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Fostering Future Success with McIntire Mentors

The important relationships that the McIntire Mentor program generates among students not only help to allay concerns and provide practical advice, but they serve as a standing testament to the commitment of the Commerce School student community and its shared lifelong dedication to the success of its graduates.

Top row: Bridget Brownell, Lauren Hinton, Claude Karaki, Amanda Meyers. Bottom row: Tiffany Nguyen, Carson Reeves, Abi Vincill

Top row: Bridget Brownell, Lauren Hinton, Claude Karaki, Amanda Meyers. Bottom row: Tiffany Nguyen, Carson Reeves, Abi Vincill

Bridget Brownell (McIntire ’22) recalls being consumed with questions both big and small as a third-year student starting at McIntire.

Brownell, a Management and IT concentrator, was navigating the transition into the Commerce School and becoming “deeply immersed in a completely different and intense academic environment.” But she wasn’t completely on her own: The School assigned her a mentor who shared experiences and gave her an outlet for most of the answers she was seeking. She was grateful for McIntire’s forethought.

Last year, Tiffany Nguyen (McIntire ’22) was also relieved to discover that she was automatically paired with a mentor, a connection that coincided with preparing for the Integrated Core program and the challenges that often define the demanding coursework; she insists that those mentorship interactions readied her for what was to come. “My mentor told me how classes were structured, the teaching style of each professor, what resources to use when studying for an exam, and more.”

As a mentee, current mentor Claude Karaki (McIntire ’22) says that the mentor he was assigned greatly eased his start at the Commerce School, too. “Like many other third-years, I was intimidated by the rigorous Integrated Core curriculum, as well as the semesterlong project.” But the Finance concentrator says his mentor helped prepare his group “tremendously” by “relaying best practices and common pitfalls from her own experiences.”

The important relationships that the McIntire Mentor program generates not only help to allay concerns and provide practical advice, but they serve as a standing testament to the commitment of the Commerce School student community and its shared lifelong dedication to the success of its graduates.

From Mentee to Mentor
Nguyen, an Accounting and IT concentrator, says the guidance she received from her mentor influenced her decision to join the program herself.

“One of the things I enjoy doing most is being able to help others. As a first-generation college student, I know from personal experience how difficult it can be when you don’t know who to or how to ask for help,” she says, noting that she continues to pass along the useful tips that her mentor had shared with her. “I wanted to make sure that they felt somewhat prepared for ICE.”

Brownell agrees that the program was instrumental in balancing the responsibilities of the Core curriculum. “No amount of information sessions or emails can really prepare you for the intricacies of the third-year experience,” she says, pointing out how her mentor told her group what to expect and how to consider priorities as the semester progressed. “This helped us all adapt much more quickly so we were ultimately more successful. ICE tends to be so all-consuming. Creating detailed timelines, attending office hours, and constant communication with group members were really essential to succeed both individually and as a group.”

Amanda Meyers (McIntire ’22) recounted how the pandemic impacted the majority of her third year. That unexpected but necessary change to the more virtually based student life that defined the 2020-2021 academic year resulted in Meyers’ interest to become deeply engaged during her last two semesters at the Commerce School.

Q&A: Zane Homsi (McIntire ’19) of LinkedIn on Mentorship

Zane HomsiZane Homsi says his time as Head Mentor at McIntire was defined more by his passions than any skills or qualities he possessed during his fourth year. Homsi, who works in Product Management for LinkedIn in San Francisco, recalls soaking up his remaining time in Charlottesville and making the most of his final months on Grounds through connections with others.

“The things that got me the most excited were fostering relationships and building communities,” he says, explaining how his role in the mentorship program was a natural fit.

“What made my college experience so great was the friends and mentors who helped me grow up in those four years. This was an opportunity to pay it forward,” says Homsi.

We caught up with the Commerce School alumnus and member of the Class of 2019 Poets&Quants for Undergrads Best & Brightest to find out how McIntire’s mentorship program impacted him and continues to be important in his life.

What were the greatest experiences you had during your time serving as Head Mentor? What stands out?
While the mentorship program is focused on third-years, it is entirely made up of fourth-years. For that reason, the program felt as much about helping the third-years through the Integrated Core curriculum as it was about building a cohesive community among all the undergrads. Whether it was late night pizza drops, kickball tournaments, office hours, or Comm Prom, the best experiences were spent with all of us sharing a laugh—especially when we should’ve been studying.

What were some key takeaways about being a mentor that have stayed with you?
You’d be surprised how much your own experience can change when you start to lift others. Anyone who knew me while I was in school could tell you I loved McIntire, but having a real hand in crafting what other people’s experiences felt like made my time at UVA orders of magnitude better. I’ve been chasing that feeling ever since. My life post-grad has a lot of that same “get involved” energy that I picked up in school, and it certainly hasn’t disappointed.

What do student mentors stand to gain from taking on a mentee, and why do you think that receiving that guidance can be so important for undergraduates?
Making a legitimate effort to champion someone else’s success is one of the best ways to develop authentic compassion, both for others and yourself. It makes you aware of humans in your life who share that same knack for helping people. When you notice them, you know that not only do you have that care for others in common, but that they’re folks you can trust a little easier.

