover the joys of providing mentorship.

See other ways UGA is celebrating first-generation students, staff and faculty.

Celebrating Global Diversity Awareness Month by highlighting a special mentoring relationship

Graduate student Kehinde “Kenny” Lawal came to the University of Georgia from Nigeria. She credits her mentor, Alex Gomez (BSBCHE ’13), with helping her make the most of her time on campus.

The Mentee

Kenny decided to attend UGA because she wanted to earn a Master of Science in engineering at a reputable university. Her husband, also a graduate student at UGA, influenced her decision.

Moving to Athens also was Kenny’s first time in the United States. She found the university system here different from back home, and it took her a couple of semesters to feel comfortable.

Kenny eventually joined the UGA Mentor Program to gain a better understanding of the American energy industry. Her search to find a mentor with experience in that field led her to Alex.

“My mentor has been great at showing me where I was at the time and where I needed to be,” Kenny said. “He guided me in setting short- and long-term goals. He also made me aware of opportunities available at UGA to help me build a brand for myself.”

Kenny says her positive experience with Alex has inspired her to become a UGA Mentor when she graduates.

The Mentor

Here, in his own words, Alex describes his experience mentoring Kenny.

It has been a pleasure to get to know Kenny. As an international student, she has overcome unique challenges that I never experienced as a student. Talking through stories together, I got to see how those challenges have her well-prepared for times of transition. Her resilience will not only benefit her career, but it also serves as an example for me to learn from. I use the insights I gain from talking with Kenny to illustrate to others who are considering becoming mentors that mentorship is a two-way learning experience.

I am always impressed by students who are taking advantage of the opportunities UGA provides, and that goes for Kenny, too. Mentorship is an investment. It requires that both mentors and mentees put in energy and effort in order to come out with a valuable experience. Kenny always took any “homework” I gave her and acted on her own to get it done. Her initiative has continuously encouraged me, especially how seamlessly she manages classes, research and family—all while still prioritizing personal development.

Kenny is goal-oriented, proactive, curious about educational and career opportunities, and extremely qualified to excel in whatever she does. Itt has been rewarding for me to watch her confidence grow to match her abilities and qualifications. Kenny is certain to go on to be a great reflection of UGA.

It may amaze you how much you get out of being a UGA Mentor

 

A winning team – a mentorship testimonial

Written By:  UGA Mentee and Women’s Tennis Player, Meg Kowalski (Class of 2022)

A few weeks after returning to my hometown of Chicago at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, a lot of questions loomed in my head. As a student-athlete with National Championship aspirations since I committed to Georgia my sophomore year of high school, the abrupt stop to the world was the perfect time for me to shift my mindset from “fourth and goal” to “fourth and life”—an expression that I would soon hear a lot about from my mentor. While participating in remote learning, I started digging into life after tennis and sought advice from various sports industry professionals. To my surprise, a connection on LinkedIn would develop into a formal relationship through the UGA Mentor Program and, ultimately, change my life forever.

I could spend this entire testimonial elaborating on the accomplishments of UGA’s 2021 Class of 40 Under 40 honoree, Angela Alfano (AB ’10, ABJ ’10), but the word count would not even scratch the surface of the incredible career she has had. She currently serves as the senior director of corporate communications for Major League Soccer, and previously worked for Tough Mudder, the National Football League, and the Washington Football Team. Angela started her sports communications career as a student assistant in UGA’s Sports Information Department. She is the most humble and genuine person with whom I have had the pleasure of talking. I view Angela as a mentor and a big sister.

During our monthly Zoom chats and phone calls, Angela brings loads of positive energy that not only instills great confidence in me, but also makes me believe in my big goals of pursuing a career in the sports industry. Through her, I have been able to connect with many sports business executives—some who even served as mentors to Angela when she was in my shoes. The opportunity to connect with influential leaders in the industry has been a game changer. Building my network, cultivating sports public relations experience and conducting informational interviews has proven extremely beneficial to jump-starting my career in a competitive industry.

“Passionate and hardworking, Meg is an incredible mentee and rising star in the sports industry,” said Alfano. “Her commitment to taking strategic action to grow her network, gain hands-on experience and develop her personal brand has positioned her for incredible success as she embarks into the next chapter of her already impressive sports PR career.”

Angela helped introduce me to the legendary Claude Felton (ABJ ’70, MA ’71), the Loran Smith Senior Associate Athletic Director, who spearheads UGA’s sports communications office. This past year, I served as a student media assistant under Claude. He provided me with the opportunity to strengthen my public relations skills while working on a variety of athletic communications projects. As a tennis player, I received the “full-court advantage” of understanding both life as a student-athlete and in the front office working behind-the-scenes. With a solid sports PR foundation paved, I was fortunate to land a football communications internship with the NFL at their New York City headquarters last summer. Working alongside successful and insightful leaders, in addition to contributing to valuable projects and assignments, was such an incredible experience.

Angela has fueled my passion for pursuing a career in the sports world and is the best advocate that I could have asked for. Having my UGA Mentor in my corner and being a cheerleader for me has made the biggest difference. It will forever strengthen me and bolster my sports PR game plan.

“It is an incredible honor to be a mentor to one of UGA’s best and brightest Dawgs. Any organization would be lucky to have Meg on their team,” said Alfano. “An exceptional young executive who is destined to make key contributions in the sports industry, Meg is a future trailblazer and mentor for the next generation of Bulldog mentees.”

