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Trail Guides Mentor Program

Through the Success Center in the College of Business,  we are providing resources for our students to become “Business World Ready” as they launch their careers.  One of those resources is the Trail Guides Mentor Program available to Senior Seminar students. 

The mentors who make up the Trail Guides program are experienced professionals who are willing to share their knowledge with upper level students to help develop life skills for success. The mentor acts as a coach and role model to support a student with his/her personal and professional growth. The program provides a great opportunity for professionals to counsel and influence the next generation of business leaders. Being a mentor provides personal satisfaction as well as the ability to increase the workforce readiness of future recruits.

The objectives of the mentor/mentee relationship are to help students:

  • Bring career goals into focus
  • Become ready for the workforce
  • Increase business connections  and network strategically
  • Enhance professional development
  • Open doors of opportunity for future internships, jobs  and career success

Trail Guides for Fall 2014

Charles M. Stafford
Chattem, Inc. (Retired) - VP Sales

Career History

2012 - Current - Business Consultant

1983-2012 Chattem, Inc. – manufacture and marketer of leading health care brands- Vice President, Sales, Company Officer

1980-1983 Schering Plough – global health care company - Sales Manager

1976-1980  Johnson & Johnson – global health care company -  Sales Manager

Work Philosophy:
Great results are a function of a team of people working together to achieve a common goal.  It is critical that individuals and teams completely understand the organization’s agreed upon objectives, are given the tools, direction and support to achieve the objectives and are rewarded for their performance.  Open and honest communication throughout an organization and its people is necessary to create an environment for success.  The most critical element for a productive work place is to establish a culture that incorporates the following components: respect for the individual, fairness towards all associates, friendly environment, character and integrity among all individuals, teamwork, energy, acceptance by the leaders that it is okay to fail, and successful companies play to win.

Advice to students:
Recognize and understand your strengths and aptitudes and then direct your career path to those things that you enjoy doing, areas where you excel and, if possible, those things in which you are passionate about.  Don’t be driven by financial rewards, be driven by discovering those things that give you the greatest satisfaction and then totally commit yourself to enthusiastically pursue your goals in life.

Type of student I hope to mentor:
Students who are genuinely enthusiastic and serious about what they do.  Students who are open to suggestions and advice and bring to each day an open mind to learn and try new things.  Students who understand the meaning of follow-up on their commitments.


Duffy Franck
Northwest Georgia Bank - Business Development Officer

Duffy joined Northwest Georgia Bank in June 2003 as a business development officer.

He began his banking career at Hamilton National Bank and later at First Tennessee where he served in several capacities in lending and management, lastly as president. In 1989, he joined Osborne Enterprises, a real estate owner and development firm, as a president and CEO. When the company sold, he was involved in a local mortgage company until joining Northwest.

Franck earned his bachelor’s degree in marketing from the University of Georgia and graduated from the Stonier Graduate School of Banking. Upon graduation from college, he was commissioned a second lieutenant in the army and served on active duty and in the reserves for 7 years.  

Franck has served on the boards of the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce, United Way, Downtown Chattanooga Rotary Club, The Osborne Foundation, Chattanooga Golf & Country Club and T.C. Thompson Children’s Hospital, where he served as a chairman.

Franck has three grown children and is married to the former Judy Boehm. They are members of St. Peter and Paul Catholic Church.

Philosophy on Work:
“No matter what job you have do your best everyday”

Advice for Pending Graduates:
“Do a lot of research on the areas/careers you have an interest in. Know what companies are hiring and if you were to work there, what will you be doing there  20 years from now?”

Type of Student Sought:
Any student interested in a career in accounting, finance, banking, or real estate.


James H. McKissic
Office of Multicultural Affairs: City of Chattanooga - Director

James McKissic is the Director of the City of Chattanooga Office of Multicultural Affairs. His role for the City includes linking diverse businesses to City of Chattanooga contracting opportunities, tracking the City’s supplier diversity and working to promote goodwill among the employees and citizenry of Chattanooga.

He is a native of Cleveland, TN and has worked in the nonprofit and public sectors for more than 20 years. James holds a Bachelor of Science in secondary education from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, a Master of Public Administration from the Robert F. Wagner School at New York University and an executive certificate from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

James is passionate about empowering communities and changing lives. He is also a committed arts advocate, community volunteer and artist, serving on the boards of the Arts Build, the City of Chattanooga Public Art Committee, the Hunter Museum’s Acquisitions Committee, La Paz, SPLASH Art Camp and the Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga. James is also one of the founders of Jazzanooga, Chattanooga’s April festival of jazz, and the Hunter Museum’s Friends of African American Art affinity group.

Philosophy of work:
I do not weep at the world; I am too busy sharpening my oyster knife. - Zora Neale Hurston

Advice for pending graduates:
Do everything. Spend more time saying yes than no. Volunteer. Give back.

Type of student sought:
Any student who prefers action to waiting for life to hand you want you want.


Sandy Maddox
Bellwether Investments - Managing Partner & Portfolio Manager

After serving in the retail industry for thirteen years until the age of thirty, I applied and interviewed for a Financial Consultant position at Merrill Lynch.  After four years in that position, AmSouth Investment Services, Inc.(now Regions) offered me a similar position to provide investment products to clients in four branches in the Hixson Area.  Continuing to want more independence and job security, I researched several independent broker-dealers and found Investment Management & Research, Inc.(IM&R) which was a division of and now known as Raymond James Financial Services, Inc.  So, after three years at AmSouth, I joined this firm in 1998.  As an independent Registered Representative and Branch Manager, this opportunity was very similar to owning a franchise of a company as the operation of that office was governed entirely by Raymond James while I was responsible for all office overheard.  As my practice migrated to a fee-based practice over the next 10 years, several of the advisors and I researched a new Independent Advisor Division that Raymond James introduced to serve fully independent and Registered Investment Advisors.  Making the move to being a Registered Investment Advisor (RIA) involved forming Bellwether Investment Group, LLC and registering with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).  This required the completion of our Form ADV I and II.  With this move, we are entirely fee-based in our approach to investment advice and do not earn commissions.   Our clients know that when we are making an investment decision whether a purchase or a sale, we are not conflicted in our decision because we do not receive any compensation in either case.   I currently serve as Managing Partner and Portfolio Manager for my clients.  Bellwether has five partners and manages around $100 million. 

