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DSU, M&T partner to mentor students, diversify talent

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Delaware State University has partnered with M&T Bank as part of the Executive Pipeline of Diversity (POD) Mentoring Program. | DBT PHOTO BY KATIE TABELING

DOVER – Delaware State University (DSU) and M&T Bank are diversifying the banking industry — and the professional workforce more generally — through a growing mentorship program.

The Executive Pipeline of Diversity (POD) Mentoring Program was launched by DSU’s College of Business in association with M&T in 2020, though the university is now partnered with additional institutions. 

“DSU reached out to other organizations to get them to join in as well. It’s great that other institutions are involved, the more mentors we can get for the students the better,” M&T Vice President and Regional Community Reinvestment Act Manager Randy Kunkle said.

Inspired by his involvement with University of Delaware’s Lerner Executive Mentoring Program, Kunkle saw an opportunity for the development of a similar program at DSU.

The Executive POD Mentoring Program has grown rapidly since its initial iteration of eight students, now serving approximately 40 mentees, DSU Assistant Dean for Student & Corporate Engagement Yahshikiah Hughes told the Delaware Business Times.

“We are proud of the success and development of the program over the past 18 months, as we have seen significant growth … and several of our students have been offered internships as a direct result of this being a part of the mentoring program,” Hughes said.

DSU students taking part in the program are paired with industry executives and participate in professional development workshops. 

“There was initially a guideline of topics to talk about: networking, problem resolution, delegation,” Kunkle said. 

Mentees are able to discuss these real-world skills with their mentors, as well as focus on interviewing, resume-building, and other soft skills alongside other mentees.

As the mentorship program expands, it builds on M&T’s pursuit of broader goals. 

The bank noted its dedication to working with marginalized groups in its 2021 Environmental, Social, and Governance Report. DSU is one among several historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) that the bank is partnered with, according to the report.

“The Executive Mentoring Program is a way to really bring the bank to these folks, but also use that as an avenue to create a diverse talent pipeline,” M&T Senior Vice President and Head of Multicultural Banking and Diverse Market Strategy David Femi said. 

The bank is actualizing this goal by working with HBCUs like DSU and their students both inside and outside of the classroom.

DSU is the third largest HBCU in the nation and many of its students are among the first in their families to go to college, said Femi, who is a DSU alum. Through the Executive Mentoring Program, students are provided with guidance and knowledge to which they otherwise may not have access.

Besides providing students with industry connections and opportunities for skill development, the Executive POD Mentoring Program facilitates the formation of genuine interpersonal connections. 

“Year after year, [mentors] are raising their hands and saying, ‘I want to do this again.’ This is beyond just mentoring these folks, they’re becoming friends,” Femi said.

The relationships between mentors and mentees that are facilitated by the program are mutually beneficial.

“It’s a two-way street, we’re both learning. It’s not just me imparting my wisdom from the mountaintop,” Kunkle said.

In addition to its collaborative nature, the program encourages personalization. Mentees can work with their mentors to structure their experience in a way that tackles their specific goals.

Though the program was initially designed for mentors and mentees to meet at least once a month, Kunkle and his mentee talk on a weekly basis.

DSU and M&T’s program is forging lifelong connections, all the while providing DSU’s diverse business students with the skills, experience, and confidence they need to stand out to employers and make headway in the banking industry.

DSU strives to pair every business student at the college with a mentor in the future, according to Hughes.

By Emma Reilly

DBT Intern

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