Mentor-Protege Program Guides Disadvantaged Business Enterprises

Since 2010, The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) has managed a Mentor Protégé Program for Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) Certified Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBE) so they can develop their technical and business skills, and thus compete successfully in the transportation projects marketplace.

Dr. Sampson Gholston, associate professor in the ISEEM department, has been the project director for the program for the past five years, capitalizing on earlier project experience with ALDOT and other large-scale transportation agencies. "At the end of the year-long program, our objective is that the participating DBEs will be more competitive when bidding on transportation contracts,” says Gholston.

Because most mentors and protégés in the program are project-driven organizations, the program focuses on nurturing project management maturity; namely, improving processes relative to bid preparation, technology support, teaming and collaboration, relationship development, and subcontractor monitoring.

To date, the UAH Mentor Protégé Program has worked with 35 businesses helping them increase their business capabilities and overall performance. ALDOT recently approved a $255,300 grant to further develop the program.

gholston at aashtoIn June, Dr. Gholston presented “Best practices to establish effective mentor/protégé programs” at the 2016 American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials National Civil Rights Training Symposium. “It was an honor to speak in Washington, DC.  We’re presented our program, our approach, and highlighted some successful companies that have been through the program,” says Gholston.

ISEEM associate professor Dr. Dawn Utley serves as an assistant project director in the program, focusing on business plan development and management.

Undergraduate research assistant Megan Ballinger (ISE), is helping assess the needs of enrolled businesses.