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Business 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 Business Mentor Program available to sophomore, junior, senior and graduate students. Undergraduates may even engage in the program for academic credit through BUS2900.

The mentors who make up the Business Mentor 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. Please note: Mentors may not be available every semester of the program due to business requirements.

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

Business Mentor Bench

Deb Kearnaghan

Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) - Accounting and Human Resources 

Deb is currently a member of the TVA Compensation Staff at TVA where they provide governance and oversight of the TVA Compensation programs. 

Deb has 30 years of accounting and HR experience in the Federal Government/Utility industry. This includes 25 years of serving in various accounting roles both at corporate and operations level.  Some positions she has held include Controller for both the Hydro and Nuclear programs at TVA.  In addition, Deb is the former Manager, Talent Acquisition and On-Boarding for TVA.   She also spent time as a financial analyst at the Department of Energy’s Savannah River Site. 

Deb holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in Accounting from East Tennessee State University.  She is also a certified Professional in Human Resources (PHR).

When not working, Deb is spending time with her two boys and traveling.   Her goal is to visit each state in the US (only three to go!) and to see as much of the world as possible.

Philosophy of work:
Do your very best in all assignments – each job and how you complete it is a reflection of you!  It is true that every encounter you have is an interview. 

Advice for pending graduates:
Be passionate about your work and your life.   If you are not happy in what you choose to do as your life’s work you cannot be truly successful.   This is true for your chosen profession as well as your personal life.   Life is way too short not to enjoy yourself.

Type of student sought:
Any student who wants to take advantage of this program to make the most of their opportunities.   And who wants to have some fun along the way.

Jeana Lee

Unum - Community Relations

Jeana Lee works in community relations at Unum, a Fortune 500 financial protection benefits provider.  In her community relations role she manages Unum’s community partnerships, plans corporate events, writes communications for internal and external partners, helps with the management of charitable giving, connects employees to organizations that line up with their personal passions, and ensures that Unum remains an effective, engaged corporate citizen. She’s passionate about the work she does and is an avid believer in supporting education initiatives.

A native of Chattanooga, Jeana received her B.S. in Organizational Management from Bryan College in 2012.

Jeana lends her expertise in community engagement efforts to both civic and community organizations in Chattanooga. She currently serves on boards with Y-CAP, Emerging Leaders and the Downtown Council for the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce. Jeana is the 2016-2017 Community Campaign Chair for Y-CAP. She is also a big sister in Big Brothers Big Sisters school-based mentoring program, and is a proud member of the 2016-2017 Leadership Chattanooga class.

Areas of expertise:

  • Marketing and Communications
  • Public and Employee Relations
  • Event Planning and Management
  • Not-for-profit Board Training and Development
  • Leadership and Project management
  • Public Speaking

Work Philosophy: Choose a career that aligns with your personal passions and strengths, remain honest and ethical in all that you do, always remain humble, be your own personal best – each and every day, and never be afraid to admit you were wrong.

Type of Student I hope to mentor: Any student who is interested in leadership development, community/civic organizations, marketing or public relations.

Advice for Students: Always be flexible. The business landscape is continuously evolving, and so might your career – be ready to adapt! Always be positive. Employers appreciate positive employees.  View every negative circumstance as an opportunity to make a positive impact on your organization. Always have a mentor. It doesn’t matter how far your career progresses, there are always things to be learned from others. Get involved in your community. Being involved in the community helps you to network with people outside your department or organization, provides personal and professional development, and helps you to connect to the place you live and work.  Have a prepared elevator speech. You never know when you could be talking to a potential employer!

Melissa Crane

Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) - Senior Manager of Enterprise Services, Information Technology

Melissa Crane is the Senior Manager of Enterprise Services within the Information Technology organization at Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA).  In her role, she is responsible for services supporting the enterprise including enterprise information management and solutions, software architecture and data integration, enterprise content management, and enterprise collaboration solutions. 

 She has worked for TVA for over 13 years, starting in their intern program.  Melissa previously served in multiple leadership roles for the agency, leading successful cross organizational teams.  As Senior Program Manager for the Office of the CIO, she provided expert advice and strategic direction to the CIO and IT senior leadership on a wide variety of business, technical, and organizational effectiveness matters.  Melissa has also served as Manager of Business Analysis in Enterprise Solutions Delivery where she built a team of IT business analysts to support development and documentation of business requirements for IT projects, and established consistent management approaches for the entire TVA business applications portfolio.  Under Melissa’s leadership, increased demand from business partners led to the team growing ten-fold. 

