In many ways, this is the story of two alumni who have come full circle in their connection to the University of Richmond. As they approached graduation, both Megan Murray, ’15, and Tim Hettermann, ’15, thought that their time in Richmond, Va., was coming to a close. But both found that the next steps in their careers would not only be in the same city where they went to school but would also maximize on the day-to-day support of their Spider network.
Shortly after graduating from the University with double majors in business administration and leadership studies, Murray and Hettermann became fellows at UnBoundRVA, a nonprofit that helps individuals from low-income backgrounds develop and launch their own businesses. The mission marries Murray and Hettermann’s technical business knowledge and their interpersonal leadership skills.
“For example, one of our first tasks when we joined the team was to redevelop our curriculum for our personal brand workshop, and that’s a lot of self-exploration and relationship building. We almost instinctively went back to our Jepson classes, and our Theories and Models class, and thought what could make sense for this workshop,” Murray explains, noting that they added the topic of emotional intelligence to the program as a direct result of class discussions.
Now program advancement managers at UnBound, Murray’s and Hettermann’s work focuses on the internal operations for the nonprofit and improving and perfecting the organization’s curriculum and processes.
Hettermann explains that much of their current work is geared toward long-term goals of making the program scaleable and repeatable: “Most of the work we do, specifically, the end goal for us and whatever program we’re working on is really making sure that we’ll be at a point where you can pick it up and drop it down in another city and have it be as effective as it is for us in Richmond.”
Murray’s and Hetterman’s relationship with their alma mater has extended to tangible connections as well. When John Eshler, an alumnus from the first UnBoundRVA class, was looking for new places to set up his cart for his business, GroundUp Coffee, Murray and Hettermann discovered a new way their university could support them.
“It was really Dr. Soderlund,” Murray begins. “She’s always been a resource since we’ve been in Richmond.”
After speaking with Dr. Kerstin Soderlund, Jepson School associate dean for student and external affairs, Murray, Hettermann, and Eshler began conversations with University Retail Operations’ Maya Vincelli, Blake Widdowson, and Jeff Smith. In meetings, they discussed how Eshler could partner with campus to sell coffee, and eventually, they decided to try men’s basketball games.
“They just generally wanted John to do well,” says Murray, acknowledging the support they received across campus.
The feedback has been positive so far. Murray and Hettermann report that customers are excited that GroundUp sells local coffee.
This connection is just one example of how the now Richmond locals exist as members of both the campus community and the city community. Murray and Hettermann are often on campus for career fair and programs, such as the Jepson EDGE Institute, and sporting events. They even serve as guest speakers in leadership studies classes they once sat in as students, discussing the Richmond community and answering questions about the experience of working at a nonprofit.
“I would love to leave a class and a student know, ‘Hey, I could reach back out to her or him and ask more questions or grab coffee,’” Murray says.
For Murray and Hettermann, these opportunities are ways they can have a positive impact on current students at the University, returning the support they have received from the school.
“I never thought that once I graduated I’d receive the individual support we’ve gotten. Really, Dr. Soderlund has been tremendous. And knowing that we have her true support in everything that we do, it’s just really unique to the experience of an alumni,” Murray says. “You just never imagine that. You can always hope, but I just didn’t think that it would actually impact the work that I’m doing on a daily basis, and I do feel like we have that through our Richmond network.”