Paying it forward: Former mentee in the AAAC Mentoring Circle returns the rewards as a mentor
As a sophomore at Virginia Commonwealth University, Marcus Momon (B.S.’17/B) knew where he wanted to land in his career but wasn’t sure how his academic journey would get him there. The Leesburg, Virginia, native was studying business administration management in the School of Business but also had an interest in the business of sport leadership.
In 2015, he signed up as a mentee for the VCU Alumni African American Alumni Council’s Mentoring Circle program, hoping to be paired with an alumnus who could help him navigate the world of higher education and expand his options after graduation.
“I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to learn from somebody who had gone to VCU and knew what it was like to be a Black student at VCU,” he says.
He was paired with Glenn Davis (B.S.’86/B), president and CEO of BranCore Technologies LLC, a Richmond-based IT consulting firm. “He helped me figure out how to get a marketing internship and what it means to be intentional about the goals that you need in college and in your career,” says Momon, who joined the Atlanta Braves organization in 2020 as diversity marketing coordinator.
Five years out, Momon is repaying the rewarding experience he received, serving as a mentor for the second time with the Mentoring Circle’s 2021-22 cohort. He spoke recently about his time as a mentee and mentor and how those experiences have shaped him professionally and personally.
How did you know VCU was the school for you?
I visited VCU three different times before I made the decision that I was going to come here. In the end, it just felt like home. It was so diverse that I felt like I could grow with the university as it grew. Also, the diversity that existed here meant that I was going to see not only people like myself, but others who I could learn from and have new life experiences that would be beneficial for me in the future. I chose it because I felt like I was going to be welcome here.
Without your mentorship experience, would you have gone down a different path?
I wanted to be in sport management, but because VCU didn’t offer that major for undergrads, I just was in business management. But because I learned the lesson of being intentional [from Glenn], I sought sports management internship opportunities such as marketing for VCU Athletics and nonprofit work in the community.
What was your career journey after graduation?
My first year out of school, I started at Minor League Baseball working in diversity and inclusion. I was introduced to baseball through a program that aimed to bring more minorities and women into baseball. Interestingly enough, I was prepared to take one job when I decided to apply for a different job within the league in Florida. I ended up getting that job and worked on the diversity initiative for the entire league, 160 clubs. From there, I decided to hone my skills on the business management side and enrolled full time at the University of Central Florida, where I earned a dual degree, an M.B.A. and a master’s in sport business management.
Dr. Richard Lapchick is director of UCF’s DeVos Sport Business Management Graduate Program. He is a human rights activist, so I was like, “This is somebody I want to learn from.” I did a lot of projects in the business space for organizations such as the Orlando Magic, ESPN Wide World of Sports at Disney and a project with Minor League Baseball. After I completed my degrees, I had remained in contact with some people at the Braves whom I worked with when I was at minor league, and they let me know there was an opportunity opening up in Atlanta, and here I am.
Have you and Glenn stayed in touch?
We’ve talked here and there over the past two years or so. In 2019, when I went back to campus for the AAAC Reunion, I saw Glenn, and it was hilarious because we got to really talk about what it was like to be a mentee but also to see that what I took from the mentorship program meant that I could give back to another student.
What was it like to be on the opposite side of the mentor-mentee relationship?
I’ve loved being a mentor. I still talk all the time with my mentee from my first time mentoring. It’s been amazing because I’ve had the opportunity to not only give my experience in college and postgraduate life to someone who was trying to figure that out but also share all of the ups and downs of being a college student, and then after graduation moving somewhere where you don’t know anybody, or going back to school and then trying to re-enter the workforce. I also love it because I get a chance to give back to a student who reminds me of myself, who has no idea where they’re going in life yet — but that’s OK because they have somebody who’s right there who can walk them through that.
Why is it important to have a program like the Mentoring Circle for African American male college students?
I would say the importance is the feeling of belonging at the university; with that feeling of belonging comes the ability to navigate what it’s like to be a Black student at VCU but also what it’s like to be Black in Richmond, in Virginia and in America, because you learn so many life lessons from somebody who’s had similar experiences. The mentorship program allows you to be able to feel like you’re going to succeed at the university no matter what’s going on in your life. I think a lot of Black students typically get caught up in not knowing where to begin or where to go [in the higher education environment] — as well as just this feeling of, you know, higher education [for Black males] has statistically shown disparities.
This program can help students navigate the education system and also find opportunities that they might not have been privy to beforehand. That’s one of the things that I was able to take away from the program.
Why should someone become a mentor?
I feel as though it is one of our duties, not only as a Black individual, but as alumni of VCU, and especially as Black alumni at VCU, to give back to the Black students. Serving others is what we should strive to be doing as individuals. It’s also meaningful when you can serve students who will be the next generation of what you would like to see coming out of VCU.
One thing I would say to other mentors is try your best to be available because you never know what’s going on in a student’s life, [when] they’re going to need you. You’ve made a commitment; uphold that commitment because it can be the reason why somebody is successful. Being present and being available is the best thing that you can offer each of these students.
What does your position as diversity marketing coordinator for the Braves entail?
I oversee outreach and programming for all of our affinity groups, whether it’s age, race, gender, ethnicity, preference and more. I also work on the youth baseball side to create safe and equitable environments for the next generation of baseball players.
It’s been an amazing first year on so many levels. I got a chance to plan out our Black History Month events last year, which included me speaking at our Hank Aaron All-Star School, a school through the Atlanta Braves Foundation to help address the inequities that exist in the education system. The five pillars of our diversity initiative for the Braves are built on the foundation and legacy of Hank Aaron.
We have also been partnering with two local organizations to do food drives every Thursday for the past 10 months. We’ve given out close to 3 million pounds of food out to Atlanta-area residents.
So baseball is your favorite sport?
No, it’s not my favorite sport. I actually love basketball, especially college basketball because it’s so competitive. I grew up a Miami Heat fan, but nothing will ever take away from my love for VCU basketball.
Mentors and mentees welcome
The VCU Alumni African American Alumni Council’s Mentoring Circle connects African American undergraduates to alumni through a yearlong mentorship. The program currently has nearly 90 students paired with alumni mentors and is preparing for more to join the 2021-22 cohort, which takes place over a full year starting in April. Learn more about how the program impacts its participants on the VCU Alumni blog.
If you know African American VCU students who would benefit from having an alumni mentor, please tell them about the AAAC Mentoring Circle. Students and mentors can register online or via VCU Link. Contact Larry Powell (B.S.’85/MC), director of alumni affinity programs, with questions or to request more information.
VCU Alumni received a 2020 District III bronze award from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education for the Mentoring Circle program in the Alumni Relations: Volunteer Engagement category. CASE District III annually recognizes excellence in the district, which includes schools in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. The CASE District III Alumni Relations: Volunteer Engagement Award showcases robust participation by alumni in helping to advance the institution in a meaningful way.