As for receiving mentorship, know this: No one gets anywhere alone. There’s not a single valid reason in the world to not raise your hand and ask for help, in any aspect of life. Looking for mentors to give you a hand is the only way you’ll get to a position where you can enjoy life at that altitude—and, of course, pay it forward to the next person.

How have you continued to serve as a mentor to others, and why is mentorship still important to you?
Mentorship is a funny concept. It’s not quite a title that you can just assume, nor it is small enough that you can choose to do, or not do, every day. It’s that in-between gray area of developing a habit of helping just for the sake of helping. That certainly hasn’t changed. Most of my “mentorship” these days takes the form of counseling peers and students on how to approach their own careers (interviews, prioritizing roles, weighing options, negotiating offers, etc.). As a matter of fact, if you’re reading this and are grappling with a thought or two that you’d like an opinion on, shoot me a message on LinkedIn, and let’s hop on the phone.

“I really wanted to get as involved as possible in my fourth year. The Integrated Core and the transition to McIntire as a whole can be very overwhelming, and I know from experience that having someone who can support you or answer questions can really make a big difference,” says the Accounting and Finance concentrator.

Marketing and IT concentrator Abi Vincill (McIntire ’22) had a similar desire to participate more in the life of the School. “I thought it would be a cool way to get more involved with McIntire. I also wanted to get involved because having resources from different backgrounds is very important, especially when creating an inclusive environment for undergrads. Each individual brings their own interests and information to the table, and I knew that I wanted to be a part of that,” she says.

Carson Reeves (McIntire ’22) says that it was the building of soft skills in the Integrated Core program that drove her to become a mentor, a role that would allow her to see to it that third-years became aware of the many ways to develop relationships while encouraging and equipping students to take full advantage of all of those opportunities available to them.

“My own mentor, Andrew Hufford (McIntire ’21), was an outstanding resource for my group, and I wanted to pay it forward. When it came time to apply, [Assistant Director of Student Life] Julia Gray and [Head Mentor] Lauren Hinton (McIntire ’22) were helpful and welcoming, and completing the application made me that much more excited to welcome the next class to McIntire that fall,” says the IT and Management concentrator.

Valuable Relationships
Other positive results of the mentorship program have ranged from career preparation to settling interpersonal issues. Meyers says she’s witnessed mentors lead their mentees to uncover professional interests, provide input on resumes, run practice interviews, and even guide their mentees to land internships thanks to their counsel.

Beyond networking and career development, Meyers says the program has been an avenue for getting to know more of the McIntire community. “I’ve been able to build some really solid relationships with both my fourth-year co-mentors and third-year mentees. It’s also been a great way for me to stay connected with some of my professors, whom I didn’t get to know as well last year due to the virtual format of classes.”

The program has also given Reeves an expanded sense of the Comm School community. “The students I mentored were so kind and cared for me as I did for them, and every other week the updates from my fellow mentors and our leaders Julia and Lauren inspired me with different ways to engage with my mentees. After a year of mostly remote learning, the mentor program felt like a celebration of being able to live in in-person community again, which was so energizing.”

Hinton says that, in her experience, having someone to check in on her—even through Zoom, as was the case—was an important bit of support that she valued.

“Having someone there to remind you—someone who’s older and who’s gone through it—that everything’s okay removes some of the pressures of Comm. And you can talk about things that aren’t always ICE-related. Sometimes it’s more like a resource to de-stress.”

An Enhanced Business Education
The positive aspects of the mentorship program have instilled its participants with lessons that they will carry forward after McIntire. Brownell found that being both a mentee and mentor has given her an appreciation for having someone to turn to “in any situation.” It’s the type of supportive relationship she plans on seeking out in her career.

Meyers believes that the program—and the connections it fosters among students—can be as beneficial for future success as the School’s renowned academics.

“Business is not just about running the numbers or having great ideas; it also relies heavily on interpersonal skills and relationship building. The mentorship program has complemented my academic experience by exposing me to other likeminded students with whom I can collaborate. Through this program, I’ve realized how much I love mentoring, and I hope to find ways to incorporate that into my professional career,” she says.

In addition to learning more about the School’s many resources so that she could better inform her mentees, Vincill says that she enjoyed meeting more students, expanding her network, and helping others to make the most of their time at McIntire. “Overall, I think the mentorship program makes the larger decisions that come along with Comm School more approachable.”

For Reeves, her involvement reminds her why she chose to enroll in McIntire in the first place: its people.

“To me, the McIntire Mentor program is the best representation of what makes Comm great; it’s students helping students navigate challenges—challenges not unlike what we’ll meet in the business world. As a mentor, I’ve built skills of retrospection and advocacy, and a deepened understanding of how best to counsel and encourage others. As I graduate, I’ll take these skills with me, along with the tools to contribute to and develop the workplace and community I’ll be a part of. I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to serve a community I owe so much to, and to have learned so much in the process.”

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