July 23, 2024

Influencers and Outcomes: UMW Alums Reunite with Their Mentors

Each alum was reunited with the person at UMW who most influenced their career paths. Photo by Suzanne Rossi.

Each alum was reunited with the person at UMW who most influenced their career paths. Photo by Suzanne Rossi.

This place we call Mary Washington is actually a launching pad.

It’s where confidence is built, bonds are formed and careers are sparked.

It’s a setting for rich experiences, profound interactions with professors and development of meaningful mentorships.

Students who come here are grounded; from here, they soar. The exhilarating thing is that they occasionally make their way back to the nest.

UMW’s Office of University Relations recently captured four of those joyful returns, along with a recent graduate on the verge of taking flight. Each graduate returned to campus for a reunion and discussion with the person who most influenced their career paths; the 2019 graduate sat down with his current professor.

Chef Erik Bruner-Yang worked his way through Mary Washington, graduating in 2007 with a degree in business administration. The person on campus with whom he shared his hopes and dreams was Dean of Students Cedric Rucker. Bruner-Yang, who says he “found himself” at UMW, now owns five successful restaurants in the D.C. area.

Laura Mangano, a 2018 grad, returned to campus to see Rita Thompson, who had mentored her through the Rappahannock Scholars program. Laura is now a graduate nursing student at Johns Hopkins.

Matt Tovar, who graduated three weeks ago, is one of the first students to be admitted through UMW’s partnership program to George Washington University School of Medicine. Matt knew where he was going while still an undergraduate. He also knows – and made clear to his mentor, Associate Professor of Chemistry Leanna Giancarlo – what he plans to do: discover a cure for brain cancer.

Abernathy Bland, a member of the Class of 2005, is a teacher, professional artist and designer in Richmond, Va.  She said her mentor, Art Professor Carole Garmon, made clear that she had an awesome talent for art. What else could she do, Abby asked, than go out and be awesome.

Corey Taylor, a 2017 grad, is putting his computer science degree to work as a software engineer at Tech Wizards in Dahlgren. He said his mentor, Professor and Associate Provost Tim O’Donnell, helped him figure out what he wanted to do for the rest of his life.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

There are few aspects of the college experience more important than forming meaningful mentor relationships. Students need mentors to assist in navigating the complexities of university life, and the uncertainty and anticipation of what post-college life has in store.

Steven Spielberg once said that “the delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves.”

Take a look at this video to see what UMW grads, with nudging from their mentors, have created. You are among the first viewers of this video, which will be shown to incoming students and their parents at Orientation sessions starting next week.