Business Honors Program helps great students thrive
Tampa, FL (May 10, 2013) — Although Ambily Joseph graduated this spring after only three years at USF, she doesn't feel like she's missed out on the opportunities college offers.
She just completed her thesis on international accounting systems, lived in the Bulls Business Community, studied abroad, and participated in many service opportunities — including tutoring high-risk kindergarteners, which she still enjoys doing.
She credits much of that to the Muma College of Business, and specifically the Business Honors Program, which is the only honors program statewide that focuses exclusively on business. The program's combined opportunities for research, academics, service, and travel ensured that Joseph is leaving USF a well-rounded — and grounded — member of the 2010 inaugural cohort, and the Business Honors Program's first graduate.
"It was a great experience," Joseph said. "Leadership, service, research, and professional development are what everyone's college experience should be, so I'm glad USF incorporated that into one program."
Founded in 2010, the USF Business Honors Program provides top students with smaller classes and two-year residency in the Bulls Business Community, a living-learning program that strives to transform students into business professionals from their first moments on campus, while fostering friendships that will last a lifetime. Students in the Business Honors Program also take part in summer study abroad programs, garner knowledge from hands-on internships, design and manage service learning activities, and have the chance to take part in business research, an opportunity usually reserved for graduate-level scholars.
Business Honors Program Director Joni Jones is an active researcher who uses her background to guide students through the various program requirements and help them be successful, whether at writing a thesis or starting a service organization.
"My role is to clear the path," she said. "They're self-motivated students to begin with, and my role is to make sure whatever they choose to do, there's nothing standing in their way to their achievements of excellence."
Jones emphasizes that the selection criteria for the program is extensive and not simply about grade point average. The program focuses on finding students who are dedicated to professional development and the community as well as the classroom. They continue that dedication at USF, as evidenced by the number of Business Honors students selected for recognition programs such as the Muma College of Business 25 Under 25 and the USF Golden Bull Awards.
"This program is something for stellar students who are well-rounded," she said. "It's the total package, the giving back as well as receiving."
Joseph, who has an internship with KPMG immediately after graduation but hopes to go into the Peace Corps, said she probably would not have discovered her love for world travel without the business honors study abroad requirement.
"My experience in South Korea, how welcoming people were, and how easy it is to make friends if you just open yourself, I feel like all I have to do is open myself up and say hello," Joseph said.
Joseph is far from the only Business Honors student to have such achievements. In fact, because of the program's curricular and extracurricular requirements, business honors students not only have resumes full of research and professional accomplishments, but also dedicate themselves to serving the community.
Over spring break, a number of students participated in service trips, including sophomore Mary Babcock, who traveled to Guatemala to work with an education service organization there; sophomore Anson Angail, who traveled to Puerto Rico to assist children with special needs; and sophomore Joey Nestor and freshman Marcos Gonzalez, who participated in the Hunger and Homelessness Spring Break Trip to Washington, D.C., where they helped fight hunger and homelessness within the nation's capital.
Growing up in a migrant farm worker family, Gonzalez said the service portion of the honors program is especially important to him.
"I always had social workers checking up on me at my house to make sure that I was doing okay and staying in school; since I moved various times per year the process of transferring schools was always tedious and increasingly discouraging for my education," he said. "Without that extra support I wouldn't be where I am today and now that I am in a position to make a difference I want to give back to those who still struggle with poverty to this day."
Gonzalez was recently learned that he was one of three students who received a scholarship courtesy of the program's Business Honors Exceptional Scholars awards. It provides $2,500 scholarships to recognize leadership, ethics, and scholastic and civic excellence for students who will continue in the program. This year's recipients were Aaj Solanki, Huzzatun Iqra, and Gonzalez.
"I see these students every day, and I'm still impressed by their accomplishments," program director Jones said. "Some of the students have really surprised me on how much they can do and how involved they get. They're very inspirational in that respect."