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Gifts of attention

Each had at least one powerful mentor. Now they make a practice of taking students, interns or new colleagues under their wing.

“Professional stuff, man. Peace.”

— Indelible comment from Tom Richmond’s mentor, Joe Misiewicz, on his senior capstone project.

Funny, outgoing and thoughtful — and clearly in his element engaging with students and parents at the university’s Visit Days — Tom Richmond ’88 M.A. ’94 didn’t set out to work in college admissions. 

A public relations major, he hoped to get a job in an advertising, public relations or marketing department. He’d thrived in internships at Bradley and at Dow Chemical. But his internship coordinator at Dow took Richmond aside at the end of his stint and said that while he’d done great work, she didn’t think the corporate culture suited him. 

“She said she thought I’d do well in the nonprofit realm,” he said. “That surprised me.”

As graduation neared, Bradley’s communications department chair Joe Misiewicz encouraged him to apply for an entry-level opening in the Office of Admissions, but Richmond was reluctant. 

“I wasn’t sure I wanted to be an admissions counselor. But (Misiewicz) said I should do the interview just for the practice. Later, he told me he thought I’d fall in love with the position once I explored it.”

Richmond received a job offer in 1988, and today serves as the executive director of enrollment management marketing for Admissions. Nearly a quarter-century later, ensconced in a career he loves, Richmond will be forever grateful to Misiewicz, who left Bradley for a post at Ball State University (Ind.).

“He saw something in me I didn’t see,” he said. “He left a mark on who I am.”

The Bradley culture, Richmond believes, lends itself to mentoring. A connection nurtured through several classes and many long talks meant that Misiewicz knew Richmond’s strengths. “(He) had no doubt I would thrive in this job I couldn’t visualize myself doing yet,” he said.

And, like many Bradley alumni blessed with strong mentors, Richmond makes sure to become a resource for interns in his office.

“I explain how what I’ve asked them to do fits into our goals. Simple tasks have meaning. I want them to see the assignment in context, so they’ll understand how it will help our work.”

Teaching ‘extra role behaviors’ 

“I’ve had many mentors, but my earliest was a psychology professor named David Whitsett. I still repeat many of the things he taught, which are relevant both professionally and personally. He studied with a pillar in our field (Fred Herzberg), and he always told us ‘the gold is in the work.’”

— Jennifer Robin,
associate dean for graduate and executive programs

Workplace expert Jennifer Robin’s research centers on how businesses can become more successful by focusing on their employees and meeting their needs. The associate dean for graduate and executive programs said corporate mentorship programs help businesses by empowering mentors to teach the intangible skills employees need to learn.

“They call them ‘extra role behaviors.’ Things like the company’s social connections and social organization. Where to go to solve a problem. How to get along — and ahead — in the company’s culture,” she said. “Things that aren’t in the job description, but are essential to success.”

It’s clear why a mentoring relationship would be helpful to the mentee, but why do people choose to be mentors? “It goes to the fundamental human desire to be helpful. Even veteran employees who don’t have any direct reports feel they can assist new employees.” 

As for instructors, Robin noted that the kind of professors attracted to the Bradley culture love to teach and work closely with students. 

It’s a desire Robin feels every time she teaches a class. “I signal to (students) that I’m open to helping them, beyond what we’ll cover in class,” she said. “I tell them I’d be happy to look at their résumés. I mention that I’m also a consultant, and would be happy to discuss that field with anyone interested.”

There have always been informal mentoring relationships at work and elsewhere, Robin said. Historically, they grew out of personal affinity. Although those relationships were effective, they weren’t inclusive.

“Because people tend to gravitate to those like them, women and minorities were often left out,” she said. “And that became a problem, because employees with mentors reaped benefits others did not,” she said. 

So, many businesses have instituted formal mentoring programs. “The thinking is, let’s give all new employees opportunities to connect with more experienced ones. But it gets tricky. The best mentoring relationships succeed because the participants have an affinity for each other.”

She cites companies like Caterpillar Inc. that seek to level the playing field by encouraging internal employee affinity groups, each with an executive sponsor, for underrepresented populations. 

