Ann Renckens loves the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She bleeds Badger red on game day, and she lives UW pride in her personal and professional life. For the last 15 years, she has been the corporate recruiter for General Mills at the Wisconsin School of Business. Six years ago, she started the Ignite the Potential program, a program that helps students gain leadership skills and personal growth from getting out of their comfort zone; began speaking and mentoring UW-Madison students; and began partnering with the school to think through corporate relation strategies.
Renckens attributes her initial involvement to the significant numbers of young Business Badgers she saw starting at General Mills, and the pride she saw in their work ethic.
“I have so much to give back to this school,” Renckens said. “I was doing well. I attribute a lot of that to the education I got at UW-Madison. I just was at point where I wanted to give back in a bigger way than I had.”
As Renckens began mentoring students, she found herself giving the same advice over and over again: build relationships as much as possible. Once students are admitted to the school, they enter a lifelong network of 39,000 Business Badgers, who can provide help and guidance from across the world.
Carrie Olson, associate director of alumni relations at the Wisconsin School of Business, said there are many opportunities for networking. Students looking for a mentor can search the online alumni directory for professionals organized by industry, degree year, major, title, and company.
“The Wisconsin network is one of the strongest and most unique assets you gain as a Business Badger,” Olson said.
Students or alumni interested in relationship building can also join the Wisconsin School of Business alumni group on LinkedIn or participate in the Madison Business Mentoring Program. Founded in 2010, the program pairs undergraduate students with UW-Madison alumni to help students gain insight into life after graduation. These two options work well because of how proud and engaged UW alumni are, said Jamie Marsh Finco, director of corporate relations at the Wisconsin School of Business.
“Our alumni are what set us apart from other large research universities. Badgers are inherently loyal, which helps us increase our circles of connections,” said Marsh Finco. “Plus, as a Business Badger, you have many opportunities to make an impact with our students.”
Having been on both sides of relationship building, Renckens understands the anxiety many students have about seeking out a mentor, but lets us in on a little secret: alumni love being mentors.
“People want to be asked to be a mentor. It’s like when you are on playground in second grade, picking captains for the team. You feel special and important if you’re chosen,” she said. “Besides, you never know where that next opportunity will come from…every day, you have a sense of purpose. People are watching your every move,” she said. “If you want to inspire and lead, you need to have a purpose that goes above the frustrations, the politics, and all the hard times, and stay focused on that.”
For more information on how to get involved as a student or mentor, contact Jamie Marsh Finco at firstname.lastname@example.org or Carrie Olson at email@example.com.