Leading the way in innovative mentorship

Innovation is on the curriculum at UNC. And with the Adams Apprenticeship, Carolina’s highest potential student leaders are receiving entrepreneurship mentoring and connections to a powerful network.

Designed to accelerate the entrepreneurial careers of some of UNC’s top students, the Adams Apprenticeship, a program of the UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School’s Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, enrolls undergraduate juniors and first-year graduate students from across the University for a 12-month program. The comprehensive program results in a life-long network of students and successful UNC alumni and friends – comprised of 280 leaders in 2018 —that shapes, supports and speeds the transition to entrepreneurial careers with successful outcomes.

Mary Margaret Milley (MBA ’19)—a member of the 2018 Adams Apprentice cohort—has launched Viyb, a company designed to make finding mental health care more accessible. UNC’s focus on entrepreneurship is one of the reasons she chose UNC Kenan-Flagler for graduate school.

“The network the Adams Apprenticeship offers is unique,” says Milley. “I am really impressed with everyone’s commitment to making Chapel Hill a ground zero for entrepreneurs to grow. The mentors are a network of people really committed to upholding Tar Heel culture and helping students succeed,” she says.

Being exposed to students from other departments and with completely different backgrounds has already benefited her company. “Culturally, this is a very tight knit group,” she says. “This is going to be very useful going forward and in exploring entrepreneurship long term.”

The Adams Apprenticeship provides curricular and co-curricular leadership development training and the opportunity to travel to New York and San Francisco to learn about these key markets and further build the students’ networks. Apprentices attend two daylong conferences at UNC which feature inspiring talks and networking opportunities. In addition, students receive access to and mentorship from UNC’s most successful entrepreneurs.

That mentorship has been life changing for Alexandra Hehlen, who during her sophomore year at UNC founded “Coulture,” a fashion magazine that features diverse global perspectives and models of all sizes, shapes, gender identities, and races. A member of the Adams Apprenticeship 2017 cohort, Hehlen plans to work in New York City as an art director or creative director in the fashion industry after receiving her bachelor’s degree from UNC in May 2018.

One of her mentors is Dana McMahan, a professor in the UNC School of Media and Journalism professor). “She is my wonder woman, “says Hehlen.”Last year, she started helping me figure out what I wanted to do and saw something in me I didn’t see in myself yet.”

McMahan suggested that Hehlen think about art direction and made a connection for her with an agency in New York. Hehlen interned there last summer, working on campaigns for brands including Ralph Lauren and Tom Ford. “I never would have figured out this career direction without her,” says Hehlen.

One of her favorite parts of the Adams Apprenticeship is the people. “The board of advisors I have been fortunate to cultivate has helped me through bumps in the road, both with my venture and my future,” she says. “My fellow classmates and cohort have been essential in my time here at UNC; getting to spend time with people who are like-minded and similarly driven to change the world through entrepreneurship is such a blessing.” She expresses her appreciation for the passion of the Adams staff. “They treat the program as a startup and I value that an entrepreneurial focus permeates the entire organization,” she says.

Edgar Walker (BA ’16), a member of the 2016 Adams Apprenticeship, works on the analytics team for Bleacher Report in San Francisco. “The lessons I learned during the apprenticeship are very relevant and affect how I work day-to-day,” he says.

“What’s important is that this is one of the few programs invested in the students themselves rather than the outcome they can create,” says Walker. “That ladders up to the lofty and ambitious vision to create a world-class mentorship program, which it is well on its way to doing.”

Walker describes the Adams Apprenticeship as a lifelong program. “I’m involved in meeting with students as a recent grad who can be a bit of an advisor,” he says. “I’m looking forward to giving back and excited to see how this program continues to support me, my peers and future students and see the impact we make and the people we can lead moving forward.”