Although she enjoys a fulfilling career, Aliana Soto ’04 wonders if her trajectory would have been smoother if she’d had a mentor. “I met some wonderful, warm alumni who offered help and advice. But I didn’t have an actual mentoring relationship with an alum who could speak to my particular challenges of being a multicultural female from New York looking at a career in finance.”
This reflection prompts Soto, Community Relations and Education Manager for New York City and New Jersey at Bioverativ, a global biotechnology company, to be a resource and mentor for Bryant students.
“There are so many alumni that every student should be able to find a mentor who 'looks like' him or her – whether it’s background, geography, ethnicity, sex, industry,” she says. “Every woman should be able to count at least one woman among the mentors who advise and guide her throughout her career. We share a Bryant name and the core foundation and a sense of pride about that.”
It’s not just the students who benefit, says Soto. “We can learn from mentees; we can stay relevant. I found a great career in technology with a finance background. We need to put some time and energy into the next generation – guide them to be wiser, more community-minded people. We have to invest in them.”
Bryant University alumni are 45,000+ strong and span the globe. The hallmark of a Bryant education — whether an alum graduated in 1967 or 2017 — is that they received an innovative education and were head-and-shoulders above their peers in job preparation. Further enhancing their careers are relationships they build with those who graduated before them.
J. Steven Cowen ’69, owner of Cowen & Associates, a financial planning and asset management firm in San Diego, discovered how superior his education was while pursuing his MBA and MS in Financial Services degrees. “My graduate studies were, as they should be, an amplification and deeper understanding of the investment, economic, and financial fields,” he says.
Though 3,000 miles from campus, Cowen uses technology and travel to continue to cultivate his Bryant connection. His active support of the Bryant community includes mentoring students and alumni, and speaking to finance classes.
Cowen is as enriched by mentoring students and graduates as they are by the experience. “It’s not just a one-way street. The feedback I receive and the questions they ask are thought-provoking.”
Paying it forward
“I wouldn’t be where I am today without Bryant,” says Jim Brady ’81, Chief Operating Officer for Grant Thornton LLP, a world leader in independent audit, tax, and advisory services. Though he serves on nearly a dozen business, civic, and educational boards, he makes time to speak to classes on campus each semester and recruits Bryant students for his firm.
“Most of us can look back and attribute some part of our life or career success to the time invested by a mentor,” says Marissa Crean ’81, Program Lead, Finance Track, Early Career Leadership Development Program for The Hartford.
Crean looked to her professors to be her mentors. “They provided me with great advice to start my career in public accounting,” she says. “When I discovered my true passion in taxation, Professor Mike Lynch helped me secure my first job after graduation.”
The only drawback, she notes, was the specialized nature of the mentoring according to the disciplines in which the faculty were experts. “As alumni, we can share experiences, give career advice, and impart new skills,” says Crean, who stays involved with Bryant as an officer of the National Alumni Council, by attending networking events, and recruiting students and recent alumni for The Hartford.
“The time invested in mentoring students and other alumni manifests in stronger self-awareness as well as confidence and clarity on career options,” she says. “I’ve benefited by learning from students about new tools to work more efficiently. There’s no better way to thank our mentors than by paying it forward and mentoring others.”