When it comes to instilling confidence in her students, Valerie Atherley makes all the right moves – from connecting them to internships to employing music and dance for relaxation before a class presentation.

Her phone call to a Sawyer Business School alumnus helped Andrew Phong land an internship that turned into a job, and Michelle Bui went from “very shy” to self-assured with Atherley’s help.

Bui recalls that she lacked confidence when she enrolled in Atherton’s Business Foundations course as a freshman. Bui had not quite mastered the English language two years after emigrating from Vietnam and thus had difficulty understanding the subject matter. She emailed Atherley with her concerns.

Atherley “told me to study the material and to participate in class, even though I may have the wrong answer,” said Bui. “She cared about me and would always give me advice to make me better.”

Dancing the stress away

As Bui prepared to make her final class presentation, she was still nervous about speaking in front her classmates. To help her relax, Atherley joined her in singing and dancing to Alicia Keys’ “Girl on Fire,” which Atherley played for the whole class.

“Professor Atherley’s support and toughness made me a better person today,” said Bui, who graduated from Suffolk summa cum laude in May and has landed a full-time job at BNY Mellon. “She taught me to become more confident in myself and to accept any new challenges that come my way.”

“Michelle’s growth as a Suffolk student and a young woman has been tremendous,” said Atherley. “I am proud to have witnessed her achievements. I know she will continue to do well. She is still a ‘girl on fire.’”

Alumni network leads to job

For Phong, it was a recommendation provided by Atherley that led to an internship at Jobble, a start-up company geared to the gig economy. Along with graduation last month came a full-time job with the firm.

Jobble’s co-founder and CEO is Suffolk alumnus Zack Smith. Matt Pozner, another Suffolk graduate, is the director of growth and innovation, a former student of Atherley’s, and the person she called when Phong was looking for an internship.

Phong appreciated Atherley’s support throughout his time at Suffolk and has consulted with her regularly since freshman year.

“She became my mentor, giving me the advice I needed, both personally and professionally,” he said.

“Andrew is disciplined, focused, and self-confident,” said Atherley. “His approach to everything he does is to give his best. He is on a path to doing great things.”

  Phong and Bui also had support along the way from Bottom Line, a national organization that helps low-income, first-generation students succeed in college. They were among 21 Bottom Line program participants to graduate from Suffolk University this year.