Ninety-six percent of the over 500 mentor and mentee pairings in the Lerner Executive Mentoring Program, at the University of Delaware’s Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics, rate their overall experience as good, very good or excellent.
The Lerner College celebrated its mentor and mentee pairings last month during National Mentoring Month. It’s no surprise that so many UD student mentees in the program eventually become mentors once they have established themselves in the workforce.
Tommy Stackhouse is one of those mentors. Stackhouse is mentoring Madi Silverstein, a marketing major on track to graduate in 2024, and is applying a similar approach that his mentor took with him.
Stackhouse, who graduated from UD in 2011 with a degree in marketing and advertising, was a Blue Hen student when the program began. He had to interview and submit an essay to join, and then was paired with Mark Turner, who at the time was the CEO of WSFS Bank .
“It was funny because when I got my assignment and it was Mark, I was confused because I wanted to work in entertainment and he was a banking guy. But the program is so much more than just the nuts and bolts of an industry. Mark has taught me overall lessons like how to approach business and life,” Stackhouse said.
When Stackhouse first got paired with Turner, he would head to his office in Wilmington a few times a semester to chat about the overall college experience and different activities he was involved with. Turner, who spoke with Stackhouse’s fraternity, Lambda Chi Alpha, during a speaking session on campus, gave general advice that still resonates with Stackhouse to this day.
“His keys to doing well in the business world were to just work hard and have a good attitude,” Stackhouse explained. “I remember that sticking with me. I wrote it on a notepad and plastered it on my computer at the time, and it’s literally in my home office now because I use the same notepad.”
Stackhouse, who began making independent films following graduation, moved to Los Angeles in 2015. He started working in the talent department of WME, one of the major agencies in the world, and by the end of his tenure was starting to find clients of his own. In early 2020 his primary role was focused on pitching the company’s client actors for different television roles.
However WME went through a major restructuring during the pandemic, and Stackhouse’s entire department was laid off.
Stackhouse then decided to pivot into the management side of the business and moved on to a management company with a position that was lower than his previous role. Needing guidance, he reached out to Turner.
“At that moment I called Mark and asked, ‘Is this insane?’. I had worked really hard the last four years to get to a certain level, and now I’m going back a notch. And he really talked me through it. So I ended up going to this other company. I ultimately left a year later, but during that time I started signing some clients so that I could get a better job elsewhere,” Stackhouse explained.
Stackhouse currently works in comedy talent management at Framework Entertainment in Hollywood, working with comedians who are online, doing stand-up and acting in television shows.
“Agencies are much more bottom line driven, and they don’t get in as early with developmental clients as managers tend to do,” Stackhouse said. “So a lot of the clients I’m finding, I’m the first person in their life trying to get them jobs, trying to help them find the right agents. It’s much more exciting for me to be on the ground level and helping some of our clients get their first cracks at some really cool opportunities.”
Through it all, Turner, who attended Stackhouse’s wedding two years ago, has always been available for advice.
“Mark’s always been someone who I just had the utmost respect for,” Stackhouse stated. “He’s the nicest guy on the planet who’d take the shirt off his back for you, so for me it’s been a great relationship.”
Ironically, Turner’s daughter is interested in breaking into the entertainment field, so Stackhouse is happy to help any way he can.
“I want to pay it back. I think that’s what the success of the program is like. It’s great to have that first layer of mentor, but also have someone so great that you want to pay it back. That’s a really cool feeling,” he said.
Paying it back was also the reason Stackhouse got back involved in Lerner’s program as a mentor last March. Jill Pante, director of Lerner’s Career Services Center, which manages the program, reached out to ask if he was interested in participating, and it was an easy answer.
Now working with Silverstein, Stackhouse is looking for ways to bridge his experience with her career goals.
“I just want to be helpful where I can,” Stackhouse said. “It’s a similar situation where my career and her major aren’t the same, but amongst all careers are certainly parallels and you draw on them to basically help wherever you can. So it’s been a good relationship so far. We’re going to connect again in the spring, figure out what summer internships make sense and go from there. So it’s been nice to get back in the rotation from the other side of the program.”
Silverstein has also enjoyed her partnership with Stackhouse in the mentoring program.
“I have had a great experience with Tommy as my mentor thus far! He has been a great help in assisting me with my cover letter, resume and LinkedIn, as well as helping me with the interview process! I genuinely appreciate all that he has done for me, and I know that if I ever needed anything I would be able to count on him. Overall, he is an incredible mentor and I am grateful to have him as a resource,” she said.
Pante says that stories like Stackhouse’s are indicative of the overwhelming success of the program.
“The Lerner Executive Mentoring Program has been adding value to our students’ lives for many years and the program is now coming full circle where our former mentees are becoming mentors. It truly is a unique program that helps Lerner students fulfill their full potential,” she said.