Students and mentors gathered at USFSM on Friday to share their experiences.

Bulls Notebook: USF Sarasota-Manatee thanks students, mentors after year-long pilot program

By: Rich Shopes

Posted: May 01, 2019

Bulls Notebook: Brunch on the Bay a celebration of givingUSF Sarasota-Manatee held a successful gathering of students and mentors on Friday as the campus wrapped up a unique program designed to connect students with CEOs and other professionals from Sarasota and Manatee counties.

Called the USFSM Pilot Mentor Program, the year-long exercise matched students with executives who work in the students’ field of study. The idea, organizers said, was to allow the program to evolve organically to fit the needs of each student and not as a one-size-fits-all model.

Some of the pairings consisted of informal get-togethers to help students learn about the executives’ career choices and garner advice about their own careers. In other instances, the mentors offered advice, but also worked with students on special projects, similar to internships.

On Friday morning, the program’s nine mentors and nine students met at USFSM to share their experiences and provide feedback about the program. The students presented certificates of appreciation to their mentors. Organizers hope to use the feedback to expand the program next year.

Bulls Notebook: USF Sarasota-Manatee thanks students, mentors after year-long pilot program

Freshman Kiarra Louis with mentor Tom Iovino

“I didn’t know what to expect coming into this program, and in the end I was very grateful to be a part of it,” said freshman Kiarra Louis, who partnered with Health Officer Dr. Jennifer Bencie and Communications Director Tom Iovino, both of the Florida Department of Health in Manatee County.

A professional and technical communication student, Louis assisted with an educational campaign aimed at boosting vaccination rates. She connected with Bencie and Iovino last fall and met with them every other week. In addition to talking over her career plans, she conducted research into vaccination programs and offered suggestions about how to connect with young people about the topic.

“I was totally blown away by her abilities,” Iovino said. “I never met a more inquisitive and thoroughly meticulous researcher, and at the level she’s at, as a freshman in college, if she’s representative of the classes going through this program right now, I’m very confident in the future.”

Among the other pairings in the program were Pete Petersen, the CEO of car dealer services provider Dealers United, and marketing student Lukas Oest; Dr. Ali Thompson, a Manatee County veterinarian, and biology student Brittany Targaszewski; and Luke Bencie, the brother of Dr. Jennifer Bencie and the owner of a Washington, D.C.-based security consultancy, and interdisciplinary social sciences students Sami Araboghli and Susannah “Paige” Morrison.

“I think this is a fantastic program,” Bencie said. “When the program began, we made it clear to these students that they would be getting a lot of real-world experience. We don’t coddle students, as Sami will tell you. They were thrown right into the fire, and these two held their own admirably. After this experience, we are certainly looking to work with more USF students.”

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Paige Morrison and Sami Araboghli

As part of their mentoring relationship, Araboghli and Morrison traveled to northern Virginia to participate in a training exercise to evaluate security threats at a shopping mall and Metro train station. The students trained alongside security and intelligence professionals from the U.S. Navy, the Federal Energy and Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the Orlando SWAT team.

In addition, Araboghli interned at Bencie’s company, Security Management International (SMI), this past summer, performing security analysis and writing reports. Morrison expects to become more involved with SMI as well. She lauded the program and Bencie, in particular, for helping students to figure out their careers.

“He helped me a lot with career advice and helping me to understand his career path, and he was great for any questions that I had,” Morrison said. “I think this is a great program. I think it’s important for students who don’t already have a connection in a career they want to pursue. It opens up opportunities to network.”

Targaszewski, who plans to attend veterinary school, called her pairing with Thompson a “perfect match.”

In addition to learning about Thompson’s veterinary practice, she was able to shadow the doctor and observe her in surgeries. “It was an amazing experience. I would go home and write it all down,” Targaszewski said.

She also garnered practical insights. Thompson noted that not everyone is cut out to become a veterinarian. The job poses unique challenges, requiring the ability to diagnose and treat patients who can’t describe their illness while also working with people to conduct follow-up treatment.

“Some people see it as this happy-go-lucky job dealing with puppies and kittens, but it can be stressful at times,” she said. “There’s the technical side, but so much of what we do also involves communication and people skills, and I think Brittany has everything and more to be successful in this field.

“This has been an awesome program,” she added. “It’s really brought things full circle for me. When I was in college, I did something similar, and it’s strange how simple, little moments can have a big impact, like a spark that lights the fire.”

Jay Riley, director of business outreach, who organized the mentoring program with Toni Ripo, coordinator of career services, said he hopes it helped students to define their career paths more clearly.

“This program was meant to offer students a behind-the-scenes preview of the careers they want to get into, while also providing inspiration and insight from successful local executives,” Riley said. “I think the program accomplished that and more. And perhaps, someday, these students will return to USFSM to become mentors themselves.”

Also participating in the program were Vickie Brill, senior legislative aide in the Florida Senate, and business student Megan Griffiths; retired FBI agent Jennifer Esposito and Kayla Collins, a criminology major; Shawna Machado, a social worker and case management supervisor, and professional & technical communication student Jennifer Serafino; and David Potter, a retired accountant and non-profit executive, and Rosa Castro, an accounting major.

USF Sarasota-Manatee graduation set for May 6

USF Sarasota-Manatee celebrates its 70th commencement

USFSM’s Spring 2019 Commencement is set for Monday at the Bradenton Area Convention Center.

The University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee will celebrate its spring commencement on Monday, May 6, at 6:30 p.m., at the Bradenton Area Convention Center, 1 Haben Blvd., Palmetto.

