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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.

A great and growing relationship (a tribute to mentorship)

Written by guest blogger Jackson Fox (BBA ’20) who, as an undergraduate, was paired with Annie Dawson (BBA ’08) through the UGA Mentor Program.

The UGA Mentor Program was the best thing I ever did to prepare for my career.

Going into my senior year, I expected the job search to be a breeze after completing a summer internship within the insurance industry. I fully expected to have a job locked down by December. However, the idea seemed to fade after the fall career fair passed, and I hadn’t secured a job. I thought I knew everything there was to know about the insurance field. As I was struggling with the job search, one of my friends suggested I look into the UGA Mentor Program. Little did I know, it would be the game changer in helping me explore job opportunities.

My mentor is Annie Dawson. From our first conversation, I knew that Annie truly cared for me and wanted to help me succeed. Annie is the director of underwriting, national binding authorities at RT Specialty, one of the largest insurance brokerages. I had no idea what it entailed to be a director of underwriting or what it was like to work for such a large insurance brokerage. This was the start of my humbling learning experience with Annie.

In our initial conversation, Annie immediately offered to set up a job shadowing opportunity at RT Specialty’s Atlanta office. Through this experience, I met with many professionals and learned more from them than I would have ever expected. Annie also went out of her way to set up a meeting between me and a broker at Marsh & McLennan Agency. My conversation with Annie’s contact allowed me to learn more about the different aspects of the insurance world.

Through the job shadowing opportunity, informational interview, and monthly conversations with Annie, she helped me hone my interests within the insurance industry and expanded my understanding of the field. With her help, I was able to turn my career aspirations into detailed and specific career goals. I now know that I want to become an insurance underwriter thanks to my mentor.

My relationship with Annie has been truly life changing. I can honestly say I did not know that I would benefit as much as I have from our mentoring relationship through the UGA Mentor Program. I can only imagine how I would have benefitted from this program had I joined my during my freshman year in college.

Thank you, UGA Mentor Program, for facilitating such a great relationship that aided in my personal and professional growth. Thank you, Annie Dawson, for bringing out the best in others and being such a wonderful person and mentor. Having you in my corner was the greatest reward of all.

Best wishes to Jackson as he continues his job search using the clarity gained from his mentor’s guidance. If you want to change a student’s life like Annie, join the UGA Mentor Program today!

 

 

International mentoring does a world of good

In honor of International Mentoring Day, a highlight of National Mentoring Month, the UGA Mentor Program is featuring a couple of our international mentors and mentees.

Finding common ground a world away

Matt Hodgson outside his work

After double majoring in criminal justice and psychology at UGA, Matt Hodgson (AB ’95) went on to earn a master’s degree in forensic science from George Washington University. He now lives in Brisbane, Australia, and works for the Queensland Police Service. He has always wanted to give back to UGA in some way, and the opportunity to mentor students was a perfect opportunity.

Hodgson says he was lucky to have a couple of great mentors in college, even though UGA didn’t have a campus-wide mentorship program at the time.

“You just had to find people who would take you under their wing,” he recalled. “I was lucky to strike up some friendships with faculty members. They gave me good advice—and not just about academics—also about career paths and just life itself. I’m hoping I can do the same for someone else.”

Hodgson has mentored two UGA students. One of those students, Gabrielle Fontaine (’22), explained that she chose to contact Hodgson through the UGA Mentor Program website because of her interest in forensic psychology and the fact that he was based internationally.

“The time difference and different seasons made for great conversation and broadened my knowledge of what life is like in Australia,” Gabrielle said. “Having him as a mentor allowed me to think about expanding my search to consider a career overseas.”

For Hodgson, mentoring is a way to stay involved with the Bulldog family.

“Mentoring brings together the perfect mix for me,” Hodgson said. “I am able, with experience and hindsight, to chat and help out students with career, study or other advice—plus I get to hear and share insights about UGA life and events.”

Gaining confidence one step at a time

Portrait of Kenny Lawal

As a UGA graduate student from Nigeria, Kehinde (Kenny) Lawal (’22) struggled to acclimate to the UGA system, which differed from her home country. She also felt inferior to others on campus. Joining the UGA Mentor Program inspired her.

“It has been rewarding for me to watch her confidence grow to match her abilities and qualifications,” said Lawal’s mentor, Alex Gomez (BSBCHE ’13). He goes on to sing her praises. “She is goal-oriented, proactive and extremely qualified to excel in whatever she does.”