EDUCATION: University of TN-Chattanooga, BA;  University of TN-Chattanooga, MBA, 1996 

WORK PHILOSOPHY:  Plan, Prepare, Pursue, and Persevere!

BEST ADVICE FOR PENDING GRADUATE: The best way to avoid a pink slip and grow true wealth is to be self-employed.  

TYPE OF STUDENT TO MENTOR: One with an entrepreneurial desire, self-motivation, and the willingness to work smarter.


Mike Kaiser
EPB - Assistant Vice President, Finance and Corporate Controller

Mike Kaiser serves as the Assistant Vice President, Finance and Corporate Controller at EPB.  However, his journey to the present was pivotal in shaping his professional life.  Kaiser grew up in a very rural setting with little exposure to professionals so he was what one might term “raw” when he entered Tennessee Tech to begin his college career.  During his six years at Tech, Kaiser worked full time to put himself thru school, met his wife and started his family.  Various professors mentored Kaiser and worked with him to begin the process of molding him into a young professional. This process continued into his first job at Andersen and later at Ernst & Young where Kaiser spent a combined nine years as an auditor.  After two years at a local manufacturer, Kaiser joined EPB with the task of turning the accounting department into the best team in Chattanooga.  It has been a slow, at times frustrating, but very rewarding experience.  After seven years Kaiser accomplished what he had set out to do and changed focus from building to coaching and mentoring the team which he has been doing for the past two years.  During Kaiser’s time at EPB, he also taught as an adjunct at UTC in order to give back to the professors who invested in me so many years before.  Although Kaiser no longer teaches at UTC, he has continued professional relationships with some of his students who are now working professionals.   Kaiser believes no one becomes successful entirely on their own merit; somewhere along the way someone invested in them, and  he believes the best way to show gratitude is to invest in others.

Kaiser states, “I have a proven track record of building highly motivated and functional teams by following some simple rules.  First, treat everyone with respect that they deserve as a human being.  Second, recognize every job is important or it should not exist.  Third, care about your people and remember if you put them first and invest in them, they will do far more for you and your employer than you could ask.  Fourth, remember as a manager your job is to enable your people to do what they do best every day.  Put them in situations where they can have success and thrive.  Fifth, I have high expectations and will hold my people accountable.  Finally, show appreciation for their efforts.”

Hobbies: “I have two rather unique hobbies.  My entire family likes to ride roller coasters and we have been to over 100 amusement parks and ridden well over 400 different roller coasters.  Now that all of my children are grown, we do not get the opportunity to enjoy this hobby together as often, but we usually try to go somewhere together once a year if schedules coordinate.  My other hobby is training for triathlons.  I am fairly new to this sport as this is my second year.  I find it challenging due to the discipline it takes to train consistently.”

Student Mentee Match: “I have no desire to work with students who are interested in doing the minimum to get a grade because I intend to invest in the students I am working with to give each of them what they need.  Anything less would be a waste of my time and their time.  Therefore, I would say I am looking to partner with an accounting or finance student who is highly motivated and engaged.  I do not work well with people who simply “go thru the motions” or do the minimum, and they usually do not enjoy working with me either.  If you are looking to create a strong relationship and get the most out of this program, then we should definitely talk!”

Dr. Inés Palacios
PlayCore - Director of Recreation: Programs, Partnerships & Professional Development

Originally from Buenos Aires, Argentina, I came to the States 14 years ago to further my education. During that time, I obtained a Bachelor’s Degree, a Master’s Degree, and a PhD in Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management from NC State University. My interests are multiple but mostly focus on special populations (e.g., Latinos, older individuals). As a professor at NC State University, I taught multiple classes at the freshman, sophomore, and senior levels. I have a passion for working with students and I am honored to coach them throughout their educational and personal development. There is nothing more rewarding than helping someone reach their full potential and seeing them succeed!

In August 2013 I joined the PlayCore team. My position as Director of Recreation allows me to promote the value of recreation for people of all ages and abilities. In addition, I provide continuing education opportunities, training, professional development and research that support recreation and play while generating partnerships and alliances within the industry. My job allows me to connect with communities and make a difference for the people that live in them.

My work philosophy – I believe everyone has the potential to be great in life. To succeed you must have passion, positive attitude, strong work ethics and a good support group. Put your mind on what you want to achieve, focus and hard work will pay off.

Advice – remember you will work with people regardless of industry or field. Treat everyone with high respect even if they are not reciprocal. At the end of the day, you will be better off than they will. Make friends around the whole organization, not just in the area where you work. You never know where the contact or support will come from when you most need it. 

Type of student preferred - I would prefer to work with someone that is not completely clear on what they want. This will give us the chance to explore different opportunities and options throughout the semester. I would venture to say I would like to work with students that may be a bit of a smarty-pants. They may say they know what they want but they have not yet figure it out completely; however, they won’t admit it. Someone that understands sarcasm and has a good sense of humor is a must! Life is too unfair sometimes as to have to look at it with a bad attitude all the time.

Chris Ramsey
BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee - Director, Policy & Regulations

Mr. Ramseyhas over 23 years of experience in the healthcare industry.  In his current role as Director of Policy and Regulations, he leads efforts of BlueCross to track, analyze and distribute regulatory provisions related to the federal health care reform law passed in 2010.  Chris received his Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from Austin Peay State University in 1988 and his Master’s Degree in Business Administration from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in 1990.

