Mentor program builds leaders

A workshop at Coffman Union kicked off the new multicultural mentoring program.

Brady Averill

Students drew journey lines – a series of ups and downs they’ve experienced in life – at a multicultural leadership workshop Monday in the Mississippi Room at Coffman Union.

The activity’s goal was to help students learn about how they have become who they are today and how their perspectives vary based on their backgrounds.

After drawing his journey line for the group, Tim McGeehan, a senior vice president at Best Buy, said most people might think he’s a stiff executive who was fed everything from a silver spoon. But if they knew his journey line, they’d think differently, he said. He’s had to work for everything he’s gotten, from spending time in the Army and starting out at Best Buy selling televisions.

The workshop kicked off the newly established Multicultural Leadership Mentoring Program, which pairs multicultural and first-generation college students with mentors from Twin Cities corporations. In turn, the 25 students participating in the program mentor high school youth.

The Office for Multicultural and Academic Affairs is working with

Allina Hospitals & Clinics and Best Buy to supply mentors. Polaris and 3M might get involved, said Michelle Tichy-Reese, program coordinator.

It’s a “pay it forward” program, Tichy-Reese said.

It benefits both students and mentors, she said. Students will benefit from more access to the workplace and increased networking skills. Business executives, in turn, will have a link to the multicultural community.

Avelino Mills-Novoa, associate vice president for multicultural affairs, said the program delivers the message that students can be successful, gives them the tools to do it and offers support.

Felicia Gyasi, an elementary education graduate student who is participating in the program, said that although she isn’t a business student, she thinks business executive mentorship will benefit her.

“In the future, I thought, it would be good to understand how the business world works,” she said.

There might be a time when she needs to ask for funding for a school, and understanding the business world will help, she said.

Stephanie Richardson, a kinesiology student and program participant, said she wants to open a physical therapy business some day. She said the mentorship might give her the skills to do that.

The program also appeals to her because she feels the need to give back to younger children in high school, she said.

Business mentors are required to meet face-to-face with the students for two hours each month.

In January, the students will meet their mentors for the first time.