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Students help students in budding mentor programs

The Chiu School of Business and Rotman School of Management have programs in which mentors assist fellow students.

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The Globe's biweekly business-school news roundup.

In a season when giving is top of mind, mentoring is a year-round gift that benefits those who give and receive it.

At Bow Valley College's Chiu School of Business in Calgary, an already-successful peer mentoring program this month received $75,000 over five years from Bank of Nova Scotia. The Business Student Support Network matches those who are academically strong and keen to help others with those struggling in one or more courses.

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Meanwhile, at the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management, several female MBA students (all recipients of Forté fellowships as high-potential leaders) have recruited classmates, male and female, to coach interested female undergraduates across the campus about future business education options and careers in the corporate world.

Though different, the two examples share a common goal for students to make the most of their education experience while in school and even after graduation.

"What was the most memorable event of your time at school?" Chiu business school dean David Allwright asks rhetorically, adding the answer most likely is something that happened outside, not inside, the lecture hall.

The Chiu peer mentoring program began last year as a pilot project, with about two dozen tutors paid to assist about 36 students struggling in one or more courses. In one-on-one weekly sessions, the tutors work with those in need of a little extra help. The initial response, says Dr. Allwright, was "overwhelming," with tutors as enthusiastic about participating as those receiving help. "They said: 'We love this and can you do more?'"

This year, with the Scotiabank funds, he expects to double the number of student tutors.

Beyond the value of peer mentoring itself, Dr. Allwright says the tutors develop soft skills – working with others, communication and building rapport with strangers – that are in demand by employers.

The mentoring project "is one piece of a much larger pie in terms of all the other activities we are doing," he adds. "Ultimately, we are trying to enrich the student experience so students come away with more than just having learning very technical things in the classroom."

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Meanwhile, at Rotman, second-year MBA student and Forté fellow Alexandra Walker Turner (no hyphen) already holds non-business degrees from two other universities. Last year, she was tapped by Rotman to attend a conference organized by Catalyst Canada, an advocate for female leaders in business, enabling her to discuss gender and millennial issues with top bankers and other business leaders committed to gender equity at work.

The value of such door-opening entrées was not lost on Ms. Turner. "Isn't it great that the women who wind up in business school have access to all these resources?" she concluded, but also wondered how to extend the benefit to non-business students.

With support from Rotman officials this year, Ms. Turner and four other Forté fellows (Alison Hyodo, Victoria Aton, Shivani Patel and Vera Li) decided on a "legacy project" designed to link Rotman MBA students as mentors to female undergraduates across the campus who might have an interest in business as a career.

The LINKS program got under way this month, with male and female MBA students paired to talk to women undergraduates. "The idea was that a lot of us have non-traditional backgrounds," says Ms. Turner, who has degrees in political science and political economy. "We wanted to open their [undergraduate] eyes to a broader set of possibilities with regards to career options."

As at Bow Valley, the Rotman student mentors gain volunteer experience and career coaching skills and expand their personal network on campus.

After graduation in spring of 2017, Ms. Turner heads off to her new job at McKinsey and Co. But before graduating, she and her Forté fellows plan to pass the baton to a new team of MBA student mentors to extend, and likely expand, the LINKS program in 2017.

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National sponsor named for student leadership forum

Since its inception in 2009, the Canadian Association of Business Students, a non-profit organization of 30 undergraduate commerce societies, has collaborated with the accounting profession's provincial bodies.

Now, for the first time, CABS has announced that the national organization, the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada, is a title sponsor in 2017 and 2018 for CABS's annual conference for incoming and outgoing student commerce society executives.

"It [the sponsorship] legitimizes the professional development we offer students," says Zac Hogg, vice-president of corporate affairs for CABS, describing the sponsorship by CPA Canada as "an awesome partnership."

Sandy Hilton, vice-president of education for CPA Canada, says "we view this as a very important opportunity and we were excited when they came to us." CPA Canada is the title sponsor (worth an estimated $15,000 a year), but CABS continues to work with provincial CPA bodies depending on the location of the annual event.

Like past conferences, the 2017 "roundtable" in Winnipeg next March serves as a transition between outgoing and incoming commerce society leaders, a forum for career advice for those about to graduate and professional development for those preparing to run their organizations in the coming year.

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