Students in the College of Business and Behavioral Science (CBBS) have a lot of friends thanks to a unique mentoring program. Tiger Ties pairs students with successful alumni who share the same interests and goals, giving the students a headstart on creating real-world connections that extend beyond the borders of the University.
According to program director, Meredith McTigue, these mentoring relationships are based on a set of specific learning objectives identified by the mentee before the participants even meet one another.
The mentees then have the opportunity to meet and interact with their mentors face-to-face at receptions. “There’s only so much communication you can do on e-mail,” says McTigue. “The students meet their mentors, and we also give them a list of three to six people who they may be interested in meeting based on their major or a common interest. We want the students to make the most out of their mentor relationships, but they’re not limited to interacting with that one person.”
James “Mo” Sparks, a sophomore in financial management, has been paired with Jeremy Wright, an alumnus and vice president for Wachovia bank. Wright is also on the CBBS alumni board and leads the mentoring program from the alumni perspective.
“Jeremy has definitely helped with the networking,” says Sparks. “But more than that, he’s someone I can talk to about course work and professors — even someone I can accompany in different group settings to interact with others who might lead me further down the road.”
Sparks and Wright also share a common interest: basketball. Wright says, “When I met Mo at the first reception, he mentioned he likes ACC basketball. I asked him if he’d be interested in helping to coach my son’s team, and he said he’d love to. We’re unique in that we see each other as often as two to three times a week. I think it’s good to work on something that’s a passion of his and use that as a way to get to know one another.”
Sparks adds, “A lot of my friends are jealous. They think this opportunity I’ve created with Jeremy is very special. It’s definitely a good opportunity to network and meet somebody who has been at Clemson — somebody who’s part of the family and willing to give back.”
When asked if it’s hard finding alumni who are willing to mentor, McTigue says, “There are lots of alumni who jump at the chance. I can tell you something about the Clemson Family — they’re so willing to come back, be a part of Clemson and help the students.” At first, McTigue handled the requests for mentors on a case-by-case basis, but she quickly saw the positive impact the program was having for both the students and the mentors and found sophisticated software that was developed specifically for the Tiger Ties program.
The CBBS alumni are great mentors, but their involvement in the Tiger Ties program doesn’t stop there. Alumni attend key city receptions all along the East Coast, giving students an opportunity to make contacts near and far. These receptions have been held multiple times in cities like New York and Washington, D.C., with ever-increasing attendance rates.
Alumni even step back into the classroom. Panels of graduates were created to give students exposure to successful professionals who share similar beginnings. Throughout the school year, the alumni speak to the Business 101 classes and student organizations. The first event resulted in visits to more than 30 classes and presentations to an audience of more than 600 students.
The Tiger Ties program provides a way for alumni to reconnect with their alma mater. What started with 25 pairs in September of 2009 has grown into a thriving opportunity for students to build their contact base while getting a glimpse of their future and realizing the potential their CBBS degree holds for them.
And it works both ways. When asked why he gives so much of his time back to Clemson, Wright says, “It’s very important to me that we cultivate the next leaders. The more Mos we have graduating from Clemson, the more valuable my degree is.”