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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.

Where commitment meets community: Randy Tanner (BBA ‘79) invests in Atlanta’s next generation

As a young insurance professional in Atlanta, Randy Tanner (BBA ’79) easily found volunteer opportunities within his industry. But the UGA grad wanted to get more involved in supporting his greater Atlanta community, so he researched new opportunities. His search led him to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta – where, 30 years later, he serves on the board of directors.

Big Brothers Big Sisters is a national organization that facilitates one-on-one mentoring relationships that ignite the power and promise of youth. Through over 235 chapters across the United States, more than 2 million children have been served in the past decade. Another UGA grad, Artis Stevens (AB ’97), became the organization’s president and CEO in January.

In the three decades since first hearing about Big Brothers Big Sisters, Tanner has served as a “big brother” to two “little brothers.” In 1991, he was matched with Cody. After Cody’s family left Atlanta, Tanner then matched with Adam. When Cody moved back to Atlanta, Tanner maintained relationships with both Adam and Cody—as part of the program and as they became adults.

Randy Tanner (BBA ’79) and his ‘little brother’ Adam Meacham at a Big Brothers Big Sisters legacy gala.

The ‘Rolls Royce of mentoring’

Tanner calls Big Brothers Big Sisters’ model “the Rolls Royce of mentoring.” Potential volunteers participate in an orientation process to introduce them to the program. Once a volunteer commits to at least one year of mentoring, the organization matches them with a child and the child’s family.

As Tanner embarked on the journey to become a mentor, he weaved his mentee into his life. From sharing a meal to throwing a football at the park, the flexibility of the program allowed Tanner to invest in mentoring relationships while operating Tanner, Ballew & Maloof, Inc., an independent insurance agency he founded in 1993.

“My responsibility was to get together with them regularly and have a good time,” Tanner said. “I was a part of their lives and let them see my life, ask me questions, and talk about their plans.”

The Big Brothers Big Sisters experience also allowed Tanner to engage in the Atlanta community as he desired when he was first seeking a new volunteer experience.

“In Atlanta, we have such a vibrant nonprofit community,” Tanner said. “There are a lot of good things being done, and the need is great with Big Brothers Big Sisters.”

More than a mentor

Mentoring led Tanner to serve Big Brothers Big Sisters beyond being a big brother. After serving as an ambassador and then a board member, the local board elected him as chair in December 2020.

In this role, Tanner directs fundraising efforts and raises awareness for the organization as it facilitates mentoring relationships with approximately 1,100 children in metro Atlanta. He also gets a front row seat to the organization’s mentoring success stories.

Last fall, Tanner received the 2020 V. Thomas Murray Founder’s Award from Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta in recognition of his commitment to the community.

“The award allowed me to reflect and experience a great deal of gratitude for all that I’ve learned during the process and from being a big brother,” Tanner said.

A lifelong commitment

Tanner retired from Tanner, Ballew and Maloof last month, so he plans to dedicate some of his extra time to Big Brothers Big Sisters. Just as Tanner maintained connections with his little brothers, he plans to stay connected with the nonprofit.

To Tanner, commitment means learning how and why you can give back to the community. His ‘how’ has been mentorship, and his ‘why’ has been relationships.

“It’s primarily about having compassion for people and wanting to help those who are in a tougher station of life than you,” Tanner said. “I’m committed to Big Brothers Big Sisters, and I anticipate staying involved for life.”


WHERE COMMITMENT MEETS COMMUNITY

Whether life takes them to new cities or to the neighborhoods where they grew up, Georgia Bulldogs do more than get jobs – they elevate their communities. Bulldogs lead nonprofits, effect change and create opportunities for others. Wherever people are suffering, wherever communities are looking for effective leaders and whenever the world cries out for better solutions, Bulldogs are there to answer the call to service. It’s more than our passion. It’s our commitment.

Caroline Odom, an intern with UGA’s Division of Development and Alumni Relations, brings you a spring blog series that celebrates Bulldogs who embrace that commitment to helping others in their communities thrive.

Want to read about other Bulldogs impacting their communities?

Meant to be—a UGA Mentor Program testimonial

In honor of Women’s History Month, the UGA Mentor Program is highlighting two strong Bulldogs. Holli Hines Easton (BBA ’93) mentors Olivia Kernels, UGA Class of 2023. Here, in their own words, is the story behind their incredible connection.

