News - GU's Hallmark Personalized Approach Wins Again

GU's Hallmark Personalized Approach Wins Again

By Carla Morris

A GU alum recalls failing college algebra multiple times until an encouraging professor saw past the failures and guided him through the course. The student went on to earn a doctorate in chemistry.

Another recalls receiving a job offer before he graduated. His professor arranged accelerated one-on-one sessions so the student could meet course requirements, complete his degree, and still start work on the employer’s schedule. He went on to fill corporate leadership roles.

thumbs-up.pngStories about personal attention flowing out of GU’s tight community and supportive culture give context for Lei Wu’s story. Lei Wu, a business management major on track to graduate next spring, needed to fill a required internship. His extreme shyness and uncertainty about networking in an unfamiliar culture made the task tough, plus the reality that English is his second language.

Setting the Stage For Success

But Wu is smart, says GU Professor Jane Bell. He is observant and thinks analytically. He would do well with an internship that offered friendly guidance in a one-on-one format.

Enter, Elaine McNamara, director of the SMART Center on Greenville’s historic square and executive director of the Greenville Chamber of Commerce. Warm, welcoming, supportive, and patient, she agreed for Wu to assist her with chamber work for the semester.

“It was a pleasure to introduce him to people and businesses in Greenville and beyond,” says McNamara. “As he began to learn more about our community, he taught me a little about his country and what it was like to grow up in China. We found many differences and many similarities at the same time.”Elaine-Lei.png

Small Talk, But Mighty

Conversations are the building blocks of relationships. McNamara (at right, with Lei Wu on day one of his internship) believes the pair’s simple exchanges early on set the stage for a productive working relationship. They gave Wu the confidence to grow into the work, take initiative, and offer helpful suggestions.

Their visits to businesses in Greenville and neighboring communities gave him opportunities to learn from McNamara’s interactions and practice conversing as well.

“[Elaine] can communicate happily with everyone and become friends. I think this is the business ability that I lack,” Wu reflects. “Due to cultural and personality issues, I always choose to avoid this problem, [but] Elaine encouraged me to speak out bravely.”

Watch, Learn, Grow

Wu also made mental notes about the kinds of dynamics he’d like to cultivate as a business professional—befriending, generating enthusiasm, being approachable, and sharing experiences so others can learn, just as McNamara shared from her professional experiences so he could learn. 

Others noticed Wu’s growth in response to his mentor’s semester-long mix of encouragement, coaching, and teaching. Clearly, the great-fit internship worked in Wu’s favor.

“[He] gained confidence and the ability to self-assess. He is a better man for it,” says Bell.

“Though English is sometimes still a challenge," adds McNamara, "Lei has come a long, long way."

And what does Wu say? He now talks about overcoming challenges rather than avoiding them, and he looks forward to the prospect of yet another internship. 


This story was published on December 16, 2020

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