In April the College of Business and Public Policy (CBPP) named their first full cohort of leadership fellows. Ten master’s students and five outstanding undergraduates will be matched with community business and industry leaders for the year-long, one-to-one mentorship program during the 2014-2015 academic year. Joe Beedle, representing Northrim Bank, a founding sponsor of the program, exhorted the students being inducted to get engaged with their community, to take risks and to volunteer.
“The leaders are not necessarily the smartest people in the room,” he said. “A leader has to embrace the fact that your power comes from other people around you.”
Modeled after a successful program from the University of Houston and spearheaded by Professor Frank Jeffries, Assistant Professor Terry Nelson and Assistant Professor Kori Callison, UAA’s Leadership Fellows Program has been designed as a bridge for high-caliber students to go from college to community leadership roles.
Nick Morrill, an M.B.A. student selected as a leadership fellow, works for a community nonprofit, HOPE worldwide – Alaska Chapter, and was clear about what he wanted to glean from the program.
“I want to be able to make a big impact in Anchorage. I need to learn the skills to be more effective, to be more efficient with my resources so that I can be doing the most good with the resources available,” he said. “In a nonprofit you’re not always given the greatest wealth of resources, so I want to take what little resources I do have and make the biggest impact with that.”
Taylor Mitchell, a senior studying supply and logistics management, was encouraged to apply for the program by a professor. She wants to learn management skills from her mentor that she can apply in her field.
“I currently work at UPS at the airport, so I deal with transportation as far as planes and cargo and things like that,” she explained. “I’m interested in doing any kind of logistics, maybe emergency logistics, something like FEMA or the Red Cross and transporting materials and supplies to people.”
Also in her corner is her dad, Michael Pollard (B.B.A. ’02), another UAA graduate with a degree in finance and an extensive background managing logistics. Pollard served in the Air Force at Elmendorf for 21 years before separating from service to become a senior pastor in Anchorage. He and his wife, Laketa (B.S. Mathematics ’98, M.A.T. ’99), are both UAA alumni.
“She’s sharp,” he said. “Just like her mom, who is a school teacher. She’s ready. I’m excited for her.”
“My dad has taught me a lot about organization, being prepared and doing my research,” Taylor said. “He’s taught me a lot about being confident.”
Being matched with a mentor from the community will help her to deepen those lessons she’s learned from parents and professors and see what skills she’ll need to bolster for long-term success.
Alaska newcomer Terry Nelson has tapped some key colleagues—Rachel Morse, assistant vice chancellor for Alumni Relations, Al Hermann, assistant professor of entrepreneurship, and Al Bolea, visiting distinguished professor—to help her make dynamic mentor-student matches this summer.
Last year, four M.B.A. students helped to craft the fellows program and piloted the mentor-student components. Jennie Stewart, one successful graduate, was paired with Karen King, president and CEO of Spawn Ideas.
“I didn’t have a good grasp of what we were going to come out with. What I hoped to gain was a knowledge that far exceeded my capacity,” she said, explaining her initial thoughts about the program. “Spending time with someone helping me think about my life from different vantage points, I found it to be a whole lot more pervasive than I thought it would be.”
She found herself mulling over conversations she’d had with King when she was faced with her own professional decisions as an entrepreneur.
“I expected it to be a business conversation, but I didn’t expect it to be real conversation that affected me.”
Jennie, together with fellow leadership program alumni Amanda Yauney and Danielle Reed, has gone on to co-found an Anchorage business consulting firm, Esprit Consulting.
The future of leadership fellows from UAA
Dean of CBPP, Rashmi Prasad, addressed the cohort of fellows at their April reception and said, “Our state faces a promising and challenging future. Our hope is that we’re making a difference with this inaugural class of leadership fellows.”
Afterward the students were buzzing about their ideas.
Another 2014-15 fellow and M.B.A. student, Marvin Anunciacion, said, “My emphasis in the graduate program is in business intelligence and data mining. What I would like to see is a leader who is implementing big data, understanding the market and the state of Alaska, and how they’re using that information to benefit the community as well as the organization so everyone can start making educated guesses rather than throwing money at projects.”
Xavier Mason, a Class of 2014 business major, is excited about what leadership training can do for Anchorage.
“Anchorage is a diverse city,” said the entrepreneur who started a business, HandMade, helping the city’s homeless market their handmade crafts and build résumés. “I’m trying to bring unity back to Anchorage.”
Before they get started in the fall, though, Nelson had a task for them.
“I’m a professor, so I’m giving you your homework for the summer,” she said. Each fellow will take a leadership assessment. The results will provide a jumping-off point for conversations with their mentor, who will be able to tailor his/her guidance to address weaknesses and help students capitalize on their strengths.
Written by Jamie Gonzales, Office of University Advancement.