Meg Kowalski is a student-athlete at the University of Georgia pursuing a Double Dawg degree in sport management and minor in business. A member of the 2019 National Championship women’s tennis team, Kowalski served as president of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and earned All-American status in the 2021 season. She has been involved with the UGA Mentor Program since Fall 2019.

Inspire the next generation of Bulldogs. Become a mentor in the UGA Mentor Program.

 

Create a UGA Mentor profile that stands out

Serving as a UGA Mentor is one of the most rewarding opportunities to support University of Georgia students. As you begin your journey in the UGA Mentor Program, check out these tips to crafting a mentor profile that will connect with students looking for guidance and career advice:

  1. Upload an image of yourself to your profile. Students are more likely to request a mentor when there’s a photo.
  2. Include some of your demographic information. Students often request mentors based on their own identities and interests.
  3. Opt in to participate in informational interviews. Some students prefer to dip their toes into networking before committing to a 16-week mentor relationship. Opting in to participate in informational interviews allows students to meet with you for 30 minutes to ask their work-, life- and career-related questions. It can also help them determine if you two make a good mentoring match. Learn more about how informational interviews increase the chances of a student connecting with you.

 

Not a UGA Mentor, but would like to be? Learn more or sign up now!

It’s the perfect time to become a UGA mentor

Why now?

Students will be back soon and looking to connect with experienced Bulldogs like you. In the video above, you’ll hear why your fellow alumni find mentoring so rewarding and don’t want you to miss out.

Connect anywhere and one your schedule. Getting started is easy.

  • Create a profile at mentor.uga.edu.
  • Accept a student request for mentorship.

What’s the commitment?

  • 1-2 hours per month for four months (16 weeks)
  • Share knowledge, experiences and feedback.

Informational interviews require even less of a time commitment.

If a 16-week mentorship doesn’t suit your schedule, consider making yourself available for 30-minute informational interviews with students instead.

Help a student realize their potential.

“I was lost before I met my UGA mentor. I really feel more confident about my abilities because of them.” – UGA Student

It may surprise you how much you get out of giving back in this way!



On the fence? Want to learn more?

Register for the UGA Mentor 101 webinar on August 3. You’ll hear from successful mentor and mentee pairings, learn how to form a strong connection with students and discover tricks to becoming a great mentor.

Students want to see themselves in their mentor.

The UGA Mentor Program needs you!

There is a student coming in the fall that can benefit from your experience. The UGA Mentor Program is simple to join, and mentoring can fit within your schedule. A 16-week mentorship requires only 1-2 hours per month. Making yourself available for 30-minute informational interviews are another option. It may amaze you how much you get out of giving back as a mentor.

To help new and potential mentors learn more about mentoring, the UGA Mentor Program is hosting a webinar, UGA Mentor 101, on Aug. 3 from 3:30-4:30 p.m. You will hear from successful mentor/mentee pairings, learn best practices for forming a strong connection and discover tips to become an effective mentor.

The UGA Mentor Program has facilitated 2,775 mentoring relationships since its inception, and 99% of mentors who completed a 16-week mentorship cycle were satisfied with their experience in the program. But perhaps the best endorsement of the program comes from students.

“Jumping into college as a freshman, you have no idea what the future or even next week will look like,” said one student in the program. “You’re making new friends, learning how to get around and deciding how you want to spend the next 30-plus years of your life. I felt stuck struggling to choose a major—until I joined the UGA Mentor Program. Because of my mentorship, I am confident, knowledgeable and on the road to success.”

 

Catch-up with the RealTalk Podcast

RealTalk is a podcast produced by the UGA Mentor Program and, if you haven’t been listening, you’re missing out. The episodes help you gain an understanding of the experience of students from different generations, learn about the positive impact of mentorship and serve as a reference should you or someone you mentor ever experience a similar issue. The good news is, there is time to catch up on the previous season before new episodes come out this fall. To learn more about the UGA Mentor Program or sign up to be a mentor, please visit mentor.uga.edu.

Here is what you missed:

Being Black at a Predominantly White Institution – Part 1

Play buttonUGA Mentor Program Ambassador Kyla Edwards (Class of ’22) speaks with UGA alumni Yenu Wodajo (BS ’02) and Jeffrey Brown (AB ’05) about their experiences as Black students at UGA.

Being Black at a Predominantly White Institution – Part 2

Play buttonUGA Mentor Program Ambassador Kyla Edwards (Class of ’22) returns to speak with UGA alumnus Cecil Threat (ABJ ’82) to discuss their experiences as Black students at UGA and within the broader community.

Personal Growth through Mentorship

Play buttonUGA Mentor Program Ambassador Sara Ervin (Class of ’23) and UGA alumna Jasmin Severino Hernandez (AB ’13) discuss being a first-generation and transfer student at UGA, the magic of “no,” the positive influence of mentors and more.

The First-Generation College Student Experience

Play buttonUGA Mentor Program Ambassador Mahi Patel (Class of ’23) and UGA alumnus Will Ngo (BBA ’07 & MBA ’10) discuss life at UGA as first-generation students, expectations of immigrant parents and more.

Imposter Syndrome 

Play buttonUGA Mentor Program Ambassador Bella Sci (Class of ’22) and UGA alumna Cat Hendrick (ABJ ’20) discuss imposter syndrome and how it’s impacted their journeys as students at UGA and beyond.