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University of Memphis MILE Program renamed 'J. Austin Baker, III MILE Program'

By Dr. Adam G. Walker, Special to My Life
Posted in the Commercial Appeal October 11, 2013

For release:  October 25, 2013

J. Austin Baker III (center) was recently honored for his contributions by having the University of Memphis rename its MILE program in his honor. Joining him for the announcement were his father, Jim Baker (left) and Dr. Bob Taylor, the program’s director.
J. Austin Baker III (center) was recently honored for his contributions by having the University of Memphis rename its MILE program in his honor. Joining him for the announcement were his father, Jim Baker (left) and Dr. Bob Taylor, the program’s director.

At the opening ceremony of the University of Memphis MILE program, Austin Baker was honored for his contributions by officially having the program named after him. The newly renamed J. Austin Baker III MILE program matches 120 highly motivated, high-ability undergraduate business students at the University of Memphis with more than 100 local Memphis business leaders and provides them each with an opportunity to engage in additional leadership education and training in a structured eight-month program.

In its first year, now seven years ago, the program started with 25 student protégés and 25 mentors. The mentoring pairs grouped into teams attends together six leadership education experiences that consist primarily of lectures or training programs provided by locally and nationally prominent speakers and business leaders.

Sessions occur once a month over an eight-month period covering the fall and spring semesters, usually on Friday afternoons or evenings. After each program mentors engage the students in dialogue about the relevance of that topic in his or her business.

Outside activates range from group volunteer and networking to company tours, mock interviews and one-to-one sessions between the mentors and their protégés over dinner, lunch, or even at a mentor’s business. There are mentors and advisers who have supported the program since the beginning.

Austin Baker is the founder and President of HRO Partners, a rapidly growing HR consulting firm. Baker is also a Top 40 under 40 award recipient, a Leadership Memphis graduate, and was previously named as Entrepreneur of the Year by the U of M Fogelman College of Business and Economics.

Baker is an Eagle Scout who has dedicated his life to service on a variety of nonprofit boards, including Mayor Luttrell’s Young Professional Council; People First, an initiative of Memphis Fast Forward; The Chickasaw Council of the Boy Scouts of America; and the Workforce Investment Network.

“It is a great honor to have a program as successful as MILE to be named after me,” Baker said. “From the beginning, it was a labor of love for many people who helped us launch the vision of MILE into a reality. I had mentors in my life that taught me, and I am honored to have the chance to pay it forward.

“The program has been called one of the most successful leadership mentorship programs in the community, both locally and nationally. Bob Taylor and I built this program to create and retain high-caliber talent for the community, and we now have touched more than 900 lives. The Fogelman College of Business and Economics is on the move and has some of the most successful professional development programs offered in any university.”

The J. Austin Baker III MILE program director, Dr. Bob Taylor, said, “Employers of choice are now starting to ask our grads if they were part of the MILE Program. We are known in the community as a developer of professionals and leaders. We are certainly grateful to Jim and Austin Baker for their unwavering support of this program. Austin was the engineer of this program, and we are proud to name such a successful program after him. They have been supportive of this program with their time, input and financial resources.”

Recently Jim Baker, owner of Owen Brennan’s, established the J. Austin Baker III endowed fund with a six-figure commitment that benefits the program and helps offset the annual costs. For more information, or to become a mentor or to contribute to this leadership academy, contact Dr. Bob Taylor at 901-678-5311 or by e-mail.

Dr. Adam G. Walker is director of development for the Fogelman College of Business and Economics at the University of Memphis.

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