Student mentors advocate for future inclusive leaders | Nebraska today

As members of the first cohort of the Inclusive Business Leaders Program at the University of Nebraska’s Lincoln College of Business, sophomores Naree Philavanh and Niko Schultz participated in the program, which aims to enhance diversity and inclusion efforts on campus and to advance in the workplace. Now, as a new cohort begins their Nebraska experience, the two serve as mentors to guide the next group of students through shared experiences and peer-to-peer support.

“Naree and Niko have played an influential role in the design of IBL program,” said Kasey Linde, associate director of the Teaching and Learning Center and program coordinator for Inclusive Business Leaders, who helps deliver the program. “They attended a strategic planning workshop to redesign the curriculum for the second cohort, and the suggestions they made enhanced the experience for our current cohort.”

The cohort-based program prepares first-year business students to perform in today’s diverse work environment IBL Course where they learn about diversity, equity and inclusion through theory, group projects and discussions. The program also offers formal mentoring and hands-on learning opportunities that foster a sense of community among students. In it, Philavanh found a space to express herself in a welcoming environment that made her feel important.

“This program gives me a place to be myself without judgment and accepts my input on how I can improve the program going forward IBL Students. Our IBL-specific course prepared me to become a business student by creating a safe space in the College of Business where my voice is heard and a community that celebrates and supports one another,” said Philavanh, a management and marketing major from Lincoln, Neb.

For Schultz, a marketing student from Joliet, Illinois, the peer mentoring component of the program provided an opportunity for success when he was struggling with a course.

“I had no hope of passing a class and one of my mentors, Ann Vu, put me in touch with another mentee who was in the same class as me,” he said. “We came up with this amazing learning strategy and they both passed the course with A’s. After that experience, I knew I wanted to help other mentees with their first-year experience.”

Both Philavanh and Schultz thrived on the program and became increasingly involved on campus to make a difference in their communities. Their efforts drew attention as both were honored at the earlier this year IBL spring banquet. Philavanh deserves the IBL Change Agent Award, recognizing her commitment to improving inclusion on campus, and Schultz, the IBL Community Builder Award for doing everything possible to create others IBL Members feel welcome, valued and respected.

“Naree has a deep desire to inspire and develop others to be the best version of themselves and spends her time where she can make the most difference. Niko’s selflessness and genuine caring for others helps everyone feel included and valued in the program,” Linde said. “Both fully embraced everything the college and Nebraska had to offer in just one short year.”

Philavanh and Schultz went from mentees to mentors. Your positive experience as IBL Scholars urged them to pay it with the next cohort up front.

“I want to help prospective first graders navigate college life and be there to see their growth throughout the program,” said Philavanh. “As an only child, I never had anyone to guide me or point me in the right direction, but knowing what I know now, I strive to be a helpful resource and support system for my mentees and their friends.”

Mentors serve as a peer-to-peer connection and resource for freshmen as they integrate on campus. Currently in her freshman semester in Nebraska, Lincoln Marketing Major Bree Bell benefits from the experience the mentors bring to the program.

“Naree showed me what my future in Nebraska could be like,” Bell said. “She always encourages me to try new things and to get out of my comfort zone. Seeing her involved in so many different organizations and activities on campus helped me realize that this is what I want for myself.”

In addition to serving as a resource on campus, mentors are familiar faces to students like Stacey Nguyen who grew up in a non-racially diverse community.

“Growing up, I felt uncomfortable going to school because I was one of the few minorities,” she said. “Come into the IBL program, I had the same feelings when we talked about diversity, but later found that what we learn in class was important and began to feel more comfortable opening up. Niko spoke about having no background in diversity theory and best practices, but having fun IBL because it was so immersive and made me feel like I was part of the program.”

Philavanh and Schultz look forward to sharing experiences from their cohort and supporting freshmen and beyond IBL Program.

“As a senior IBL There were experiences in the program that I liked and that I didn’t like,” said Schultz. “I try to be as interactive as possible in class and with the mentees to show that I care about them . I hope to influence all my mentees to be the best version of themselves and to strive to be successful.”

Students apply to be part of the IBL program when they apply for admission to the university. To be considered for the Fall 2023 cohort, apply by the program’s priority date of February 1. Deadline is March 1st. Learn more about IBL and its application requirements.

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