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

Business Mentor Bench 


Melissa Crane

Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) - Senior Service Manager, Transmission 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 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 previously 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.  Melissa also enjoys ballet and running and is training for her twelth half-marathon.

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: I don't have anything firm in mind, but I hope we enjoy each other's company!

Jim Ledbetter

Hanover Properties - Owner/Operator

Jim Ledbetter is a small business entrepreneur, who founded Barcom, Inc in 1991.  Barcom is a Chattanooga based technology company focused on data collection, factory automation and supply chain automation.  As President of Barcom, Jim lead a 20-person team of sales, programmers, technicians and support staff.  Jim sold the company in 2007.  Currently Jim owns and operates Hanover Properties, a property management company. 

Jim attended UTC, graduating in 1980 with a BS in Business and a concentration in Marketing.  After graduation, Jim went to work for Burroughs (now Unisys) as a Sales Account Representative, selling mainframe computers and software in the Healthcare industry.  In 1986, he went to work for Wang Labs in an Account Representative role, selling Computers and Applications to select large accounts.  At both Burroughs and Wang, Jim was consistently a top performer and achieved President Club (or equivalent) on numerous occasions.    

Work Philosophy: A quote attributed to Confucius and many others drives my thinking about work “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life”.  Though it would be far reaching to say I enjoyed every single day, the days I loved far outweigh any ‘work’ days.  Doing something that you enjoy is the difference between wondering where the day went and looking forward to the next day versus watching a clock and waiting for Friday to arrive.  It’s the difference between feeling proud of your accomplishments and collecting a paycheck. 

Best Advice for Students and Pending Graduates: Test the waters as much as possible and as early as possible.  I firmly believe that students should enter their selected careers with a thorough understanding of what they should expect when they enter the work force.  Before graduating (the earlier the better) the student should do as many career-based activities as possible.  Activities such as:  Internships, Meeting and Networking, Researching, attending career related events, talking with recent graduates and joining career related organizations. 

Type of student I hope to mentor: Someone who has a general idea of their direction and goals but who has not fully formulated their approach on getting there.  Because of my background and experiences, a mentee with aspirations toward Entrepreneurship, Sales or Management would be ideal. 

George Todd

Enel X North America - Energy Advisor, Advisory Solutions

George Todd is an Energy Advisor at Enel X North America in the Advisory Solutions organization. In his role, he is the primary contact for several large multi-national corporations. He is responsible for reporting customer energy portfolio performance, exploring and valuing potential renewable purchases such as solar and wind farms, and optimizing procurement strategies as well as demand reduction opportunities. George works with large customers across all industries and geographies. He is the sole contact supporting a Fortune 100 customer, a university in Pennsylvania, and many other corporations across North America. He also plays an integral role in the procurement of solar capacity for Consumers Energy Company in Michigan leveraging Enel X’s proprietary reverse auction platform. George coordinates with the Advisory Solutions organization procurement team members to deliver industry-leading products and services to support and optimize customer operations.

George started his energy career at the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) as an intern in the Structuring and Portfolio Management group. Upon completion of his internship, he started his analytical background as an Energy Marketing Strategist supporting TVA’s Natural Gas Origination and Power Marketing groups. He worked with many other analytical functions across the organization to help deliver commodity purchase decisions to support TVA’s $3B commodity portfolio.

George is an East Tennessee native, growing up in Oak Ridge, TN. He currently resides in Ooltewah with his daughter, and dog. George attended UTC for both his undergraduate and graduate degrees, earning a B.S.B.A. in Finance and a Master of Business Administration. While at UTC, he served on the College of Business Student Leadership Council and was the President of the Financial Management Association. George is an outdoorsman, avid runner and athlete.

Work Philosophy: Never pass up an opportunity to learn something new. With increased automation and higher expectations, showing initiative to learn something new and adapt to changing environments will increase your value. Perfect examples: at TVA I learned to code using VBA and MATLAB; at my second career stop I learned SQL; today I leverage all of that knowledge to optimize my work load. Work smarter, not harder – this leads to a better work/life balance.

Best Advice for Students: Think of yourself as a product. You should be polished – from your resume/CV all the way to your presence. You are the expert on you, or as one of my mentors put it to me, “You are the CEO of ‘You’ Industries”. If you want to sell yourself, develop your network early and often. Know your value and the value of your competition; leverage the skills your education provided you and analyze yourself. Know your professors, and make sure they know you; they could lead to exciting opportunities.

Type of student I hope to mentor: I want to mentor someone who is humble and eager to learn. I struggled for a few years with self-confidence and presenting in front of people, but I’ve learned how to become a leader, take roadblocks in stride, and break out of my shell. I want to help someone break out.

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!

