The UGA Mentor Program celebrates its third year this fall. More than 2,800 mentoring relationships between alumni and current students have been created since the program’s launch, and each one of them has its own personality. Some have continued beyond the mentee’s graduation. Three of those relationships are detailed here in the participants’ own words.
Shallum Atkinson ABJ ’17, AB ’17
Policy Staffer, U.S. House of Representatives; Washington, D.C.
Mentorship matters, trust me. I know because serving as a mentor to Jaquarius has been nothing but a blessing. It not only allows me to stay connected to the Bulldog Nation from hundreds of miles away, but it serves as a living example of how what we do today will impact the people of tomorrow.
I was always told as a Black man, when a door is opened for you, leave the room in a better place than you found it, and keep the door cracked for the next one to follow. I see in Jaquarius, a younger, brighter, and more refined version of myself. It warms my heart to see the positive changes the leaders of my time pursued to create a better environment for him.
We share memories of the many “back in my day” tales he will never understand and advice on how to simply navigate life. It’s a match made in Athens.
4th Year Health Promotion and Biology Double Major
Before my mentorship with Shallum, I was focused on finding mentors who could give me advice on medical school and how to deal with STEM courses at UGA. When we transitioned to online learning in Spring 2020, I realized that I needed a more holistic type of support.
When it came time to match with a new mentor on the platform, I chose Shallum. He has a unique perspective since he attended UGA for his undergraduate studies and now works in politics in Washington, D.C. This viewpoint allowed us to have deep conversations about being a Black man at the University of Georgia and in America. We both yearn to bring positive change to the university for the advancement and success of Black students.
Though we have different intentions and majors (his being law and mine medicine), Shallum has taken me under his wing to mold me into a more intentional and well-rounded leader. I would say that he is like an older brother who I can rely on for guidance. I know that I can always count on him.
Scott Morris BBA ’87
Managing Director (RET.), Bank of America; Charlotte, N.C.
I’ve truly been blessed to work with Audrey.
After meeting to understand her interests, objectives, and personality, we partnered on industry leads from my professional network with a focus on how to best prepare for those calls, presentation skills, and tips to establish an ongoing relationship-building process to continue developing her own network.
We also developed a better understanding of her individual strengths and how they align with various possible career options. My goal was to help her better select coursework, extracurricular activities, and skill development opportunities for those roles. For example, we looked into what “a day in the life” looks like for various roles as well as the skill sets needed to be successful.
She took what we discussed, made it her own, and expanded it. If I gave her five leads, she turned those into 15. Without a doubt, the individual effort that Audrey put into our exchange is what made it successful.
3rd Year, Finance Major
Jumping into college as a freshman, you have no idea what the future or even next week will look like. You’re making new friends, learning how to get around, anddeciding on how you want to spend the next 30+ years of your life. I struggled to decide on a business major. The broadness and bewilderment overwhelmed me: What do I want to do with my life and will I be happy?
I joined the UGA Mentor Program and connected with my roommate’s dad, Scott Morris, who was a former executive at Bank of America. With his guidance, I’ve built an excellent network within the finance community, learned about financial roles, learned how to approach investing and value a company, and how to closely watch the stock market and economic news. And, lastly, I learned where I fit into finance.
One of my favorite memories was when Scott helped me tackle a stock pitch for an interview. He devoted two weeks of his time to help me gather information for the presentation and kept me motivated and encouraged. When the pitch concluded, my roommate joked that I spent more time with her dad than she did.
Because of Scott’s mentorship, I am confident, knowledgeable, and on the road to success.
Stephanie (Blackett) Nichols BSFCS ’07
Owner and Psychotherapist at Mindful Therapy Works; Atlanta
Never did I once think mentoring would enrich my life the way that it has.
Becoming a UGA mentor not only gave me the opportunity to give back to my alma mater, but it also made me a better, more professional businesswoman. In the fall of 2019, Kestrina and I had our initial meeting and then met bi-monthly at a local Starbucks. I was immediately impressed with her tenacity and desire to lead others. Despite our different backgrounds, we learned that we shared a lot of similar life experiences.
Being a UGA mentor allows me to reflect on my own career, form new goals, and connect with old colleagues. Kestrina has now graduated, and I continue to mentor her. I look forward to mentoring Kestrina for as long as she needs, and I thank her for enriching my life.
Kestrina Shrestha MEd ’20
Graduate Student, Department of Mathematics
Being an Asian American is one of my salient identities. My family is from Nepal and I have never shared a classroom or workspace with an individual who also comes from a Nepali background. I joined the UGA Mentor Program during the second semester of my graduate program, hoping I might find someone from my ethnic and racial background, but I wasn’t able to. Instead, I decided to seek mentorship from a UGA alumna of color.
I still remember my first meeting with Stephanie at Starbucks. She was personable and such a superb listener! Since I was a non-traditional student and commuted to UGA, she was flexible and met with me through Zoom on many occasions. This was pre-COVID, so Zoom wasn’t really a thing back then.
Stephanie is the first mentor I ever had, and I have learned the importance of mentorship through my communication with her. As a result of this positive experience, I am currently building and designing a peer mentor program within UGA’s Department of Mathematics, where I serve as an academic advisor. I also decided to join the UGA Mentor Program as a mentor starting this fall.