In 1991 he began his professional career at BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee (BCBST) as a supervisor in the State Claim Division.  In 1994, he worked as a claim manager in TennCare Administration where he had oversight of eight claim divisions and was responsible for implementing the first BlueCare Region in 1996.  From 1998 – 2002, he served as a Senior Manager of Ancillary contracting overseeing the commercial dental network, dental subcontractor,  health department, non-emergency transportation and Community Service Agencies agreements for commercial and TennCare  lines of business.   From 2002 – 2012, he served as Director of Vendor and Pharmacy Contracting where he was involved with the implementation of the Part D program.  Prior to his current position, Chris served as BlueCross’ Director of Office of Health Care Reform. 

Chris presently serves on the board of directors for Boys and Girls Club on Chattanooga where he served as board chairman in 2000 and City of Chattanooga Industrial Developmental Board (IDB).  He serves as the Co-Chair for the Annual Hamilton County Minority Health Fair and the Annual Boys Leadership Summit.  He is a member the Downtown Kiwanis Club and a 1998 graduate of Leadership Chattanooga. In 2013, he was awarded the Visionary Award for East Tennessee Region by the Tennessee Public Health Association (TPHA). 

He lives by the philosophy, “To whom much is given, much is required!”  Mentoring is an active partnership; a shared investment of time, energy and effort to foster the mentee’s professional growth and development.  Both mentor and mentee must be invested in the relationship.  As a result, we will both benefit.

I would like to mentor someone who is majoring in management or marketing, self-motivated and not sure of a particular industry to pursue a job.  My advice for pending graduates is “It’s not what you know, but who you know and who knows you.” 

Shay Mahone
PlayCore - Director of Sourcing

Work History:

  • Nov 2012 – Current: PlayCore (Chattanooga, TN), Director of Sourcing
  • July 2011 – Oct 2012: Mueller Water Products (Chattanooga, TN), Purchasing Manager
  • Sep 2006 – Jul 2011: CookTek Induction Systems (Chicago, IL), Plant Manager
  • Sep 2005 – Aug 2006: Sanford, a division of Rubbermaid (Chicago, IL), Global Sourcing Manager
  • Jan 2005 – Aug 2005: planned time off.  I highly recommend it!
  • May 1999 – Dec 2004: Honeywell (Seattle, WA), various supply chain management positions including Purchasing Manager and Focus Factory Manager.


  • MBA from The University of Tennessee Knoxville – Operations Management / Logistics & Transportation
  • BBA from Belmont University – Management
  • APICS – CPIM Certified in 2008.  Current certification through 2018.  Experienced classroom instructor.

Work Philosophy (what has worked for me):

  • Continue your education.  Find the discipline for which you have the most interest and pursue a Masters after working for a few years.  A Masters will be equivalent to an undergraduate degree in 10 years.  Choose a professional organization in your discipline and seek certification, attend conferences and get connected. 
  • Seek out professional mentors.  Network, network, network.
  • Ask for feedback.  Don’t wait for it.  So many managers are non-confrontational to the point that you may never get any if you don’t ask.
  • Discuss your career objectives with your boss, boss’ boss, peers and mentors.  These people cannot read your mind.  If they respect your work and know your intent / desires, they will help clear a path for you. 
  • We work because we have to.  If we were independently wealthy, we would quit and pursue our passions.  That said, it is critical to be happy at work.  If there is nothing about your occupation that gets you excited, change your occupation.  Only once have I had a job for which I did not want to get out of bed in the morning.  Just once.  And I made it my mission to find something else quickly.  Life is too short and money is not everything.  You will be shocked how negatively a displeasing job can influence your attitude and relationships outside of work. 

Best Advice for Pending Graduates:

NEVER burn a professional bridge.  Treat all professional contacts as if you will one day be working for them or become a supplier to them.  You will be shocked how many professional contacts you encounter again 5, 10, 15 years in the future.  This principle is the foundation for your professional reputation.  This principle includes:

    • Communicate with co-workers, bosses, suppliers, customers, etc with the utmost of professional courtesy.   Don’t get caught up in office gossip.
    • Speak your professional opinion but be non-judgmental and tactful about it.  Do not be overly emotional or exaggerated.  If you feel the need to increase your volume, then you have the wrong message or are stating it poorly.  If you are articulate, polite and make a logical argument, your message will be heard. 
    • Quitting a job?  Give as much notice as you can.  I’ve never given less than 5 weeks’ notice.  Twice I gave a 4 month notice.  If a new employer genuinely wants to hire you and you possess superior and/or unique skillsets, they will respect your request to provide a month’s notice to the company you are leaving.  Trust me, it will pay professional dividends.  

Ideal Mentee: At heart, I'm all about operations and supply chain management. I would like to work with students who are interested in this kind of work. But more importantly, “Generation Y” has earned a reputation as being “entitled”.  Is it true?  I don’t know.  Every generation seems to have a stereotype of some sort.  But I seek mentees who want to break free from their generation’s stereotype!! Also, I frequently travel domestically and internationally in my job, so I need to work with students willing to meet virtually.

Denise Cobb
FSG Bank - Chief of Operations & Technology

Began my career with FSGBank 9 years ago in February 2005.  I currently serve as Executive Vice President, Chief Operations & Technology Officer.  I’m responsible for developing the enterprise-wide operations & technology strategy that supports all business lines in the successful delivery of all products and services to our customer base. Other positions held with FSG include: Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer; Executive Vice President and Chief Risk Officer; Vice President, Director of Internal Audit; Vice President, Project Manager; and Vice President, Corporate Controller/Principal Accounting Officer.

Prior to joining FSG, primarily worked with global public accounting firms (KPMG, Andersen, Ernst & Young) in their audit and assurance practice in a variety of industries including financial services, manufacturing, health-care and non-profit.  Earned a Bachelor of Science in Accounting from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and a Masters of Accountancy from the University of Tennessee.  I’ve held an active CPA license in TN for 15 years.  

Work Philosophy:

Major in the majors, minor in the minors.

Advice for Pending Graduates:

Always do and go about things in the “right way.” Sometimes decisions we make lead us to the same end result, however, it’s the journey that defines who we are as people and professionals.  Trust your instincts and stay true to yourself and most importantly – don’t ever apologize for that. 