In addition to looking to build her confidence, Lawal joined the UGA Mentor Program because she wanted to get a clear understanding of a career in the energy industry in the United States. “I was hoping I could get direction from someone with experience in that field,” she explained. “Alex has been so great in showing me where I was and where I needed to be by setting short- and long-term goals. He has also shown me opportunities available to me at UGA that I needed to take advantage of to build a brand for myself. My focus has shifted from just getting a degree to also leveraging relationships that matter. I am looking forward to being an impactful and friendly mentor, just as Alex Gomez has been to me.”

Creating a network for success

Portrait of Zada Smith

For Zada Smith (’21), who hails from the Bahamas, enrolling at UGA wasn’t her first experience living in Georgia, but she was still surprised by how much had changed since she was a child. She described the culture shock as immense.

“The hardest part about being at UGA was feeling socially disconnected,” said Smith. “It seemed as though everyone knew people from their high schools and had a success network surrounding them. Trying to find the courage to reach out to professors and make friends was tough.”

Smith found a safe haven in the UGA Mentor Program.

“I didn’t have the courage to reach out to someone and ask for mentoring,” she said, “but the UGA Mentor Program had a platform of mentors ready to help. It was a great way to learn about my field from someone established.”

Smith’s mentor Matthew Dials (BLA ’07) said, “Having an international mentee provided a unique perspective on the challenges some students face and how important the UGA network is for providing a support system to help them succeed.”

Connecting Bulldogs with Bulldogs

The UGA Mentor Program platform is well-suited to facilitating international connections. As communication takes place via text, email, phone or video conferencing, bridging distance is no problem.

“I suppose the biggest challenge has been trying to coordinate time zones and finding the right time to call for a chat,” Hodgson explained. “Australia is a day ahead of Georgia, so I’ll be calling in the morning and speaking to a mentee who is a day behind me in the afternoon.”

There are more than 2,600 mentors in the UGA Mentor Program. While the majority are located in the United States, there are mentors in 18 other countries. All program participants agree that preparation and planning are key to a successful mentoring relationship, whether international or not. The Mentor Program provides resources to help guide discussions, set goals, and get the best results from every interaction.

Happy New Year! Happy Mentor Month!

Happy New Year!

We hope that you enjoyed the holidays. The new year brings the start of a new semester, which means students will be looking for new alumni mentors. Now is the perfect time to become a UGA mentor. Or, if you’re already a mentor, please log in to the platform and to ensure your mentor profile is up-to-date.

Have you opted in to informational interviews? In November 2020, we rolled out an informational interview feature to provide you with another meaningful opportunity to connect with UGA students. With the introduction of informational interviews, you can determine if you have the capacity to mentor a student for 16 weeks and/or be available for 30-minute informational interviews. You are in the driver’s seat. Learn more about how your interactions with students can work around your schedule.

Happy Mentor Month!

January is National Mentoring Month, an opportunity to recognize the power of one-on-one relationships that help young people find and follow their passions, identify interesting career paths, and pursue their dreams. At the University of Georgia, we are celebrating all month with particular emphasis on these dates:

I am a UGA Mentor Day – January 7

On this day, we’ll celebrate the role UGA mentors play in empowering the leaders of tomorrow.

International Mentoring Day – January 15

Internationally, this day honors Muhammad Ali’s birthday (January 17) in recognition of his six principles (confidence, conviction, dedication, respect, giving and spirituality), which apply well to mentoring relationships. This year, we’ll celebrate on January 15 by acknowledging our international student mentees and the outstanding UGA mentors located around the globe.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service – January 18

MLK Day honors the memory of this great civil rights leader and elevates the spirit of service through volunteerism. If you have a mentee, this is a good day to reach out and share your volunteer experiences. Maybe you will bond over a cause in which you both believe.

I am a UGA Mentee Day – January 21

On this day, we’ll celebrate mentees. If you have a mentee or have had one in the past, take a moment to reach out to them and check in on how they are doing.

 

Stay updated on the UGA Mentor Program and follow along with National Mentor Month celebrations by following the UGA Mentor Program LinkedIn page or via the UGA Mentor Program Ambassadors’ Instagram account @ump_ambassadors.

 

ALSO HAPPENING IN JANUARY:

UGA Celebrates 60th Anniversary of Desegregation

Through a series of programs and events, the university will honor those who broke down barriers and transformed UGA beginning in 1961. Festivities will launch with a virtual program on January 9 and continue through February.

 

*Photo above taken prior to March 2020 and features UGA mentee Kevin Nwogu ’22 speaking with UGA mentor Raymond Phillips (BS ’12, MBA ’18).

Meaningful relationships define Mentor Program

Elizabeth Carter was all set to intern at a Fortune 500 company. Then the pandemic hit, and her internship disappeared. The University of Georgia master’s candidate reached out to her two mentors, and they helped her find a different position that turned out to be an advantageous opportunity.

Carter and her mentors are part of the UGA Mentor Program, the university’s first comprehensive mentorship initiative, which allows students to form meaningful mentoring relationships with experienced UGA alumni. Because the mentor program is largely conducted via text, phone and email, connections continued uninterrupted despite the pandemic.

Elizabeth Carter

Carter’s mentors are Jessica Faber, senior innovation advisor for USAID, and Hiram Larew, who is retired after a long career with the U.S. Department of Agriculture—both in the Washington, D.C., area where Carter hopes to one day work. Together, they helped her strategize.

A silver lining

“I posted on LinkedIn, making sure to employ the advice they gave me, and as a result was connected to the UPS Global Public Affairs office in D.C. where I served as the international team legislative assistant. This position was a dream come true for a master of international policy and international affairs student, and certainly a silver lining in otherwise difficult times.”

Since the UGA Mentor Program’s 2019 launch, over 2,200 students and nearly 2,500 mentors have registered and more than 1,800 mentoring relationships have been created. Of the students participating in the first year of the program, 97 percent say they’ve gained a stronger appreciation for mentoring as a personal and professional development tool—and 98 percent of both mentors and mentees would recommend the program to others.

For Joy Xiao, a first-generation college student far from her home in China, bonding with her mentor, Kristi Farner, provided comfort. Farner is Extension program and staff development specialist with UGA’s Office of Learning and Organizational Development.

Sense of belonging

“During spring break, I was on UGA’s Great Commitments Student Tour of Georgia with UGA’s Public Service and Outreach,” said Xiao. “When COVID-19 hit, Kristi emailed me to check in to see if I was doing OK. Connecting with her really raised my sense of belonging to the big UGA family.”

Joy Xiao

Farner enjoyed the mutually beneficial aspects of their relationship. “A unique challenge is understanding the context and pressures she has, since I don’t fully understand the culture she comes from,” said Farner. “I found it was a great learning opportunity for me that pushed me to use more active listening and coaching instead of suggesting answers.”

 Both of my mentors had vast experiences, yet they were still chasing their dreams and building out new goals. I was surprised when they asked me for my perspective.” — Kanler Cumbass

Like Carter, Kanler Cumbass, a master’s candidate pursuing a degree in higher education, has benefited from multiple mentors—one in the 2019 fall semester and one in spring 2020.

“Both of my mentors had vast experiences, yet they were still chasing their dreams and building out new goals. I was surprised when they asked me for my perspective,” Cumbass admitted. “Mentorship is about building a working partnership and, though I have less experience, they valued my expertise and thoughts. I learned so much from these conversations. From my mentors, I learned that we are always refining our goals and should.”

One of his mentors, Cara Simmons, who works as the director of the Student Success and Advising Center in UGA’s College of Family and Consumer Sciences, is pleased that their relationship has continued beyond the standard 16-week commitment to participate in the Mentor Program. “Our conversations have allowed me to think about different experiences I want to have in my own professional journey,” said Simmons. [Note: The image at the top of this article features mentor Cara Simmons with mentee Kanler Cumbass.]

Personally relate

Sydney Cederboom, a fourth-year political science and international affairs double major with pre-law intent, chose Vickie Bowman, director of Piedmont Judicial Circuit Specialty Courts in north central Georgia, as her latest mentor. For Cederboom, the value of mentorship comes in finding a person with whom you can personally relate.

Sydney Cederboom

“Being a minority and having the ability to be mentored by Black women who have achieved great things at UGA and beyond has helped to shape my approach to college life and opened my eyes to my own potential,” said Cederboom.

The senior adds that the biggest surprise was how personal the relationships with her mentors became. “I was expecting the mentoring process to be strictly professional and focused on networking. However, from the beginning my mentors made it known that they were available to talk with me about anything that I needed,” Cederboom explained. Bowman responded, “Sydney reminded me of the college student I was. Sometimes ‘calm down and breathe’ and ‘you’re going to be fine’ are all you need on hard days.”

If you are a UGA student or alumni interested in joining the UGA Mentor Program, please visit mentor.uga.edu to learn more.

UGA Mentor Program celebrates successful first year

The UGA Mentor Program, the University of Georgia’s first comprehensive mentorship initiative, allows students to form meaningful mentoring relationships with experienced UGA alumni. The program launched on August 21, 2019, and thanks to the support of the university community, it far exceeded many of its inaugural goals. Since the program’s launch, over 2,000 students and 2,400 mentors have registered and more than 1,500 mentoring relationships have been created.

