CUW The Mentor Initiative

Concordia University Wisconsin’s newest mentoring program focuses on building productive and meaningful relationships between students and business people.

Perhaps the quickest way to communicate the value of Concordia University Wisconsin’s fledgling “The Mentor Initiative” is to share some of the student feedback from the pilot program, completed in the spring of 2021:

  • “The Mentor Initiative exceeded my expectations and more.”
  • “I believe The Mentor Initiative is truly a hidden gem at Concordia University.”
  • “This was an incredible opportunity and I wouldn’t change anything in my experience.”
  • “This has been a life-changing opportunity for me.”

What sets it apart? It starts with a commitment to building relationships between business students and successful professionals who share common interests and goals.

“A lot of the schools will offer a mentoring program where students would go and they’d do some work, or they may shadow somebody for a day, and that would be it,” said John Benson, the driving force behind the new program. “What our mentor program is, we take high-achieving business students and we have multiple interviews with them. And we get to know these students. And then we pair a specific student with a mentor whose career interests and personalities match.”

The mentors come from a growing pool of successful professionals, each with his or her own unique set of skills, experiences, and interests. Some have risen through the ranks at iconic companies; others have an entrepreneurial bent and found success at companies they’ve started from scratch. What they all have in common is a passion to help others find their own path to fulfillment.

Mentors who are involved are asked to have at least three one-hour meetings with their student during the eight-week mentoring period. That’s the basic requirement. The reality, so far, has been that mentors and their students spend much more time together. It’s truly a win-win situation for all involved.

A Passion to Give Back

One reason it works so well, Benson said, is that business people who have had some success, and are maybe on the far side of their career, often long for opportunities to share what they’ve learned—in business and in life. In fact, that’s how Benson himself got involved with starting the program.

“I was retired, but I was itchy,” he explained. “I’ve been in business all my life. I’ve owned a number of my own businesses; some have failed, some have been successful. And I wanted to do something good with my knowledge and experience.

“So I asked myself, ‘What do I have to offer?’ And one thing I know I’m good at is, I know how to put people together.”

Soon, with plenty of help and support from Dan Sem, Matt Hurtienne, Lars Lewander, Barb Tyler and others at the Batterman School of Business, The Mentor Initiative was born.

A Strong Start

The overwhelming success of the pilot program means that the program will continue, with a fresh crop of student lining up to take part this semester. There are plenty of willing mentors to go around, Benson said, but the group size is limited to 15 because the selection process is so involved.

“That also allows us to stay actively involved with both student and mentor during the mentoring process,” Benson said. “We project the ability to facilitate 6 groups during the school year, which will provide 90 students each year a mentoring opportunity.”

Is it worth it? Again, the words of some participants tell the story best.

Yannik Gruner (’23), Economics & Finance:

“I have had the pleasure to listen to phenomenal speakers at seminars and take on roles in organizations that help me grow in the young, driven man that I am slowly forming into. None of these organizations, though, have expanded my knowledge and enthused me more about the career I want to go into than The Mentor Initiative.”

Mackenzie Larson (’23), Business Scholars; Accounting:

“Throughout our meetings I was able to talk to my mentor about any issues I was having, whether that was with school, internships, career planning, etc. … It often feels like industry professionals are perfect and so put-together, [so] it was nice to hear that my mentor went through some of the same problems I have.”

Paul Seydel (’21), Business Administration/Sports Management:

“I was intimidated at first, due to [my mentor’s] stature and the amount of success he has had. But after the first couple of minutes of speaking with him, all that went away and we had an amazing discuss, both about my future goals and his career background. … As a senior with a lot of experience networking, I highly recommend this program to any students who are looking to gain more information on the field that they are studying.”

Sound Good?

If you like what you’re reading here and feel that The Mentor Initiative might be a good fit for you, please feel free to reach out to John Benson directly. He can be reached at

For more information about business programs at Concordia University Wisconsin, visit the Batterman School of Business page at

— This story is written by Mike Zimmerman, corporate communications manager for Concordia University Wisconsin. He may be reached at or 262-243-4380.

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