UGA Mentor Program profile: Sarah Oney and Carol Gable

The UGA Mentor Program is an “opportunity no one should pass up,” explained Sarah Oney, a senior public relations major at Grady College. After graduation in May, Oney hopes to move to New York City to work in the entertainment industry, a goal that is bolstered by the support of her mentor, Carol Gable (ABJ ‘76), a producer for Dateline NBC. 

The UGA Mentor Program is a student-centered online platform that allows students to form long-lasting mentoring relationships, regardless of geographic location. Students can also utilize the Quick Chat function to briefly meet with UGA mentors, including alumni, faculty and staff, for informational interviews that can help make their futures a bit clearer. 

Below are two Q&As, first with Oney, followed by another with Gable, about their mentoring relationship through the UGA Mentor Program. The text has been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.

A conversation with Sarah Oney: 

Oney shows a photo on her camera to a young girl in Ensenada, Mexico.
Oney in Ensenada, Mexico, during her internship with YUGO Ministries, doing videography for the organization’s content team. (Photo: submitted)

GC: Please tell us about yourself. 

SO: I am a current senior majoring in public relations with a Certificate in Nonprofit Management and Leadership. Since this is my last semester at UGA, my current favorite thing to do is spend as much time with my friends as possible!  After graduation, I hope to move to New York to work in the entertainment industry. The dream is to work with NBC!

GC: What inspired you to participate in the UGA Mentor Program?

SO: Through my role as an orientation leader, I learned about this program and the benefits it provides to students. Truthfully, this program is an opportunity no one should pass up. You are able to have someone in your corner, explaining what the industry is like and helping you along your college journey.

GC: What drew you to select Carol Gable as your mentor? 

SO: What drew me to Carol was her work experience. She is a producer at Dateline NBC and has many years of experience under her belt. She seemed like the best person to mentor me and guide me along my job search process!

GC: What does this mentorship consist of? How often do you speak and what do those conversations sound like? 

SO: We normally meet biweekly and whenever I have something I need help with. Carol and I review my resume and portfolio and search for potential jobs together. We go over what to do during an informational interview and the right way to approach interview questions. 

GC: What has been the most rewarding part of this experience, having Carol as a mentor?

Carol is one of the most helpful parts of being a student at UGA. She has been in my corner since the day she became my mentor and celebrates every victory, no matter the size, with me. She is one of the most reassuring people I know and has turned into a role model for me.

A conversation with Carol Gable: 

GC: Please tell us about yourself, a synopsis of your career from Grady College to where you are now. 

CG: After graduating from Grady, I held several reporting and anchoring positions in Florida and North Carolina. When NBC opened the NBC News Channel in Charlotte, N.C., I became the Senior Producer for Special Projects.  Since 1996, I have been a producer for Dateline NBC, covering stories nationally and internationally.

GC: What inspired you to become a mentor through the UGA Mentor Program? 

CG: The mentor program was not available to me when I was at UGA. There were so many decisions I needed to make in preparation for a career and had no one to consult who was in the business.  I would have benefited greatly from the chance to learn many insights that aren’t part of coursework. 

GC: What does your mentorship consist of? How do you help your mentees, both Sarah specifically and, more broadly, any/all of your previous mentees through the UGA Mentor Program? 

CG: I begin by meeting with the mentee and telling them all of the topics I am able to help with based on what their goals are. Based on this conversation, we plan phone calls and Zoom meetings. We work on resumes, do practice interviews, evaluate internships and map out a plan for the rest of the students’ time at UGA.

GC: What has been the most rewarding experience of mentoring, both Sarah specifically and, more broadly, any/all of your previous mentees through the UGA Mentor Program?

CG: I have enjoyed working with Sarah and helping her evaluate opportunities as she moves toward graduation. 

I also have an opportunity to share with my mentees insights I wish I had when I was a student. I am also able to provide mentee recommendations for internships and employment with my colleagues and contacts in our industry. It’s very satisfying to help the next generation entering journalism. Graduates face a stiff and difficult market and I am glad there is a way I can help.

Learn more about the UGA Mentor Program, including how to sign up, on the UGA Mentor Program page.

UGA Mentor Program Profile: Rylee Barfield and LeLoni Smith

It didn’t take long for recent graduate Rylee Barfield (AB ‘22) to experience the value of a good mentor. During her first week at UGA, eager to enter the field of entertainment, Barfield was seeking guidance to help her navigate the then-unfamiliar industry. When a friend in the introduction to Entertainment and Media Studies class mentioned the UGA Mentor Program, Barfield was immediately intrigued. 

Soon after, Barfield applied to be the mentee of LeLoni Smith (ABJ ‘14), an independent producer who, from 2018 to 2022, worked for Netflix, first as a creative assistant on the Netflix Original Documentary team and then as manager on the Netflix Documentary Films team. 

