Anyone who has had the opportunity to learn from a mentor during their formative college years, or even at the start of their career, knows just how transformative those relationships can be. Brooklyn College will now be able offer students and faculty more of these important experiences through a generous $600,000 grant from The Tow Foundation. The Tow Mentoring Initiative is designed to greatly enhance the culture of mentorship at Brooklyn College.

“Thanks to the generosity of The Tow Foundation, the college will be able to provide students with life-changing mentors who will expand their sense of what is possible to achieve,” Brooklyn College President Michelle J. Anderson said. “Faculty mentors and mentors-in-residence will connect deeply with students, providing them with academic opportunities, opening doors, and enriching their lives. We want to build a commitment to mentorship into the college’s DNA so that excellent mentorship defines the Brooklyn College experience.”

Leonard Tow ’50, founder and chairman of The Tow Foundation, himself knows first-hand how mentorship can transform lives. Tow, who also serves on the Board of Trustees of the Brooklyn College Foundation, recently spoke of his experiences as a student at the College’s 2022 Commencement, where he received the Distinguished Alumni Award.

Pointing to the “gifts” he received at his alma mater, Tow recalled a powerful relationship he developed with his economics professor, Martha Steffy Browne.

“Steffy Browne, an immigrant herself, took me under her wing and introduced me to a life I never knew existed and pushed me to pursue my dreams,” Tow said. “It set me off through graduate school where she was guiding me every step of the way. Giving back does not have to always involve material things,” Tow added. “There are a lot of ways to change lives, including offering your time, guidance, and mentorship.”

A number of programs already constitute a rich mentoring ecosystem at Brooklyn College, including the Mellon Undergraduate Transfer Student Program (MTSRP), which supports transfer students in the humanities; the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program, an honors program for minority students pursuing Ph.D.s in specific fields; as well as other mentoring programs in the Office of Academic Affairs, the Immigrant Student Success Office, and the Magner Career Center, among others. The Tow Mentoring Initiative will deeply enrich the existing ecosystem, giving students across disciplines more opportunities to thrive and grow.

Key components of the new Mentoring Initiative include Tow Mentors-in-Residence, the Tow Mentoring and Research Program, the Tow Mentoring Prize, and five Tow Senior Faculty Mentors. The goals are to enhance student opportunities for high-impact academic engagement and faculty-student collaboration; increase the number of students winning prestigious grants and awards; increase the number of students going to graduate school; and enhance junior faculty research, scholarship, and creative endeavors, such as grants, awards, and publishing.

The college is thrilled to have “Gridlock Sam” as its first Tow Mentor-in-Residence. Sam Schwartz is a celebrated transportation engineer and former New York City Traffic Commissioner who will engage with students and faculty over the course of the semester by offering guest lectures and providing formal and informal academic and professional guidance to students. Schwartz helped to launch the Tow Mentoring Initiative with his visit to campus for a special keynote presentation and reception on October 19.

Students will also benefit from the Tow Mentoring and Research Program, which consists of 25 student/faculty collaborative research teams. Students will receive mentoring in research, plus additional workshops on applying for graduate school and awards, coaching on professional presentations, small group meetings on goal setting and time management, and other personalized trainings.

The Tow Mentoring Initiative also supports the mentoring of faculty themselves. The Tow Senior Faculty program supports five senior faculty members from each of the five schools. They work with chairs, deans, and faculty in their schools to mentor junior faculty members to achieve tenure and promotion through excellence in research, scholarship and creative work, teaching, and service.

Professor of Sociology and former Associate Provost Tammy Lewis leads the Tow Mentoring Initiative. She is excited to see how this effort will benefit both students and faculty. “This new initiative provides Brooklyn College with the opportunity to intentionally engage in the process of institutionalizing mentorship on campus for both students and faculty,” Lewis said. “Through the Tow Research and Mentoring Program, we are creating structures to guide students to become agents of their futures and to realize that they have the capacity to shape their own lives and the world around them. Through the Tow Senior Faculty Mentors and the Tow Mentoring Prize, we are providing structured mentorship and recognition for faculty mentors, which deepens a culture of mentorship at the college.”

Fact Box: The Tow Mentoring Initiative

The Tow Mentoring and Research Program includes 25 student/faculty collaborative research teams. Students receive mentoring in research plus additional workshops on applying for graduate school and awards, coaching on professional presentations, and other personalized training.

Tow Summer Intensive, which starts in summer of 2023, will host a program for students, led by a faculty member, to assist them with applying for awards, grants, graduate school, and other opportunities that will help them transform their lives.

The Tow Mentor-in-Residence Program will recruit high-profile, senior scholars and practitioners for structured engagement with students and faculty over the course of a semester. Mentors-in-Residence are outstanding leaders across various fields. They will engage in guest lecturing in select classes, giving talks to students and faculty, and providing formal and informal academic and professional guidance to groups of students.

Tow Senior Faculty Mentors will lead the effort at the five schools at college: Education, Visual, Media and Performing Arts; Natural and Behavioral Sciences; Koppelman School of Business; and Humanities and Social Sciences. This part of the program connects senior faculty with junior faculty in an in-depth peer mentoring experience.

The Tow Mentoring Prize will be awarded annually to a faculty member for excellence in mentoring.

About Brooklyn College

Widely known for its offer of an excellent education at an affordable tuition and recognized nationally for its diverse student body, Brooklyn College has been an anchor institution within the Borough of Brooklyn and greater New York City for more than 90 years. With approximately 16,000 students in more than 100 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in the arts, humanities, sciences, education, and business, the college is renowned for its rigorous academics, award-winning faculty, distinguished alumni, and community impact. Part of the City University of New York (CUNY), Brooklyn College offers a vibrant and supportive student experience on a beautifully landscaped 35-acre campus in the borough’s Midwood neighborhood.

About The Tow Foundation

The Tow Foundation, established in 1988 by Leonard and Claire Tow, supports visionary leaders and nonprofit organizations that serve historically marginalized populations, help individuals contribute to their communities, and champion advancements and experiences that make it possible for all people to live healthy and joyous lives. It invests in innovative programs and reform in culture, higher education, journalism, justice and community wellness, and medicine. For more information, visit or follow The Tow Foundation on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter.