Business Mentor Program

group of mentors pose for photo on steps in front of fletcher hall

Partnering with local business professionals to graduate business world ready students.

At the Joseph F. Decosimo Success Center in the Gary W. Rollins 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, and senior students. Undergraduates 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. Mentors rotate every semester.

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

Enrolling in the Business Mentor Program:

Self-motivated business majors in their Sophomore, Junior, or Senior years who are ready to network and be challenged should enroll in BUS2900 to take part in this unique academic course. Complete and submit the registration form below to the instructor to register into the next semester's cohort of mentees! Need more information? Call 423-425-5111. 

Download the Registration Form


Business Mentor Bench 


Melissa Crane

Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) - Senior Manager, Technology Solutions, Information Technology

Melissa Crane is the Senior Manager of Technology Solutions for Planning and Business Support within the Information Technology organization at Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA).  In her role, she is responsible for providing strategic planning support and technology solutions for business partners within the corporate areas of the agency.  Melissa and her team regularly interact with all levels of the business to develop transformational roadmaps for digital strategies. 

Melissa has worked for TVA for 17 years, starting in their intern program.  Melissa has served in multiple leadership roles for the agency, leading successful cross organizational teams.  Most recently, Melissa served as a Senior Service Manager where she and her team were responsible for providing real-time support of applications for Transmission Power Supply.  As Senior Manager of Enterprise Services, she was responsible for services supporting the enterprise including enterprise information management and solutions, software architecture and data integration, enterprise content management, and enterprise collaboration solutions.   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 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 traveling to Disney with her two children and husband.  A perfect Saturday morning for her includes an early morning un, coffee, a soccer game for her son, and a stop at the climbing gym to watch her daughter scale walls.

Work Philosophy:  Don’t spend all your time worrying about that next step in your career or your 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.

Best 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.

Type of student I hope to mentor: Looking for a student who is eager to ask questions and learn!

Mohammed Ali

ACA Compliance Group - Principal Consultant

As a Performance & Compliance Principal Consultant for investment advisors, Mo focuses on performance data analytics and the distribution process. This involves possessing a refined understanding of the regulatory framework around advertising, digging deep into data analytics, and having the ability to problem solve on the fly. Mo spent the better part of 2017, 2019, and 2020 with some of ACA’s largest institutional clients in a project management augmentation role. Through working with over 50 investment managers across the globe, he has been introduced to a wide breadth of investment strategies and management styles.

Throughout his 8-year career, Mo’s exposure and experience includes a variety of front, middle, and back office operational projects, primarily focusing on process optimization, risk management, and procedural controls, in addition to people development and mentorship.

Though having an international background and being bilingual, Mo spent majority of his early years in Chattanooga, Tennessee. His educational merit consists of a Master’s in Business Administration, with a Certificate in Data Analytics, as well as a Bachelor’s in Finance and Economics, both from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. When away from work, if not traveling, Mo values quality time spent with family and friends in addition to providing mentorship to “Year Up” mentees.

Work Philosophy: Be curious, adaptable, patient, and, most of all, compassionate. When something at work starts to lower your confidence, let your philosophy remind you of what’s important to you, and why you do what you do. Silence the noise of others’ opinions and focus on the things that truly matter.

Best Advice for Students: Let your passion and curiosity be your internal guiding compass to your fulfilment. Understand that when it comes to work, do not be a professional friend, but be a friendly professional.

Type of student I hope to mentor: An ideal mentee is someone who has a genuine interest in personal development; one who is coachable and willing to step outside of their comfort zone to accelerate personal and professional trajectory. Also, someone with a passion for giving back to the community, with an interest in Consulting and/or Finance.

Melody Peace

Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) - Senior Manager, Regulatory Assurance

Melody Peace provides unique solutions to complex problems by leveraging diverse teams and encouraging collaboration between experts and stakeholders.  Her passion is helping people discover and maximize their strengths in order to reach their full potential.  She is a TN licensed CPA with a career spanning audit, tax, forensic investigations, risk, treasury, accounting, system implementations, and change management. 

After joining TVA in 2009, Melody led teams providing accounting, budgeting, and reporting support across multiple generating and shared services business units.  In her current role as Senior Manager of Regulatory Assurance and Compliance, she has the opportunity to fulfill TVA’s mission to serve the people of the Tennessee Valley and achieve the tenets of the TVA ACT by influencing TVA’s customers to keep rates as low as feasible and to treat all ratepayers fairly. 

Melody holds a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting from Tennessee Technological University.  She currently lives in Georgia, and works in Chattanooga, but her favorite place to be is camping with her husband and three adult-sized kids in the mountains of Northeast TN.

Work Philosophy: Maintain a strategic focus to ensure you are working on the issues that make the greatest positive impact to your customers and the people you serve. Always seek ways to make your product, your team, and the world around you better. Never stop improving. Leaders should serve those people who follow them by finding ways to remove barriers to getting the work done.The greatest leaders do not give people what they want. They give them what they need.

Best Advice for Students and Pending Graduates: Put your focus on building your foundation, not on climbing a ladder. The broader the foundation, the stronger the foundation.  Ladders fall easily.  Picture your career as a lattice with moves up, sideways and down, allowing you to focus on learning about all aspects of the business.  You will become a more valuable resource for any employer.

Type of student I hope to mentor: Enthusiastic learner who seeks answers by asking great questions and recognizes they don’t know everything. Diligent worker with a continuous improvement mindset. I can best serve an accounting or finance major.