Holli Hines Easton (BBA ’93), Mentor

When Olivia contacted me via the UGA Mentor Program platform, she wrote the most endearing, kind, earnest note sharing her class year, major, and volunteer experience with the Humane Society (an organization dear to my heart). Lastly, she mentioned she was in a sorority holding a leadership office. Olivia’s note captivated me through her gracious, poised words. I responded immediately that I would be honored to serve as her mentor and that I, too, was a member of the same sorority and that I was in the same leadership role while I was at UGA. Meant to be!

Olivia and I scheduled a standing bi-weekly call. On our first call, I learned that beyond us being sorority sisters, we lived in the SAME BEDROOM in the sorority house — the same bed, same side of the room. Amazing! Olivia and I immediately bonded. We have had an incredible experience talking through Terry College of Business applications, resume crafting, cover letters that set you apart from other candidates, study habits, thriving academically during a pandemic. I cannot put into words how special this mentor-mentee relationship is. This is such a rewarding experience and I am grateful to serve as Olivia’s mentor. This was meant to be, and I am thankful to the University of Georgia for creating this special program.

Olivia Kernels, (UGA Class of 2023), Mentee

When Mrs. Easton was suggested to me via the UGA Mentor Program platform, I immediately reached out to her and I am so grateful that I did! We clicked due to our shocking similarities—both marketing majors, both in the same sorority, and we both held the same leadership position in that sorority. She even lived in the same room I am in at the sorority house!

Aside from this, Mrs. Easton has helped me set goals and educated me more about the marketing industry. I had no idea what I’d want to do after I graduate. Thanks to Mrs. Easton, I am gaining a better understanding of the ins and outs of a career in marketing. She encouraged me to grow as a student and has provided me with knowledge and support ranging from resume building to learning about her career.

Mrs. Easton and I have cultivated an awesome mentor-mentee relationship. I look forward to talking with her bi-weekly. One of my favorite parts about the UGA Mentor Program is that you are not only gaining a mentor, but also a friend. From my experience, your mentor really cares about you and what’s going on in your life. While I enjoyed learning from Mrs. Easton regarding the business and career sphere, I have equally enjoyed getting to know her as a person. I cannot say enough good things about the UGA Mentor Program and the amazing connection it has given me.

Sign up for the UGA Mentor Program and create an amazing story of your own!

The mentoring relationship from both sides

Hunter Smith (AB ’18 ) mentors Bryson Henriott (Class of 2023). Here, they share their perspectives about the mentoring relationship in their own words.

The Mentor (Hunter Smith [AB ’18])

The cinematic legend Steven Spielberg once said, “The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves.” When you step back, the role of a mentor is more akin to that of a producer or director — they help the writer, the mentee, to see their goal through; to advance their vision. When I was first contacted to serve as a mentor, I felt woefully unprepared to fulfill the role. What benefit could I, a young professional having only graduated two-and-a-half years earlier, really provide a student only a few years my junior? Since graduating, I had not seen the realities of the “real-world” which would have warranted me to give sage advice on the best career and life moves. Instead, I had spent my time in law school and currently was juggling my own fears concerning life and career moves. In my mind, I was not yet an individual worth emulating; I was not yet a mentor.

Upon reflection, though, I realized mentorship is not a demonstration of excellence to be emulated, but is instead a journey towards one’s truest potential—both for the mentee and the mentor. When I thought back to my mentors in college, I realized that the importance of my experience was not in their title or who they were, but instead in how they made me feel, the opportunities they gave me, and in who they allowed me to be. A good mentor provides mentees a chance to develop themselves by acting as a sounding board and guiding light. Mentorship is not a map, but a compass. My best mentors in life, have been with me every step of the way, not telling me what to do or where to go, but have given me a refuge to run to when times get tough, stability in times of uncertainty, and a light when things seem dark.

By stripping the idea of mentorship as the pinnacle of excellence, I have also come to understand that mentorship can have lasting effects for the mentee as well as the mentor. Though the few ages difference between my mentee and me worried me at first, I have since come to understand this as a benefit. Though he is my mentee, he is also my friend; I see myself in him and when I give him advice or answer his questions, I feel as though I am talking to my younger self. In helping him navigate this time in his life, I also feel compelled to reflect on my own journey and those who helped me and may also be able to provide mentorship to him. My mentee challenges me to see the world from new perspectives, reminds me of where I have come from, and challenges me to reach new heights. Mentorship is a pursuit of self-development and, as such, it is a recursive and reiterative lifelong process. What good is knowledge and experience without someone to share that wisdom with? And the sooner we do so, the better the world. Even as I provide mentorship to others, I look to my own mentors for guidance in my life. Mentorship is a crucial relationship in life—whether you are old or young, you have value as a mentor because you can advise and counsel others and provide them an opportunity to create themselves. Each day I strive to be like the visionaries that came before me and light the way for the generation that will follow.

