Giving Back By Paying It Forward

For those of us who work in academia, the months of April and May are a blur of end-of-the-year breakfasts, luncheons, receptions, and banquets—all celebrating the achievements of our students.  It’s the season to recognize superlatives:  the highest grade point averages, the top test scores, the best papers and final projects, and the most outstanding graduates.

In the midst of the blur, it’s difficult to focus on what’s really important, which is how our students have been changed by their college experience and how they’ll use their education to make important contributions to their professions and communities.  That’s why I appreciate MSUM’s Executive Mentorship Banquet, which recognizes business and community leaders who have devoted a semester to mentoring undergraduate business students.  At the banquet, both mentors and students speak about the experience and what it has meant to them.

Students invariably speak about the wisdom they have gained from their mentors.  They emphasize that, while the wisdom is valuable in its own right, its main value is in the self-confidence it instills.  Mostly, they speak about how inspired they are by their mentors’ investment of time and energy in the next generation of leaders.  And they pledge to give back in similar ways once they have launched their own careers.

As for the mentors, they speak about how much they learn from their mentees about today’s young people and what they want from their professional lives.  They express gratitude for the opportunity to help emerging professionals achieve their dreams and aspirations.  And they emphasize how rewarding it is to know they are investing in the future of their professions.

It’s an evening that focuses squarely on the most important purpose of higher education: transforming the world by transforming the lives of our students.

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