Since getting his first mentee last year, Richard (Dick) Poppa, ‘74, has proudly mentored two Ball State undergraduate students through the SOAR program on top of serving on the Executive Advisory Board for the Miller College of Business for many years. The SOAR (Success, Opportunity, Acumen, and Readiness) program also calls the Miller College of Business home and provides current students with resources and courses to promote career readiness and professional development, as well as opportunities such as mentoring. According to Dick, the goal of the SOAR mentoring program is to teach students what professionalism is, how to live it out, and how to network and form connections with current professionals.

Dick credits a great deal of his career and life success to those who mentored him during his time at Ball State while studying political science. To him, getting involved as a mentor with current students was an easy decision and provided him with an opportunity to give back in a meaningful way.

“My mentors and those who were involved while I was a student gave of their time, talent, and treasures which gave the footing that I had in my career, so I wanted to be able to do the same now that I am in a position to share my knowledge.” – Dick Poppa

Beneficence, a main pillar of Ball State’s values, is something that was imprinted on Dick while he was a student, and something he believes is completely unique to Ball State. When speaking on this, Dick said that “One would be hard-pressed to find many universities that have gratitude as a value they hold near and dear like our alma mater. Beneficence is our story, it’s incredibly important.” Meaning an act of being generous or doing good, active kindness and goodness, beneficence inspired Dick to get involved at Ball State as soon as he moved back to the local area after a long and fruitful career as a nonprofit trade association manager. He stated that, “I just want to be a helping hand for business students during their college career.

Dick is incredibly grateful for his time at Ball State, both for the education and experience. Inside the classroom, Dick has fond memories of his major classes and the professors that imparted valuable information and skills to their students. Outside of the classroom, Dick was incredibly involved in things such as Freshman Senate and Cardinal Corps. His experience in Cardinal Corps was especially meaningful as it allowed him to get to know important visitors and higher up administrators at Ball State. These personal connections he developed through serving and entertaining campus guests gave him a real peek into university administration and grew his network exponentially. Another influential part of his life that he credits to Ball State is the introduction to his wife, Kim, of 48 years who has been a huge support for his successes over the years.

“For me, Ball State has been one of those constant threads in my life. When I look at the fabric of my life, this university has and always will be there.” – Dick Poppa

Also, during his time as a student, Dick was given the opportunity to intern at the Indiana State Senate. “My internship was the launching pad for my entire career. It exposed me to the political process and introduced me to the type of job I wanted to pursue after graduation.” Supported by his professors, Dick tried to get as much as possible out of this experience and ended up meeting several people who would be influential in this future professional life. These connections and networks that he formed during this time have inspired him to work with his mentees to develop their networks in a similar fashion. “Developing networks and people skills are two of the most important things to do during college, so if I can help students accomplish this, I will feel like I have done some good in my role as a mentor.”

Dick hopes to stay engaged with students for many years. His hope is that the different mentoring programs at Ball State, including Cardinals Connect, would continue to expand and eventually get as many students as possible connected with a mentor. Cardinals Connect is essentially a Ball State-only LinkedIn, but with a more focused approach to mentoring. “My personal hope is that every BSU student would have at least one mentor during their college career to give them a solid footing as they move into their career. I will do my best to be a part of this goal.

Nearly 300 students and alumni are matched each semester through Cardinals Connect. These matches mark the beginning of a mentor/mentee relationship and are built to set students up for academic and professional success. Interested in learning more about mentoring?  Sign up here: