Quinnipiac and M&T Bank partnership aligns emerging business leaders with aspiring high school scholars

July 26, 2023

Professionals talk to students in New Haven about possible career paths

On July 20, emerging business leaders and aspiring high school scholars aligned for a morning of mentorship and community service, through a collaboration of Quinnipiac University, M&T Bank and New Haven Promise.

The event at New Haven’s Career High School was part of Quinnipiac and M&T Bank’s Next Up community leadership accelerator program. Launched May 25, the executive education program has enrolled 30 emerging professionals from M&T Bank and 11 Connecticut companies.

In the four sessions led by Quinnipiac and M&T experts, participants will explore and develop core leadership concepts and competencies, create networks, recognize peer challenges and opportunities and promote community service concepts through volunteering.

Next Up’s community service component created an optimal opportunity to collaborate with New Haven Promise, said Jennifer Benson, Quinnipiac's lifelong learning program director.

“Community is important to Quinnipiac and M&T Bank, so we wanted to be sure to connect these emerging leaders with community service," said Benson. "Our program with New Haven Promise is a perfect opportunity, because not only do we already have an existing relationship, but these students are the next generation of leaders."

Founded in 2010, New Haven Promise has provided $29 million in scholarships to New Haven students attending two- and four-year colleges. Since the fall of 2011, New Haven Promise has disbursed $310,700 in scholarships to Quinnipiac for 64 scholarship recipients enrolled at the university.

New Haven Promise executive director Patricia Melton said the non-profit’s relationship with Quinnipiac is thriving due to the commitment of President Judy Olian.

“We asked her to be on the board from the moment she came to Quinnipiac, and in that time, Quinnipiac has been a tremendous partner for our Promise scholars. One of the things Dr. Olian did was to make sure every one of our scholars that comes to Quinnipiac gets a $25,000 scholarship,” said Melton.

Beginning in 2020, Quinnipiac and New Haven Promise also partnered for summer pre-college programming, in which New Haven Promise scholarship dollars support approximately 75 student scholars during a week-long residential and course experience on campus.

“We have sent roughly 180 middle and high school students from New Haven public schools to Quinnipiac's pre-college summer programs,” noted Melton.

Melton said New Haven Promise welcomed the opportunity to participate in the July 20 Next Up event, which drew 30 high school Promise scholars. Together, the Next Up professionals and Promise scholars filled 300 backpacks with school supplies to contribute toward New Haven public schools’ goal of providing 1,200 backpacks to low-income families in August.

To open the morning, Melton encouraged the Next Up professionals to sit down with the Promise scholars in small groups for mentorship discussions.

“We saw it as a great opportunity for us to highlight our non-profit with these professionals and for our students to learn about how these professionals got to where they are,” said Melton. “So here are these business members going through professional development to go further in their organizations, while they are also sharing with our students to help them learn more about these companies and career tracks.”

Elizabeth Zack, Next Up Leadership program manager for M&T Bank, said M&T has iterations of the Next Up program in other markets, but the partnership with Quinnipiac marks the first larger market iteration of the program. It’s also the first to incorporate external business participants with M&T Bank emerging leaders.

“Our emerging talent here today includes M&T Bank folks and external participants who are clients of M&T Bank, which is new a brand-new concept,” said Zack.

In addition to M&T Bank, client participants include those from Stew Leonard's, CohnReznick LLP, Connecticut Distributors Inc., Lexington Partners LLC, Marcum LLP, Pullman & Comley, LLC, Rogin Nassau LLC, Shipman & Goodwin LLP, CLA, HR Consulting Services and IRL Innovations.

Following the community service event, Quinnipiac hosted faculty-led workshops for Next Up participants at the North Haven campus. The communication and leadership workshops were developed with professor of strategic communication Hilary Fussell Sisco of the School of Communications.

Next Up participant Andrew Hollis, a grocery manager with Stew Leonard’s, said the session’s combination of coursework and community service with Promise scholars was impactful.

“You’re not just sitting in a classroom looking at a textbook. It’s very interactive, so you get a lot more out of it,” said Hollis. “I think the best thing was seeing how these students wanted to get ahead in their careers, whether it was going to college or looking for a job and asking a lot of questions. Answering their questions, and knowing you are possibly helping them get to the next part in their life, was really heart-warming.”

M&T Bank Next Up participant Megan Tsagas, a business banking relationship manager, said she was glad to have the opportunity to share her experiences with students at this critical point in their career considerations or college explorations.

“I think for me it was really nice just to see how curious the students were," said Tsagas. "They are so invested in where they want to be, and it starts foundationally with the age that they’re at now. Knowing how important and pivotal those conversations can be to somebody, you’re just so much more devoted to what you do and it really brings it back home that this is exactly where you should be and what you should be doing.”

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