Mentee Criteria:

Accounting/Finance or management student.  Values hard work, wants to make a difference, leadership capabilities.  

Shannon York
Chattanooga Times Free Press - Creative Services Director

Shannon is an advertising and marketing specialist serving the Chattanooga Times Free Press as the Creative Service Director. As Creative Services Director Shannon oversees design direction, production, and implementation for brand, advertising, and marketing, including digital, print and mixed media campaigns, serving traditional newspaper and non-traditional newspaper clients for the Chattanooga Times Free Press and other nonprofit organizations in the Chattanooga area. Shannon began his career as a newspaper production artist in 2003 and has since excelled through all aspects of media design and strategy making him a perfect fit for the ever changing newspaper market and the high paced innovation of the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Shannon has organized many creative advertising competitions including the American Advertising Federation of Chattanooga's ADDY Awards. Although Shannon's career has been primarily in the newspaper industry he has directed creative in virtually every advertising media including but not limited to print, digital, outdoor, radio, broadcast, magazine, packaging, direct mail, website, social, alternative media, etc. in collaboration with cooperate clients and other agencies.

In his free time Shannon has been very active in the community serving on many local boards and committees and recently served as President of the American Advertising Federation of Chattanooga overseeing the activities of the 100+ member chapter including membership, government relations, budgeting, scholarships, monthly programs, and event planning for ADDY® Awards, Media Auction, Silver Medal Awards, and other networking, fundraising and community events.

In his personal time Shannon enjoys active, outdoor activities and credits most of his success to his loving, supportive and very patient wife, Jaclyn.

Community Involvement:

  • American Advertising Federation (AAF) of Chattanooga Board,
  • President - American Advertising Federation of Chattanooga,
  • AAF District 7 Board of Directors,
  • AAF ADDY Awards Chair,
  • Holmberg Steering Committee,
  • Imagine Chattanooga 2020,
  • Jordan Thomas Foundation Board,
  • Chattanooga State Advisory Board,
  • ITT Tech Advisory Board,
  • Jefferson Awards Board & Judge,
  • Tennessee Press Association Design Judge,
  • Mid-Atlantic Regional Design Competition, Judging Coordinator

Advice for pending graduates: “Don’t expect the perfect job or opportunity to fall right in front of you … expect to have to fight for it … train hard for the fight.”

Type of student: “One that is personally driven … willing to sacrifice some personal time to get noticed.”


Christopher Hopkins, CFA
Barnett & Company, Inc. - Vice President

Christopher A. Hopkins, CFAis Vice President, Investments for Barnett & Company. He is a native of Whittier, California and has lived in Chattanooga since 1988. Mr. Hopkins received Bachelor’s degrees in Physics and Economics from California State University at Fullerton, and earned his MBA from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. 

He began his career in finance at Merrill Lynch, following twenty years in manufacturing management. He joined Barnett & Company in 2004.

Mr. Hopkins holds the Chartered Financial Analyst professional designation and is a past president of the CFA Society of Chattanooga. He is an adjunct professor of Finance at UTC, and serves on the Finance Advisory Board of the College of Business Administration. He writes a weekly column for the Chattanooga Times Free Press on finance and economics, and appears weekly on WDEF’s News 12 This Morning program. 

He is a member of the CFA Societies of East Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina, as well as the National Association for Business Economics and the American Economic Association.  

Career Path:

1978-1988            General Manager, Plant Superintendent, Gannon Manufacturing Company, Inc.

1988-1998            General Partner, Hopkins Manufacturing & Engineering

1999-2001            Financial Advisor, Merrill Lynch Pierce Fenner & Smith

2001-2004            Portfolio Manager, GR Rush & Company

2004-Present     VP, Portfolio Manager, Barnett & Company Inc.

Work Philosophy:

I knew I had chosen the right path when I realized that the workday doesn’t feel like work, and my leisure time was frequently devoted to work-related pursuits to improve my skills and knowledge. Above all, integrity is the most valuable quality at work as in life; always do what is right regardless of the potential consequences and regardless of whether someone else is watching.

Advice for Graduates:

Listen more than you speak. Adopt an attitude of relentless improvement and lifelong learning. Be the very best at any assignment, no matter how trivial it may seem at first. Ask intelligent questions and listen for the answers. Keep your successes and your failures in perspective; don’t take yourself too seriously.

Type of student to mentor:

Finance or Business majors; highly motivated to improve; high achievers seeking to raise their games or graduates lacking in confidence or business experience that might benefit from coaching and advice.

M. Kevin Whiteside
Tuftco - Vice President of Operations

Kevin Whiteside began his 25 year executive management career after graduating from UTC with a B.S. in Industrial Management.  Working at UPS during college provided exposure to a world class production operations organization laying the groundwork for future improvement initiatives. After graduation, Kevin’s first job was with UTC Entrepreneurship Hall of Fame recipient John ‘Thunder’ Thornton at American Rug Craftsmen, which was later acquired by Mohawk Industries.  During his tenure with Mohawk, Kevin was called upon to turn around several ailing and poorly managed operations.  He also led the development of a world class $23 million dollar distribution center, securing $8.9 million in tax incentives along the way. 

In 2007, Kevin ventured into real estate development, working as president of Thunder Enterprises, developing luxury properties in Hawaii, Montana, Utah, and various lake and mountain properties in Tennessee.  Longing to get back into the nuts and bolts business of manufacturing, Kevin secured a consulting contract with Tuftco Corporation, an OEM manufacturer of carpet production equipment.  After accepting an offer to work full time, Kevin was named Vice President of Operations for Tuftco, driving lean manufacturing initiatives and continuous improvement projects to better serve their global customer base.

