Rutgers Business School's successful TeamUP program is recreated for graduate students.

MBA students get a mentoring program of their own

More than five years after the start of TeamUP, a mentoring program that connects undergraduate students with working professionals, Rutgers Business School creates a version for MBA students.

When Rutgers Full-Time MBA student Stephanie Gelband was selecting a professional to be her mentor in the TeamUP MBA program, it was the company after Michele Frey’s name that caught her eye.

“I was familiar with Prudential because I did a case competition the company sponsored,” Gelband said.

The women also shared an interest in marketing. Frey, who has worked at Prudential for 15 years, is vice president of marketing, and Gelband is hoping to put her analytical skills and marketing knowledge to work for a consulting firm.

During the semester, Frey helped Gelband polish her interview skills, served as a sounding board and source of advice. Frey also cheered Gelband on as she pursued a variety of opportunities.

“I feel very comfortable talking with her about different career opportunities,” Gelband said.

The two have met over lunch, but mostly they speak by phone. And they text. “Once I get to the second step (of an interview), I like to consult with Michele,” Gelband said. “She’s been a big help to me.”

Frey started forging a connection with Rutgers Business School a few years ago when she came to speak to a group of students. She has worked with interns at Prudential and mentored undergraduate students at Rutgers before TeamUP MBA was launched in the fall.

The women have a mutual respect for one another. While Gelband appreciates Frey’s experience and the insights she’s been able to share. Frey admires Gelband’s determination and focus. “She knows what she wants to do,” Frey said.

Rutgers Full-time MBA student Stephanie Gelband with her mentor Michele Frey, vice president of marketing at Prudential.
The MBA TeamUP program allowed Rutgers Full-time MBA student Stephanie Gelband to be mentored by Michele Frey, vice president of marketing at Prudential.

Frey said the relationship benefits her, too. “I can listen to their challenges and offer a vantage point that helps them, but it also enriches me,” she said. “It helps me step out of what I do every day. It expands how I look at things and, I think, that makes me more valuable.”

Rutgers Business School alumni who are interested in mentoring current undergraduates or MBA students can learn more about the TeamUP program and the necessary qualifications to participate.

Sangeeta Rao, an assistant dean who oversees Rutgers Business School’s mentoring efforts, said the success of the nearly six-year-old TeamUP undergraduate program inspired the creation of the new program for MBA students.

“I know how well the concept of a mentor pool works, the effectiveness of our structure and matching process, and the consistent successful outcomes for students, and knew that many of the components could be replicated at the MBA level,” Rao said.

When Yin “Joe” Zhou decided to pursue his Rutgers MBA and study supply chain management, he arrived with a decade of work experience in China.

He had been working as a sourcing manager for Ansell, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of personal protection – surgical gloves are one of the company’s leading products – and he thought an MBA would give him a credential for a promotion or a bigger job in supply chain management.

Zhou said supply chain offers an opportunity to deal with all sorts of people and to solve problems. “I’m passionate about supply chain. It makes me feel fulfilled when I can solve these problems,” he said.

After struggling to find the right internship last year, Zhou decided to begin his second year by connecting with a mentor through the new MBA TeamUP program.

His mentor, Jeff Koeppel, has spent a career in human resources. He sized up Zhou’s situation quickly.

“Joe is smart, focused and determined to be successful. He has 10 years of relevant experience in China, more than some or most of his classmates,” Koeppel said. “We discussed the importance of him differentiating himself, how to stand out as a job candidate and how to put together a compelling story.”

Over the course of a semester, the two have exchanged e-mails and met for face-to-face conversations three times.

Zhou said Koeppel has given him insight into the culture of American companies and advised him on how to better prepare for job interviews. “He helped me to understand how HR thinks about candidates,” Zhou said.

Rutgers Business School launched a mentoring program for MBA students earlier this semester.
Mentor Jeff Koeppel with his mentee, full-time MBA student Yin "Joe" Zhou.

During one of their conversations, Zhou and Koeppel talked about cycling. Zhou took an impressive 600-mile ride through Xinjiang, China’s largest province, and did another 20-day ride from Tibet to Nepal. Koeppel suggested that Zhou add it to his resume.

Zhou understands now that he has to market himself as well as his work experience during an interview, but the relationship he’s formed with Koeppel goes beyond job advice.

“I had not had this kind of mentoring experience before. In my mind Jeff is like a big brother,” Zhou said. “I can share a lot with him.”

Koeppel considers mentoring a natural extension of his career in human resources. “I really enjoy working with early careerists and students who demonstrate potential,” he said. “I feel like I’m working with future leaders.”

- Susan Todd 

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