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Two female students in front of a flip chart.

Two University students getting to know each other better at the event to launch the U's new Multicultural Leadership Mentoring Program.

Corporations partner to mentor U students

By Pauline Oo

From eNews, December 2004

For University juniors Tamara Moore and Nneka Ikeme, mentoring isn't just about learning how to be successful in their chosen fields. It's about picking up the skills that will someday make them someone's trusted counselor or guide.

Moore and Ikeme were among the 20 participants at the November 29 launch of the U's new Multicultural Leadership Mentoring Program. Housed in the Office of Multicultural and Academic Affairs, this program pairs U students, especially first-generation college students and students from multicultural backgrounds, with employees from Allina Hospitals and Healthcare, Best Buy Corp., and 3M. The kick-off event served as a chance for the students to meet with representatives from the three businesses and to participate in some leadership activities, including charting their career goals on large flip charts and then sharing them with their peers.

According to program coordinator Michelle Tichy-Reese, the mentoring program aims to make students more aware of the different job opportunities available to them and to increase their access to potential employers.

"We want them to aspire to be leaders and give them concrete experiences to support [these aspirations]," says Tichy-Reese.

Each of the program's business partners will supply 10 to 20 employees to serve as mentors. The mentors and their charges would then meet monthly at an agreed-upon location to talk about career interests and opportunities.

"This is an opportunity for our leaders to have a positive influence on students who are at a stage in life where they're formulating their values and work habits and deciding on the kinds of companies they might want to work for," says Herschel Herndon, vice president and chief diversity officer at Best Buy. "It's a chance for us to help those students further develop clarity around what they want to do and guide them in building leadership skills and building positive relationships with key people within their community.

"So many times leaders are people in these ivory towers," adds Herndon. "We want to make some of our leaders accessible and have them serve as sounding boards for students in ways that [the students] might not experience if this program didn't exist or until they joined the workforce."

The idea of having leaders develop leaders is certainly a draw of this University mentoring program, says Moore, who has served as mentor to students in middle school and high school through the U's America Reads program.

"I'm going into social work, and I think it's essential to know how to be a leader and how to be a mentor to somebody [in my chosen field]," says Moore, who's majoring in sociology, African American studies, and family violence prevention. "I'm participating in this program because I want to partner up with someone who can help me further my career and who will teach me how to guide someone else."

To learn more about the Multicultural Leadership Mentoring Program, call the Office for Multicultural and Academic Affairs at 612-624-0594.

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