Leaders of Tomorrow Initiative calls fellowship back into mentorship

LTI Members pose for a group photo following a pinning ceremony on January 21, 2024. Photo credit: Sydney Billings

Andrés Concha entered the University of Miami with one goal: to impact the school in a positive way, foster community and ultimately lead his peers into success. By creating the Leaders of Tomorrow Initiative, he did just that.

LTI is a bi-modal leadership training program that connects outstanding upperclassmen with promising first and second-year students.

For Concha, a senior majoring in psychology, LTI started as a passion project, imagined from a sense of responsibility to create a space for like-minded leaders and entrepreneurs.

In August of 2023, the program took its first steps.

“I began meeting with several administrators, including Dr. Heather Stevens, assistant to the SVP for student affairs; our student body president; and consultants both inside and outside the University,” Concha said.

Spearheading the entire process himself, Concha compiled an exhaustive list of potential candidates who would be the perfect fit for the program.

“I cold-emailed hundreds of different students. From then on, I sent out an application to those who passed the first interview, and if they got past the second application, they were interviewed one final time,” Concha said.

To ensure a fair interviewing and application process, Concha had to seek assistance from colleagues and consultants that were skilled in identifying qualified candidates in a sea of applicants.

“I also had a board of external consultants outside of the University of Miami that each member consented to, to overlook my applications and make sure I didn’t have any bias,” Concha said. “I believe in strict meritocracy, and I don’t believe that my personal biases should get in the way of anyone’s acceptance.”

After spending roughly 30 hours meeting with consultants, sending and replying to hundreds of emails and reading over 100 applications, Concha eventually narrowed his list down to 12 members, excluding himself.

The resulting cohort was made up of five juniors and seniors paired with eight freshmen and sophomores, with Concha as an additional mentor and advisor.

Following the first forum with mentors and mentees in the same room, Concha could already see the product of several months of hard work and persistence.

“I was a bit nervous going into it, and I left with the biggest smile on my face,” Concha said. “The synergy and the synthesis in the room was incredible. Within one meeting, we had already established several working relationships, a collaborative project on AI, consulting on business and several meetings.”

In addition to forums where members of their respective cohorts meet together, the major draw of the program comes from the mentorship aspect.

“The mentorship component of LTI is where junior and senior mentors are essentially matched with a freshman or sophomore mentee, where they are provided with direct mentorship on a bi-weekly or weekly basis,” Concha said.

For Claire Kim, a senior majoring in finance and marketing, the mentorship program gave her the opportunity to take a step out of her field.

“An aspect that I found really interesting was that it spanned across the entire University and wasn’t just business-school specific,” Kim said.

As a senior mentor for LTI, Kim has found this pilot program to be nothing but transformative.

“The best part is getting to meet with them often enough that you get to see that progress–getting to see over someone and help them set their goals has been really amazing,” Kim said.

During mentorship sessions, mentees learn how to market themselves, practice mock interview calls, and perfect their networking strategies. And while some mentor-mentee relationships spanned across majors and professions, there was incredible value in these diverse connections

As a psychology and business major, Concha was matched with two mentees in the fields of neuroscience and computer science–but this matchup only enhanced the mentorship process.

“I don’t have the knowledge to enhance their skills within the world of computer science, but what I do have is knowledge in areas where people that study those things need improvement,” Concha said. “I can teach a lot about negotiation, persuasion and public speaking, which allows them to become a more well-rounded leader and establish connections that they otherwise might not have been able to forge.”

One of Concha’s mentees, Ethan Tieu, has made significant strides in the few months he’s been a part of LTI. While Tieu was already excelling before LTI, he has found the program has allowed him to connect with people across disciplines.

“Andrés makes it a point to not only tight bonds with your mentors, but with other mentees. Every other week we meet with our mentors, and then he also assigns meetings with other mentees that he thinks we could learn a lot from,” Tieu said, who was able to meet with fellow mentees in entrepreneurship to enhance his business skills.

For Matteo Constantine, a senior majoring in business technology with a minor in health management, LTI has allowed him to guide younger students and help them to grow into their full potential.

“LTI has helped me fulfill a goal of wanting to be a mentor to a younger student before I graduate. I think having someone who can just guide you in the steps to get more involved on campus can be really beneficial,” Constantine said.

More than that, Constantine has forged valuable connections with his mentees, such as Alexandre Kim.

“I get to know these mentees on a personal level. I get to know about their life, where they come from, what they do, and their personality traits. I’ve connected really well with Alex because I can see in him a lot of aspects of my younger self, along with some of the struggles I went through early in college,” Constantine said.

Given the tight-knit community LTI provides, there’s no doubt that this organization will, and already has, provided students with a community of like-minded people that they can trust and confide in.

“The reason that LTI was created was to connect people academically, socially, and professionally. But really what it was meant to do was give the people that really devote themselves to impacting the people around them, a friend or a group of people that they could understand,” Concha said. “In any part of the world, it’s very difficult to find people who put the majority of their time and energy into making themselves better so they can make the world around them better.”

While several mentorship programs are available across the University of Miami, Concha believes that LTI brings the more interpersonal aspects of a mentor-mentee relationship back into the conversation.

“Though our school does provide a lot of strong mentorship programs and leadership programs, LTI is the first to bond its members, not just in professional matters, but on a deeper level. I would like to think of us more as a family and a friend group than a leadership program,” Concha said.

“I would encourage leaders across the University of Miami, in addition to leaders across all college campuses, to promote honesty, vulnerability and clarity within their teams to foster a stronger, more efficient bond.”