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The College of Business and Public Policy prepares students for leadership at the frontiers of a changing world. Our “Real-World Solutions” series focuses on students and graduates who are applying their expertise to meet today’s challenges and make a meaningful impact in our communities.

CBPP Graduate Student Helps Launch CIRI’s Virtual Mentorship Program

June 21, 2021
Rinnah Andrew, CBPP graduate student and CIRI intern, along with Darla Graham, senior manager, CIRI shareholder engagement Rinnah Andrew, CBPP graduate student and CIRI intern, along with Darla Graham, senior manager, CIRI shareholder engagement.

Mentors and mentees will benefit from a new customized virtual mentorship program developed by Cook Inlet Region, Inc. (CIRI), launched with assistance from CBPP graduate student and CIRI intern Rinnah Andrew. The program will connect CIRI shareholders and descendants with growth opportunities in areas based on their interests. Mentorship categories range from career and education topics to Alaska Native culture and CIRI corporation business operations, said Darla Graham, senior manager, CIRI shareholder engagement.

Under Graham’s guidance, Andrew began researching the feasibility of the virtual mentorship program last summer during her first CIRI internship. She used her Spring 2021 CBPP Graduate Management Project course to move the program from concept to launch-ready. This summer Andrew is helping guide its implementation.

Unlike traditional top-down mentoring, CIRI’s new program will cultivate a reciprocal relationship between mentor and mentee. Each participant will develop skills through a two-way transfer of experience and perspective. For example, many CIRI shareholders live outside Alaska, disconnected from their culture. Virtual mentoring will provide a framework to connect with participants in Alaska who could share about culture, as they in turn are guided on topics such as transitioning from school to work and personal finance.

“Virtual mentoring is the latest in a suite of programs for CIRI shareholders and descendants,” Graham said. She emphasized the contributions interns like Andrew provide in the development and implementation process. “They add that ‘special sauce’. Their creativity and insight is so valuable in creating programs that are more relevant to the next generation. Last year Rinnah worked on the research and development piece for the virtual mentorship program and I was ecstatic when she could come back. She has great ideas, passion, and motivation. It’s inspiring to collaborate with someone who wants to do good and work hard.”

CBPP’s Dr. Sandra Ehrlich was Andrew’s professor for the graduate Management Project. “As an advocate for professional development inside and outside the classroom, it was affirming to work alongside Rinnah on this vital project. Since her undergraduate years, she and I have built a long-standing authentic rapport based on mutual trust and respect,” Ehrlich said. “Mentorship is a key driver for success. Throughout the spring semester, Rinnah and I met virtually to ensure project alignment, clarity of purpose, and to solve ‘real world’ challenges. Steeped in its community core values, the CIRI virtual mentorship program will be transformative for its shareholders and descendants,” Ehrlich said.

Rinnah Andrew and Dr. Sandra Ehrlich, Professor of Management and Marketing Rinnah Andrew and Dr. Sandra Ehrlich, Professor of Management and Marketing

Andrew is appreciative of her own mentors, including Ehrlich and Graham. “My CBPP education gave many opportunities to ‘show and grow’ my leadership skills,” she said. These included an emphasis in professional communication, critical thinking skills, delivering concise presentations, working effectively in teams, exploring leadership scenarios, and negotiating skills. Andrew was able to put these skills and expertise into practice with her work on the mentorship program. “Assisting Darla in starting the virtual mentorship program is a transferable skill I will use for the rest of my career,” Andrew said. “I am very grateful for that opportunity.”

Andrew expects to complete her Master of Business Administration with emphases in Public Sector and Nonprofit Management and Leadership in May 2022. She holds a Bachelor in Business Administration in Management with minors in Dance and Alaska Native Studies from UAA. She is a Calista shareholder, CIRI descendant, and St. Mary’s Native Corporation descendant who ultimately wants to help grow her Native corporations and assist shareholders and descendants in fulfilling their goals and dreams.

Interested in participating in CIRI’s Virtual Mentorship Program?

Applications for the program are accepted year-round. The first small cohort will be selected in July 2021. Participants must be 18 or over, and can live anywhere in the world. Mentee applicants should be CIRI shareholders or descendants. Prospective mentors can come from the broader community. Participants must commit to a six-month program. Apply by July 2 to be considered for the first cohort.

Read more about the program at CIRI’s website.

Apply to be a mentee. Apply to be a mentor.