Over the past year, students have reported many positive results from joining the UGA Mentor Program. Over 97% of mentees indicated gaining an appreciation for mentoring as a personal and professional development tool. A mentee explained, “My mentor really helped me gain an understanding of how to start preparing for life beyond the classroom.” As a result of participating in the UGA Mentor Program, 95% of mentors agree that their experience with the program inspired them to strengthen their relationship with the university. One mentor said, “I feel a closer tie to the university and my impact on the student body there.”

With a new academic year starting, the program is seeking new participants–both students and alumni. As we navigate an uncertain future, the UGA Mentor Program will continue providing students with an avenue to build professional and personal networks, explore career interests, and strengthen the Bulldog community while fostering a culture of mentoring across the university.  For more information and to get involved, please visit mentor.uga.edu.

stats from 1st year of UGA Mentor Program
stats for 1st year of UGA Mentor Program

 

About the UGA Mentor Program

The UGA Mentor Program, an initiative of President Jere W. Morehead, was established in 2019 to connect students and alumni. Students complete a mentoring orientation session and are granted access to a database of alumni who have committed to mentoring a student for a 16-week period. Students search for and select a mentor based on their profile in the database. When a mentoring pair is established, the student benefits from the wisdom shared by a graduate who has taken the journey they are now navigating. Alumni enjoy the opportunity to invest in the next generation and see students’ dreams take root. To learn more, visit mentor.uga.com. Connecting the Bulldog family. That’s our commitment.

UGA mentors want you to join their ranks!

The UGA Mentor Program celebrates its first birthday on August 21. Mentors with at least one 16-week mentorship under their belts are excited about the program’s success, and are eagerly helping to recruit fellow alumni to join in the fun by becoming mentors by August 20—the first day of fall semester. Students are entering or returning to a challenging campus environment due to the pandemic. By connecting with a mentor, students benefit from having an ally as they navigate the new school year and prepare for the future.

Getting started with the UGA Mentor Program is easy: Simply create a profile at mentor.uga.edu and students can connect with you based on your unique interests and experiences. Your contact information will not be shared with students unless you agree to enter a mentoring relationship with them.

Would you commit to a 16-week mentorship by investing just a few hours each month? Experienced mentors will tell you, it’s a rewarding and fulfilling way to give back to UGA and serve exceptional young Dawgs!

 

Special thanks to super mentors Douglas Bailey (BSA ’80), Ansley Booker (MS ’13), Ericka Davis (AB ’93), Mary Elizabeth Sadd (BBA ’87) and Abram Serotta (BBA ’68, MACC  ’70) for submitting videos. Go Dawgs!

Life changing! (a salute to mentorship)

Featuring guest blogger Sara Ervin, Class of 2022

Meet Sara Ervin.

In her own words, Sara is an “untraditional student” who had a circuitous route to where she is today.  She came to the University of Georgia after obtaining her bachelor’s degree in rural studies from Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College and a master’s degree in mass communication from Valdosta State University.

She admits her academic focus could, at times, wander. She initially entered college to become a veterinarian. But then a strong desire to help people made her change course. While she wasn’t clear about precisely what she wanted to do, there was one nagging thought in the back of her mind – a career in the FBI. “I’m very protective,” she says. “Taking down the bad guys seemed like a good choice.” Still, that notion seemed more like a dream than a reality. She didn’t even know the first step to take, so she tucked the idea away.

She came to work at UGA as a student/faculty coordinator, responsible for managing student services and faculty affairs for the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics within the College of Public Health. But she still wrestled with “exactly what I wanted to do with my life.”

In 2018, she gained acceptance to begin work on a PhD in UGA’s Henry W. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication program. Still employed full time at UGA, and now a part-time PhD student, her plate was full. That’s where the UGA Mentor Program came into play.

Let’s let Sara pick up her story from here in her own words:

In August 2019, a few weeks into the semester, I received an email about the UGA Mentor Program. It doesn’t matter what level you are in your educational journey; you should always seek and accept help whenever you can. The overview was just a 30-minute presentation, so I thought, ‘what was there to lose?’

I understand the benefits a mentor can have, but I never had one before. Knowing what I know now, I wish I could have had this opportunity when I was a freshman in college. Hindsight is 20/20, and that is why I am so passionate about sharing my story.

A unique feature of the UGA Mentor Program is the ability to search and choose from a vast number of mentors. All mentors are UGA alumni who are volunteering their time and expertise. There is an online platform making it easy to find one that fits your needs.

My interest and research areas include crisis communication, disaster preparedness, and terrorism/counter-terrorism. I considered this niche as unique and not a popular combination, so I was not getting my hopes up about finding someone that fit all these criteria.

