University of Pittsburgh

Alumni Mentoring Program for MBAs

The Katz Graduate School of Business has launched a new mentoring program that pairs MBA students with individual mentors from a cross section of Pittsburgh industry. Students have access to chief financial officers, marketing managers, and financial analysts, to name just a few of the connections.

"Student feedback is very clear: They love interacting with alumni. Students crave opportunities for one-on-one mentoring from alumni. This pilot program gives them that opportunity," says Tim Robison, executive director of Career Management.

A mix of full-time and part-time MBA students - 24 in all - have been matched up with 24 mentors. To get the program headed in the right direction, a lesson in the power and pitfalls of mentoring was provided by Associate Professor Audrey Murrell, director of theDavid Berg Center for Ethics and Leadership at Pitt Business, during a November 30 kickoff event at the William Pitt Union.

Murrell, the author of the book Intelligent Mentoring: How IBM Creates Value through People, Knowledge and Relationships, says mentoring isn't motivated by altruism alone; research shows it delivers a strong return on investment (ROI). In fact, more than 70 percent of Fortune 500 and private companies have mentoring programs. Murrell told students that there is plenty to learn from successful people, even if their job isn't directly in the student's career path. For instance, Murrell seeks out turnaround artists, the people who transform underperforming operations into successful ones, for her personal mentors.

Drawing on her history of working with organizations that sponsor mentoring programs, Murrell gave students a wide range of advice. Among the highlights: approach your mentors with a plan, get to know something about them, and bring something to the exchange. Be persistent - don't give up if your mentor doesn't answer your first several e-mails. Murrell told students to work around the mentor's hectic schedule and to maintain the relationship after graduation.

Murrell also had a message for the mentors.

"The notion that there are natural-born mentors or that there's one universal style of mentoring is simply not borne out by the data," she says. "We know from the data that the style depends on the specific relationship and the function it provides.

"We also know that people who have access to mentoring have stronger career outcomes. There is a demonstrable ROI. This isn't just feel-good; it's absolutely strategic," Murrell says.

At the November kickoff event, Bart R. Huchel (MBA '78), chief financial officer for Intertech Security in Pittsburgh, met the MBA student he is mentoring: McKenzie Mathews. Their pairing seemed ideal given that Mathews is pursuing a career in finance.

"At this point in my career, I've been in the working world for over 30 years. I'm excited to give something back and help the next generation of financial leaders," Huchel says.

Mathews says he hopes that Huchel can evolve into a finance role model. "I'm looking forward to learning from him and developing a point of contact in finance," he says.

Molly Myers enrolled in the Katz MBA program after earning a bachelor degree in finance from the University of Florida. She is interested in the brand management side of marketing. Although she didn't meet her mentor at the kickoff event, she already sees the potential in her match.

"They placed me with someone who does marketing and public relations for an accounting firm. There's a great dichotomy between the analytics and the finance," Myers says.