Kevin’s work philosophy centers on hard work, professionalism, and continuous learning.  A firm believer in life long learning, Kevin recently earned his MBA.  Professional advice for pending graduates would include adhering to uncompromising ethics and personal integrity.  A favorite quote is from Martin Luther King Jr.; “the true measure of a person is not how you behave in times of comfort and convenience, but where you stand in times of challenge and controversy.” 

Personally, Kevin and his wife Marjorie have been married for over 25 years and have two daughters ages 21 and 24.  He has participated in mission trips to Nicaragua, building homes, a church, and leading a project to deliver water filtration devices to rural communities.  Kevin has served on the Board of Directors of Bethel Bible Village since 2010, and currently serves as that organization’s Board Chairman.  In his free time, Kevin enjoys bicycling and hiking.   

In a mentee match, Kevin is open to any Industrial Management or General Management major who is serious about putting in the hard work that it takes to be successful.    

Lakweshia Ewing
UnifiEd- Deputy Executive Director

A native Memphian has resided in Chattanooga, TN for 9 years. Mrs. Ewing is a graduate of Austin Peay State University where she majored in Psychology with a minor in Africana Studies. She also holds a Masters in Education from Tennessee Tech University and is currently an Organizational Leadership Doctoral candidate.  Mrs. Ewing served a as the District Family Engagement and Community Partnerships Director for Hamilton County Dept. of Education for the past 7 years. Currently, she is the Deputy Executive Director of UnifiEd a community led public education advocacy organization. As a national facilitator, she has given presentations at educational conferences across the nation. She holds memberships in several educational, civic, social, and religious organizations such as the National School Reform Faculty, Black Alliance for Educational Options, Pi Lambda Theta Honor Society, Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga Board of Directors,  OnPoint Board of Directors,  Chattanooga Cares Board of Directors and Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy Board of Directors. Mrs. Ewing has received many notable awards such as The City of Memphis Award of Merit, Girls Incorporated Pioneers, Leaders, and Role Models Award, APSU’s Student Leader of the Year Award, University of Pennsylvania Research Scholars Award, and the University of Tennessee at Knoxville Ronald McNair Post Baccalaureate Achievement Award. Most recently Mrs. Ewing was selected as a Next City Vanguard 2014 Class member. This is a national Think Tank that selects 40 of the top 40 up and coming young leaders across the country. Mrs. Ewing is also the Co-owner of a 4 city operation technology company Biz Boom Apps, LLC which has had such success and growth that it has received the Emerging Business of the Year Award for 2014.  Lakweshia is an licensed Evangelist Missionary under the International Church of God in Christ Ministry.  She is currently a member and Purity Teen Leader at The New Holy Temple Cathedral Church of God in Christ in Chattanooga, TN under the TN Eastern 2nd Jurisdictional Prelate Bishop James Marion Scott, Sr. Mrs. Ewing also serves as the Jurisdictional COGIC Young Women of Excellence Coordinator a mentoring program for young ladies ages 13-25 in Chattanooga, Columbia, Knoxville, Nashville, Murfreesboro and Johnson City. She is married to Mr. Julian Ewing, they have no kids of their own, but they have adopted her two half-brothers Fredrick age 15 and Emerson age 12 upon the death of their mother in 2010..

Work Philosophy- I have always been a firm believer that every student no matter what his or hers intellectual aptitude had the ability to learn. I feel that today’s generation is forced to deal with more social, political, and academic struggles than ever. I believe that it is my job to make a difference in the lives of the children and families that I serve. I believe that understanding the unique qualities that each student, family, and community has when they become part of our community is truly the key to unlocking the families full potential as life-long learners. I am an undercover educational/social activist (if there is such a thing!). I believe that education needs to be more just, equitable, democratic and creatively individualized. By ensuring that our educational system is disseminating the right educational practices, strategies and concepts we can change the world for future generations.  

Advice-“Everyone in this world has been given the same 24 hours , what we do with our 24 hours determines our success. Our daily presence should not only impact \our life but leave deep imprints in the foundation of this country for someone else’s future.”

Type of Mentee- I would love to work with passionate young entrepreneurs that feel they have an obligation to serve those in the community that they live in. I would love to support and nurture the natural passion that is within any student therefore it does not matter if they are introverted or extroverted, right brained or left brained, artistic or analytical, certain of their next steps or completely unsure.

Marie Webb
EPB - Vice President, Human Resources 

Marie joined EPB in May of 2009, bringing 15 years of relevant HR experience.  Prior to joining EPB, Marie held Human Resources positions with the Staples Corporation, the Social Security Administration and was the Corporate Employment Manager for Premier Manufacturing Services in Cincinnati, Ohio. 

Originally from Ohio, Marie received her Bachelor’s degree from Denison University in Granville, Ohio.  She received her Master’s Degree in Human Resource Development from Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio.  

Work Philosophy: I look for work that I love so that it doesn’t feel like a job.  My belief is that if you focus on meeting the needs of others you will always be valuable to an organization, no matter what career path one chooses.  I look for individuals who are smart, hard-working, passionate and work well with other people. There are so many smart people in the world who never reach their potential because they can’t or won’t share their knowledge with others. 


-Don’t be afraid to let your passion show

-Take your career seriously

-Model your behavior after others who have been successful

-Know where your talents, strengths and weaknesses exist

-Never be too proud to learn from others

-Believe in yourself

Type of Student to Mentor: I am interested in mentoring African-American students who may not be familiar with the unwritten rules of the workplace.

Raymond Ryan, CFA
Patten and Patten Inc. - President & Portfolio Manager

RAY RYAN grew up in Upstate New York.  He attended Princeton University, graduating with a bachelor’s degree (i.e., A.B.) from Princeton University in 1989.  My first job in finance was with Lehman Brothers in their investment banking division.  Ryan was trained in New York and then placed in the firm’s Atlanta office.  In 1994, he was part of a corporate downsizing as many satellite offices, including Atlanta, were eliminated.  In lieu of accepting a move with Lehman to their Chicago office in a lateral position, He then accepted a position in investment banking with Equitable Securities Corporation in Nashville.  He worked on a number of interesting transactions while with Equitable, including equity/debt raises, mergers & acquisitions, and general corporate and public advisory work.  In 1998, Glass-Steagall was effectively repealed, allowing commercial banks to own investment banks.  Consequently, Equitable Securities was purchased by SunTrust Bank.  After a year of working for SunTrust in several capacities, Ryan was recruited to move to Chattanooga as a portfolio manager with Patten & Patten. 

