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University of Colorado Boulder student Kylie Hunter, left, meets her mentor, Bing Chou, of MojoTech, on Monday. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)
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Downtown Boulder PartnershipUniversity of Colorado Boulder sophomore Kylie Hunter loves technology, but not the industry surrounding it that’s obsessed with ever-increasing profits.

“I think technology has the ability to connect people and enhance lives, and I want to be working more in that capacity, using technology to solve complicated problems and improve human lives instead of just working on the latest update of the Windows system,” said Hunter, who is a computer science major.

But Hunter wasn’t sure what to do with her goal of joining the “tech for good” industry, which didn’t seem like a common career choice.

Enter a new mentorship program connecting CU Boulder students to local business leaders with wisdom to share.

Organized through Chancellor Phil DiStefano’s leadership initiative, the Boulder-CU Leadership Program is a collaboration between the campus,  Downtown Boulder Partnership and the Boulder Chamber.

Launched this month and currently in its pilot phase, the program pairs students with a local business leader for regular meetings throughout the semester.

Mentorship meetings can look different based on what each student wants to gain from the experience, said Emily Allen Walsh, program coordinator for the Newton Endowed Chair in Leadership at CU Boulder.

“We are really focused on finding meaningful ways for our students to develop human skills — teamwork, communication, adaptability — in addition to the technical skills they are learning from their degree programs,” Allen Walsh said. “We saw the opportunity to establish a mentorship program with leaders in the community who have already demonstrated that they have those skills.”

Students and mentors meet for at least 14 hours throughout the semester, and students do regular check-ins with the school and write a reflection paper for one credit hour.

What students will learn is “not necessarily something that can be taught from a textbook,” Allen Walsh said.

Bing Chou, managing director of software development company Mojo Tech and one of the program’s inaugural mentors, said he’s benefited from informal mentorships throughout his life.

“Frankly, it’s as rewarding for me as a mentor as I assume it is for the mentees,” he said. “It’s a learning experience. It helps me crystallize my thoughts around some of the things that have served me well in my life and my career.”

Chou, who also serves on the Downtown Boulder board, will be a mentor to Hunter and several other students this semester.

“One of the things I’d like to bring is a relatively unvarnished experience for the undergrads, the opportunity to feel comfortable asking me about anything and expecting a pretty honest, unvarnished answer,” Chou said.

Hunter said she doesn’t think many of her peers outside of the campus leadership programs understand the value of having a mentor.

“Mentorship is really powerful for me because I get to talk to someone who has been down a path similar to what I’ve been down and who I can share some of the things going on in my life with, the questions I’m grappling with as a 19-year-old college student,” she said. “They’re able to give me insight into their own path, which is a really good guide for determining where I want to go.”

The program’s mentors include Barry Baer, a retired U.S. Army colonel and financial consultant; Peter Waters, general manager at T/Aco; and Andy and Connie Minden, of Ramble on Pearl and Boulder Treasures.  Along with Chou, the mentors will meet with 11 students who are majoring in programs such as marketing, neuroscience, mechanical engineering and finance.

In a statement, DiStefano said the program aligns with CU Boulder’s mission to shape tomorrow’s leaders.

“This new program is especially exciting because it creates a bridge between our student and community leaders so they can learn from one another,” he said.

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