College’s Mentor Program celebrates a milestone anniversary, continuing its mission to connect eager students with experienced alumni leaders.
By Guy Fiorita
“We’d meet over a cup of coffee at the Brew, or a meal at Sobelman’s. It was just once a month for about an hour, but just six months into my career, I know I’m on the right track in great part thanks to those meetings.”
Riley Pollard, Bus Ad ’21, district manager at Aldi USA, is talking about her experience with the Mentor Program, which celebrates its 35th anniversary this year. Co-sponsored by the Marquette Business Alumni Association and the Business Career Center, the program was set up to connect sophomore business students with Marquette alumni who are business leaders in the Milwaukee and Chicago areas.
Mentors meet with their student protégés once a month to share career insights, offer advice and answer questions on everything from writing a résumé and finding an internship to preparing for interviews and possible career paths to follow.
Pollard’s mentor is Dan Hutchins, Bus Ad ’77 (pictured above). He has mentored 20 students since joining the program in 2006 and brings with him 42 years of experience in asset-based finance. “The primary concepts I try to convey are that when it comes to seeking a job or an internship, hard work and preparation really matter, that forming and maintaining a network is invaluable, and that there is no one simple way to succeed in a search. And if you expect networking help from others, provide it whenever you can,” Hutchins says.
For the students, the benefits are clear. “It gives you an unbiased connection. Not like your parents or a coworker but someone who could give you advice and help you make difficult decisions. Believe me, you face a lot of decisions and need a lot of advice in college, especially during the last couple years,” Pollard says.
“For me it was, and still is, having an experienced person on my side who has no stake in the matter besides helping me prepare to do my best, presenting hurdles, guiding my thinking through solutions and where an internship or career position could lead,” adds Tatiana (Bashell) Graver, Bus Ad ’08, associate executive director at the Wisconsin Health and Educational Facilities Authority, one of Hutchins’ first mentees.
With an average of 100 students per year, the Mentor Program has paired thousands of students with hundreds of mentors. “We always have a really strong turnout of mentor volunteers. Currently we have 156, which is more mentors than students wanting to be paired,” says John Knapp, former director of external relations (now executive director of Innovation Alley).
Recent mentors are some of the most influential people in the business world including senior tax consultants, chief financial officers, marketing directors, presidents and CEOs. The list of businesses they work for is equally impressive — Rockwell Automation, the Green Bay Packers, the Milwaukee Bucks, ManpowerGroup, Northwestern Mutual, Robert W. Baird, Amazon and Johnson Controls, among many others.
Often the mentor-mentee relationship lasts long after graduation and evolves into something much more personal. Another of Hutchins’ students, Anthony Fabris, Bus Ad ’13, wealth management planning analyst at Myklebust, Horne & Fies Financial Group, says that 10 years after they first met, his relationship with Hutchins has grown into a true friendship. “My parents are always my first call, but when I need an independent sounding with a unique perspective and someone I trust, I call Dan. We still talk three or four times per year, he’s been over to our house and met my wife and our son.”
Hutchins says that for him the best part of the Mentor Program is its potential to create lifelong relationships. “I’ve enjoyed my relationship with them as adults even more than I did as students. I’ve seen them marry, have children and struggle to start businesses or advance their careers. I had two students the first year, and I’m still in touch with both of them. Assisting a student later through job and career changes is very fulfilling.”
“I got his family’s Christmas card this year,” Pollard says of Hutchins. “I sent him my graduation announcement, and I’m sure he’ll be at my wedding someday.”