Discovering rejuvenation and focus as a Morehead-Cain Mentor, with Jamie Whittle ’97

Blog | October 21, 2021
Two masked people pose for a selfie in Glasgow, Ireland.
Mentee Phoebe Flaherty ’22 with Jamie in Glasgow, Scotland, during summer 2021.

Jamie Whittle ’97 is an environmental lawyer at R&R Urquhart in Forres, Scotland.

Being of service to the Morehead-Cain Program is my small way of trying to repay a debt that I can never fully repay—for the gift of spending four years in Chapel Hill, summers full of adventure and discovery, having my eyes and mind opened to perspectives I never knew existed, and meeting the very best of friends.

When I was invited to mentor a Morehead-Cain Scholar, I didn’t really give it a second thought because every time I’ve engaged with the Foundation (since graduating in 1997) has been an experience of reconnecting to the Program’s purpose. I’ve always come away from these encounters rejuvenated, re-grounded, and refocussed.

I was teamed up this past year with Phoebe Flaherty, now a senior in the Morehead-Cain Class of 2022. Our communication medium was Zoom, with Phoebe being based mainly in Toronto and me dialing in from the north of Scotland. There was established common ground with our mutual interests in the environment, sustainability, and law, and also with us both originating from countries outside of the United States.

I saw my role as principally being a guide, of sorts. This meant listening as best I could to Phoebe’s interests, trying to identify points of enthusiasm, and encouraging further exploration. Our meetings regularly involved brainstorming, going off on tangents and telling stories, and posting links and reading suggestions in the Zoom chat. None of our meetings had a particular agenda, but instead took on a style of unstructured space that allowed for spontaneity. I was always on the lookout for “shortcuts” from my experiences that might help Phoebe more quickly reach territories she was keen to discover more about.

One of the most valuable ways a mentor can help a current scholar is to provide contacts and make introductions. In Phoebe’s case, it was to help her uncover a network of people in Scotland who were working in the area of “re-wilding” (i.e. habitat restoration) and its interface with local communities. This led, in turn, to Phoebe travelling over to Scotland and volunteering with an organization that promotes community-owned land and the benefits that restoring habitats can bring to culture and the environment, especially in the present times of the climate crisis.

I feel so privileged to have had the chance to support a current scholar, and to help open up possibilities in the world which she might not otherwise have encountered. Collaborating with such an intelligent, motivated, and kind-natured soul was a joy, and it undoubtedly gave me a boost. Mentoring also allowed me to tap back into the support and belief in potential which the Foundation staff and my peers showed me during my time in Chapel Hill, and which I still need to draw upon in these challenging times.

Two people pose for a photo on the coast with surfboards.
Jamie also hosted Asher Wexler ’25 during part of the scholar’s international gap year in 2020. Here the two are pictured following a morning surf in Lossiemouth, Scotland. The scholar also shared about his time visiting Jamie via an Instagram Live interview with Morehead-Cain.

Connect with a mentor

The Morehead-Cain Mentoring Program is designed to leverage the power of the Morehead-Cain network by cultivating connections between scholars and alumni, and providing structure and support to these relationships so they can develop based on shared values and interests. All rising juniors and seniors are eligible to participate.