Support Structure

If Cliff Taylor wasn’t such a talented real estate professional, he probably would have had a successful career in diplomatic relations.

That’s because Taylor, then a graduate student in the Hough Graduate School of Business’s Master of Science in Real Estate Program (The Nathan S. Collier Program), arranged to have breakfast with CBRE’s Ray Sandelli and Cushman & Wakefield’s Larry Richey at the Bergstrom Center’s Advisory Board Retreat in 2003.

Truth be told, the impromptu gathering did not happen by accident. Taylor knew he wanted to be in commercial brokerage, and availed himself of the resources made available through the MSRE Program. As Taylor remembers, it was a sight to see: Sandelli and Richey—both Managing Directors of their respective company’s Tampa office, and representing the nation’s two largest commercial real estate firms—sitting at the same table.

“I called Ray and asked if we could have breakfast,” Taylor recalls. “Once he said yes, I added, ‘Oh, I also have asked Larry to join us!’ Ray laughed and congratulated me on the set up. While good friends, Ray and Larry are respected competitors and both welcomed the invitation.”

That memorable meal may have never happened if not for the power of mentorship, which is a necessary and vital component of the Warrington student experience. A brief meeting, an encouraging word, or some sound advice can make an incredible impact on a student’s journey.

“That these two guys, who competed daily, were more than willing to bring their collective expertise together to help a 23-year-old kid they didn’t even know, shows the value of the program,” said Taylor (MSRE ’03), now a Senior Vice President at CBRE’s Jacksonville office. “They still laugh about that to this day.

“That program changed the course of my life. It was an incredible experience that set me on a great path.”

Taylor’s positive experience as a mentee is why he’s returning the favor as a mentor. Taylor joined the Bergstrom Advisory Board four years ago, and has been providing thoughtful guidance ever since. When he counsels students, Taylor said he channels the lessons Sandelli passed on to him.

“With Ray, it was much more than, ‘What kind of job do you want?’” Taylor said. “It was more about, ‘What do you want out of your life? Where do you want to live? I was very fortunate to find Ray. He genuinely cared about us.

“Life is more than going to work every day and collecting a paycheck. Relationships with people are more valuable. To take some time out of your life to invest in someone else’s is rewarding. I’ll always carry with me how valuable that experience was. I like to think I can make the same impact for someone else.”

Dean DiPaolo was recently reminiscing about his career and the twists and turns he navigated on the road to professional success. While the journey concluded successfully—DiPaolo is the Chief Financial Officer of HealthCare Support Staffing and HealthCare Scouts, one of the nation’s leading healthcare staffing firms—he realized his trek was more arduous because he didn’t have proper direction.

DiPaolo (BSAc ’90) then picked up the phone, and called the Fisher School. He wanted to help current students avoid some of his missteps.

“If I could go back in time, I’d provide myself with clear guidance,” DiPaolo said. “I’d like to help do that for other students.”

Mentoring has played a significant role in DiPaolo’s life. While working for Ernst & Young in the mid 1990s in Southern California, he served as a mentor for Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. Later, when DiPaolo and his family moved back to Florida, he served as President and Treasurer of Central Florida’s Big Brothers Big Sisters Chapter.

“With Big Brothers Big Sisters, it’s about being a consistent presence in their lives,” DiPaolo said. “Be there when you say you’re going to be there.

“The weird thing is I had almost as much fun as the kids did. It feels really good to give back.”

Those good feelings returned last month when DiPaolo visited campus to participate in the College’s Alumni Café, an informal luncheon speaker series for undergraduate business students.

“I didn’t know what to expect,” said DiPaolo, “but the students seemed interested. I was basically telling my story, giving some insights.”

Although the conversation touched on several themes, DiPaolo said he emphasized the power of networking and “start with the end in mind” when selecting careers.

“It’s a lot easier to work your way backwards and ask yourself, ‘Where do I want to end up?’” DiPaolo said. “‘Do you want to work for a Fortune 500 company? Do you want to be a Controller for a mid-size company?’ It’s easier to select a career path that way.”

In addition to the classic alumni-to-student mentoring, the College also has instituted successful peer-to-peer mentoring programs.

The Career and Academic Peer (CAP) Mentors program was instituted in 2009 to complement the Heavener School of Business’s academic advisors and career coaches, and the program has been a rousing success.

CAP Mentors are some of the Heavener School’s top juniors and seniors who have already completed internships, including some at Fortune 500 companies like Google, Procter & Gamble and General Electric. Their job is to advise their fellow undergraduates with tips on how to secure internships or admission to graduate and professional schools.

CAP Mentors were extremely effective as the 25 mentors conducted 2,300 appointments during the 2013-14 academic year.

Also created in 2009 was the Business Undergraduate Mentorship Program (BUMP). BUMP Mentors, approximately 40 upperclassmen, cultivate relationships with freshman, sophomore and transfer students to help them acclimate themselves to life at the Heavener School and help them reach their academic, professional and personal goals.

“This is by far my favorite organization at Warrington,” said Kelsey Loftin (BSBA ’15), BUMP’s Executive Director. “I have grown so much, and I have been able to impact so many through BUMP.”

More than 150 underclassmen sought BUMP mentorship in 2013-14, and the results were noticeable. Underclassmen that met with BUMP mentors had an average GPA of 3.53, which was higher than the average GPA of all Heavener students (3.40).

“Being a business student is about more than just taking classes,” said Loftin, “it is about fostering relationships with peers and growing as a result of each relationship.”