Patten & Patten is a Registered Investment Adviser with over $1 Billion in assets under management. We work with high net worth individuals and institutions.  Ryan has been a Principal since 2004 and now serves as the President of the firm.  He earned my CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) designation in 2002.  For several years, Ryan was an instructor with a leading CFA preparatory organization.  Around 2005, he provided some assistance to the UTC Faculty as they sought to develop the “Investments Track” modeled after the CFA curriculum.  Ryan became a member of UTC’s College of Business Advisory Board, and began teaching classes as an Adjunct in 2007.  Ryan has taught several classes at UTC to date.  Currently, Ryan teaches FIN 4310, a spring semester course on “Derivative Securities”.

In young people, Ryan values an inquisitive mind with an aptitude for quantitative analysis.  Ray believes a young person seeking to begin a career in this profession should be well read with a diversity of interests.  Inasmuch as financial analysis is crucial to success as a finance professional, the ability to communicate effectively, both orally and in written form, is an essential skill. 

Looking to Mentor: Finance is a tough, demanding profession, and every successful professional with whom I’ve had an acquaintance was passionate about their work, driven in their pursuits, and an independent thinker. I would like to mentor a Finance Investments student with that profile.

Christina A. Edwards, CPA
LBMC - Manager, Accounting and Assurance Services

Christina, a Certified Public Accountant, has over 10 years of accounting and auditing experience in a variety of industries, including manufacturing, service industries, insurance, employee benefit plans, and not-for-profit organizations.  Her previous experience includes practicing with an international accounting firm in their audit division.

Christina has also served in peer mentoring roles throughout my career at both Ernst & Young and at LBMC.  I have served on the board of the local chapter of the TSCPA for the past four years, and have been on the steering committee of the Women’s Initiative Network at LBMC since its inception in 2010.  During my college years, I worked an internship at Petty & Landis, PC (LBMC’s predecessor firm in the Chattanooga area) and was active in Beta Alpha Psi.


Christina is a graduate of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga where she received a Masters degree in Accounting.  She continues her education annually through ongoing continuing professional education programs offered by various professional groups.


Christina is active in and continues to support the following civic and professional organizations, including:  

  • Tennessee Society of Certified Public Accountants – Treasurer
    • American Institute of Certified Public Accountants

A native of Chattanooga, Tennessee, Christina resides in Chattanooga with her husband and two sons.

My work philosophy centers on the building of effective teams that have a culture of unity and knowledge sharing.  I believe that it is important to seek out opportunities to work with effective teams that allow you to (1) grow professionally by learning from your fellow team members and (2) contribute to the growth of your fellow team members by sharing your individual strengths.   By working together to help each individual member of the team become stronger, we provide the opportunity to improve our work product while allowing each individual team member opportunities to achieve both a higher level of individual growth and more flexibility within their career.

My best piece of advice for future graduates is to take as many steps as possible to grow and maintain a strong network of colleagues within their chosen field.  Contacts added to my network during my first few years out of school have provided me with career advice, volunteer opportunities, and a valuable perspective during times of transition over the course of my career to date.      

Looking to Mentor: Accounting students or ANY student intimidated by the recruitment process

Mike Bradshaw
The Company Lab - Manager, Executive Director

Mike Bradshaw is executive director of The Company Lab, a non-profit organization that serves as the “front door” for aspiring entrepreneurs in Chattanooga.  He has been affiliated with CO.LAB since 2012, beginning as a volunteer. At the time, Mike was an adjunct professor at UTC, instructing in the university’s Entrepreneurship program. A student suggested he should visit CO.LAB, and he never looked back from there.

Mike began his foray into entrepreneurship by breaking his mother’s heart and leaving engineering school to become a dishwasher. He worked his way from that position to owner over 12 years of working in the industry. Mike worked his way through the “back of the house”, learning first the craft, then the business. He redeemed himself in his mother’s eyes by returning to school and graduating summa cum laude from Georgetown University and first in his class at the age of 40. While at Georgetown, Mike joined with a startup venture publishing TIME Magazine on CD-ROM. He developed skills in managing large data structures and the techniques for displaying mixed media on rapidly evolving technical platforms. Through a series of mergers and acquisitions, Mike became the Executive Producer of the Adult Education division of The Learning Company, delivering over $50 million a year in educational software to the consumer market.

This provided Mike a front row seat for the emergence of the Internet in the mid-1990s. Over the next 5 years, the relatively new medium quickly disrupted the rapidly maturing CD-ROM business. This experience provided many valuable lessons in the patterns of technological innovation that has since set Mike’s professional interests.  

As a life-long learner and entrepreneur, Mike’s philosophy is that of a doer. Ideas are cheap; the doing is everything.  Mike has dedicated the latest chapter of his career to help aspiring entrepreneurs chart a path to action.  The methodology is known as “agile startup development.” The type of student Mike feels he can provide the most value to is one who wishes to lead an entrepreneurial career and is interested in the new philosophy and tools that have developed over the last decade to support start-up ventures.

His best piece of advice to pending graduates who are thinking of launching a new business is to be prepared to test all the assumptions you have made about your business model as early as possible by engaging with potential customers in an actual selling process. Mike is interested in working with students interested in entrepreneurship on some level or form.

Merri Mai Williamson, SPHR
Application Researchers - Founder & Chair

Milton Berle once said, “If opportunity doesn't knock, build a door.”  Merri Mai Williamson took Uncle Miltie’s advice in 1993 when she began working on a business plan after flattening her nose on the proverbial glass ceiling.  Equipped with a talent for screening employment applications, a knowledge of human resources, and a where-there’s-a-will-there’s-a-way attitude, she introduced her business to the Chattanooga market in 1994.