Rich Carpenter

EPB - Senior Manager of Operations

Rich Carpenter was born and raised northeast of Knoxville in a small farm town. After high school he moved out to attend college but had a rough start and so decided to join the military. His career truly started in the United States Air Force in 1996 where he was trained in telecommunications and served four years active duty. While in the USAF, Rich was stationed in two bases in TX for training. Once he completed the training, Rich was stationed in Cocoa Beach, FL for a little over two years. While in FL, Rich was a telephone switch technician, programming a central computer that allowed phone calls to process. His last base was at Mountain Home, ID. While there, Rich was deployed to Kuwait for four months. At Mountain Home, Rich supervised  the contractors that took care of the telephone switch for the base.

Following his years in the Air Force, Rich was hired by AT&T back in Knoxville, TN. After two years, he progressed to become a technical support technician across the United States for the telephone switches at AT&T. After some time, Rich moved to Chattanooga in 2005 to work for Electric Power Board (EPB) as a telephone switch technician. Over the past 14 years, Rich has progressed in his field through a series of earned promotions: Switch Technician, Network Operations Engineer, Supervisor of Network Operations. Sr. Supervisor of Network Operations, Manager of Operations, and now Sr. Manager of Operations. Rich has the pleasure of leading around 40 employees in operations and engineering where he is exposed to cutting edge technology on a daily basis.

Rich holds an AAS in Electronic Systems Technology, a BS in Business, and an MBA with a concentration in Business Analytics, the latter earned from UTC in 2018.

Work Philosophy: I grew up on a small farm and I loved competing in sporting events. Based on my background, it has shaped me to be very competitive and hard working. I work a lot of hours and I do not understand people that like being average. With that said, I am more inwardly competitive now. As a manager, it is my job to help others grow and reach their full potential. Based on my sports background, I have learned to coach each person individually. I am a big joker and I try to make everyone smile. It is my job to help my employees enjoy their jobs. I cannot be successful if my employees are not successful.

Best Advice for Students and Pending Graduates: Life is all about your own attitude! If you have a positive attitude and a willingness to grow as a person, you will be successful in life both personally and at work. Surround yourself with successful positive people as it is very contagious!

Type of student I hope to mentor: I can work with anyone. I would like someone that likes to set goals, but they do not take everything too serious. We can knock out goals and still have fun doing it!

Cheryl Millsaps

Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce - Vice President of Finance & Administration

Cheryl is responsible for managing the financial, human, information, and property assets of the Chamber, as well as providing ancillary strategic direction to collaborative initiatives such as Chatt 2.0, the Principal Leadership Academy and Thrive 2055.  Her team includes accounting, HR, IT and the management of the downtown office building the Chamber owns. She has been in her current role since 2005, and was previously the Director of Accounting for the Chamber.

Prior to the Chamber, Cheryl worked more than 20 years in a public utility, with positions ranging from commercial operations to financial analysis, and served as a functional expert in database operations, shepherding the migration of financial services to a shared services center.  She served as a bargaining unit shop steward and elected union official, participating in negotiating two contracts between the bargaining unit and company management.

Cheryl is a native of East Tennessee, who originally moved to Chattanooga to attend UTC. After spending time as a trailing spouse in Texas and Mississippi, she returned to her adopted home, where she completed her BS in Business Administration at Bryan College. She’s earned a Six Sigma credential in statistical process control, is a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR), a Senior Certified Professional with the Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM-SCP), a graduate of the Institute of Organization Management (IOM) from Southeast Institute at UGA, and was recently recognized as a Certified Chamber Executive (CCE) by the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives, a credential held by fewer than 300 executives nationwide. 

Work Philosophy:  Work hard, play hard.  Pursue excellence, not perfection. Wherever you go, whatever you do, it’s always about people. People do business with people they know and trust.  

Best Advice for Students: You’ll never again be as free to experience the world as you are right now.  Take courses outside your major. Work in unconventional jobs. Travel. Experience other cultures. There is a high likelihood life after college won’t go exactly as planned. Prepare for life, not a career.

The type of student I hope to mentor:  I hope to mentor a student who has overcome some challenges and shows the grit and determination to succeed in life.

Aricia Gallaher

Chambliss Law - Marketing and Business Development Director

Aricia Gallaher is responsible for all aspects and functions of marketing and business development for the law firm of Chambliss, Bahner & Stophel, P.C. She has nearly 20 years of professional experience in marketing services and operations, business development, event management, and client relationship management.

Throughout her career, Aricia has worked with a diverse background of clientele, including some of the nation’s largest health systems. She has been responsible for developing and implementing sound marketing strategies along with managing marketing teams, projects, and processes to help ensure a strong return on investment. She takes great pride in uncovering and identifying business opportunities, properly executing strategy, and providing customer service excellence.

Aricia was raised in Kingston, TN, a small town located about 30 miles southwest of Knoxville. She graduated from the University of Tennessee Chattanooga with a BS in Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing. When Aricia is away from the office, she enjoys spending time with family and friends, playing the occasional round of golf, and traveling. She also has her eye set on completing a mini-triathlon this spring.

Work Philosophy: Where you begin does not have to dictate your future. Consider every day a job interview. With hard work and initiative, opportunities will present themselves. And, once you find yourself in a position where you have the chance to give back and help others, do so.

Best Advice for Students: You have the ability to chart your own career path. Push yourself beyond your comfort zone and try new things. Take the initiative to find mentors and internships that will connect you with opportunities and decision makers—you never know where they may lead you.

Type of student I hope to mentor: A business student who not only takes initiative and is eager to learn, but who is also willing to share perspective and offer refreshing insight. I have had some great mentors throughout my career. Because of their willingness to help me grow and mature professionally, I have achieved much success (personally and professionally). In honor of my wonderful mentors, I would like to share what I have learned with an open-minded and motivated young professional.

Rich Carpenter

EPB - Senior Manager of Information Technology Engineering

(Bio TBA)