Morehead-Cain Mentoring Program Spotlight, with Emily Howard ’00 and Kayden Hunt ’24: Pursuing meaning and connection over achievement

News & Spotlights | July 24, 2023
Emily Howard ’00

In the Morehead-Cain Mentoring Program, alumni and scholars create meaningful connections that go far beyond career talk.

For Emily Howard ’00 and Kayden Hunt ’24, their mentorship became a lifeline during the pandemic.

The two were initially matched in 2020 based on their shared interests in journalism. (In the program, mentors are matched with mentees based on a combination of factors, including shared interests, career goals, and personal backgrounds, among other preferences scholars may list during the application process.)

Emily is a senior associate editor at Thomson Reuters Practical Law, while Kayden is an aspiring photojournalist at the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media.

With much of the world shut down from the pandemic, conversations prioritized mental health over strictly career-related topics.

“We talked a lot about managing the situations we were in, and we held each other accountable to make sure we addressed the challenges we were facing at the time,” the alumna said.

“It felt nice for both of us to have someone we could check in with during a tough situation, and she was just as helpful for me, if not more helpful, than I may have been to her.”

For Emily, sharing different perspectives is far more valuable than simply giving advice. That way, both sides benefit.

“Reflecting on some of my experiences from college and being a sounding board for Kayden is how I’m most able to be helpful as a mentor,” she said.

One thing she’s encouraged Kayden to do, in a now fully opened campus, is to take advantage of office hours and develop authentic relationships with professors.

Joining the Carolina community from a small town felt daunting as a high school senior, said the alumna, a native of Graham, North Carolina. The realization came later that most professors want to engage deeply with students one-on-one.

“I went to a tiny high school and was very intimidated by academics,” said Emily, who was nominated for the Morehead-Cain by Graham High School. “I wish someone had told me that I should’ve felt comfortable getting to know professors.”

Meaning over achievement

The mentoring pair has also talked about building flourishing lives as opposed to career trajectories alone.

For Emily, a desire for flexibility to spend more time with family informed her decision to switch from practicing law to a law-adjacent job in legal writing.

“I’m first and foremost a mother, and I wasn’t able to have the hands-on level of involvement that I wanted with my kids in Big Law,” she said.

For more than a decade, she climbed the ranks at four different law firms in New York City before joining Thomson Reuters. In her current role, she researches and writes articles that assist attorneys in their practice areas.

Emily hopes her conversations with Kayden allow space for her to imagine careers that focus on meaning over achievement.

“I want to make sure she does something she really enjoys, and not just something that she thinks is expected of her as a high achiever because she’s a Morehead-Cain Scholar,” she said.

Since adjusting her career path in law, Emily launched a floral startup that she managed for years, got back into photography, and regained flexibility to spend more time with her small kids.

Learning across generations

What began as a mentorship with Kayden has developed into a friendship, Emily said, where each person supports the other. As a mentor, alumni can learn as much from their mentees as the scholars learn from them.

“It feels good to help a young person who has all the intelligence but perhaps not as much of the wisdom that comes from being out in the world for however long,” she said.

Emily and Kayden have participated in the program for two years as a pair and plan to continue informally for years to come.

“We all have that curiosity to learn about how younger generations think, how they’re navigating the world, and it’s been great to have found a friend in Kayden and to learn from her perspective.”

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 in the one-year program.