Melissa was raised in Chattanooga and graduated from the University of Tennessee Chattanooga with a BS in Marketing and MBA.  She enjoys spending her free time travelling to Disney with her two children and husband.  Melissa also enjoys ballet and running and is training for her second marathon.

Work Philosophy:  Don’t spend all your time worrying about that next step in your career, that next big opportunity, and lose focus on your current role.  Of course have thought around your future plans, but do your best in your current role.  Give your current role focus, time, and energy and the opportunities will come.

Advice for Students:  Don’t allow your degree to confine you.  You’re not limited to a specific profession just because you may have a major in a certain business area.  Think creatively and be open to new opportunities as you start your career.

The type of student I hope to mentor: I'd like a student who is a self-starter and goal driven, enjoys talking, and is headed for the corporate world. 

Jeremy Boudinet, JD

Ambition - Director of Marketing 

Jeremy Boudinet is the Director of Marketing at Ambition, a software startup based out of Chattanooga that’s seeking to change how businesses manage and drive employee performance. Jeremy was Ambition’s first business team hire, coming on right after the company completed its stint at the prestigious Y Combinator accelerator program in Silicon Valley. With no marketing background, no tech experience and no clue what was expected of him, Jeremy leapt into the world of startup marketing in May 2014 and has spent the last 2+ years running all aspects of Ambition’s marketing operations while becoming intimately familiar with the cutthroat, hyper-competitive world of SaaS, startups and digital marketing. Since joining Ambition, Jeremy has been published in Time, Inc., Entrepreneur, the Daily Muse and the American Marketing Association. He’s helped Ambition land feature articles in USA Today, Business Insider, Inc. and dozens of other publications. He’s also helped the company grow its monthly site traffic by 800% while driving thousands of inbound leads to Ambition’s sales team. His ultimate goal is to build a scalable marketing machine that drives Ambition’s conquest to take over the world.

A 2009 graduate of the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, Jeremy obtained his Juris Doctorate from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law in 2012, where he distinguished himself with his raw lack of enthusiasm for his coursework, his peers and the suffocating, soul-crushing nature of the legal profession. His attitude towards marketing - especially in a startup environment - couldn’t be more opposite.

Work Philosophy: 

The best way to approach work is with the following 5 traits: 1) Unshakeable confidence. 2) Goal-driven mentality. 3) Gritty resourcefulness. 4) Awareness that your competitors are trying to kill you. 5) Belief that nothing is owed to you.

Best Advice for Students and Pending Graduates: 

Take ownership over your career and do what you truly want to do, or at least think you want to do, right off the bat. Make your decision using only your gut and intuition about what you’re passionate about, what you’re good at and what your ideal day-to-day professional life would look like. Don’t let family pressure, the current economic climate/job market, arbitrary social obligations or your peers influence your direction. Do what you love and are passionate about. Don’t choose a career because it’s the rational, safe choice. That’s not practical, that’s foolish. If you love your profession and are passionate about your work, you’ll take personal stock in your performance. You’ll be naturally motivated. Eventually, you will excel. You’ll become a commodity to someone, somewhere who will pay you good money to do what you love. When you follow your passion, you give yourself the highest ceiling in terms of potential career growth. Don’t make the same initial mistake I did when I chose law school (because it was the rational, safe choice). Go where your passion and talent is. The rewards will follow.

Student Mentee Preference:

I can offer the most value to students interested in entrepreneurship, startups, marketing, sales, and the technology industry. The more your interests align with those topics, the better our conversations will be. I’m also a great resource for those who are considering attending law school.

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 I Hope to Mentor:  human resources, entrepreneurship majors

Michael Hampton

Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) - Program Manager, Financial Operations and Performance

Michael has worked for TVA since 2009. In his current role at TVA as a program manager, Michael support the Operations Controller organization in budget planning, financial reporting and strategic business planning functions. Prior to that, Michael worked in the business planning organization as the Business Planning lead for both the Transmission Organization and River Operations. Other career experience includes roles in the Coal and Gas budgeting and analysis group and power billing group at TVA. Prior to TVA, he worked in the Financial Underwriting group for CIGNA Healthcare.

Michael was raised in Clarksville TN and came to Chattanooga to attend UTC in 1998. Well at UTC, he came to love the city and its many opportunities to enjoy the outdoors. Michael worked on campus as a student aide in the Admissions office. After graduation from the College of Business with a B.S. in Business Administration: Accounting and Finance in May 2003, Michael moved back to the Nashville area and enrolled at MTSU while working at CIGNA Healthcare; earning an MBA in May 2007.