The UGA Mentor Program is a student-centered online platform that allows students to form long-lasting mentoring relationships, regardless of geographic location. Students can also utilize the Quick Chat function to briefly meet with UGA mentors, including alumni, faculty and staff, for informational interviews that can help make their futures a bit clearer. 

Below are two Q&As, first with Barfield, followed by another with Smith, about their mentoring relationship through the UGA Mentor Program. The text has been lightly edited for clarity and brevity. 

A conversation with Rylee Barfield

GC: Tell us about yourself. 

A headshot of Rylee Barfield.
Rylee Barfield graduated in the Fall of 2022. (Photo: Submitted)

I graduated in the Fall of 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in Entertainment and Media Studies and a minor in Korean Language and Culture. I’m currently in the process of getting a visa to work in Seoul, South Korea. I want to live and work there in the entertainment industry, but I will teach English until I become more comfortable with the language. 

RB: What inspired you to participate in the UGA Mentor Program?

In my first week at UGA, I took the intro class to EMST and made a friend who recommended the mentorship program. I think the entertainment industry felt rather daunting at first and impossible to make connections in, so the UGA Mentor Program was the perfect thing for me at that time. I wanted to talk to someone who had been in my shoes and could help me navigate an unfamiliar industry. I wanted someone who I could ask questions to and learn from. 

GC: What drew you to select LeLoni Smith as your mentor? 

RB: I just really wanted to be doing what LeLoni did when I graduated, so I decided to apply to be her mentee. First of all, she had the most stacked profile/resume. I was worried she actually wouldn’t select me. She was truly impressive and seemed like the coolest woman. LeLoni was working at Netflix at the time, which interested me, and was producing, which is my dream job. So she checked every box of mentorship I could ever want! It’s a gamble when choosing a mentor because you don’t know what their personality or interest will be, and you truly want to develop a relationship and feel like friends. However, I was fortunate to get LeLoni because she is very kind and personable. 

GC: What does this mentorship consist of? How often do you speak and what do those conversations sound like? 

RB: Our first call was longer and focused on getting to know each other. I learned about LeLoni’s journey to be where she is now. Then we talked about what I wanted from the mentorship, and at the time I really wanted guidance and someone I could bounce different questions off of. So we decided to meet monthly over Zoom and email regularly. LeLoni helped me create my resume, and I still use the template today! She helped me narrow down my experiences and show my strengths most effectively. LeLoni helped me to understand what it’s like to work at a global entertainment company, what it took to get there, and how I could start taking steps in that direction. 

GC: What has been the most rewarding part of this experience, having LeLoni as a mentor?

RB: For me, it was just the kinship of having someone to honestly tell you that your dream is possible and that there is a way to get there. I feel like I walked away from the experience more knowledgeable and confident. I think LeLoni is an amazing person, and I’m honored to have been her mentee.

A conversation with LeLoni Smith

GC: What inspired you to become a mentor through the UGA Mentor Program? 

A headshot of LeLoni Smith.
LeLoni Smith has had 8 mentees since 2018 through the UGA Mentor Program. (Photo: submitted.)

LS: I’ve always had an interest in mentorship. I served as a mentor during my UGA days at Clarke Middle School. When I was a student, I had very little knowledge of the entertainment industry and had to figure out a lot of things on my own, which resulted in a few twists and turns along my career path. If I could help provide some clarity to my mentee about my experiences then hopefully he/she or they will have a better sense of where to start after graduation. 

GC: What does your mentorship consist of? How do you help your mentees, both Rylee specifically and, more broadly, all of your previous mentees through this program? 

LS: I would like to think my mentorship process is easygoing but also transparent and direct. My mentees typically want to know about my career journey and how I got to where I am today, so I share the successes. But I also don’t sugarcoat the failures. Once I’ve shared my experiences, I love to hear what interests them and how we can set them up for success. My first task is to review their resume and make any necessary updates or changes. Once we’ve updated the resume, then the rest of the mentorship consists of open conversations about the industry and any advice I can share. Rylee and I shared a similar interest of engaging and programming for audiences outside of the United States, so we would discuss how to gain experience in the United States with aspirations of working outside of it. The best help I can give Rylee or any of my mentees is an honest conversation about my own experiences so they can decide their own path forward. 

GC: What has been the most rewarding experience of mentoring, both Rylee specifically and, more broadly, all of your previous mentees through the UGA Mentorship Program?

LS: The most rewarding experience of mentoring is always the look of relief from my mentees when they are reassured that it is ok to make mistakes and not know what exactly to do after graduation. The entertainment industry is great because there is no direct path, so you can start one way and finish in a completely different way. And that is okay. With Rylee, it was nice to talk through all of her experiences because it made her realize that she was more qualified than she thought. As her mentor, it was my job to simply remind her. 

Learn more about the UGA Mentor Program, including how to sign up, on the UGA Mentor Program page.