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Mentorship Program with M&T Bank Doubles This Year


A 2020–2021 pilot mentorship program between Buffalo State College and M&T Bank was such a success that it has expanded this academic year.

Launched in fall 2020, the program paired minority students enrolled in Buffalo State’s Muriel A. Howard Honors Program with mentors in M&T’s Legal Division across a number of states. James Finnerty, Buffalo State’s vice president for institutional advancement, and Laura O’Hara, general counsel for M&T and a member of the Buffalo State College Foundation Board of Directors, worked with Kara Handzlik, senior associate general counsel and legal operations manager at M&T, to design the program.

The goal was to introduce students to the professional world and help them gain insights into networking, creating a strong résumé, preparing for job interviews, and finding work-life balance, among other things.

M&T recently released a video titled “Difference Makers” that showcases the program’s first year. In the video, both mentors and mentees noted how they personally benefited from their involvement.

“The relationships between the mentors and mentees and the networks that have developed for the students are fantastic.”

- Kara Handzlik, Senior Associate General Counsel and Legal Operations Manager, M&T

Amy McMillan, Buffalo State professor and director of the honors program, invited 90 minority honors students to apply. Sixteen were selected and 13 stayed with the program until it wrapped up last May. She said it felt like a success.

This year the bank expanded the program, adding mentors from other divisions, including human resources, technology, and risk.

“I think both years have gone extremely well,” Handzlik said. “The relationships between the mentors and mentees and the networks that have developed for the students are fantastic.”

Because there was room for more students this year, the college opened up the program to the entire student body. About half the 27 students who applied are in the honors program, McMillan said. All 27 were accepted, and they started meeting with their mentors remotely in September.

“We weren’t sure if we’d be able to accommodate all the students who applied, but thankfully, more than enough M&T employees stepped forward to serve as mentors,” McMillan said.

During the one-on-one time students have each month, they ask their mentors philosophical questions, such as, “How do I figure out what I want to do with my life?” in addition to more pragmatic requests for reviews of résumés and cover letters, according to McMillan.

Oneika Webb, a Buffalo State student who participated in the program last year, worked with her mentor specifically on interviewing techniques and presenting herself professionally, McMillan said, adding that Webb landed a prestigious management development job with M&T after she graduated.

“Although the position wasn’t related to the mentorship program,” McMillan said, “I think the work Oneika did with her mentor set her up to be successful.”