Marquette Business

Meaningful mentorship: Students form lifetime connections through Business Career Center program

For Marquette Business students, finding a mentor is an important link on a chain that starts with first-year classes and ends with landing a postgraduate job.

2023 Mentor of the Year Kelli Wernlund stands with her mentee, junior accounting and finance major Katherine McCarr.

Mya McClone found herself at a crossroads during her sophomore year. She thought she was interested in a career in marketing, her major, but felt uncertain about the decision. Other pathways, such as an MBA or a law degree, seemed equally appealing. 
Luckily, McClone had someone she could call: her mentor, Katherine Murray. 
“[Katherine] connected me with a lot of professionals she knew who pursued all of these options,” McClone says. “It really helped me make some important career decisions.” 
“I’ve always enjoyed mentoring young Marquette students since I graduated; a lot of it is wanting to give back to students and offer something of value to them,” Murray says. 
Murray and McClone met through the Marquette Business Mentor Program, an initiative jointly sponsored by the college’s Business Career Center and alumni association. Each year, up to 150 sophomore and junior students are paired with a professional mentor who either graduated with their same major or are active in an associated industry. These pairs stay together formally for at least an academic year and often continue their relationships beyond that. 
That’s how Murray, a marketing director for Milwaukee-based real estate developer Hammes Company, found herself paired with McClone. After some introductory events, McClone took the lead on planning meetups with her mentor, ensuring that the two of them saw each other for at least an hour per month. 
“Your mentor is there to guide and support you, but you have to be transparent and let them know what you want out of it,” McClone says. “I told her about the dilemma I was facing, and she gave me a lot of professional contacts, but then it was on me to take the reins and follow up with those connections.” 
Other students are finding success using similar relationship management styles. Braeden Parrett graduated from Marquette in 2023 and keeps in touch with his mentor, Tom Piwaron, a senior sourcing manager at Direct Supply. The two met so frequently for lunch at the on-campus Qdoba that Piwaron joked they should have gotten a separate rewards account for their trips. In fact, Parrett and Piwaron became fast friends aside from their professional connection. 
“It’s really important to connect with the other person and not just be all business all the time,” Parrett says. “I found out a lot about Tom’s family and what he’s passionate about. He’s active in a dog rescue and I had some experience with that, so we were able to build a connection around something other than just the program.” 
Piwaron imparted a lot of his supply chain knowledge to Parrett, who now works at Viking Electric. The key to Piwaron and Parrett’s productive relationship was the student’s inquisitiveness. 
“This is a safe environment for the mentee to be vulnerable and ask questions without fear of judgment,” Piwaron says. “Everybody in the industry was in the student’s position at one point or another in their careers. It was rewarding for me to help someone at that stage get an internship and start their professional lives.” 
Piwaron also touted the mentorship program as a great way to learn about the industry’s latest best practices; he would frequently ask Parrett what he was learning in classes and gleaned information that would be useful in his own job. 
All mentors have at least five years of professional experience and live in either southeastern Wisconsin or northern Illinois, which makes it possible for each pair to meet in person. Many of the mentors are Marquette alumni, but that is not required. 

“You have to think of it as a one-year job interview with someone who can’t fire you; they can only boost you up.”

Tom Piwaron, Senior Sourcing Manager at Direct Supply and Marquette Mentor

Most Marquette Business alumni see participation in the mentorship program as a way of giving back to the university — a donation of time to young people who need it. 
“You give to the students, but you get a lot back as well,” Murray says. “It makes you feel proud to be part of the Marquette community. You get to meet great people and you generally have a strong connection with your student.” 

This college-level mentorship program is different than Marquette Mentors, a university-wide project that creates similar mentor-mentee pairings across all colleges. Since its inception in 2013-14, Marquette Mentors has created more than 1,000 partnerships, with more than 93% of its mentors returning annually. 
Even though the two are different, the Business Career Center’s goals have a lot in common with Marquette Mentors: connect students with alumni, expose undecided students to career options they may not have considered and form lasting relationships. 
“You have to think of it as a one-year job interview with someone who can’t fire you; they can only boost you up,” Piwaron says. 
“I was unsure of what I wanted to do and needed this mentorship to help me find out what I like,” Parrett says. 
For business students, finding a mentor is an important link on a chain that starts with first-year classes, proceeds through a wide range of intermediary steps — internships, roles in student organizations, experiential learning and job interviews, to name a few — and ends with a postgraduate job. 
“Katherine has been a great mentor to me throughout the entire program and beyond,” says McClone, who decided to pursue a marketing job after graduation. “She helped me come to the realization of how much passion I had for business.” 

Alumni who are interested in becoming Marquette Business mentors can do so by visiting the career center website. Students can learn more about the mentorship program here.