New to U? Meet your mentor

Publication Date
Yonna Palmer, left, and Shawna Gallagher

Yonna Palmer, left, and Shawna Gallagher

Folks in Admissions and College Relations have a lot in common.

For one thing, they love people. For another, they love to welcome guests to campus, often in large numbers.

So, it was a natural pairing last winter when Shawna Gallagher, the gregarious associate director in annual giving, became a mentor to a new employee, Yonna Palmer P’26, assistant to the vice president for admissions.

The two were among a dozen pairings this year in HR’s New Hire-Guide program, which aims to welcome new employees and share with them the experience of campus veterans.

“It’s easier to learn your job duties,” said Shawna, who joined Union four years ago. “There are plenty of people close by to help with that. But there are so many things to learn about the larger campus community. Sometimes it takes a long time to figure those out.”

Since last winter, the two have met regularly over coffee or lunch. Shawna has suggested that Yonna try the salads at 807 Deli or the dining popups, and take advantage of the Life Points program. Having experienced many Homecoming and ReUnion weekends, Shawna also has shared tips about working with Facilities, Campus Safety and Dining staff on large events, like Admissions open houses. She also has recommended external vendors.

“This was a great chance for Yonna to learn a bit more about how our departments work with campus partners in planning events and how we interact with our guests who come to campus,” Shawna said.

Yonna landed at Union thanks in large part to her daughter, Ella ’26. “She talked about how kind, welcoming and helpful everyone was,” she said. “When I saw the job posting, I applied right away.”

By chance, Yonna met Shawna at a campus event before they had arranged to meet as mentor-mentee. “We hit if off right away,” Yonna recalls. “We found out her parents worked at the school where my kids go.”

Among other things they found in common: both are graduates of SUNY Oneonta, and Shawna has seen Yonna’s younger daughter, Natalya, in several local theater productions.

When Yonna and Shawna get together, it’s “non-stop talking,” according to Yonna.

Shawna’s best advice? “Don’t just stay in your lane,” Yonna recalls. “Taking advantage of campus wide celebrations, programs and opportunities gives you a greater understanding of the campus at large.”

Yonna said she would like to be a guide for a new employee after she has been here at least a full year.

Shawna, who loves to “grab lunch on campus and say hi to 10 people I don’t always work with,” said she plans to take on another mentee now that Yonna knows her way.

“But I’ll always have Yonna as a connection and a befriended colleague.”

The New Hire-Guide program is part of an enhanced on-boarding experience offered by Human Resources. It begins with “Introducing You to U,” a three-hour boot camp for new hires, and includes a New Employee Breakfast, a campus-wide event. “We want to create opportunities for new employees to feel a sense of belonging,” said Francesca Callahan, director of talent acquisition.

To participate in the New Hire-Guide program, contact Francesca Callahan, chief diversity officer for employee and institutional success/director of talent acquisition and career advising resources, Gwen Pulvirent, director of job success and team development resources or Kathryn Maitoza, talent acquisition consultant at or (518) 388-6666.