UIC Athletics Introduces Pass the Torch Mentor Program

Senior Women's Administrator Tonya McGowan participates as a mentor.

Senior Women's Administrator Tonya McGowan participates as a mentor.

Oct. 24, 2013

CHICAGO - UIC Athletics recently launched a new program called Pass the Torch, which is aimed at assisting student-athletes in preparing for a professional life after college.  The initiative pairs Flames upperclassmen with a variety of professionals who either attended UIC or are associated with the athletic department.

"Pass the Torch aligns perfectly with our goals as an Athletic Department," said UIC Athletic Director Jim Schmidt.  "Creating champions on the field is one thing, but our focus is to create champions for life and this program will help us achieve that mission." 

The program currently consists of 22 student-athletes and their respective mentors whose expertise cover a wide range of industries.  They meet on a monthly basis and also attend program seminars that focus on various skill sets such as resume building, networking, interviewing and financial planning.  On top of fine tuning professional competencies, mentees are gaining valuable relationships.

"I can't begin to express how excited I am for this program," said current mentor and former UIC hockey player Steve Smart.  "I was fortunate enough to have had mentors when I was in college and it essentially launched my career.  I have seen the benefits of these relationships and I feel very passionate about being involved with Pass the Torch."

Smart has been paired with men's soccer player Pitor Lagowski and the duo have set aside time each week for 45-minute phone call.

"It's great to have someone you can talk to about your professional life and not just about athletics," said Lagowski.

The Chicago native is majoring in finance and has an interest in entering the business world after graduation.

"A program like this could be the next step on my way to becoming a professional, said Lagowski.  "It's a step that I didn't have before and I think it will be great for all who take advantage of it."

Other mentors include UIC Athletics Senior Women's Administrator Tonya McGowan, UIC Police Chief John Richardson, President of Connie's Pizza Mike Stolfe, President of Kroeschell Engineering Ed Swietek, among many other notable members of the Chicago community.