Michael currently resides in Signal Mountain TN with his wife and two children. They love to go hiking, biking and enjoy the outdoors. They also like to travel and recently took a trip to visit both Yosemite and the Red Woods National Parks.

Type of Student Sought: I would like to mentor a student who is outgoing, goal oriented, self motivated and eager to learn. Also, someone who is interested in a career in the corporate environment but not necessarily set on a specific role

Warren McEwen

Mauldin & Jenkins, LLC - Partner

Warren is currently the Partner in Charge of the Chattanooga office of Mauldin & Jenkins which offers tax, accounting, and business advisory services and Warren is responsible for directing services to business clients in Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama.  Warren has 30 years of experience with corporate clients and executive management in financial services.  He works extensively with closely-held businesses, and has handled numerous mergers and acquisitions.

Warren has a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in Accounting from the University of Tennessee.  He has been active in leadership development for the past 10 years, and completed a two-year program with the Center for Character-Based Leadership.  Warren loves Chattanooga and is active in several community programs and activities, including currently Parkridge Medical Center and United Way.  Warren enjoys his time with his wife and four children.

Work Philosophy:  Be fully engaged today.  Each of us must utilize all our skills and talents to influence the work product in a positive way.  Results are vastly improved by focused participation in the process.

Type of Student Mentee Sought:  Believe it or not, my ideal mentee is not an accouning major, but a business major focused on learning new skills and making a difference in their professional careers.   

Amanda Schaap

Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) - Financial Consultant

Amanda has over fifteen years experience in financial planning and analysis, expense management, internal controls and auditing. Educated at Florida State University (BS - Accounting) and Arizona State (MAIS - Accounting Information Systems), Amanda started her career at the Big Four firm of KPMG in Chicago in the Information Risk Managment function and moved into IT auditing for Baxter where she was promoted several times to gain experience in financial analysis and finance management. In 2015, she joined TVA as a Financial Consultant III to provide business decision support and financial reporting in the for combustion turbine and combined cycle power plants in the Eastern and Western Region. As a new Chattanoogan, she is excited to get involved in the community and support UTC students.

Work Philosophy: Get your work done, maintain a positive attitude, and respect and support others.

Best Advice: Volunteer for new projects, tasks, or responsibilities.  One of the best ways to keep learning, developing, and advancing in your career is to get out of your comfort zone and take on something new.  Don’t wait for an invitation to add to your skill set.  Remember that you own your career!

Type of Student Mentee Sought: Accounting/Finance majors

Zach Hutcherson, CPA, MBA

HHM Certified Public Accountants - Manager, Assurance Department

Zach Hutcherson was born and raised in Chattanooga, and, aside from his time in graduate school, has remained here his entire life. He received his undergraduate degree in Accounting from the University of Tennessee - Chattanooga in 2009, and received an academic scholarship to Samford University’s Brock School of Business, where he earned master’s degrees in both Business Administration and Accountancy. Upon graduation, Zach joined Henderson, Hutcherson & McCullough as a staff accountant in January 2011. Over the past 5 years, he has developed specialties dealing with businesses within a broad range of industries such as manufacturing, nonprofit, and automotive dealerships. As of July, 2016, he was promoted to manager in the company’s assurance department.

During his time outside the firm, Zach has a variety of hobbies. During college, he trained in boxing, kickboxing and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Additionally, he is an avid chef, enjoying cooking traditional southern BBQ dishes like ribs, brisket, and pulled pork. An avid guitar player, Zach once considered a career as a professional musician, and has played in a wide range of different musical styles, from his time in a jazz  ensemble to several shows with a heavy metal band.

Zach is very active in the community. He is a member of the TSCPA, the former president of YPAC, a member of the Emerging Leaders Committee at United Way, and the Treasurer of Choose Chattanooga. He is also a graduate of Protégé Chattanooga.

Work Philosophy:  Obviously, in order to achieve success you have to work hard, but simply deciding to put in long hours at the office misses the point of what most people are hoping to accomplish.  Work should be engaging, challenging, and motivating.  You spend a tremendous portion of your life at work, so it needs to be something that you find fulfilling.  If you put yourself on a career path that you find engaging and fulfilling, the hard work will come naturally as you work to progress and develop your skillset.

Best Advice: The most important, and also underrated, skill that you can have when coming out of college and entering your profession is to develop your interpersonal skills.  Employers, especially small to mid-sized businesses, continue to place a greater emphasis on these soft skills, and they will get you as far in your career as anything else.  Begin developing those early, and you will go far.

Type of Student Mentee: A motivated and ambitious business student that aims to try and achieve both workplace success and to achieve an excellent work/life balance.