Jenelle Hawkins

Vision Hospitality Group - Director of Learning & Talent Development

With over fifteen years of experience in the hospitality industry, Jenelle joined Vision Hospitality in 2017 as an expert in identifying, developing, and conducting unique training programs and professional courses. Jenelle studied Music Education at the University of Tennessee. Though she enjoyed her field of study, she was attracted to the interactive environment hospitality offered, and in 2006, she accepted a position with the Sheraton Read House Hotel, a 241 room historic hotel located in the heart of downtown Chattanooga, TN. Within the Read House, she transitioned to several management positions in which she facilitated numerous training sessions that enhanced company culture and best practices. Jenelle’s passion to help others become stronger workers then led her to accept her most previous position as Training and Development Manager for Stokely Hospitality Enterprises, one of East Tennessee’s largest employers in the hospitality industry. 

Currently, Jenelle is responsible for the management of all training initiatives, which includes maintaining and implementing Vision’s digital training program, Vision University. In addition, she designs and develops learning materials and curricula based on identified needs, ensuring that all training procedures are aligned with Vision’s core values and business objectives.  Her work philosophy is that no matter what career field you find yourself in, focus less on tasks and more on people.  As students, it’s often hard to find that type of learning being offered, but if you can develop a relationship with a trusted mentor, they can help teach you those skills. 

Work Philosophy: Be involved, and never stop getting better.

Best Advice for Students and Pending Graduates: Your first job will not be the one you want, but you will learn from it what you need to get you to the job you want.  But, that only happens IF you realize what you are learning is valuable.  I don’t care if your job is to scrape gum off the sidewalk - you were hired because you were needed, which means you are learning a skill. 

Type of student I hope to mentor: Happy to mentor anyone who is seeking some self-awareness and has an open mind.

Tanner J. Goodrich

Erlanger Health System - Vice President of Operations

Tanner J. Goodrich, FACHE, serves as Vice President of Operations for Erlanger Health System, and CEO of the North Georgia Market.  Mr. Goodrich is board certified in healthcare management and a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives.  He obtained his Masters in Healthcare Administration from the University of Memphis.

Mr. Goodrich joined Erlanger Health System as the Administrator of Oncology Services in June of 2013, after serving in the same role at Mercy Hospital in Iowa City, IA. Prior to his role in Iowa City, Mr. Goodrich was the Manager of Operations for the Cancer Center and Brain and Spine Institute at Methodist University Hospital in Memphis, the major teaching campus of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center.

Mr. Goodrich has a passion for education, and improving the health of our children through youth sports programs.  He serves on the Board of the Signal Mountain Youth Baseball Association, and coaches several youth sports teams.  Tanner is a graduate of Leadership Chattanooga, and a member of the programs distinguished Alumni Association. 

Work Philosophy: I believe in complete transparency in an organization and with my direct reports. I believe this empowers my leaders to make the best decisions for the organization. Additionally, I believe that we, as leaders, cannot be successful operating in silos, so collaboration and the ability to work in teams is critical to success. Finally, I believe in rewarding risk-taking. Pushing the envelope brings new ideas.  Also, failure teaches us some of our greatest lessons.

Best Advice for Students and Pending Graduates: Learn the art of networking.  It is critical to meet and learn from those in your industry.  Get involved in the community where you work and live.  Actively pursue a mentor. 

Type of student I hope to mentor: I’d like to mentor a student with big ideas and big goals, and an interest in the healthcare delivery system, or service industry. 

Shelley Swinney

Unum - Director, Absence Management Center


Shelley has worked for Unum for over almost two decades, beginning as a Short Term Disability Benefits Specialist Trainee.  During her time at Unum, she has served in several varying roles within both the Short Term and Long Term Disability Departments.  She is currently responsible for seven managers who have teams that handle either Short-Term Disability Claims, Family Medical Leaves or Life Events (a combined role where a specialist handles Short Term Disability Claims and Family Medical Leaves).  While a portion of her role is people management and development, there is also a large component of strategic planning reviewing hiring, staffing and modeling based on business needs.

She was born and raised in Chattanooga and graduated from the University of Tennessee Chattanooga with a BA in Communications and a minor in Psychology.  Shelley and her fiancé have three children, two boys and one girl.  All three are extremely active in sports and other extra-curricular activities.  One son has played both travel baseball and basketball, and her daughter does competitive cheerleading, so most of her free time is spent traveling to watch them compete.  Shelley also enjoys boating and being with family and friends.

Work Philosophy:  Work hard, but make time to have fun because work-life balance is a must. Also, know that respect is earned; it’s not automatic. When you do your best, respect others and remain humble, the rest will follow. Additionally, go with your gut instinct. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Finally, chase your dreams; don’t chase titles.

Best Advice for Students:  Remember that your co-worker today very well could be your boss tomorrow, and they won’t forget the way you previously treated them.  On the flip side, should you become the boss to a peer or co-worker, be humble, kind and fair—keeping in mind that the career ladder has two directions you might go at any given time.

The type of student I hope to mentor:  Someone who is eager to learn and excited about their future.  Someone who is not afraid to take risks and learns from mistakes in order to become a better person—both personally and professionally.