The HSAA Mentorship Program pairs future leaders with industry professionals for yearlong one-on-ones

The UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media brings its powerful alumni network to bear each year with the HSAA Mentorship Program, pairing Hussman students with alumni mentors working in their fields of interest.

Overseen by Assistant Director of Career Services Heather Stevenson, the mentorship program began in 2017, pairing 10 students with alumni. It has grown exponentially since. For the 2021-22 academic year, there are 90 pairings mentor-mentee pairings including undergraduates and graduate students.

The school’s career services team has long offered a robust “Meet the Pros” program that gives students an opportunity to drop in and meet myriad professionals. The mentorship program creates a deeper connection, allowing students to build one-on-one relationships alumni.

Some mentors have helped place mentees in internships at their organizations; or made a connection that helps land their mentee a job.

Here’s what a few of our mentorship program pairs had to say about the experience.


Scott McBride ’13 (M.A.), resource monitor, Office of the Director of National Intelligence

Samantha Corcoran ’23 (M.A.)

Like McBride, Corcoran came to the master’s program from the U.S. Coast Guard. She is a commissioned officer serving in the Coast Guard’s advanced education program as a full-time graduate student at Hussman. After graduation, she will serve as a full-time public affairs officer for the Coast Guard.

She’s ahead of the game in that she already knows what she’ll be doing after completing her master's degree, but McBride's advice remains invaluable. “Everywhere you go is about the relationships you make, and that is very true when you’re a public affairs officer,” said McBride, who has talked to Corcoran about building trust with her colleagues. Another piece of  his advice: absorb everything — and learn.

“The school has been so good to me. Being a mentor has been a great chance to for me to be able to provide that support and career advice for someone else.” — McBride

“I wanted someone who I could bounce questions off. Scott’s great — I can ask him anything.” — Corcoran


Stephen Stock ’83 , senior investigative reporter, NBC Bay Area KNTV

Julia Roth ’23

It’s all about networking. That’s what Stock told Roth when they began their mentorship relationship, and it’s also about pulling your own weight. “I’m not their mommy or daddy. I’m not going to hold their hand,” Stock said of how he mentors.

However, there’s heart in Stock’s approach. He remembers how he felt as a student looking for direction, and he knows firsthand the importance of professional guidance.

Roth said the mentorship program demonstrates the school’s dedication to building the connections and providing the resources crucial for students networking in the journalism world. Like Stock, Roth hopes to work in broadcast journalism after graduation. Most of her experience at Hussman has been in sports broadcast work, but she’s keeping her options open.

“Mentorship is an opportunity way beyond the classroom, and the school offers a gold mine of mentorship opportunities for students.” — Stock

"So many successful and impressive people have come through the journalism school. The mentorship program’s opportuniy to create a connection to someone so successful is unbeatable.” — Roth


Mikala Whitaker ’17, account supervisor, Spectrum Science

Megan Suggs ’22 (M.A.)

With a love of writing and a passion for the environment and science communication, Suggs found the perfect mentor in Whitaker, who maintains a large roster of biotech companies as clients in her health communications role at a public relations agency. Whitaker has been the source of new connections in the science communications industry for Suggs, while also offering practical advice like how to write a stellar resumé and cover letter.

For Whitaker, mentoring Suggs has given her a chance to give back to a school that has given her so much of her own career preparation. “One thing I’ve realized as a professional is that soft skills are so important as well,” said Whitaker, who advises job seekers like Suggs to play up attributes like being a team player and a critical thinker during job interviews.

“When I was at the school, so many people mentored me. For me, this has been a chance to give back. I want to help UNC Hussman students get far, because I know they’ll be great future employees. The school is full of so many stand-out students who inspire me.” — Whitaker

“The mentorship program seemed like a great opportunity for me to plug in and start networking and get advice from people working in the communications field. I talk to Mikala a lot about how I can present myself and my work to best demonstrate my abilities.” — Suggs


Robby Marshall ’07, global brand management director (women’s performance), Nike

Nicole DeBlois ’23

Marshall shares his knowledge of the marketing industry with DeBlois, stressing the importance of building trust and respect with colleagues and maintaining a sharp business sense. Another tidbit of advice he’s given her: “Be yourself.”

“Having an outside perspective on yourself is really beneficial,” Marshall said. “The mentorship program is a tremendous, productive way to keep alumni connected with students and students connected with alumni.” He has advised DeBlois on building a better resume and using LinkedIn, and he has provided more holistic guidance as she figures out what part of the marketing industry will be the best fit for her. “Robby’s been really good about making me think about what I enjoy and how I can make that marketable to a company,” she said.

“Most career decisions are made whenever you’re not in the room, so if you have an advocate in whatever room that is, it helps. Your mentor can help you with that.” — Marshall

“I’ve had a lot of friends who have been through the mentorship program, and they said it’s a really good way to look at what you want to do with your career and the rest of your time at the school.” — DeBlois


Lynn Stock ’84, special projects editor,  Silicon Valley Business Journal

Brooke Spach ’22

Spach, whose dream job is to work as a copy editor, possibly at a magazine, decided to participate in the mentorship program to gain career advice and insight into the journalism and media industry from people currently working in the space. “Lynn has been a great resource as I’ve embarked on my post-grad job search. She’s given me great edits on my resumé and LinkedIn profile and has overall been a useful sounding board for questions about the job seeking and application process,” Spach said.

Spach gives Stock insight on what the next generation of Hussman grads are looking for, as well as a chance to give back. “I enjoy helping students figure out what they want to do. It can be intimidating,” said Stock, who praised Spach’s curiosity and initiative — important traits for an aspiring journalist. Perennial advice from Stock for Hussman students — work at student publications like The Daily Tar Heel, which give students a good hint of the professional world. More advice from Stock — always research the company where you’re applying for a job.

“Being a mentor gives you a fresh perspective on what types of jobs young alumni are looking for.” — Stock

“Lynn has been a great resource as I’ve embarked on my post-grad job search. As someone with recent experience hiring journalists, she has given me great insight as to what recruiters are looking for.” — Spach


Meg McDonald ’06, public relations manager, The Fresh Market

Ashley Parsons ’24

There’s never enough time — unless you manage it correctly, that’s one of the biggest lessons McDonald has taught Parsons. Whether it’s setting aside a specific time each day to read emails or breaking a big project into bite-sized pieces, getting business done is all about how you manage your day, McDonald said. Parsons can relate to McDonald’s career path. While Parsons started at Hussman with a focus on journalism, advertising classes and a social media internship have her thinking Ad/PR might be the way to go. McDonald gets it: she started her career as a broadcast journalist for almost a decade before transitioning to PR. She can give Parsons advice on both career roads.

“The mentorship program is hands-down my favorite way to give back to the school. I love giving back to a school that has given me so much.” — McDonald

“My mom had a close mentor in college, and she said it was a good way to network and see what your life’s going to be like after college.” — Parsons