September 1999


CFO Mentoring Project strengthens Lab-college ties

Tennessee State University student Stanley Upton (right) has received considerable experience in the ORNL business environment under the mentorship program supported by (from left) Debbie Buchanan, Will Minter and John Hickey.
For Will Minter, the manager of the ORNL Small Business Program Office, the need for a mentoring project between the Lab and an educational institution was obvious: “The reason (contracting) opportunities aren’t maximized is that we don’t know enough about one another.”

To address the need for more interaction between academe and the Lab, Minter came up with the idea for a program that would allow a top business student from one of the state’s HBCU/MEIs (historically black colleges and universities/minority educational institutions) to serve an internship with a Lab official. The project, Minter suggested, would provide a link between the two entities and result in an improved relationship with the school by demonstrating the Lab’s commitment to HBCU/MEIs.

Of the state’s six HBCU/MEIs, the business college at Tennessee State University, an 1890 land-grant school that is highly respected nationwide, was selected for the program. Five students submitted resumes. ORNL’s acting chief financial officer, John Hickey, led the interviewing process.

Stanley Upton, a second-semester freshman from Knoxville, best met the criteria. Having earned an exceptionally high score on his college entrance exams, Upton is attending TSU on a full scholarship, majoring in business administration with a management concentration. He began his duties at the Lab in mid-May and says that his first five weeks have been enjoyable as well as educational.

Upton’s direct supervisor, Debbie Buchanan, reports that he is currently involved in intensive computer training and rotational interviews with the directors who report to the chief financial officer. “The computer training,” she explains, “is to give Stanley a background in the types of programs we utilize in the financial arena and to give him a working knowledge of these programs so that he can put the knowledge to use during the remainder of his stay at ORNL.”

Upton adds that the computer classes have been very beneficial and are being put to use immediately in his new duties.

Buchanan also points out that the interviews have given Upton an overview of the workings of the ORNL financial systems and operations, which will be helpful to him in any financial application he may encounter “because he has seen all of the areas for which a CFO has responsibility.”

Says TSU Associate Dean Millicent Lownes-Jackson, “The College of Business is elated about the relationship developed with ORNL that affords one of our outstanding business students the phenomenal opportunity to work closely with, and learn from, an accomplished financial executive.” She also points out that the CFO Mentor Project is just one of many meaningful partnerships that TSU has developed with ORNL: For example, the ORNL CFO delivered the keynote address for TSU’s spring scholarship awards luncheon, and the Lab has generously supported the establishment of a Chair of Excellence in Banking and Financial Services.

So far, all concerned seem to agree that the CFO Mentoring Project is off to a strong start. What the future holds for the program remains to be seen, Minter says, “But already the relationship between the Lab and TSU has been strengthened, and where strong ties are forged, we can all hope to gain in the long run.”—Nancy Harless