How a mentorship program guides student to success

October 23, 2023

In its third year, the Wolverine Mentor Collective has supported more than 2,200 Dearborn Wolverines. College of Business senior Archie Lytle shares how the WMC’s professional networking edition helped him choose an internship.

Senior Archie Lytle stands outside of Mercedes Benz Financial Services Building
Senior Archie Lytle stands outside of the Mercedes-Benz Financial Services headquarters in Farmington Hills.

College of Business senior Archie Lytle says he always knew that he had an interest in finance — he started watching YouTube videos by personal finance radio personality and author Dave Ramsey in grade school. He also knew UM-Dearborn was the right school for him. His dad is an engineering alum and Lytle attended events on campus starting in middle school.

But what the College of Business senior didn’t know was which experiences would be best for his professional path. That’s where the Wolverine Mentor Collective — and specifically, its professional mentoring program — comes in. The WMC, managed by Experience+, is a yearlong program that helps students get familiar with available resources to advance their individual goals at the university and beyond.

“My time with the Wolverine Mentor Collective gave me insight on what I want after graduation,” says Lytle, who signed up for the professional mentoring program last academic year, the first year offered. “In finance and accounting, there are a lot of directions you can go professionally. The Wolverine Mentor Collective connected me to someone who’s successful in their career and who really listened and answered questions I had.”

In addition to the WMC’s career-focused professional network, which connects juniors and seniors with a UM-Dearborn alum, there are peer mentor programs for new undergraduate and graduate students. Since its beginning in 2021, Experience+ Project Manager for Experiential Learning Kelsey Parker says the WMC has supported more than 2,200 Dearborn Wolverines.

Parker says the popular program provides a go-to person for students who have questions about anything and everything — like where they can get a good cup of coffee or who they can reach out to when they’re experiencing a hardship. Interested students can register to join the WMC.

Kelsey Parker
Experience+ Project Manager for Experiential Learning Kelsey Parker

Comparing data from this year to last year, Parker says the WMC is outpacing itself in terms of the number of matches in both the undergraduate peer mentoring and professional networking programs — and it’s only October. For example, 262 students have signed up so far this year. That’s 91% of last year’s total of 288 students.

Parker says WMC’s focus on fostering connections and community is especially important at UM-Dearborn, a commuter campus where nearly half of the student population is the first in their families to attend college. “We all have questions when starting out or exploring something new. Students might not have a parent who can help them navigate college, but their mentor can,” she says. “Or they might not know where to apply for a work-study or internship. Their mentor can help with that too.” She notes that peer mentors receive training and are supported by UM-Dearborn staff.

Lytle says he wanted to discuss internships  with a professional mentor. Last year, he was paired with UM-Dearborn College of Business alum Dawn Roult, a controller in UM-Dearborn’s financial services office. Lytle asked Roult about her career path and what experiences would be most beneficial for his future.

“We all want to make money, but professional satisfaction is more than that. It’s who you want to help, the environment you want to work in, and what you want to achieve,” Lytle says. “Dawn and I also discussed how gaining experiences in project management, in addition to finance and accounting, could help me better understand how a company works as a whole. And it would help my resume stand out.”

Roult’s advice encouraged Lytle to take an internship last summer at Mercedes-Benz Financial Services, working on enterprise portfolio management. It was one of seven different internship offers Lytle had to choose from. This fall, in addition to taking a full load of classes, Lytle is working in a co-op position in Pet Supplies Plus’ treasury department.

“Dawn never told me what to do, but she asked questions in a way that helped me figure out which opportunities could offer the most growth for the skills I want to better develop,” he says.

Photo of UM-Dearborn Controller Dawn Roult
Controller Dawn Roult, CPA

Roult says students like Lytle inspire her. And she knows the importance of mentors in career development because she had one when she was a UM-Dearborn student.

“I did an internship with a local certified public accountant named Jean Stenger, whose clients were small business owners. I knew I was good with numbers, but I was looking for purpose and how I could make a difference. Jean helped me see the ‘people side’ of what accountants do,” Roult says.

Roult says Stenger explained that accountants support people in achieving dreams; it’s more than numbers. “She helped me see how the work accountants do keeps everything moving so that people can reach their goals. That relationship had a big impact on me. It shaped what my life looks like today,” says Roult, who’s mentored eight students since the professional program began last fall. “I want to pay it forward to someone else.”

Parker says the WMC’s professional networking edition is seeking UM-Dearborn alums in all fields to mentor students for the academic year. Interested? Sign up.

Parker says WMC supports students in navigating new experiences with the goal of having a lasting impact. “The hope is that these connections will develop into something — a professional in your network, a person you can meet on campus for lunch, a great friend  —  that continues far beyond the academic year,” she says.

Although Lytle has completed the program, he knows he can always reach out to Roult. While he’s currently focusing on his 2024 graduation, he says he, too, wants to pay it forward and is considering a mentor role in the future. 

Article by Sarah Tuxbury.