Todd Dockery

UTC - Associate Director of Human Resources

Todd  provides strategic planning and oversight for UTC's Human Resources Department and develops, designs and implements Human Resources programs that impact the university's employee workforce.

Todd holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a double concentration in General Management and Human Resource Management and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Todd is also a Certified Employee Benefits Specialist (CEBS), Professional in Human Resources (PHR), SHRM Certified Professional (SHRM-CP), Group Benefits Associate (GBA), Compensation Management Specialist (CMS) and a Rule 31 Listed Mediator (General Civil) with the Tennessee Supreme Court.

Todd has over 15 years of progressive HR and business leadership experience.  This includes serving as a Personnel Administration Sergeant in the United States Army, a Human Resources leader for a long term acute care hospital, a compensation and benefits manager for two large, multi-state transportation companies, the HR Director for the City of Chattanooga and as a member of the executive Human Resources team for a state wide nonprofit.   For two years, Todd also served on the volunteer Board of Examiners for the Tennessee Center for Performance Excellence (TNCPE). 

In his free time, Todd spends as much time as possible with his family.  He is an Elvis fan, collects PEZ dispensers and enjoys riding in his 1963 Imperial Convertible.

Philosophy of work:
Work hard, have fun and always be professional.   

Advice for pending graduates:
Always look at life as an opportunity to learn more.  Your education does not end when you graduate from college - that’s when it truly begins.  Volunteer and get involved with your community.  Find things that you are passionate about.

Type of student sought:
Any student who wants to learn more about Human Resources, Management / Leadership or PEZ dispensers. 

Mike Caffrey

InfoSystems - Chief Strategist

Mike's career in Information Technology has now spanned 32 years.  It has offered lots of opportunities to work with software developers, CEO’s, and  community leaders… mostly solving problems with technology but many times, just solving problems.

Mike started as a shift worker in a data center in Lincoln, NE. It took 4 years to be considered for his next position, but the experience became a springboard for the promotions that followed.  He has worked for large corporations like State Farm Insurance and IBM.  He has also worked for tiny companies with revenues of less than $2M. Mike has been a consultant to companies like GM and McDonalds.  He has even owned his own company.  He has donated hundreds of hours to charitable organizations and has worked on some pretty cool projects.

Within the last 5 years, he has found a love for analytics and its many applications.

My work philosophy:  Say “No” a lot less.  Say “Yes” to extra work, special assignments, outside projects, volunteer work, writing/blogging…  etc.  Consider the last time you said “No” – then consider that someone else said “Yes”.  Say “Yes” to random connections.  Say “Yes” to using social media, new people, and new ideas.

My work and my passion found a common ground, the moment I said “yes” to something I didn’t fully understand, that was offered by people much more experienced than I.

Best piece of advice for students:  Find your passion! (and don’t think about money) If you are passionate about what you do, you can’t really call what you do “work”.  If you haven’t found your passion yet – keep looking.  Don’t give up.  You’ll find it eventually… with an open mind and a willingness to try, it will happen.

Type of student I’d like to mentor: A high energy student with a solid aptitude for business but a creative mind – not intimidated by technology or better, things he/she doesn’t yet fully understand.  I don’t care what the major is.  I feel I offer more to a student that doesn’t know what they want but willing to prepare themselves for what may come.

Jeff Olingy

Atlantic Capital Bank - Senior Vice President for Community Development

In his present capacity, Jeff is responsible for coordinating corporate efforts toward serving the financial needs of all the citizens of the communities the bank operates within; from Atlanta to Chattanooga to Knoxville. Before assuming this role, Jeff was the Chief Marketing Officer for FSG Bank (prior to its purchase by ACB), from 2013 to 2015.

Jeff’s professional career spans over 40 years, and includes employment in banking, insurance, politics, nonprofits, and higher education, from South Carolina, to Washington, D.C., to Boston, and finally to Chattanooga 20 years ago.

While living in Chattanooga with his wife, Julie, Jeff has held leadership positions in the Tennessee Small Business Development Center, The Bethlehem Center, Volunteers in Medicine, United Way, Launch, and the Chamber of Commerce.

Work Philosophy: Live a balanced life, you’re a better professional when you have a rewarding personal life, and you’re a more successful spouse, parent, or citizen when your professional life is prospering.

Advice for pending graduates: Work hard to develop your transferable skills; communication, leadership, strategic thinking, and organizational, among many. You’ll find that they’re in demand in all industries, at all levels.

Type of student sought: Confused, uncertain, but confident and willing to work hard and smart to achieve both personal and professional goals.