Business Mentorships Change Lives—of Both Students and Mentors

Bethel’s Department of Business and Economics helps students connect with mentors in the business world who provide support and advice. But the impact goes both ways—and one business professional says the value she’s received from mentoring Bethel business students has been life-changing.

By Michelle Westlund '83, senior content specialist

February 20, 2020 | 10 a.m.

Danette Hill

Danette Hill, director of operations for Nolan Properties Group, serves as a mentor to Bethel business students.

As part of a commitment to preparing ethical and inspirational business leaders, Bethel’s Department of Business and Economics provides opportunities for undergraduate students to connect with mentors in the business world. These relationships have obvious benefits for students, who gain support, high-level expertise, and networking opportunities. But the benefits go both ways. Danette Hill CAPS’06, GS’08, director of operations for Nolan Properties Group, a real estate development company in Wayzata, Minnesota, says she’s been motivated, inspired, and blessed by the Bethel students she’s mentored.  

What’s been your career trajectory?

I have always enjoyed management, working with people, and the challenges that come along with it. After graduating from Bethel, I continued working for the same real-estate development company. I am proud to say I have been at the same company for 26 years, which I know is not the norm! The education I received at Bethel gave me the confidence to expand my role within the company. I currently oversee operations, leasing, accounting, and help with the company’s acquisition and development strategy. 

You’ve earned two Bethel degrees. Tell us about your Bethel experience.

I decided to go back to school as an adult professional when I was in my late 30s. I wanted to integrate my professional experience in management with finally finishing my degree in organizational leadership. I chose Bethel because it just felt right, and the path I believe I was supposed to take. I enjoyed the Bethel experience so much that I continued my educational journey and finished my master’s degree in organizational leadership in 2008.

How did your Bethel experience prepare you for your career?

What I found most valuable as a result of my Bethel education was that it helped develop me into a more balanced and knowledgeable servant leader. Bethel opened my eyes to the importance of having a solid foundation of Christian leadership in the workplace, the significance and benefit to companies in guiding and developing young people, and the importance and duty of my role to care for the well-being of others around me. It is these characteristics that are the dynamic difference between a good company and a great company.  All too often, companies are solely focused on profits and they neglect to make decisions that are good for their employees and the reputation of the company. Leadership is difficult and is frequently met with challenges and change, but my Bethel experience reminded me of the importance of patience, understanding, and the benefit of stewarding others. 

What do you see as being unique to Bethel’s business program, faculty, and/or students?

The Bethel program has had a positive impact on my life! The faculty and students were first and foremost rooted in faith, which was inspiring. Everyone I interacted with was caring, supportive, and giving. Bethel provides a foundation for business leaders that from my perspective appears to be missing in the business world. All too often, business leaders focus purely on profit. This type of leadership can lead to unethical decisions, which can negatively influence others and can be a detriment to the work culture. Bethel and its team provided a leadership platform that constantly reminds me to lead in a manner of grace and humility and to be a positive influence on others. Because of my Bethel experience and exposure to the faculty and students, I hope to make a difference, albeit a small difference, in changing the DNA of business leadership. 

How did you come to be involved as a mentor to Bethel business students?

I got involved in Bethel’s mentoring program through a colleague, Darren Aune, who graduated from Bethel with a master’s degree in organizational leadership. He is someone I admire for his unwavering faith, wisdom, patience, and leadership. He’s a mentor in the Bethel program and he encouraged me to get involved a few years ago. He probably never knew it, but he was a non-traditional mentor for me. His leadership and demeanor were things I wanted to emulate and things I felt were often missing in the business environment.  

Can you provide an example of an interaction where you felt you had a significant impact on a student you mentored?

One of the most important lessons I try to teach, and something I personally struggle with, is finding work-life balance. It’s important to remember that personal life, professional life, and family life should be equal. The lesson I try to teach is that it’s important to work hard, do your best and to continually learn. But it’s equally important to find balance in your life by finding time for yourself, while nurturing the personal relationships in your life (faith, family, and friends). Like many of us, I am a perfectionist, so it’s easy to inadvertently let work become the priority. Because work-life balance has always been a challenge for me, it’s one lesson I try to emphasize with all of my mentees so hopefully they can avoid this challenge early in their career. We are only on this earth for a short time, so it’s important to make time to experience life and all of its beauty!

How about an example of an interaction where a student has particularly inspired you?

I am inspired every day by young people, and especially by Bethel students. The most inspirational interaction I have experienced as a mentor occurred when more than one of the students I’ve mentored has asked if there was anything I’d like them to pray about for me. This spirit of giving and service left such a positive impact on my heart. Bethel students inspire me with their ambition, their grace, their faith, and their desire to learn. Their wide-eyed perspective of the beauty in the world gives me hope for the future of business. 

What’s the value of a mentorship experience for students as they graduate and enter the business world?

There is so much wisdom that can be gained from participating in a mentorship program such as the “what to do” and “what not to do” when preparing for a professional career. Students should take the valuable lessons they have learned from the mentorship experience and pay it forward in their professional careers and within the Bethel mentorship program.

What have you personally learned through the process of mentoring a Bethel business student?

It is difficult to express all that I’ve learned through the mentoring process because I’ve learned so much! As a mentor, you always wonder about the impact you have on your mentee. I am continually questioning whether I am providing the right advice, answering their questions appropriately, and giving them the training they need to embark on their future career with optimism, character, and confidence. That said, the value I have received from mentoring these young people have been life-changing for me. These special Bethel students have inspired, motivated, and made me mindful of how instrumental these young individuals are in our future. After all, they will be the future business leaders, global impact leaders, fellow faith followers, and future political advisors. The foundation provided by Bethel University helps create these servant leaders who embody grace, humility, self awareness, and compassion. What could be better than that! I’ve been given the opportunity to work side by side with incredible Bethel students who give me hope for the future, inspire me with their optimism and character, and give me insight into a younger person’s perspective and worldview. I am blessed to play just a little part in the development of these amazing Bethel students, and it is truly rewarding to learn side by side with them on this journey.


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