Merri Mai, a native Chattanoogan, began her career in human resources twenty-five years ago.  Recognizing the necessity for eliminating attrition while obtaining quality personnel, she developed screening procedures which she incorporated into her hiring process... and her attrition dropped 50%, which led to the formation of her company.  As a licensed private investigative agency, Application Researchers® provides everything from criminal histories to health screenings for over 1300 clients.

Now, twenty years later, Merri Mai has a thriving business… being named Small Business of the Year in 2001 by the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce and having received the Athena Award and the Jane Cozby Henderson Award for the success she has achieved in her industry, as well as being honored with two awards for excellence in ethics and a designation of Woman of Distinction.  Merri Mai holds the distinction of Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR), which is designated by the Human Resource Certification Institute for completing credentialing programs that validate mastery in the field of human resource management and the promotion of organizational effectiveness. 

As an entrepreneur and business owner, Merri Mai is accustomed to a work week stretching beyond 70 hours and firmly believes that true success is a result of hard work.  Each generation has its own characteristics where work ethic is concerned, and Millennials certainly strike the most balance between professional and personal time.  Although Merri Mai believes that the other three generations in the workplace can learn from this youngest generation, she would encourage Millennials to recognize and respect an employer’s culture, as well as co-workers’ generational differences.

TYPE OF STUDENT TO MENTOR:  human resources, entrpreneurship

Sue Culpepper
College of Business Success Center - Director

Sue Culpepper is the Director for Student Success for the College of Business at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga,  Prior to this role, Sue was the Program Manager for the Galtere Institute at the University of Chattanooga in Chattanooga, TN.  She is a former executive with SunTrust Bank, where she most recently served as the Chattanooga City President and Managing Director of the Wealth Management Group for SunTrust in Chattanooga. She spent 23 of her 30 years in banking with SunTrust Bank, and has recently joined the College of Business at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, where she is now the Director of Student Success in the College of Business.  Sue is an alum of the UTC College of Business and completed the Stonier School of Banking graduate program.

A dedicated civic leader, Sue is a member of the University of Tennessee Alumni Association’s Women’s Council, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Alumni Association,  and serves on the boards of the Chattanooga Women’s Leadership Institute, Rotary Club of Downtown Chattanooga, Memorial Hospital Foundation, the Dean’s Advisory Board for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga College of Business, and Friends of Memorial Hospital.  She previously served on the boards of Chattanooga Symphony and Opera Association, Chattanooga Ballet, Chattanooga Area Urban League, and The American Cancer Society

An avid volunteer, Sue has provided volunteer support to United Way, the Mary Ellen Locher Center, Memorial Hospital, Allied Arts, The Chattanooga Theatre Center, Chattanooga Area Food Bank, American Heart Association and Siskin Children’s Institute.  Sue was one of the founding board members, and past chairman of the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in Chattanooga.   She is married to Lee Culpepper, an engineer, and they are members of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church and they have 2 adult children.

Sue is looking for energetic and motivated students who want to learn about setting themselves apart in the business world and willing to accept a challenge.

Erik Gray

Unum - Enrollment Solutions Manager

Erik Gray is an Enrollment Solutions Manager for Unum's Consumer Solutions Group, conducting the benefit enrollment and administration strategy in support of insurance sales and persistency goals. Unum is a Fortune 500 company and the leading provider of disability insurance in the country. Erik works closely with internal business partners, field offices, brokers and technology vendors. 

As a past member of Unum’s enrollment operations organization, Erik shared the leadership of the (Unum’s proprietary insurance enrollment system) team through four years of double-digit-percentage enrollment production growth. 

Erik has more than 12 years of Unum experience and leadership, including roles in large case implementation, billing and enrollment. He has lead teams through strong growth, process overhaul and technical platform changes.

Erik began his career at his Alma mater, The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, serving the athletic department as Director of Ticket Sales and Promotions. Later, Erik pursued his M.Ed. at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio, completing the 36-hour degree requirement in one year.

Erik and his wife, Stacy, returned to Chattanooga in August 2001 and soon joined Unum, serving as a Benefits Consultant in 2002, assisting field offices, brokers and enrollment firms to secure new case acquisition. One year later, he was selected to attend the company’s recognition and training conference at Walt Disney World with fellow employees. At the same time, he was promoted to a management position in the voluntary worksite benefits billing and administration organization, supporting employer groups and policyholders.

In addition to his professional career, Erik is involved with his international fraternity as well as local community and civic endeavors. Erik lives in the Stuart Heights neighborhood in North Chattanooga with his wife, Stacy, and his two children, Rigby (10) and Lucy (8).

Area of expertise

  • Experienced in insurance industry (implementation, billing, administration, enrollment)
  • Excellent leadership, organizational and management abilities
  • Management, public relations, marketing, service, budgeting, fundraising, event coordination
  • Highly successful in supervising and developing people and maintaining employee satisfaction
  • Strong creative and promotional writing, editing and proofreading skills
  • Highly-effective interpersonal skills with teams, colleagues, community and clients

Top Five Strengths

  • Woo – Positivity – Communication – Developer – Arranger

Work philosophy

  • Love what you do (your company, its product and the people you work with)
  • Work with people who are inspiring, talented and accountable
  • Be really good at what you do
  • Challenge the status quo
  • Be proud enough of what you are doing that you would show your family and friends

Type of student I hope to mentor 

  • Management, human resources, entrepreneurship, and marketing
  • Expect motivated students who are committed to this program
  • Clear career goals or no career goals – bring it on.

Advice for pending graduates

  • Network
    • Become involved in mentor programs like this
    • Ask alumni about their story (people love to talk if asked!)
    • Take every opportunity to meet community business leaders (social, civic, campus, etc.)

