As she approached graduation, FIU Business student Benjamine Etienne realized she didn’t know a lot of people in her chosen field of wealth management. She joined the college’s mentor program, she said, because “I thought this would be a good place to start building connections.”
At the October 12, 2017 breakfast kickoff for the 2017-18 program, she met—and impressed—her new mentor, Miguel Horvath.
“She seems very smart and motivated,” said Horvath, (BBA ’00 MSF ’15), a private wealth advisor at Horvath Wealth Management. He’s an expert mentor, having participated in the FIU Business Mentor Program since its inception.
Etienne, who will receive her undergraduate degree in December, is excited too. As she prepares to look for a job in wealth management, Horvath will critique her resume, hone her interview skills, and let her experience the day-to-day at his financial services company.
“He’s really dedicated to helping me with whatever I need,” she said.
The Mentor Program is one of the FIU Business’ signature programs. It started about 10 years ago under former Dean Joyce Elam, and then was on hiatus from 2012 until 2014, when it was revived by Yanyn San Luis, director of alumni relations. In four years, it has gone from 25 mentoring pairs to 250 this year – 1,000 percent growth.
“The mentor program is the cornerstone of student development and alumni engagement at FIU Business,” San Luis said. “We’ve grown consistently over the last four years, and look forward to providing students with a way to gain industry knowledge outside of the classroom.”
The secret of its success lies in the commitment of mentors like Horvath. “When I was a junior at FIU, I wanted to work in finance, but I had no idea what that entailed or who I could talk to for help,” he said. “I greatly valued the mentor I had, who helped me align my passion with my career. I hope I’m able to give back to my mentees the same way.”
A hallmark of the nine-month program is that mentoring pairs are encouraged to continue communication after the formal program is done. “I got a call from a mentee about six months after the program ended,” Horvath said. “He was able to land a great position, and thanked me for the guidance and support. Knowing I’m making a difference is the greatest reward.”
At the kickoff breakfast, Dean Joanne Li shared her own experience. “I have two cups on my desk that, as an undergrad, my mentor gave me. They remind me what an impact a mentor can make. Gradually, intentionally, not through words but through actions, mentors want to help someone have a very special life.”
A new fundraising campaign was introduced at the kickoff: The Power of One, named for the impact one person can have on others’ lives. It aims to make the burgeoning program self-sustaining over the next two years. Seed money for the endowment comes from The Graham Companies, where Andre Teixeira (MAcc ’93, BAcc ’92), former Dean’s Council member, is chief financial officer.
“FIU Business has a lot of buy-in from this community,” said Giovanna Gutierrez, Office of Advancement coordinator, “because, like Teixeira, students tend to stay here – few businesses in South Florida don’t have FIU alumni working there.”
But mentors don’t have to be FIU alumni or even live in South Florida; some have joined the program through business or family connections, and mentor remotely.
The program, which requires mentees to have a 2.5 GPA, has over a 90 percent completion rate. “Statistics prove students who are mentored have higher graduation rates,” Gutierrez said. “We match mentoring pairs based on study, career, and outside interests too, so it’s a well-rounded experience.”
Etienne, a Haiti native and youngest of seven siblings, said she’d love to build a career here, close to her family in Miami Gardens. Once she’s gotten professional experience, she hopes to pursue her masters degree – and stay in touch with Horvath. “That connection you build with your mentor, it can last a lifetime,” she said.
“Mentees often ask, how can I show my gratitude?” Li said. “Here’s how: I want you to go on to succeed, and then pay it forward. That’s how mentees evolve into mentors. If we’re united in caring about each other, we will build a great community.”