When Jeffrey Post, ’82, learned the Alumni Association was inviting alumni to mentor U-M students, the fourth-generation alumnus wanted in.
“Any time you can step out of your general circle and learn from new people, grab it with both hands,” Post said. Besides, this was a chance to help others. “My family goes way back. Why not go way forward?”
In 2009, the Ann Arbor-based real estate owner and agent met with several participants in the Alumni Association student-to-alumni networking program, Face to Face With Michigan Alumni. He instantly recognized a kindred spirit in Mary Lemmer, ’10. Besides a mutual interest in sustainability and the performing arts, “she was looking at business opportunities that could bring a continuous reinvention of herself.”
Lemmer, in turn, felt Post was an ideal mentor. He has given her advice and emotional support, and helped her secure space in one of his buildings. “He took a risk on a business nobody knew about,” said Lemmer. Currently, Lemmer is operating the thriving Iorio’s Gelateria on William Street in Ann Arbor.
Post says the decision brought new customers to his building and gave him a chance to get an inside look at a developing business. His daughter has benefited as well with a summer job at the gelateria. “It’s the whole idea of paying it forward,” he said. “It works.”
Since its inception in 2006, the program (previously named 30-Minute Mentors) has successfully helped about 2,000 U-M students pursuing a variety of fields, from public health and entertainment to engineering and medicine.
The Alumni Association’s career development manager, Amy Homkes-Hayes, ’02, said that some students stay connected with their alumni and even develop mentoring relationships like Lemmer and Post’s, while others contact them only when they have specific questions. Connections also can begin and end with one 30-minute conversation on Central Campus or North Campus or via video chat. Even that one session can help a student clarify a career direction.
What’s more, U-M alumni can help U-M students in other programs, such as Virtual Face to Face (where students and alumni connect remotely) and Hail & Hello (where U-M students practice networking with U-M alumni).
Another strong relationship developed when Cara Londin, ’85, met with Lu Zhang, ’16, a dual degree student in statistics and in business who has an interest in art. Zhang read a short biography of Londin, an art history major and Wall Street lawyer who now represents a luxury eyewear company, and learned she had mentored students and helped them network. Feeling that someone who understood both art and business would be an ideal match, Zhang selected Londin from available mentors. When they met in March 2015, she was inspired by Londin’s personal charm.
“I immediately wanted to be like her,” she said. Londin, in turn, was impressed by the honor student’s passion for art and her desire to combine it with the skills she acquired while at U-M.
Today, Zhang is preparing for a Ph.D. in marketing and plans to do statistical analysis of behavioral data. Whenever she visits New York, she goes to galleries and auctions with Londin, and they talk.
“There are times I feel lost,” said Zhang. “Having someone validate my desires really helps me.”
The Alumni Association is actively recruiting alumni volunteers. Go online for more information about alumni-to-student volunteer opportunities, and to complete our volunteer interest form.
Davi Napoleon, ’66, MA’68, is a freelance writer based in Ann Arbor.