Mentorships often have the reputation of being one-sided, but for graduate student Conner Bender (BSCS ’19) and TU alumnus John Hudson (BSBA ’87), both have found rich reward in being part of the newly launched utulsa connect mentorship program. Leslie Blanchet (BSBA ’06), director of alumni engagement, works closely with the 12 chapters and 22 clubs within the TU alumni network and now utulsa connect. “When you graduate from The University of Tulsa, your relationship doesn’t end,” Blanchet said.
Blanchet and her team work directly with the board of directors of the TU Alumni Association to further student success, engage alumni and provide a welcome mat for anyone who wants to remain connected with TU, utulsa connect is a major initiative tied to that goal.
utulsa connect is a new program spurred by the Strategic Plan set forth in 2017. The objective of utulsa connect is for every student who wants an alumni mentor to have one. “The hope is that students can make connections and build relationships that bolster their ability to be successful after graduation — before they receive their diploma,” Blanchet said. These mentorships foster relationships and skills to promote overall professional development.
In February 2019, utulsa connect started with a soft launch targeting the Future Alumni Council leadership, Student Association, orientation leaders, University Ambassadors and other student leaders on campus. Board members were then brought in from the alumni side. There were about 40 starting participants to do a beta test of the program and in June 2019, utulsa connect was officially launched to alumni. In August, the program was formally launched to students with an immediate influx of participants.
The vision is for utulsa connect is to be embraced by expansion in all areas of campus. The Office of Alumni Engagement is collaborating with the Student Success Center and the Career Development Center to share the message with students and other departments. “utulsa connect is a phenomenal resource to promote overall student success. We feel very fortunate to be able to have the opportunity to offer this to our alumni and students,” Blanchet said.
From beta test to best times in utulsa connect
Bender and Hudson were a part of the initial launch of mentees and mentors. Hudson, who resides in the Kansas City area, chairs the alumni career networking committee and said the idea of utulsa connect was in development for many years. Bender, currently in the cyber corps program, sought Hudson as a mentor during that time because of their similar career goals. Hudson works for an IT consulting firm out of Boston and leads several different areas of the company, mostly focusing on managing security services and cloud services for companies across the U.S.
“utulsa connect opened my eyes to relationships you can’t really find on Handshake or even through a career fair, but actually talking to an alum in your field — it’s just a whole new vector,” Bender said. Like many alumni, Hudson is not based in Tulsa so the two talk on the phone or meet up during yearly alumni events.
On the mentor side, Hudson used their first conversations to understand what Bender’s expectations were and what he wanted from the mentorship. “Mentorship could mean different things to different people and some mentees just want a sounding board for a particular moment in time, while others pursue a deeper, longer type of relationship,” Hudson said. Hudson’s initial communications with Bender were more about listening and being accessible and approachable.
Hudson says the whole process has connected him back to the university in a unique way. “I feel like I am helping improve the overall experience at TU and lifting others up. Being able to impart my experiences is quite gratifying, actually,” Hudson said. He is also quick to add that even if a student is unsure about their major or career path, interviewing alumni in various fields is the best way to find out what might be interesting. There are alumni with experience in just about every field and while other networking tools are useful, Hudson says, there is value in that both the mentee and mentor aspects of utulsa connect: it means both parties are taking an active role in the process.
utulsa connect offers a different way to expand the TU spirit beyond Tulsa. Hudson explained that “being able to tie all of us back to the institution we love is really key. It’s not just about the mentoring; it’s about giving back and being connected to the university that has shaped us. utulsa connect is just one of those tools that’s going to help us bring our larger TU community together.“
Alumni interested in becoming involved or who want to learn more can go to TUalumni.com/mentoring.