man in front of powerpoint that says umass 4th annual disability mentoring day

4th Annual Disability Mentoring Day: A Record-Breaking Year!

On March 5th, 2019, UMass Medical School’s Work Without Limits initiative, in collaboration with the American Association of People with Disabilities, held the 4th Annual Disability Mentoring Day (DMD) in Massachusetts. DMD promotes career development for people with disabilities through hands-on career exploration and ongoing mentoring relationships.  A record number of participants participated in Massachusetts this year!  Ninety-five (95) Mentors were paired with 63 Mentees providing an invaluable experience advancing career development and personal growth – for both Mentee and Mentor!

This year, ten employers from Work Without Limits’ Disability:IN Massachusetts network enthusiastically signed on to participate in DMD. The companies that participated included Eastern Bank; Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston; John Hancock; MAPFRE Insurance; National Grid; Public Consulting Group (PCG); Raytheon; TD Bank; TJX Companies, Inc.; and UMass Medical School.

fourth annual disability mentoring day,; logos: work without limits, dmd logo, eastern bank, FHLBank boston, john hancock, mapfre insurance, nationalgrid, public consulting group, raytheon, td bank, tjx companies, university of massachusetts medical school

Thank you to our sponsors for participating!

In order to make the day successful, each employer designates a DMD Coordinator who is the liaison between the company and Work Without Limits. The DMD Coordinator role is crucial to making the day a success. They are responsible for planning the day’s agenda, arranging guest speakers, and most importantly securing company Mentors.  I can’t thank them enough for all of their efforts during this endeavor!

The Mentees who participate are any individual 18 years of age or older with a disability.  Mentees learn about DMD from a variety of sources:

The Mentees are paired with a career professional (Mentor) to experience what it is like to work at a particular company; observe a typical workday; identify necessary skills; enhance career development and, of course, network!

Each company has the autonomy to design their own mentoring day so, though they may be similar, they are not identical. One example is MAPFRE Insurance that took a unique approach to Disability Mentoring Day this year. They used the opportunity to announce their new partnership with Best Buddies Massachusetts and the launch of their pre-employment training program for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. This program will offer employment training and corporate mentorship in Central Massachusetts to help develop students’ career ambitions.  This is a great example of how companies can partner with community-based organizations in their community.

group of mentors and mentees facing front watching speaker

MAPFRE and Best Buddies at Disability Mentoring Day!

5 participants of DMD posing for picture

This was the 4th consecutive year that John Hancock participated in DMD Massachusetts. Sofia Teixeira, Head of U.S. Diversity & Inclusion at John Hancock had this to say, “The most satisfying part of the day for me was not only seeing how much fun everyone was having, but also realizing that our employees learned as much as, if not more than, our Mentees did.  It strikes me that we use the terms “Mentees” and “Mentors” for DMD because the truth is that these moments are more like peer-to-peer mentoring experiences, when we are all learning from and inspiring each other.”

No matter how the day unfolds for Mentors and Mentees, the goals of DMD are clear:

  • promote disability as a central component of diversity recruitment for a more inclusive workforce
  • dispel employer fears about hiring people with disabilities
  • increase confidence among job seekers with disabilities
  • enhance internship and employment opportunities for people with disabilities and
  • serve as a launch pad to promote a year-round, national effort to foster mentoring and career exploration opportunities.
Mentor and mentee standing together and smiling

Mentor from UMass Medical School, Bob, with Mentee, Victoriahope.

Both Mentors and Mentees provide us feedback on their experience and we are thrilled to share some of their impressions:

My Mentor is very kind and generous and a great listener. She was very open, willing and able to share about her personal life and honest feelings and thoughts about her experiences in her career. She is also very willing to communicate with me ongoing which is a great resource to me and very much cherished.


She has professional experience and connections relevant to my career interests, she tailored our visit based on what I wanted to accomplish, and she seems to genuinely want to help me succeed.


You get to understand the difficulties and hardships they endure just trying to find employment. It’s an eye opener for some of us who really don’t see this every day.


This was an excellent opportunity to put into practice many of the concepts we have been talking over the last couple of days regarding disabilities and incorporate individuals into the workforce. It was a great learning experience for me to create awareness and empathy for people that elaborates and process information in a different way.


We would like to thank the companies that participated, and all the DMD Coordinators, Mentors and Mentees for their participation. We could not have done it without you! We hope this experience accelerates the journey of disability inclusion in the workplace though awareness raising, skill building and networking. See you next year for the 5th Annual Disability Mentoring Day in Massachusetts!


Stay up to date on all of Work Without Limits events by signing up with Work Without Limits and following us on social media.

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Kathy Muhr headshot

Meet the Work Without Limits Team: Kathy Muhr

What is your name, title, and role with Work Without Limits?

