Skip to main content
Student Experiences

Learning Christlike Leadership

An assistant professor of organizational behavior and human resources in the BYU Marriott School of Business, McKenzie Rees had a strong prompting to do a peer-mentoring project for her section of HRM 540: Organizational Effectiveness. “For me, the essence of this class is helping students understand how they can make others feel valued in their work,” Rees says.

A photo of the three glass-enclosed floors of the Tanner Building. Each floor has students sitting on the couches, walking around, or working on assignments.
MAcc students in Professor Rees's class are mentoring accounting junior core students.
Photo courtesy of BYU Photo.

Her course’s culminating project provides the opportunity for MAcc students to learn Christlike leadership within an organization, with the added benefit of helping students at different points in their journey in the School of Accountancy succeed and make connections. “Students know each other really well in their cohort, but they don’t know each other across cohorts very well,” Rees explains. “If you only associate with people who are in the same year as you, you never get the benefit of knowing those in your broader social circle.”

In the beginning of the semester, each MAcc student in Rees's section of HRM 540 was paired with a junior core student who has agreed to work with a mentor. This mentor-mentee relationship gives MAcc students a chance to practice HR skills and get a taste of what it's like to support employees in the workplace.

Each mentor works to find the best way to lead and support their mentee—ranging from ordering them DoorDash during midterms to weekly in-person meetings. For MAcc student McKay Johns from American Fork, Utah, mentoring starts with moral support. “At the beginning of junior core, they just need to learn how to relax and understand that everything is going to be okay,” Johns says. “Their teachers and groups are there to help them.”

McKay Johns and his mentee Parker Reynolds stand with their arms around each other on the second floor of the Tanner Building, smiling at the camera.
MAcc student McKay Johns and accounting junior Parker Reynolds became friends through the class mentoring project.
Photo courtesy of McKay Johns.

Grace Gwin, from Eagle, Idaho, has found advising her mentee to be both practical and fulfilling. “My mentee wanted some tips and tricks on studying for different tests and what to do for each class—when reading is important, when working with your group is important,” Gwin explains. “It's been fun to see her around and meet her friends in the junior core—to answer their questions and be a support for them.”

“My mentor told me that a lot of students will put every waking hour into accounting,” says junior Parker Reynolds from South Jordan, Utah. “He also told me not to do that—to instead have a set time to study while still going on dates with my wife, eating well, sleeping well, and exercising. It's really good just talking with someone who’s two years ahead of me about career plans and how to get accounting internships.”

The junior core isn’t the only thing that mentors can guide their mentees through. They can also practice their networking skills and help mentees develop professional contacts. “MAcc students have already been through internships, and they are also negotiating jobs with accounting firms,” Rees says. “They already know people at most of the firms junior core students want to intern at. Introducing their mentees to someone they know at a company can make a huge difference.”

Armed with connections and advice from their mentors, the junior core students are not just finding their way through the program—they're excelling. When talking about his mentee, Johns says, “Honestly, I feel like he's more capable than I am a lot of the time. I can't take credit for it, because it's really just me talking him through a couple of things that helped me—but it is still cool to have someone to root for, and to see them succeed.”

The mentor-mentee relationship at the core of the class helps both parties learn and grow in a way that truly embodies the spirit of the class. “The meaningful parts of leadership are not when you're speaking to a big group or being charismatic, they’re these one-on-one moments,” Rees says. “It is these moments when Christlike leadership is truly embodied—when we think about someone else and take a selfless approach to our work, everyone wins.”


Written by Melissa Een