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Alumna Spotlight: Dhalia Bumbaca: Three Degrees, a Full-Time Job and a Passion for Sports, Nonprofits and Research

By Alyssa England

Dhalia Bumbaca

TAMPA (September 2, 2020) -- Dhalia Bumbaca graduated this summer from the USF Muma College of Business and now holds three degrees from the college – a bachelor’s in international business, an MBA and an MS in finance. A native of Toronto, her experience here has opened her eyes to the value of diversity and enflamed her passion for nonprofits, sports and research.

She moved to the United States when she was 17 to begin her undergraduate career at USF.

“My parents moved down to Florida my last year of high school, and they gave me the option of going to school in the States or going to school in Canada,” she said. “I chose the States because I recognized the amount of opportunities that are here. On top of that, I grew up in suburban Canada, where there is not a lot of socioeconomic diversity.

“Moving here, I really appreciated not just the opportunity, but the perspective it gave me,” she said. “I began to interact with people of different income levels and recognized how I can capitalize on my education and help people who are in need.”

Bumbaca studied international business throughout her undergraduate career, fueled by her love of languages. Learning Italian in her home and French at school, she itched for a degree that would have international impact.

“Growing up, I spent summers in Italy with my family,” she said, “and I just really began to understand my role as a global citizen. I needed a way to help promote that message. I felt business was a great driver of that kind of mentality.” She studied in Italy for a six-week summer program and in France for a four-month semester program.

After completing her degree in international business, Bumbaca began working with international nonprofits offering educational initiatives to low-income youth. However, she feared the sustainability of some of the nonprofits where she worked.

“Right at the end of my undergrad, I interned with a nonprofit that focused on youth initiatives in both Toronto and South Africa,” she said. “I was successful in helping them receive grants and it was all going well, but I was really frustrated with the fact that once those grants ran out, there was no guarantee of their sustained success.

“It’s a nonprofit. It’s not a business, so it doesn’t operate in the same way,” she said. “If I wanted to make the world a better place, I wasn’t sure the nonprofit space was the best place for me.”

As a result, she began searching for a more sustainable approach to nonprofit work, driving her towards a master’s degree in finance.

“For my master’s, I wanted a harder skill, but still something I could apply on the international landscape and finance is super international,” she said. “I thought if I learned a little bit more about the financing side of things, I could adapt capitalism to fit the needs of society.”

Although she remains passionate for nonprofit work, Bumbaca also has a passion for sport. So much so, while she was studying to learn how she could increase the sustainability of nonprofit organizations, she held a sales position with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

“That,” she said, “introduced me to the Vinik Sport & Entertainment Management program.”

Although the graduate program is a two-year, dual-degree program that awards a master’s degree in marketing and an MBA, Bumbaca only completed the first year of the program, receiving her MBA with a concentration in sport and entertainment management. She is grateful not only for the educational expertise provided to students in the program, but also for the support and care shown by the program’s faculty and staff, especially during the coronavirus pandemic.

“After joining the Vinik program, I became more interested in sports and expanded my work with the Lightning into community hockey, a department focused on spreading the game of hockey across the Tampa Bay area among children aged 4 or 5 to 16,” she said. “Again, I worked with a lot of youth through their diversity and inclusion programs.”

Throughout her time with the Lightning’s community hockey program, she got back to her passion for helping people.

“Some of the more niche programs involved going into the Tampa Bay Housing Authority Community Center in a lower income neighborhood,” she said. “We went there every Friday pre-COVID, and just played hockey with the kids. Sometimes, it wasn’t even about hockey. It was letting little girls braid my hair or playing tag or basketball – it didn’t always have to be hockey, but it was about providing mentorship and being a role model for them.

The program also offered an after-school program on Wednesdays, where kids skated around and played hockey, she said.

“But after that hour or two of hockey, you were really just there to be their friend, be their mentor. It’s those small interactions of ‘What did you do in class today?’, ‘Will you be here next week?’, and when you follow up with ‘How was your test?’ and they get excited to see you the next week and they go ‘Oh! You’re actually here.’

“That doesn’t seem like a lot,” she said, “but for kids who have a lot of fleeting relationships in their lives, just that confidence that you care about them, that you’re going to stick to your word and you won’t just treat them like another little kid you don’t remember is why I love that work so much.”

This experience, along with knowledge gained through the MBA program, helped Bumbaca realize her appreciation of the impact sports can have on youth.

“The universal popularity of sport and its ability to connect individuals across continents and social strati, through events like the Olympics or FIFA, is just incredible,” she said.

Her volunteer work and her career in community outreach began because of her inability to work when she first came to the United States because she did not hold an international student visa. For someone who has been working since 14, Bumbaca needed something to fill the time.

“I started volunteering with a literacy center (on Busch Boulevard),” she said. “It’s really not a good part of town and I just started reading with kindergarteners. I went from wanting to make money and travel the world to wanting to provide the opportunity to others to make money and change the world. From there, I kept searching for volunteer opportunities.”

She found the Tampa Guardian ad Litem program, a program that drew her attention because Tampa has some of the highest rates of children in the foster care system in the state.

“My work there includes advocating for youth in the foster care system,” she said. “The parents get a lawyer, and the child gets a lawyer, but the child can’t always go to court. You represent the child in court and have those conversations with their lawyer, so it involves meeting with the kids, making sure they’re okay, making judgment calls on whether they should be reunited with their family or remain in foster care, or if the foster care situation isn’t good, moving them out of that situation.”

Bumbaca’s experience in this program solidified her passion for working with children, as she faced the harsh realities of today’s underprivileged youth. Not only did this role solidify her passion for youth, but it also sparked a drive for education.

If that’s not enough, Bumbaca works for USF Outdoor Recreation, a department of USF Recreation and Wellness, where she works to organize service experiences for students and helps to incorporate more sustainable principles. These international experiences provide students with opportunities to take combined adventure and service trips to destinations like Puerto Rico. Students on her trips have volunteered on Puerto Rican coffee farms, in El Yunque National Rainforest and at Puerto Rican nonprofits.

Bumbaca’s sustainability work with Outdoor Recreation has included projects such as developing a compost framework, educational signage initiatives and partnerships between her department and USF’s School of Integrated Biology and Innovative Education.

In addition to dedicating time towards work in nonprofit spaces, sustainability and sport, Bumbaca is currently involved in research on micro-aggressions with respect to racism and sexism. She has also contracted on a publication regarding the intersection of sport and sustainability.

The summer 2020 graduate remains grateful for the support of the staff during her USF career, and faculty members Doreen MacAulay and Lindy Davidson who have played key roles in her academic and professional success.

Over the course of the quarantine, she has spent time enjoying the Floridian outdoors through socially distanced activities such as hiking and kayaking. She has recently accepted a position with IMG Academy’s Campus Life department, a sport academy in Bradenton, but her long-term goals include earning a PhD and becoming a university professor, teaching on the topics of sustainability, sport, business and the relationships among the three.