UA Little Rock alumnus Connor Donovan has launched a new virtual mentorship platform that connects students and young adults with professionals who serve as mentors who provide education and career support.
“Everyone is capable of doing great things,” Donovan said. “But sometimes we just need a little extra encouragement and direction from someone who cares about our well-being and who genuinely wants to see us succeed. I hope that Me.Mentor provides students and young professionals with the support and access to resources they need to move on to and thrive in the next portion of their lives. I just want to help people end up in a place where they are fulfilled and living comfortably doing work that they love.”
Donovan is no stranger to mentorship, having served as a mentor for at-risk primary school students in Mississippi and having served as a mentor in UA Little Rock’s Donaghey Scholars Program. After graduating with his master’s degree from the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service in 2019, he spent the summer helping supervise and prepare professional development opportunities for a staff of 18 mentors through the Charles W. Donaldson Scholars Academy, an organization which aims to improve educational achievement by all students with special attention to African American students and others who are at risk of academic failure due to socioeconomic disadvantage, or other factors.
Through his different academic and professional experiences in the realm of education, and particularly through his time serving as UA Little Rock’s Student Government Association president, Donovan observed a myriad of challenges faced by students and young adults in pursuit of career attainment. These experiences inspired him to launch a mentorship program to help students and young adults identify their passions and professional interests based on their personal stories, and to help them become aware of and procure education and career opportunities based on those passions.
“I wanted to build a platform where students and young professionals could connect with people from a diversity of backgrounds reflective of the world we live in,” Donovan said. “I want people to see that there are different options out there to explore their passions, whether that be through college, a certification program, an apprenticeship, or through another avenue. I’m a big proponent of reflecting on your own story because there is so much you can learn about where you are and where you want to go from your experiences – your triumphs and challenges, your likes and dislikes.”
Me Mentor’s services are available to high school and undergraduate students, early career professionals, and graduate program applicants through the company’s website and app. The services include identifying and planning a career path that aligns with individual passions; putting a story in writing in the form of a resume, cover letter, or essay; and enhanced interview preparation.
Instead of a business that is out solely to make a profit, Donovan is also using a business model that is also dedicated to making the world a better place.
“My company is what’s called a social enterprise,” Donovan said. “We seek to generate a profit while advancing a social mission and contributing positively to the world. I attribute some of the inspiration for our social mission to my time with the Charles W. Donaldson Scholars Academy at UA Little Rock. You work with all these brilliant young people, and you see the potential they have to do some really amazing things. But through talking with the students and hearing their stories, you clearly see that not everyone has been given equal support and equal access to resources. Some of these students have had to grow up so fast that they haven’t had the privilege of being able to stop and think about their passions. This is why I wanted to build a platform that would be accessible and affordable to everyone.”
As a part of its social mission, Me Mentor is committed to finding ways to offer reduced-price services to high school students from low-income families. Additionally, mentors are encouraged to offer free and/or discounted services to mentees, especially for low-income high school students.
“Our long-term goal is to build up an endowment that will be solely used to cover the costs of all high school students seeking mentorship services through our platform,” Donovan said.
The company is also investing in programs beneficial to students and young adults in communities around the world. A portion of every paid transaction on the platform goes toward carrying out the company’s social mission. The startup is currently building community partnerships and developing creative ways to carry out its social mission.
“I use the example of a nonprofit in Little Rock called the Confess Project,” Donovan said. “Studies show that Black males often feel safer and more at ease while talking to their barber, so Lorenzo Lewis and his team are training barbers to be mental health advocates by teaching them about mental health terminology and resources that they can in turn share with their customers. I want to look for organizations around the world that are tackling issues like that. If we can begin to see the intersectionality of issues surrounding mental health, food insecurity, poverty, transportation access, and other variables and if we tackle those issues at their root, then we will tackle other issues as well.”
Me Mentor is currently available only in Arkansas, but Donovan has plans to expand Me Mentor to other states this year.
“Five years from now, I want Me Mentor to be able to cover the costs for a lot of local high school students and to have partnerships with initiatives that help uplift students,” Donovan said. “If we continue to develop, I can see this eventually being an international service where people in different countries can connect for intercultural exchanges and discuss what it’s like to live, learn, and work in other countries.”
Donovan graduated from UA Little Rock with a bachelor’s degree in international business in 2017 and was named the university’s top graduating senior andwinner of the Edward L. Whitbeck Memorial Award. He served as a research analyst for the United States Commercial Service at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, China, in 2018. He recently joined the Clinton School’s Social Entrepreneur Committee and is working with other members to raise awareness of social entrepreneur resources.
Donovan said he worked with the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center to start his business. He utilized several UA Little Rock grads and connections to serve as mentors or business contractors to help design his logo, create marketing content, and develop inclusive training materials for mentors.
“One of the things I attribute to my time at UA Little Rock is the wonderful and talented people I had the opportunity to build friendships with,” Donovan said. “If you look at the mentors, several are former UA Little Rock students. If you look at the Me.Mentor logo, that was designed by my former CWDSA colleague and brilliant graphical designer, Laura Montalvan. I received some invaluable support from former assistant vice chancellor and diversity, equity, and inclusion expert Dr. Amber Smith while seeking to create inclusive training content for mentors, and I received a tremendous amount of helpful brand development advice from former Donaghey Scholar and marketing expert, Marina Rutter. It’s a real team effort, and UA Little Rock really contributed to that.”