The generous gift establishes the Rotman LEADS Program (Leadership, Exploration, Advice, Development and Success) with the goal of extending mentorship support to 300 students.

Posted on September 18, 2020

There are many valuable things you learn in a classroom, and then there are things you learn from a high-profile business leader and mentor like Richard Nesbitt (MBA 1985).

“Richard gave me the kinds of insights I couldn’t have gotten anywhere else. How the C-suite works. How an executive thinks and acts and engages with people. This was one of the highlights of my program and a phenomenal experience,” says mentee Laura Garzon (MFin 2020).

Garzon and a handful of other U of T Rotman students are the latest to benefit from the Rotman Financial Services Mentorship Program. Created in 2014 at the University of Toronto, the program has been highly successful at enhancing the student experience and delivering transformational learning to a few select MBA and MFin students.

Extraordinary generosity establishes mentorship as a key part of the Rotman student experience

Nesbitt and his spouse, Lucy Lawlor (BEd 1993), are now bringing that crucial catalyst of alumni mentorship to many more students across Rotman graduate program by establishing the Rotman LEADS Program (Leadership, Exploration, Advice, Development and Success) with a significant gift.

Mentorship was one of the highlights of my program and a phenomenal experience

“At a time when the student experience has changed quite dramatically because of the pandemic, I was approached by the School about the need to expand the alumni mentorship program,” says Nesbitt, an adjunct professor at Rotman and recipient of the 2019 Rotman Lifetime Achievement Award.

“So we’ll be growing the program from four or five mentors today to 15 by September, and hopefully 30 a year from now. If each mentor has ten students, mentoring would be available to as many as 300 students,” adds Nesbitt.

“Richard and Lucy’s extraordinary generosity and commitment to Rotman continue to inspire me,” says Interim Dean Kenneth S. Corts. “By investing in mentorship with the Rotman LEADS program, they are helping the Rotman School deliver the kind of experiential learning and networking opportunities that will enable our students to start applying their education and skills right away, especially in a post-COVID world.”

Mentorship programs accelerate student development, personally as well as professionally

Rotman LEADS will connect students to industry leaders in the GTA, strengthening the Rotman School’s relationship to Bay Street, the entrepreneurial community and other industries. The program will be offered virtually, giving both mentors and students more options to fit this type of accelerated student support and industry engagement into their schedules.

The guidance and experience of mentors can be a safety net, a vital link

The program also has other advantages, says Lawlor:

“There are some individuals who are isolated and need the support, and the guidance and experience of mentors can be a safety net for them. It’s a vital link, enabling them to continue academically but also helping them on a personal level.”

As Nesbitt’s latest mentee, Colombian-born Garzon is enthusiastic about the benefits of a mentorship program like LEADS.

“Where I come from, mentorship is casual and informal. People sometimes take others under their wing; they become their ahijados. I prefer the Rotman approach because I like structure. There’s less uncertainty, and I appreciate having milestones. My mentorship experience was even better than I expected. I met Rotman students from other programs and I learned so much from Richard. It would be silly not to make the most of an amazing opportunity like this program.”

By Alain Latour