There’s a certain kind of euphoria and relief that many students experience when they discover they’ve been admitted to the Commerce School. While the occasion is certainly cause for celebration, it’s commonly followed by the realization that there’s a great deal to know and prepare for that comes with beginning a major transition to the next phase of their lives.
And so, after the initial excitement subsides? That’s where the McIntire Alumni Mentoring (MAM) program comes in to help.
A Purposeful Program
MAM, created in 2015 by the McIntire Young Alumni Council (MYAC) in partnership with Commerce Career Services and Alumni Engagement, was developed by Miles Jackson (McIntire ’16) and Tyler Saitta (McIntire ’14), with two purposes in mind. The first is to connect newly admitted or matriculated McIntire students with an undergraduate or graduate alum who’s been there: They know what it’s like to start the program, the nuances required to navigate through it, and the tools that will set students on the path to succeed.
“I did not go to UVA for undergrad, so I felt that having a McIntire mentor would add value to my experience and guide me through any intricacies that came with the program,” says Raphael Adeyemi (M.S. in Commerce ’23), whose mentor was Shannon Nash (McIntire ’92, Law ’95).
The second purpose of MAM is to provide students with additional, personalized career support. Mentorship is critical to advance in the real world of work. In fact, according to the London-based nonprofit National Mentoring Day, 71% of Fortune 500 companies use a mentoring program, and 75% of executives credit their mentors. Furthermore, of those who had a mentor, 97% say they are valuable.
One of the Commerce School’s core goals is to provide students with the knowledge, tools, and skills necessary to enter the workforce as resourceful, ethical team members ready to develop into global business leaders. And as mentoring has proven so valuable to people already in the marketplace, it only makes sense to draw on the strength of the McIntire alumni community to offer similar benefits to current students as they negotiate the many intricacies of their job search.
“My mentor played a role in supporting me through the recruiting process,” says Rose Hersey (M.S. in Commerce ’23) of her mentor, Susan Gerock (M.S. in MIT ’04). “She helped me identify interesting job opportunities and create a strong resume, and was a consistent source of encouragement and guidance throughout the process.”
A Diversity of Motives
Incoming students join MAM for different reasons. For some, it’s the short-term peace of mind knowing that there is a knowledgeable and friendly ally available to acquaint them with the School, with Grounds, and with Charlottesville. For others, it’s as simple as having someone reliable to ask questions about classes and the coursework.
“I wanted to find an opportunity that provided mentorship and guidance to help me adjust to the changes I was about to experience,” says Emma Heard (M.S. in Accounting ’23). “I was partnered with [Ava Morris (M.S. in Accounting ’16)], who was familiar with the graduate program and helped me make the adjustments I needed to be successful. During my time at McIntire, I leaned heavily on my mentor, who provided so much insight into the program.”
Hersey says Gerock helped her understand how to make the most of her time at the Commerce School.
“Through tips on how to balance academics with recruiting and insight into which resources and opportunities to take advantage of, she helped me discover what it means to be a McIntire student and immerse myself in the experience.”
For others, MAM presents a chance to learn from the wide range of expertise and experiences that define the professional lives of McIntire alumni.
“The alumni network is part of what makes McIntire such a great undergraduate business school and is one of the reasons I was drawn to McIntire when applying to colleges. Because the McIntire network is so diverse and impressive, I was excited to learn both personally and professionally from those who graduated before me,” says Mabel Smith (McIntire ’24), mentored by Caroline Le Feuvre (McIntire ‘06). “The mentorship program offered a great first step to do so by connecting me with someone who was genuinely invested in getting to know me.”
Some connect with MAM to gain from the career development and advice that alumni can provide students who are at the precipice of starting their careers.
“My mentor provided me with valuable career and life advice—and a listening ear when I needed it,” says Heard.
The impact MAM has on current students doesn’t end there. Because mentors have been through it all, they can see the forest for the trees, guiding students to see links between their course material and future professional work assignments.
Smith explains that MAM added color to her business education: “It helped me see how my learnings in the classroom translate to the real world. Speaking to my mentor about working with my group on our projects in Comm helped bring a different perspective to the experience. Our conversations also reminded me of all the possibilities for where a McIntire education can lead, beyond the traditional career paths we hear about more often in the classroom setting.”
Adeyemi cites a similar sentiment, explaining, “My mentor has given me some really good advice that has impacted my course of study and provided me with stories from her own professional experience to help me further understand why I am learning what I am learning.”
Hersey says Gerock helped her understand how her academic experience can translate into a professional environment and how to effectively communicate that knowledge at a job interview.
“She advised me to prepare concrete examples of projects or experiences to draw on during interviews. Through mock interviews, she also taught me how to incorporate my relevant experiences to elevate the conversation,” she explains.
Lessons to Last a Lifetime
Whether incoming students are undergraduate or graduate, familiar with UVA or brand new to Grounds, the MAM program continues to be a vital resource.
“During times of uncertainty, I am grateful to have a person I trust and can go to for honest guidance,” says Hersey.
For Smith, Le Feuvre will remain a positive role model she admires both personally and professionally.
“The most important piece of advice I received was about the idea of balance,” Smith says. “In different seasons of life, your priorities are different, and thus, the balance between work and play, life, family, friends, and whatever else is important to you will be different. She reminded me that the goal is not the perfect 50-50 balance, but a balance that aligns with your priorities at the time and willingness to adapt.”
Heard says she took away both short-term and long-term lessons from Morris. “My mentor said to make the most of my time in Charlottesville because my program is only a year. But the program will impact me positively in the future because it taught me how to reach out to new people and how to have conversations in which both parties benefit tremendously from each other.”
In many ways, the MAM program is also self-fulfilling. Many student participants become mentors after graduating and moving into their respective career fields. Sharing their institutional knowledge with new students in addition to the different career paths they navigate is invaluable.
“Early exposure to incredibly successful people will significantly help in navigating the corporate world,” says Adeyemi. “I think it also helps to motivate and inspire you because you can see what people in your shoes were able to do with their McIntire degrees.”