M&T representative speaks at end-of-year celebration

M&T Bank Mentorship Comes Full Circle for Buffalo State Alumna


Buffalo State University alumna Oneika Webb’s participation in Buffalo State’s mentorship program has come full circle. 

Webb, ’20, was part of the first cohort of Buffalo State students to take part in the program, launched in fall 2020 by James Finnerty, Buffalo State’s vice president for institutional advancement and external relations; Laura O’Hara, general counsel for M&T Bank and a member of the Buffalo State University Foundation Board of Directors; and Kara Handzlik, senior associate general counsel and manager for legal operations at M&T. Amy McMillan, director of the Muriel A. Howard Honors Program, orchestrated recruitment and served as campus liaison. 

After Webb graduated with her bachelor’s in computer information systems and a minor in creativity and change leadership, M&T offered her a place in its prestigious Management Development Program (MDP), a yearlong training program that focuses on personal and professional development. 

“It’s been a very interesting journey I never expected,” Webb said. “I think that in the mentorship program, you already have a different level of maturity from people your age. You see things differently; you have a plan of what you want to accomplish. The program really accelerated my plan. Having someone to give advice or feedback on issues I was going through or life in general was so helpful.”

After completing MDP, Webb accepted a full-time position with M&T. She has continued to grow within the organization and is now vice president of finance transformation. This year, she served as a mentor herself—to Daniya Trent, a Buffalo State senior Africana studies major.

Oneika Webb

Oneika Webb

“My mentee is amazing,” Webb said. “We’ve been able to develop a rapport, and I love it.”

The mentorship program has grown each year since its inception.

In 2020, Webb and 14 other Buffalo State honors students were paired with mentors in M&T’s legal division. The goal was to introduce students to the professional world and help them gain networking insights, create strong résumés, prepare for job interviews, and find work-life balance, among other things. 

In 2021, M&T added mentors from other divisions, including human resources, technology, and risk. Horizon Health Services became the mentorship program’s second partner organization, and Buffalo State opened the program to the entire student body for application. 

In 2022, the program moved from the purview of McMillan and the Honors Program to that of Denise Harris, director of Buffalo State’s Career and Professional Education Center (CAPE). M&T designated paid summer internships specifically for Buffalo State students and encouraged mentees to apply.

In 2023, Ingram Micro became the third partner organization, and the program received 100 applicants. There were 36 successful pairings. 

CAPE facilitates mentor-mentee relationships by hosting kickoff and conclusion celebration events at the beginning and end of the program and providing monthly guidance for discussion designed around the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) career-readiness competencies: critical thinking, communication, teamwork, technology, leadership, professionalism, career and self-development, and equity and inclusion. 

In addition to discussing the competencies, Webb left room for flexibility and encouraged Trent to express her needs.

“I would say, ‘Let me know what would be the most valuable for you,’” Webb said. “Our conversations changed based on her goals and what she was going through. I allowed her to say, ‘This is what I want to work on.’ Building that flexibility and openness allowed us to grow together and provide value on both sides.”

And, Webb said, Trent was not the only one learning from the relationship.

“Daniya is very self-aware,” Webb said. “She teaches me how to talk through problems. I journal; she speaks out loud. I always tell her, ‘You’re the opposite of me, but it works for you,’ so I try it. Having different preferences is how we were made, that’s how we function, but she’s been teaching me to create space to try.”

Webb also attended the program’s end-of-year celebration May 2, when mentors and mentees united in the LoRusso Alumni and Visitor Center to connect and honor the program’s success.

M&T representatives at end-of-year celebration

M&T Bank employees Leslie Wallace and Kara Handzlik were two of this year’s mentors.

“It’s an opportunity to bring the mentors and mentees together to celebrate the successes of the year,” Harris said. “We do a recap, thank mentors and students, and encourage mentors to participate again.”

Handzlik, who has continued to mentor since helping launch the program, emphasized the program’s value. 

“This has been a tremendous experience,” she said. “It’s so important to M&T to see the relationships that have been established and the guidance that’s passed on, both to the students and also that students pass on to the employees.” 

Handzlik added that students who have been hired into the bank full time are “excelling in their positions.” In addition to Webb, alumna Dawn Jones obtained an internship after her mentorship ended, and alumni Ismail Ali and Reilly Kelly landed full-time positions.

During the celebration, Wayne Brumfield, Buffalo State University’s interim vice president for student affairs, addressed the mentees.

“Mentoring is one of the most important aspects you will experience,” he said. “Create those relationships—I promise you they will last a lifetime.” 

Webb agreed. “I still keep in touch with my mentor,” she said. “We meet up; we have lunch. I’ve seen the program’s impact since I started versus being a mentor now. To see it still going means it’s having an impact across the board.”

Would Webb serve as a mentor again? “I would,” she said. “One hundred percent.”

Photos by Jesse Steffan-Colucci, Buffalo State photographer; Webb photo courtesy of Oneika Webb.