su_20-YearsBY KEVIN MOE

Back during the 1993-94 school year, the Carlson School established a mentorship program with 50 participants. Since then, more than 2,000 mentors and mentees have taken part in a mutual sharing of business insights and experiences. As the program marks its 20th anniversary, it is still going strong. “It’s a cornerstone of the undergraduate experience, as students have the opportunity to take what they’re learning in the classroom and see how it’s applied to their areas of interest,” says Associate Director of Student Services Katie Selby. “Mentors provide career guidance, understanding of the broad business world, and help to students setting and obtaining their goals.”

Building Experience and Connections

As a double major in finance and insurance and risk management, Chris Hasling, ’04 BSB, was intrigued by the opportunity to engage with the Twin Cities area business community outside of the classroom. “The mentorship program seemed like an easy way to accomplish that,” he says. “As a 19-year-old, there are not too many other ways to get yourself in the board rooms of small- to medium-size companies all over the Twin Cities.”

Hasling says one of the highlights of the program was being able to job shadow Irv Cohen, a corporate risk management expert. “That was an experience that could not be replicated in the classroom,” Hasling says. “Learning the art of selling and serving a clientele was another skill that is very difficult to be taught in the classroom. The greatest highlight of all was the friendship that developed between my first mentor and I. Irv Cohen is still a very good friend and business advisor for me to this day.”

Now as a Financial Advisor for Northwestern Mutual, Hasling has taken on the mantle of a mentor. “I first felt like it was an obligation to give back to the program that gave me so much. Then I felt it was a great way to stay in contact with the Carlson School,” he says. “Now I believe those two things are true, but I also feel that my experience and connections in the business community can benefit my mentee. As a mentor, I am trying to duplicate what Irv Cohen did for me during my sophomore year.”

Learning and Listening

Michelle Staack,’ 10 BSB, also signed up for the program in her sophomore year. “At the time, I was very interested in pursuing a role in the health care industry,” she says. “The mentor who I was matched with, who would remain my mentor through graduation, was very established in the industry and provided a very honest view of the work.”

Staack ended up changing her career plans to education and her mentor was right beside her. “As I began to pursue my career in education as an undergraduate, my mentor was very encouraging and helped to support the transition,” she says. Staack later attended the Johns Hopkins University’s Graduate School of Education and currently works for the District of Columbia Public Schools as a coordinator on their principal effectiveness team.

And, Staack is now a mentor herself, having just completed her first year in the program. “It’s my hope that I can be a support to students as they explore the many options that they have during their time at the Carlson School as well as after graduation,” she says, adding that she is still learning new things as well. “I’ve learned how incredibly important it is to be a great listener. I learned so much about my mentee by listening and was able to create a genuine, positive relationship. It was something that I still appreciate about my mentor and I look forward to participating in next year’s mentorship program.”

Have a great mentorship experience? Contact Alumni Relations at carlsonalumni@umn.edu.

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