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Real-World Learning

Connecting Students and Alumni Through the Dean’s Leadership Mentorship Program

The Dean’s Leadership Mentorship Program will enter its second year this fall, connecting current students to Saint Joseph's network of 75,000 alumni.

Mandeville Hall at sunset in the springtime. Though part of the Haub School of Business Dean’s Leadership Program, both the mentorship and leadership programs are open to students of all majors.

Written by: Diane Holliday

Published: September 17, 2021

Total reading time: 5 minutes

Saint Joseph’s University’s network of 75,000 alumni span the globe, working in industries from food marketing and finance to healthcare, education and law. Now, as part of a new mentorship program created under the umbrella of the Haub School of Business Dean’s Leadership Program, current students have the opportunity to be paired with a Hawk mentor in their field of interest for a full semester.

The inaugural mentorship program kicked off this spring with 40 pairs of current sophomores and alumni connecting virtually at least three times during the semester to discuss everything from what it’s like to work in a particular field, to job interview advice and what the mentors wish they had known when they were first entering the professional world.

“The idea for the program actually came about almost two years ago when we were in discussions with Dean DiAngelo about relaunching the Haub School [Alumni] Chapter,” explains David Lam ’05 ’07 (M.S.), National Alumni Board member and NAB Haub liaison. “After multiple discussions and focus groups with students, faculty and alumni, we discovered that both students and alumni were interested in creating a formal mentorship program.”

As the Haub School Alumni Chapter started to come to fruition, the COVID-19 pandemic halted plans, making it difficult to pull together the necessary resources to start a new chapter. However, the NAB wasn’t ready to give up on the idea of a mentorship program just yet; in the chapter’s place, they founded the Haub Council to manage this new program.

“We spoke with some members of the Dean’s Leadership Program like Ryan Reeves, who was president at the time, and Sarah Jonsson, the current president. This was an engaged group of students who saw value in a program like this and we were easily able to translate it into a program for the Dean’s Leadership group,” says Joe McDonald, director of corporate and industry partnerships for Haub.

Like the Dean’s Leadership Program, the mentorship component is not restricted to business school students; students from any college are invited to participate and be paired with a mentor in their field of choice. Lisa Bono ’96, market executive at JP Morgan Chase Bank, was paired with two students whose interests differed from one another.

“I had a great relationship with Sofia and Conor,” Bono says. “Even though Sofia’s area of focus was not aligned with what I do, I think we had even more meaningful discussions because of it. I helped her with her CV, gave her feedback about being on LinkedIn and offered my connections to both students. I continue to stay in contact with both of them.”

Mentee Sofia Connor ’23 says that while she didn’t have any expectations for the experience, her time with Bono was invaluable.

“After meeting regularly with Lisa Bono, I feel incredibly fortunate to have met such a supportive and knowledgeable mentor. This program was a great resource to meet someone in the workforce and gain greater knowledge around expectations and reality,” she says.

For Bono, the experience wasn’t just about giving back to her alma mater, it was about offering the support and knowhow she wishes she had during that time in her life.

“Neither of my parents graduated from high school,” she admits, “and so, I just didn’t have that guidance. Being able to give advice and hopefully be an advocate for these students, offer shortcuts, connect them with my network — that is so important.”

McDonald, Lam, Bono and other members of the NAB are preparing for year two of the program this fall, which will be open to juniors and sophomores and then expanding to freshmen in the spring of 2022.

“I think one of the strengths of the program is that we really did seek to give the mentee a mentor with whom they wanted to work and identified with,” says McDonald. “We would like to engage even more alumni this year and make sure people are aware of this opportunity.”

Lam adds that students may take away different lessons from the program depending on where they are in their academic careers.

“As we expand the program to other classes, I think we’ll see different levels of engagement. Whereas juniors may have already had internships or some work experience, underclassmen may need a bit more guidance.”

The ultimate goal? Graduating students who rejoin the program as mentors to continue the initiative for years to come.

About the Dean’s Leadership Program

The Dean’s Leadership Program is a four-year leadership program open to freshmen and sophomores of all majors whose goal is to reinforce leadership concepts through a Jesuit framework that is values-based, reflective and focused on serving others. Students attend thought-provoking lectures, take part in service activities, hear from world-renowned leaders, and now have the opportunity to participate in this new mentorship opportunity. The program was founded in 2011-12 by Joseph DiAngelo, Ed.D., ’70, dean of the Haub School of Business, Vana Zervanos, M.S., Ed.D., ’07 (MBA), associate dean, and Ronald Dufresne, Ph.D., professor of management and director of the Leadership, Ethics and Organizational Sustainability program.

Interested in learning more about the Dean’s Leadership Program or Mentorship Program or want to become a mentor? Contact David Lam ’05 ’07 (M.S.), to learn more. Interested students should contact Sarah Jonsson ’21.