USF Sarasota-Manatee students, business professionals and representatives of the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce gathered at the chamber’s offices on Friday.

USF Sarasota-Manatee, Sarasota Chamber partner on shadowing program to help students discern careers

By: Rich Shopes

Posted: February 03, 2020

SARASOTA, Fla. (Feb. 03, 2020) – Isabel Fernandez learned about the Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies while across town Patrycja Brylska was busy focused on tourism and marketing.

The two were among 10 USF Sarasota-Manatee campus students on Friday who participated in “Shadow a Professional Day,” which pairs students with local executives.

Introduced two years ago by the campus and the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce, the shadowing program offers students a glimpse inside the working lives of local professionals to help the students weigh various career options and gain an authentic context of the workplace.

Patrycja Brylska and Enriqueta Balandra, ’17

The students spent the morning paired with mentors then met up later at the chamber’s offices downtown for lunch and to share their experiences. For Brylska, the shadowing opportunity afforded a chance to see how lessons learned in the classroom apply to real-world scenarios.

“It offered me a chance to see hospitality combined with marketing, which is exactly what I want to do after I graduate, and to learn about different marketing campaigns and how they are applied at a marketing agency,” the hospitality major said.

Brylska was paired with Enriqueta Balandra, a USF alumna (’17) and project manager at Visit Sarasota County, which markets and supports tourism locally.

After touring the agency’s offices, Brylska learned the roles of various departments and personnel, then received a briefing about an ongoing marketing campaign. Balandra, who graduated with a marketing degree, said she supports the shadowing program because of what it means to students.

“I know exactly what she’s going through. I was in her shoes three years ago,” she said. “It’s nice to connect with a student to talk about marketing and what we do here to support Sarasota County.”

Meanwhile across town at the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus, Fernandez was learning about national security from Luke Bencie, managing director of global security and intelligence advisory firm Security Management International (SMI), headquartered in Washington, D.C.

Luke Bencie and Isabel Fernandez

Bencie, a former federal agent, is the author of The CARVER Target Analysis and Vulnerability Assessment Methodology: A Practical Guide for Evaluating Security Vulnerabilities. Fernandez learned about Bencie’s work helping clients safeguard their companies and about national security and the roles of federal agencies protecting the country.

“This really confirms for me that I want to work at a federal agency,” Fernandez said later at the chamber. “It was great to be able to ask questions one-on-one of a professional like Mr. Bencie. This really helped me a lot.”

USFSM Regional Chancellor Karen A. Holbrook, PhD, visited to thank the business leaders, the Sarasota Chamber and organizer Jay Riley, director of business outreach and engagement at the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus.

“I think this is such an important program for our students, and I think it’s just terrific that so many business leaders took the time to meet with our students,” Holbrook said. “This can be very helpful to a student discerning a career and I want to thank all of you for participating.”

For more about USF Sarasota-Manatee, visit

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