Young Alumni Trustee Sony Sherpa ’18 almost didn’t make it past her first year of college. When an earthquake hit her native Nepal, she felt compelled to return, yet also to stay. Unsure what to do, she went to her advisor, Professor Bob Gann.
Gann stepped up, as he always does. “When you make a difference with a student, that’s what matters,” he says. “I told Sony, ‘Give me a few days,’ and immediately messaged one of my best former students. I said, ‘Jorge, I need a favor. I have an extremely strong student and she needs our help.’”
Gann is referring to Jorge Escobar ’91, now Senior Vice President in the Conversational Commerce Technology group at Bank of America in
Charlotte, NC. Though they haven’t seen each other in years (“Life gets in the way,” Escobar says), they remain committed to one another. And now to Sherpa.
“These two people changed my life,” she says. Thanks to their intervention — and her own considerable talents — Sherpa soon had choices. She earned one internship, then another, and is now a software developer with Bank of America. She and Escobar work near one another in Charlotte and often get together. (“Jorge’s wife is wonderful!” she notes.)
“I wouldn’t have aimed for an internship that early in college, and with a corporation this big, without Bob Gann,” Sherpa says. “His reaching out to Jorge was a huge help.” So was the Robert S. Hanft ’69 and Patricia R. Hanft ’72 Scholarship for Internship Support that helped cover her expenses.
“I was impressed by Bob’s recount of Sony,” Escobar remembers of that urgent message from his mentor. “She was studying in Hartwick’s accelerated program and that caught my attention.”
Ultimately, Sherpa graduated from Hartwick in two and a half years with a double major in computer science and mathematics.
Given the complex regulatory environment in financial services, Escobar couldn’t hire Sherpa directly, but he could help her identify her strengths and position her profile as an attractive candidate for Bank of America’s technology internship program. “Banking is highly scrutinized, so everything has to go through the proper channels,” he says, noting this includes hiring decisions. The two talked by phone, emailed, and “went back and forth” on her resume.
“When we met, I was impressed by Sony’s ability to adapt, to communicate, and to learn,” Escobar remembers. “Those skills are in demand in technology and they are a high priority at Hartwick. Sony embraces the ideals of the liberal arts; we made sure to position her in that way.”
This resonates with Gann, who makes career readiness a priority in all his classes. “What’s really important is learning how to solve problems, to work in teams, and to learn about people; that’s a liberal arts education,” he asserts. “I always tell my students, ‘Technical knowledge is for your first job. It’s your liberal arts education that will make a tremendous difference throughout your career.’”
“All of us who graduated with an appreciation of the liberal arts are in a very good position to help students or recent graduates.”