Honda Associates Mentor HBCU Co-ops
This summer, Honda hosted 11 student co-ops from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) from across the U.S. who worked – primarily remotely – in all areas of the business.
Students were informally matched with mentors to help them navigate Honda’s environment and culture during this time of social distancing, in which it can be more difficult to form connections with peers virtually as a new associate.
“Typically, students would have a roommate, participate in on-site events and have opportunities to work collaboratively with associates in person,” said Brittany Kendricks of American Honda (AHM) Inclusion and Diversity. “In a remote work environment, we have to work to minimize the isolation felt by students. We used mentoring to help students feel more comfortable away from home and connect with a senior professional with a similar background.”
In addition to facilitating the program, Kendricks mentored Serena DeMills, who worked in AHM Regional Planning this summer. DeMills will graduate this December from Florida A&M University with both an MBA and a bachelor’s degree.
“I was fortunate to have Brittany as my mentor,” said DeMills. “She not only helped me in my current position, but she pushed me forward in areas that I would have never thought to explore.”
Another mentor-mentee pair, AHM associate Ryan Danley, who works in Corporate Compliance and Ethics, and his mentee, Kristopher Bond, forged a special relationship that was beneficial not just to Bond but to Danley as well.
“It’s been a great experience for me,” said Danley. “We were able to talk about things both inside and outside of work, share life experiences and what we’ve learned. I think Kris is ahead of his time.”
Danley encourages his fellow associates to consider mentoring a student because his experience gave him optimism for the future. “It’s cool to see the next generation come up,” he said. “Kris has a plan, and I got inspiration from talking to him.”
Bond, who attends Mississippi Valley State and will serve as the president of student government this fall, plans to attend law school after college. Bond worked in Learning and Organizational Development this summer.
“Ryan helped me focus on the important things and feel confident about going to work,” Bond said.
Destiny Elmore, a mechanical engineering student at Prairie View A&M in Texas, just completed a co-op at the Marysville Auto Plant and is returning in the fall to work as a co-op in the Powersports Design and Development team.
“The mentorship program was critical for me,” said Elmore, whose mentor, Honda Development & Manufacturig of America associate Yong Yu, works in production engineering. “Coming into corporate America at such a young age, many of us have never been in this type of environment. It was a crucial part of my success here at Honda. I’m not sure I would have had the same confidence without having Yong in my corner.”
The goal of this year’s co-op mentoring program was to strengthen co-op learning outcomes and experiences during the hybrid working environment, while also promoting engagement and retention rates amongst the co-op population.
Kendricks said mentoring also is an essential tool for transferring knowledge and strengthening Honda’s culture, especially for African American students. “There can be an added feeling of ‘otherness’ for students of color when they don’t see many other associates who look like them,” she said.
“Associates who have connections with their peers and feel supported in their professional development are typically more engaged in the workplace, which will create a more positive work environment for everyone.”