Female mentee and mentor wearing masks talk outside

By Geneva Nodland, Marketing Intern

The Executive Mentorship Program offered at MSUM gives students the opportunity to connect with individuals throughout the community who have expertise and understanding to share. Through this program, MSUM senior Morgan Kastner was able to connect with someone close to home.

Last spring, Morgan met Kathleen McNabb, who works at MSUM in administration to support the university’s president and vice president. The two had coincidentally met the previous semester at a campus event. Kathleen said that even back then, the two had “natural rapport.”

The mentorship program is conducted through a one credit class offered to juniors and seniors in the Paseka School of Business. Just as in other classes, the professor, Jane Pettinger, provides a syllabus and assignments for the students, which include weekly topics like professionalism and identifying strengths.

Students weren’t assigned to discuss those topics with their mentors, but Morgan took the initiative to combine what she had learned in class with Kathleen’s real-world experience.

“Sometimes there is a disconnect between college and education with what’s going on in the real world, so Kathleen was a good person to help bridge that gap,” said Morgan.

Through their meetings, Morgan and Kathleen became close. They diverged from only working on the syllabus assignments and collaborated on things they enjoy.

“Another topic that we quickly discovered we both have a passion for is the topic of leadership,” Kathleen explained.

Once they found their shared love for the subject, the duo conducted a book study on “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership” by John C. Maxwell. They both enjoyed the experience and learned from it, and Morgan said the book even helped her get out of a “funk” she had with reading.

“When someone says leadership, it excites me,” said Morgan.

Morgan’s excitement carried over into her time with Kathleen, and didn’t go unnoticed. Kathleen says they were able to go deeper into the topic because of Morgan’s many experiences.

“Morgan made my job so easy because she already had experienced so many things and accomplished so much in her young life,” Kathleen said. “She was a leader before I met her.”

Morgan’s leadership opportunities include time in 4-H, the Barry Foundation, Tractor Supply, and John Deere Electronics Solutions, where she currently works in accounting, purchasing, and is on their student leadership team.

Another activity the pair did together was goal setting, which turned out to be a favorite for both. Kathleen guided Morgan through the steps to set different types of goals.

“We came up with really substantive things for Morgan to work on, and maybe not all of them are going to stick when you throw them at a wall, but we spent a lot of time really drilling down on what she wants to pursue and achieve,” Kathleen said. “I really enjoyed that time we spent together.”

There were many takeaways from the experience for Morgan, but she especially took note of what she described as “Kathleen’s persona” and how that helped her through the odd semester.

“Kathleen has this really calming presence to her, and that was greatly appreciated when the pandemic hit,” Morgan said. “The biggest thing I will cherish from the mentor relationship is being paired with someone who was the right person at the right time through the crazy pandemic.”

“The biggest thing I will cherish from the mentor relationship is being paired with someone who was the right person at the right time through the crazy pandemic.”

She wasn’t the only one who appreciated the relationship they built.

“Like Morgan said, it wasn’t too long after we met that we all got sent home, so [our meetings] enhanced my connection and gave me something positive to focus on too,” Kathleen said.

The two persevered through the semester and left the program knowing more than they did when they started.

“I learned that there is as much learning for the mentor as there is for the mentee. It was a really enjoyable relationship and we actually developed a friendship with the time that we spent together,” Kathleen said. “When I went into it, I thought it might be more of me teaching Morgan, but she taught me as much as I taught her.”

Morgan will graduate in December and says the program equipped her for her future in many ways.

“The biggest thing I learned from the whole experience is that you always have so many areas to grow in,” Morgan said. “The best part about it is that there’s always going to be someone or a group of people there to support you, give you their backstory and teach you their life lesson.”

The pair faced challenges due to COVID-19 during their time in the program but came out together stronger. Both Morgan and Kathleen encourage students and potential mentees to be a part of the program.

“We can always learn from anybody at any stage of our lives, just keep an open mind,” Kathleen said.