 

The Mentee (Bryson Henriott, Class of ’23)

As a rural first-generation college student, the process of thinking about graduate school, choosing between internships, and deciding on a career overwhelmed me. There was a moment during freshman year when it hit me that although I made it to college, I had no idea how to navigate the steps during and after college. I was interested in law school, but did not have anyone that I could talk to about the LSAT, applications, how law school realistically is, and how to make such an important decision when you have uncertainties.

I knew the best way to tackle these issues would be to find a mentor who had gone through the same decisions. The UGA Mentor Program is an incredible platform that allows students to connect with alumni who have the same passions and the experience to help you answer the questions you do not know. I remember looking through the available mentors, and Hunter immediately stuck out. We both came from rural Georgia to UGA; he graduated with the same degree I am pursuing, and took part in several organizations that I was involved in. Hunter and I both have a passion for the intersection of law and politics, and I knew he would be able to provide meaningful advice. The fact that he was in law school was helpful, and he has been able to deliver authentic answers to my law school questions.

Although our mentorship is relatively new, it is been an incredible experience. Hunter has reviewed my resume, advised me on internships, and shared about his personal journey behind attending law school. There was no awkward transition period once we matched, and we quickly began sharing our journeys and stories. A mentor is not there to have an answer to every question, but rather is a guidebook to share their journey and advice. There is a comfort in knowing that whenever I am facing a decision in my college career, I have someone in my corner one call away. I cannot recommend the UGA Mentor Program strongly enough; it is an incredible way to connect with professionals who can share a vast amount of knowledge and who want to see you succeed. It has shown me what a mentor is supposed to do and has prepared me to (hopefully) be a mentor after graduation so I can give back to a program that has given me so much.

Spring 2021 Mentorship Mondays to feature lineup of impressive UGA alumnae

The Women of UGA Leadership Council is pleased to announce the upcoming spring 2021 virtual Mentorship Mondays series! Sessions feature an alumna or a panel of alumnae, will last from Noon-1 P.M. and will address career development topics from fighting imposter syndrome to negotiating a promotion. After each session, there is an optional 30-minute breakout portion for participants to share their experiences and network with fellow Bulldogs.

Monday, February 22 – Living Your Authentic Purpose

In a session moderated by Janelle Nicole Christian (BBA ’11), founder of self-care platform Hey J. Nicole, the panelists will discuss values and passions, how those things guided their career and life decisions and how they reflect in their work today. Panelists include Wendi Carpenter (BS ’76), retired Navy Rear Admiral and founder and principal of Gold Star Strategies, and April Crow (BSEH ’95), vice president of external affairs and investor relations at Circulate Capital.

 

Monday, March 22 – You are a Rockstar: Imposter Syndrome and Moving Beyond It

In this session, Suzy Deering (BSFCS ’92), global chief marketing officer of Ford Motor Company, will discuss the internal experience of believing you are not as competent as others perceive you to be. She will discuss where she experienced self-doubt in her career journey and how she overcame it to lead with confidence and determination. Join us as we learn how to rise above our own doubts and support those in our networks struggling with imposter syndrome.

 

Monday, April 19 – Let’s Make a Deal: Job Offer and Promotion Negotiation Best Practices

In a session moderated by UGA professor and owner of Be Inspired Counseling and Consulting Dr. Marian Higgins (PHD ’11), our panelists will discuss best practices and advice in career negotiations. If you’re looking for advice regarding the job negotiation processes, don’t miss this program! Panelists for this session include Katie Comer (BSA ’13), Facebook community development regional manager, and Pam Roper (AB ’94), executive vice president and general counsel at Cousins Properties.

 

Monday, May 17 – Maria Taylor: My Career and the Importance of Mentorship

Maria Taylor (ABJ ’09, MBA ’13) joined ESPN as a college analyst and reporter in 2014. As one of the network’s most versatile commentators, Taylor became the first Black woman to co-host College GameDay in 2017, and was later chosen to be the sideline reporter for ABC Saturday Night Football. Taylor has covered the NBA Countdown, the NBA Draft, College Football Live, Big Monday and the NCAA Women’s Final Four. In the final session of Mentorship Mondays’ spring series, Maria will talk about her career journey, what she learned along the way, the role of mentorship and the importance of giving back.

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