He’s a college junior whose inspiration is a 92-year-old entrepreneur and philanthropist.
You might say Devin Miles is an old soul.
“The reason I chose to study accounting is Warren Buffett,” said Miles. “My interest in equities started at 17, and it’s been one of my hobbies ever since. Every business needs an accountant.”
Another example where Miles showed wisdom beyond his years? An admission he wasn’t performing up to his academic potential.
“I needed some tough love,” recalled Miles of the place he found himself 18 months ago. His “aha moment” came during a conversation with an academic mentor at the University of North Texas (UNT) in Denton, a city north of Dallas.
“While we were discussing my goals for the upcoming year, my mentor asked if I had heard about the Professional Leadership Program (PLP) and encouraged me to apply, so I did,” said Miles.
The PLP began in 1994 to help UNT business students develop leadership skills, recognize the importance of volunteerism and build their professional networks through mentor relationships.
“The program really stretches our students in encouraging their growth and development,” said Jose Grimaldo, executive director of the PLP. “Each year, I empower the group with this phrase: ‘Over the next year, you will learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.’ They quickly understand what that means.”
Regions Bank in Dallas has worked with UNT’s PLP during the past two years, most recently supporting the program’s End of Year Celebration in May. Perhaps even more valuable are the career exploration discussion and mentorship provided by bank associates.
They want to do well and contribute. You see the promise in their eyes. Being able to mentor these talented young professionals makes me thankful to the mentors who helped shape my career.
Tyrus Sanders, market executive for Regions Bank
Connecting with students offered Tyrus Sanders, market executive for Regions Bank in Dallas, a unique opportunity to pay it forward while looking back at the same time.
“The students have such an eagerness to learn and to apply what they’ve learned,” said Sanders. “They want to do well and contribute. You see the promise in their eyes. Being able to mentor these talented young professionals makes me thankful to the mentors who helped shape my career. It reminds me that I don’t want to let down the mentors who put countless hours into my development.”
He certainly isn’t letting Miles down.
“I noticed Mr. Sanders has a quality that I really respect and admire that I call ‘keeping it real,’” said Miles. “When I went and sat at his table, he was telling us things we need to know. I like that because it gives me an opportunity to grow and improve.”
Miles’ classmate, Caitlin Bayer, discovered the PLP and its leadership focus during her orientation in 2019.
“When I first heard about PLP, I found it really interesting and something that might benefit me later in life,” she said.
Bayer, now a junior studying business analytics and economics with aspirations to work as an analyst with a large information technology firm, ultimately decided to apply after a friend shared how much she enjoyed the program. She’s glad she did.
“Through PLP, I’ve learned a lot about the diversity and different perspectives that people can bring to a workplace,” said Bayer. “I’ve also learned you can always grow and learn, no matter how much you know – or think you know – and to be open to feedback and suggestions from peers. I’ve made lots of friends in the program and gained a few mentors, too.”
Bayer’s first year in the program was so rewarding she decided to seek a PLP leadership position.
“I chose to be a leader because I wanted to give back and help others who wanted the same things I did as a member,” she said.
Serving with her as a PLP leader?
In less than two years, the young man seated across from his academic mentor who recognized he was capable of more is now proving it.
“So many opportunities have been presented since then, and it all happened because I took that advice,” said Miles. “My thought process has changed. I’ve matured over that year. I used to think very short-term; PLP helped me identify I wasn’t thinking long-term. Being around people who are older has rubbed off on me.”
PLP has also helped Miles’ confidence grow exponentially. He’s launched a student book club, started a small business selling health and fitness supplements, and recently completed a tax internship program.
“Leadership is something that has always been a little bit untapped for me because I never really put myself out there,” said Miles. “I was never really too comfortable putting myself out there in the light, being in the open. I’ve naturally been an introvert for most of my life, but I’ve become more of an ambivert. PLP gave me what I need to be comfortable networking in different environments.”
The future now looks brighter for Devin Miles. He knows what he can do – and so do his mentors.
A Deeper Look at the Professional Leadership Program:
Volunteerism. Networking. Pitch contests and public speaking.It’s just a sample of the many experiences
UNT Professional Leadership Program (PLP) participants can expect.Each week, PLP students also engage in career readiness sessions covering a variety of topics to help them prepare for life after graduation.“PLP members must commit to a full academic year filled with activities,” said Jose Grimaldo, executive director of the program. “I consider myself extremely fortunate to witness the growth and development of our PLP students over the course of the year.”Also promoting the students’ growth and development? The program’s mentorship component
“The mentor-mentee relationship is, without a doubt, the lifeblood to PLP,” said Grimaldo. “We have been so appreciative of our community partnership with Tyrus Sanders and the Regions Bank team. Their contributions toward the development of our students have been so enriching.”
Learn more about the PLP at https://cob.unt.edu/plp/about/history.