Robin said it’s important for companies to have a good idea of what they want to accomplish with these programs. “Is it simply to promote a sense of belonging, or to move more women and minorities into leadership roles? Mentoring should be the vehicle, not the goal.”

What has she gained from mentoring students? “You don’t know the impact of your connection with students until they tell you, ‘You shaped the way I think.’ It’s humbling and rewarding hearing of the success my students have had.”

“I wouldn’t be where I am today without those who mentored me ... They all cared about me as a person first.”

— Norris Chase, executive director of diversity and inclusion, with students (from left) Imani Brown ’16 and Abigail Canchola ’17

Unlocking potential 

As executive director of diversity and inclusion within the Division of Student Affairs, Norris Chase has had strong mentors throughout his life.

“I wouldn’t be where I am today without those who mentored me — in relationships, school, religious and professional settings,” he said. “They all cared about me as a person first.”

After graduating from Oakland University, Chase earned an M.A. at Clemson University. At both institutions he met administrators and staff members who helped and encouraged him.

“They’re all professional men and women who’ve encouraged and inspired me to consider a career in higher education. They’ve challenged me to grow and become a positive influence to others.”

At Bradley, his charge is to help retain students from underrepresented populations. To that end, he and his staff have instituted a peer-mentoring program, now in its third year. He said 90 percent of the students in that first cohort are still at Bradley.

“Our office has two main goals,” said Chase. “First, to promote the success of underrepresented students. And second, to build leaders ready to go out into the world to make dynamic change. We want to make sure these students aren’t lost in the mix. That they’re not only supported, but knowledgeable about all the resources available.”

Assuring students that supportive peers, faculty and staff surround them helps unlock their potential, Chase added. “When community is present, a lot of other things become possible.” 

 MARY BROLLEY
Photography by Duane Zehr

  


‘A culture of mutual respect’

Kristin Kreher ’15 has already had many mentors. She credited Bradley staff members Jessica Chandler, Nathan Thomas and former communications professor Erin Schauster for believing in and inspiring her.

She also acknowledged Samantha Pallini ’15, The Scout’s editor-in-chief while Kreher served as managing editor her junior year. The pair spent 25–30 hours a week together in the newspaper office. “It was a culture of mutual respect,” she said. “We played to our strengths.” 

Now an intern in the Office of Student Affairs, Kreher helps students on projects, such as creating a clearinghouse for donating furniture at the end of the semester. “Our students are so ambitious and hardworking,” she said. “Seeing them pursue their goals energizes me.” 


‘He advised me to stay the course’

A stroll through Jobst Hall this year flooded Ed Hartman ’69 with memories of an influential professor during his time as an electrical engineering student.

“I had transferred from a junior college as a sophomore, and was a bit overwhelmed with my introduction to electrical engineering class at Bradley,” he said. “(Richard) Gonzalez, my counselor and the teacher of the class, was understanding and low key. He said it wasn’t unusual for students to feel that way when they first got into their major (and) advised me to stay the course.” 

Although Gonzalez soon left Bradley for another teaching post, Hartman remains grateful for his warmth and reassurance. “(He) helped me succeed at Bradley and go on to a 40-year career at Caterpillar.”


‘So many gave to me, I wanted to give back’

By any measure, she’s a super mentor. Since 2005, Laura Herlovich ’79 has welcomed about 60 Bradley students for weeklong internships at PR Plus, her Las Vegas public relations firm.

While Herlovich offers help with career prep, she noticed students don’t brag enough about themselves or their experience. “I understand why — they don’t want to overstep boundaries,” said Herlovich. “But I try to infuse them with confidence.” 

She worked as a sports information assistant at Bradley; her first job was as a public relations assistant for the NBA’s Utah Jazz. She cited mentors such as then-basketball coach Joe Stowell ’50 M.A. ’56 and then-sports information director Joe Dalfonso ’76 for their support.

“Nobody ever told me I couldn’t be successful in sports journalism. They saw my passion for sports. They saw potential in me.”