My name is Kathy Muhr. I am the Director of Community Engagement at Work Without Limits.

How long have you held this position?

I started working at UMass Medical School in 2007 and joined the Work Without Limits team in 2010.

kathy petkauskos, kathy muhr and dr david polakoff

Kathy Muhr being honored as a 10 year employee at UMass Medical School with Kathy Petkauskos and Dr. David Polakoff.

What is the best part of your job?

There are so many things I love about my job. First of all, I love being a member of the awesome Work Without Limits team. Though we are small in numbers we accomplish so much, thanks to everyone pushing up their sleeves and getting what needs to be done, completed! Secondly, our Community Partners are great. They know their job seekers inside-out and they work so hard to support them through their journey. Our Community Partners are faithful in sharing our employment events with their job seekers to help connect them with our employer network. Finally, our Employer Network is committed. Committed to hiring individuals with disabilities, committed to increasing their workforce’s knowledge around inclusion, and actively participating in Work Without Limits disability-related events and activities. What a privilege it has been over the years to see the number of employers in our network grow who truly are building a culture of diversity and inclusion in their workplace.

Do you have any special skills, interests or hobbies?  I love to watch and play sports.  I’ve been known to be driving down a road and stop at some random baseball game to watch the kids play.  I also love the challenge of playing golf. And, I’ve been playing on various softball teams for over 30 years (you’d think by now I would be good at it!).

5 members of the work without limits team at a table that says registration

Work Without Limits team members manning the registration table at one of our career fairs!

What is your best advice for job seekers?

Network, Network, Network!  Participate in various events such as Disability Mentoring Day; Meet and Greets; Open Houses; traditional Career Fairs and Virtual Career Fairs and make that connection with the employers. Also, I strongly recommend you have your resume reviewed by someone, a family member, friend, job coach, etc. prior to sending it to an employer. Does it look neat? Are words spelled correctly? Etc.

What is your best advice for employers seeking a more inclusive and/or diverse workforce?

Work Without Limits offers a number of opportunities for employers to connect with job seekers with disabilities. Become a sponsor today to start connecting with a talented group of individuals who are eager and ready to work!

What is your favorite place in the world?

My favorite place in the world is Aruba!  I’ve been there over 20 times and it never gets old. Great weather, awesome beaches, and very friendly people. It truly is ‘One Happy Island.’


If you are an educational institution or a disability serving organization who works with individuals with disabilities, and what to learn more about becoming a Community Partner contact Kathy Muhr here:

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Eastern Bank Success Story: How Coordinating Disability Mentoring Day Educated Me

Although the weather was rainy and dreary the day of Friday, April 27thEastern Bank was full of sunshine and admiration. Friday, April 27, 2018 was Disability Mentorship Day (DMD) at the bank, a Work Without Limits initiative I had been coordinating along with my co-worker Chrissie Stevens. DMD is a large-scale national effort sponsored by the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) for students and job-seekers with disabilities. I am new at the bank and this was my first time coordinating DMD and I did not know what to expect, but I was so pleasantly surprised!

The day began with Chrissie and I greeting our two mentees in the lobby of our Lynn office and introducing ourselves. Chrissie works in Human Resources and I work in the Operations Division. The mentees spent the day shadowing the Operations Division and meeting leading managers in Human Resources. Being the assistant to the Director of Operations, I stayed with the mentees throughout the day to guide them to the multiple departments and introduce them to their mentors. The mentees went through 8 departments, where each mentor explained the functions of their department and their impact on the overall production of the bank. Throughout the day, the mentees were engaged and asked insightful questions. It was impressive to witness the mentees connecting all of our various departments to one another, and taking what they learned from one mentor and applying it to the department they just shadowed.

From breakfast to learning about loans to lunch to International Operations, I saw our mentees as the striving young professionals they truly are, not just individuals with a disability. Throughout the day, we discovered that the three of us had many similar interests. Personally, we shared a love for Italian food and Mary Poppins. Professionally, we bonded over administration and finance.

Although the day was intended to benefit for the mentees by providing education and networking opportunities, I felt like I was the one gaining and learning! Individuals with disabilities are capable of so much more than sometimes society credits them for. I am so thankful to have been educated by this program brought forth by Work Without Limits, but most importantly, our two mentees. Thank you for opening my eyes and all of those within the Operations Division and more at Eastern Bank. It was truly one of the most rewarding days of my professional career.

John Hancock: ‘Disability Mentoring Day participants reflect on the experience’

Article originally posted by John Hancock

John Hancock participated in the 3rd Annual Disability Mentoring Day (DMD) on April 27, hosting students and job seekers with disabilities for hands-on career exploration and mentoring opportunities.

DMD is a large-scale national effort sponsored by the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) to promote career development for young professionals with disabilities. For the third year, Work Without Limits (WWL), an initiative out of the University of Massachusetts Medical School, is partnering with AAPD to bring DMD to Massachusetts.

“Disability Mentoring Day provides a great opportunity for John Hancock to gain expose to a pipeline of talent,” says Sofia Teixeira, head of diversity and inclusion for John Hancock. “This is a great way for our employees to connect with talent in a new and different way. Through job shadowing, we can build awareness of our brand and of the opportunities for employment here. This is beyond volunteering –is it truly a way for us to build inclusion in our workplace.”

The experience is mutually beneficial for both mentors and mentees, leading to personal growth, career development and the chance to learn from someone they may not have crossed paths with in their daily lives. But don’t take our word for it –let’s hear from them about their DMD experience!

Ruta Assefa and Brien Marsh standing together in front of Boston skyline

Mentor: Ruta Assefa

Mentee: Brien Marsh

Why did you sign up to participate in DMD and what did you gain from your experience?

Ruta: I was a mentee in the program three years ago and now I am working at John Hancock, so I participated as a mentor this year to help give someone else the same opportunity I received. I am hoping that by sharing my skillset and experience with Brien, it will help him succeed in his career.

Mentee: I wanted to try something new and expand my horizons.

What was your favorite part of the day?

Ruta: Brien has been very engaged throughout the day, asking a lot of questions about my job and what I do. It’s really great to see him so excited to learn.

Brien: Ruta is a great mentor, so my favorite part of today is learning all I can from her.

Eileen and Will standing together at John Hancock

Mentor: Eileen Labella

Mentee: Will Stenzel

Why did you sign up to participate in DMD and what did you gain from your experience?

Eileen: I really enjoy volunteering and helping others, so this seemed like a great opportunity to not only do that, but also share my professional skills with someone just starting out in their career.

Will: I thought that DMD would be a unique chance for me to learn about the corporate environment and culture –and it has been!

What was your favorite part of the day?

Eileen: Meeting all the mentees and mentors from other areas of John Hancock and learning about their interests both professionally and personally.

Will: At lunch we got to meet not only other DMD participants, but also other people from John Hancock who provided us with some tips and advice when it comes to resume building and interviewing. It was great to network and meet people from across the company.

Maria and Mario standing together at John Hancock

Mentor: Maria Paula Martinez

Mentee: Mario Marquez

Why did you sign up to participate in DMD and what did you gain from your experience?

Maria: I really enjoy volunteering and helping others, so this seemed like a great opportunity to not only do that, but also share my professional skills with someone just starting out in their career.

Mario: I thought that DMD would be a unique chance for me to learn about the corporate environment and culture –and it has been!

Terry, Emily, Selamani and Ben standing in front of John Hancock logo

Mentors: Emily Kim Ae Sun Hunter, Ben Khemmich, Terry Reagan

Mentee: Selamani Ngaruko

Why did you sign up to participate in DMD and what did you gain from your experience?

Ben: This was truly an opportunity to be supportive and engage members of the community to help with inclusion, diversity, and employment equality.

Terry: My favorite part was seeing the excitement in Selamani’s eyes at being given an opportunity to see what we at John Hancock do to delight our customers. It wasan honor meeting Selamani! I hope he keeps in touch, as I sent him an invite on LinkedIn. Also, he is a brilliant young man who will likely never stop learning and helping others. I told him to always remain unflinchingly committed to following his dreams and aspirations, and to always bring his true self to wherever he goes.

Selamani: I now have a much better appreciation for the call center because of my exposure to what goes on behind the scenes. It was eye-opening to the entire customer experience, and the employees’ knowledge humbled me. Also seeing how representatives navigate their systems while interacting with the callers was simply amazing.

What was your favorite part of the day?              

Emily: My favorite part was lunch time. Not just because my stomach was growling and I really wanted a sandwich, but because Selamani had grown comfortable with me and we were able to talk about his love of soccer, his experience having been born in West Africa and his thoughts on the peace treaty between South and North Korea. We dined with some other managers from Life and Long- Term Care so that Selamani could network and hear their experiences. The day was a success and I was honored to host Selamani.

Ben: My favorite part of the day was meeting and getting to know Selamani! He is absolutely delightful and a pleasure to talk to! Terry: My takeaway from the experience is twofold. One, plans don’t always go as planned, so you have to be flexible and go with the best plan. Two, there is tremendous joy in volunteering, and I always get back lightyears more than I give.

Selamani: Other than hanging out with my mentors, I enjoyed seeing Pindrop in action, and how involved the Call Center is when it comes to protecting customer information. I also loved attending the live training session and seeing the new employees doing a live mock call.