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Mentoring Enriches Students, Alums

SAU student Molly Owens sits with her mentor Renee Citera

Molly Owens and Renee Citera

March 2017


When Renee Citera '81 met with Molly Owens on the St. Ambrose campus earlier this year, the casual comfort and easy laughter within their rapid-fire conversation painted a picture of a lifelong friendship.

That will likely develop, both women say. At the moment, though, Citera is filling the valuable role of mentor to Owens, sharing her experiences as an accomplished businesswoman with the driven SAU junior.

Citera is a member of the university's Board of Trustees. Owens is majoring in three disciplines: marketing, management, and Spanish. Both women are participating in a pilot program that pairs successful St. Ambrose alumni with future-focused students.

The program addresses a priority established by Sister Joan Lescinski, CSJ, PhD, university president, in conjunction with the St. Ambrose Board of Trustees. The goal is for every SAU student to have at least one experiential learning opportunity or mentoring experience.

Citera is one of the mentoring program's architects, working in partnership with fellow President's Advisory Council member Aaron Quick '96. They plan to see it expand.

"I continue to be amazed at the number of successful alumni across the country doing really remarkable things," said Quick, a St. Louis resident who co-founded Align Networks. He has since sold the company and now consults for private equity firms.

Quick has been mentoring senior Kody Kilburg on a weekly basis throughout the past year. Although the two have yet to meet in person, Kilburg said Quick changed his outlook on the future.

"What is amazing to me is how much Aaron cares," said Kilburg, a first-generation college student who will head west to San Diego after graduation to pursue a career in fitness. "He takes so much time out of what I imagine is a very busy schedule to help me. Aaron has given me the confidence to do something that I never really thought I would do-move far away to pursue something I love."

Citera has found mentoring two students at her alma mater to be more fulfilling than she expected. "This experience has brought me back to something I loved doing throughout my life-being a sounding board for young people, particularly women, as they build their career," she said.

After nearly three decades in executive and sales roles at LexusNexis, Citera became vice president of circulation at ALM, where she built a new online content sales team for the real-time news source for the legal industry. Now she is semi-retired and contemplating a third career chapter in executive coaching and teaching.

Owens can attest to Citera's skills at both of the latter and said she is thrilled to benefit from her mentor's wealth of knowledge and experience. ©

"I don't think students realize how soon they should think about life after college," she said. "I can't believe I've gotten the opportunity to work so closely with someone like Renee. She's coached me, connected me to the Career Center, and posed hard questions. I'm ready for my career now."

Jim Stangle '82, vice president for advancement, hopes to see more alumni-student connections in the year ahead. "This effort, led by alumni, is an awesome example of creative ways we can bring people together to provide a unique Ambrose education today, and strengthen our alumni network tomorrow," he said. "We are so grateful to Renee, Aaron and the other alumni who have guided this initial effort."

Citera stressed that the program is only in the start-up phase.

"I think we now know there is something here. There's real, tangible benefit to this," she said. "As a council, there's more to talk about-how to scale this and make it available to more students and alumni. I think we have tapped into something that has tremendous potential."

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