Jeff Willis
Emma Hill Manufacturing LLC - CEO/Owner

Education:     Oxford University, Saïd Business School, UK

                        Diploma in Global Business Strategy

                        Harvard Business School, MBA, OPM

                        Southern University, BS

Mr. Willis has extensive experience in the automotive industry as a manufacturer of various components over the years. He opened his first manufacturing facility in 1989 to manufacture carpet for the automobile industry. He overcame tremendous entrance barriers, but was able to create the nation’s first minority-owned carpet manufacturer. Additionally, he expanded operations by acquiring other manufacturing facilities and executed successful integration. In 2002, Mr. Willis was recognized as “Entrepreneur of the Year” in manufacturing by Ernst & Young, a highly visible and coveted award.

Emma Hill Manufacturing is a US manufacturer of floor and cargo mats for the automotive industry, born out of a floor mat manufacturer founded in 1929 that was purchased in 2007 by Mr. Willis. Emma Hill Manufacturing is a Tier 1 original equipment manufacturer with expertise in two different technologies: carpeted extrusion and injection molding.  

Advice: The most important advice Mr. Willis can give to a graduate student is to seek out and take advantage of any internship opportunities in their area of study. Equally important are mentorships by outside professionals, faculty or other professionals. Students should also be aware of continuing changes or trends in areas and gain as much knowledge of those in order to be even more compelling to potential employers.

Seeks to mentor students interested in international business and manufacturing.

Frank Hughes
Cornerstone Community Bank, Inc. - President

Frank is the President and Chief Executive Officer for Cornerstone Community Bank where he is responsible for all operations and serves as a member of the Bank’s Board of Directors and loan committees.  Prior to joining Cornerstone, Hughes was employed at Pioneer Bancshares as the Vice President and Investment Officer from 1994 to 1998. In this position, he managed the Bank’s investment portfolio and ALCO activities. From 1983 to 1991, Hughes worked for American National Bank & Trust (now known as SunTrust) as a Senior Investment Officer.  In this position, he provided investment advice to its banking clients. 

Hughes received his Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of Kentucky,  earned his MBA from the Owen Graduate School of Management at Vanderbilt University, and graduated from the ABA Stonier Graduate School of Banking.  Mr. Hughes retains CFA and CFP certifications.  

Hughes retired as a Colonel from the United States Marine Corps where he served as Battalion Commander of 4th Battalion, 14th Marines prior to retiring and earlier commanded the M Battery, Chattanooga’s local Marine artillery battery. He currently serves on the Cherokee Council’s Board of Directors, Chattanooga Neighborhood Enterprises Board of Directors, and the United Way’s Board of Directors.  Mr. Hughes is an active member of the Chattanooga Rotary Club and actively sponsors exchange students with other Rotary Clubs around the world.  

Hughes hopes to mentor students who served in the military and/or are interested in banking.

Kristina Montague
JumpFund- Managing Partner

Co-Founder and Managing Partner of the JumpFund, a Chattanooga based angel fund whose mission is to invest women's capital in female-led companies with growth potential in order to generate a strong financial return and elevate the role of women in business. Our vision is make the Southeast the BEST place for a woman to invest in or start a business.

James Ebel
UTC Marketing & Entrepreneurship Program - Executive-in-Residence

James Ebel serves as an Executive-in-Residence and faculty member in Marketing and Entrepreneurship at the UTC College of Business.  He is also a Visiting Professor of Integrated Marketing Communication (IMC) at Guangdong University of Foreign Studies, Peoples Republic of China.  He holds a Bachelors of Science degree in Accounting from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, and an M.B.A. from Indiana University, Kelley School of Business. He is a graduate of the Babson Symposium on Entrepreneurial Education.

Most recently Jim served as the Harrison/Omnicom Distinguished Professor in Integrated Marketing Communications at West Virginia University.

Jim has enjoyed successful careers as a corporate marketer including executive positions with Kimberly-Clark, Bristol Myers Squibb, and Rhone-Poulenc-Rorer. He is also an entrepreneur. Jim is an internationally recognized expert on brand positioning through his consultancy CenterBrain® Partners, having developed positioning and strategy for nearly 200 brands that now account for over $4 billion in incremental sales for clients such as Kimberly Clark, Abbott Labs, YUM Brands, Bosch and nearly 70 other Fortune 500 companies. His book, CenterBrain Thinking©, now published in the U.S. and China, is regarded as a field manual on brand positioning.

As an entrepreneur, Jim co-founded The CareGiver Partnership® in 2004. The CareGiver Partnership, based in Neenah, Wisconsin, is a national direct-to-consumer retailer of over 3000 healthcare products for non-professional caregivers. The company is expanding rapidly as it serves the needs of a growing population of individuals (U.S. 28 million) who are caring for loved ones and friends.

Jim’s philosophy on work has three components.

  • Prepare well
  • Take risk
  • Outwork everyone else.

Jim’s advice to young UTC students….

“Nothing stands in your way more than yourself.  If you recognize your strengths and leverage them, and find ways to work with people who through their own strengths marginalize your weaknesses, you will succeed.”


Jaclyn York

College of Business Career Development - Associate

Jaclyn York graduated with a BS in Political Science and a MEd in Secondary Education from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.  Jaclyn worked in the financial services industry where she was a registered broker at CitiSmith Barney and gained a great understanding of the importance of customer service and attention to detail.  She joined UTC’s Galtere Institute in 2013 where she worked with students who were interested the trading and finance industries with a specific focus on Behavioral Finance.  Jaclyn recently joined the Career Services Area in the College of Business Success Center at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga where she will work with the team in developing and implementing engaging career development programs as well as fostering student growth in the areas of academic and professional success. 

A lifelong resident of Chattanooga, Jaclyn enjoys long distance running, fishing, and hiking, is an avid reader, and is currently reviving her passion for tennis after a long break from when she played for the Lady Mocs during her undergraduate years.  Jaclyn is married to her loving and supporting husband, Shannon, and they have two incredibly “fluffy” cats, Sam and Comet.

Type of student sought: A hard working student who also can see the humor in life!