Of the 297 candidates expected to graduate from USFSM’s four colleges – Liberal Arts & Social Sciences, Business, Science & Mathematics, and Hospitality & Tourism Leadership – 277 are baccalaureate candidates and 20 are master’s degree candidates. Of the total, about 200 are anticipated at the exercise.

Lukas Oest

Among the candidates for graduation are Lukas Oest, a marketing student who emigrated from Germany as a teenager to seek a better life; Anya Pardy, a mother of seven who recently received a full scholarship to Stetson University College of Law; and Gustavo Delgado, who came to the United States as a boy when his family emigrated from Colombia. Delgado will receive a dual degree in accounting and finance.

Regional Chancellor Dr. Karen Holbrook will represent USF Sarasota-Manatee at the ceremony and USF System President Dr. Judy Genshaft will preside. Phillip Wagner, PhD, core curriculum coordinator and director of general education, will serve as ceremony reader.

USFSM Faculty Senate President Michael Gillespie, PhD, will bear the University Mace. Jay Riley, director of business outreach and engagement, will serve as processional announcer and Logan Mies, a student at USF’s College of the Arts, will perform the National Anthem and USF Alma Mater.

Also at the ceremony, special awards will be presented to Stephen Rushton, PhD (Outstanding Professor), Lukas Oest (Outstanding Graduate) and Cassandra Benjamin (Golden Bull Service and Outstanding Leadership Award). MBA graduate John Holdway is this year’s Paul Searls Webecke Award winner. Holdway graduated in December 2018.

Campus Board member Mariotti receives USF Fast 56 Award

Bulls Notebook: USF Sarasota-Manatee thanks students, mentors after year-long pilot program

Bill Mariotti, USF Sarasota-Manatee Campus Board member and a member of the USF Alumni Association Board of Directors, accepts a 2019 USF Fast 56 Award from Merritt Martin, chair of the USF Alumni Association Board of Directors, and USF President Dr. Judy Genshaft.

The University of South Florida Alumni Association honored the 2019 USF Fast 56 – the fastest growing USF alumni-owned or led businesses in the world – on April 26.

Bill Mariotti, president of Bill Mariotti Site Development Co., Inc., a USF Sarasota-Manatee Campus Board member and a member of the USF Alumni Association Board of Directors, was honored with a 2019 USF Fast 56 award. Mariotti, who is treasurer-elect of the alumni association board, has won the award four times.

Mariotti is a USFSM alum and a Sarasota resident who in 2017 announced he would make a legacy gift of $3.5 million to USFSM and USF, the largest individual donation in USFSM’s history.

Mariotti’s company was one of 56 businesses inducted by USF System President Judy Genshaft and USF Alumni Association Board of Directors Chair Merritt Martin.

To be considered for the USF Fast 56 program, an organization must have been in business for at least three years, have revenues of $250,000 or more for the most recent 12-month period, and be owned or led by a former USF student.

The 2019 USF Fast 56 companies were ranked by percentage of cumulative annual growth in revenue, as documented by Cherry Bekaert, a public accounting firm based in Tampa. Fifty-six USF alumni owned or led businesses were selected as recipients, in recognition of the year USF was founded, 1956.

Women and Crime online course receives seal of approval

Dr. Sandra Stone

Kudos to criminology professor Sandra Stone, PhD, and education professor Jody McBrien, PhD, for successfully completing E-Learning Services’ Internal Quality Matters Course Review for their online courses.

Dr. Jody McBrien

Stone teaches Women and Crime (CCJ4933) and McBrien teachers International Human Rights (INR3202).

The Internal Quality Matters Course Review is a rigorous process designed to certify quality and alignment through the Quality Matters rubric of best practices in online learning.

Instructors who successfully complete the Internal Quality Matters Review can include the USFSM Quality logo on the front page of their online course description and will be acknowledged for their achievements in quality in the Florida Virtual Campus course directory.

To learn more about Quality Matters, contact E-Learning Services or attend an upcoming workshop.

GLOCER returns to USF Sarasota-Manatee

The Global Conference on Education and Research (GLOCER) will return to USF Sarasota-Manatee on May 21-24.

The annual conference is expected to draw dozens of scholars from around the world. USFSM and the Association of North America Higher Education International (ANAHEI) are organizing the event, which focuses on teaching methods and research.

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Dr. Cihan Cobanoglu

Several USFSM faculty members from the College of Hospitality & Tourism Leadership, serve on ANAHEI’s executive board, including Cihan Cobanoglu, PhD, McKibbon endowed chair and director of the M3 Center for Hospitality Technology and Innovation; Faizan Ali, PhD, an assistant professor of hospitality management; and instructor Keith Barron, JD.

More than 200 academic papers were submitted to organizers and of those, 130 were accepted to the conference.

Among the presenters, Benjamin Kutsyuruba, PhD, associate professor at Queen’s University in Ontario, Canada, is scheduled to deliver the keynote address, “The Lifecycle of Trust in Educational Leadership: An Ecological Perspective,” on Wednesday, May 22, at the campus’ Selby Auditorium.

Also on May 22, Darlene DeMarie, PhD, an associate professor in the College of Education at USF, will present a concurrent session entitled, “Serendipity in a Life: A Narrative Illustrating the Impact of a Fulbright Scholar Award on a Faculty Member’s Personal and Professional Life.”

DeMarie is the USF Fulbright faculty advisor and president of the Mid-Florida Chapter of the Fulbright Association.

For more about GLOCER, visit

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