But after an hour of reading profiles under the keywords like crisis communication, terrorism, and disaster, I found an alumnus by the name of Mark Ball, who graduated UGA with a bachelor’s in international affairs (AB ’08). Mark is currently a lieutenant in the United States Navy. He has been in the Navy for over seven years; his experience matched each of my ‘unique’ interests. I clicked his name, sent him an email about myself asking for him to be my mentor. Within a couple days there was a reply. A few emails later, our first meeting was set.

Since he is stationed halfway around the world, we met via FaceTime and it went great.

The UGA Mentor Program provides many resources to help you prepare and use to ensure that one-on-one sessions with a mentor go smoothly and successfully. After an hour and a half, we got to know each other personally and professionally, established goals, and set expectations. Our relationship grew organically. We hit it off, and the time truly flew by.

The mentoring was very structured. After each of our meetings, there were deliverables I was responsible for preparing before our next meeting. Mostly my idea, but he agreed they would help. For instance, one task was to put into writing 1) Why I want to get a PhD, 2) Identify areas I want to research and why, and 3) Why I want to be an FBI Agent.

We would discuss my goals and these topics in depth. Mark asked a few questions. I remember the moment like it was yesterday. He listened and about halfway through, in a very calm tone as if he were telling me the weather, he asks, ‘Have you ever considered the Navy Reserves, as an intelligence officer? This could also be a beneficial segue into the FBI.’

I wish I could say that the Hallelujah Chorus rose in the background and fireworks shot off, but that was not the case. I had not considered joining the military in over a decade. I pondered a military career in high school when we had a career day, but quickly swatted away the idea.

But I am a nerd. I love to learn things. Knowledge is power, and the more you know, the more you know! So, I did my due diligence. I spent weeks researching his suggestion, looking at the ins and outs of the Navy, the intelligence world, and the military in general. I asked friends and family for their input. I thought and prayed about it.

Then one sunny day in October, I contacted a Navy recruiter. After we met, I thought and prayed about it a bit longer, before deciding this is exactly what I needed and should do. I finally know what I want to do for the rest of my life!

Mark has been by my side every step of the way. He has not only guided me along the steps of entering the military, which is not an easy feat, but he has also helped guide me in my studies. Many of our conversations have been about current events and what research topics would be beneficial. If I can learn and research pertinent information about my future career field, why not?

Our ongoing mentor/mentee relationship has been truly life changing. I can honestly say that I had no idea that I would benefit as much as I have from the relationship or the program. I can only imagine what I would have gotten from this program had I had the same opportunity my freshmen year in college.

I am forever grateful to Mark and the UGA Mentor Program. I cannot recommend this program enough. It is beneficial for any age, educational level, or stage of life. One day, I hope I can give back to a student just as much as Mark and the program have given to me.

Inspired by this life changing story? Want to play a role in helping a student achieve their dreams?

 

Events

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Mentorship – Mentor Skills Webinar

UGA Mentor Skills: Lessons From 40 Years of Mentoring for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging

In the wake of the recent racial events and racial reckoning in which the country finds itself, there is more than ever a need for mentoring those who may be different from those we may ordinarily deal with. Have you wanted to help, but aren’t sure quite how? Do you even feel like you don’t want to do the wrong thing? You don’t want to seem “uniformed” or awkward? Do you want to find a safe space to be able to voice all of this in an effort to make things more comfortable/doable? Come, let’s spend some time together working on it. We can pool our experiences, including what I’ve learned in 40 years of doing this work, that would be part of why UGA would create a new permanent endowment that yearly provides $1000 to a faculty member demonstrating a significant commitment to Diversity & Inclusion as the Dawn D. Bennett-Alexander Inclusive Community Award.

After attending this session you will:
Have a very different way of thinking about diversity
Have the means to analyze your own thoughts and bases for how you deal with others
Discover specific ideas for how to more effectively engage in mentoring and inspiring those different from yourself
Have a deeper understanding of how DEI&B works and how to intentionally contribute to it.

Dawn D. Bennett-Alexander, tenured associate professor of Employment Law & Legal Studies at the University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business, is a cum laude graduate of the Howard University School of Law and a magna cum laude graduate of the Federal City College (now the University of the District of Columbia), both in Washington, DC. She is licensed to practice law in DC and six federal jurisdictions. With over 50 awards and recognitions for teaching and service, including the 2019 Minority Services and Programs Honored Trailblazer recognition, the 2017 award for UGA’s best Diversity & Inclusion program, 2016 Women’s Studies Professor of the Year and one of UGA Student Government Association’s ten Outstanding Professors