Business mentor program

Some juniors and seniors in the School of Business Administration are able to gain new insight and hone their business etiquette by being a part of the Mentor Program.

Students like junior Christina Daniel say they are reaping the benefits after being selected to be one of 115 students chosen to participate in the program.

Her mentor, Rick Tonkinson, is a financial planner in Coral Gables. Daniels is majoring in economics and minoring in statistics, but is very interested in the investment and financial planning industry.

“Usually, we will go out to lunch sometimes with his family and even mine to catch up and this is my opportunity to ‘pick his brain’ about anything I need advice on,” Daniel said.

One of the most beneficial aspects is that students are able to apply what they have learned in the classroom in real-world situations.

“The mentor program offers a new perspective on learning. What you learn from your mentor is not something you’re going to find in a classroom,” said Daniels. “Yes, the current events and the market trends you study and discuss in the classroom are helpful in conversing with your mentor about business, but when I meet with Rick I learn through his advice and experience.”

The Mentor Program has been around for 20 years. Juniors, seniors and MBA students with a grade point average of 3.2 or higher are eligible to apply through the program’s website.  Students must answer a series of questions through the application process and submit their essays to the committee that oversees the program.

Prospective mentors range from community leaders to UM alumni, all of whom must also apply for a mentoring position through a similar application process. Program directors look for mentors  with at least five years of professional experience in the field. Currently, there are 90 mentors in the program.

Laura Padron, the school’s assistant dean of development and stewardship, and her committee choose the mentor matches, a process that may take more than a month to carefully decide who to pair up. Students designate their areas of interests, and the committee members work to pair them with a mentor who shares the same area of expertise.

“We strive to match the interests of both students and mentors,” said Padron. “So far we think we’ve done a great job.”

Jennifer Quintana, assistant director of alumni programs, also reviews student and mentor applications and has found throughout the years that students can equally benefit if another student is sharing the same mentor.  Quintana said some mentors are more than happy to work with two or three students, who can then share ideas among themselves as well as the mentor.

After the pairings are made, the student and mentor are encouraged to meet at least once a month at a time and place they determine. Mentors and students are also encouraged to participate in activities such as the kickoff and orientation reception, which welcomes both the students and the mentors.

“It was a great opportunity to get to know my mentor and even network with the other mentors present at the banquet,” says Daniel.

Students may shadow their mentor, attend their business meetings or attend social events to gain networking experience.

Not all meetings are formal, however.

“The relationship between a student and mentor is an unscripted one,” said Quintana. “I know of one student who invited their mentor to join them in tango lessons.”

Gabriel Baca may be contacted at