NACOGDOCHES, Texas — Stephen F. Austin State University's Rusche College of Business awarded 44 scholarships totaling $50,000 to students in the Career Success Passport Program. The college awarded four $2,500 scholarships to top scholars and 40 $1,000 runner-up scholarships.
This academic year, approximately 400 students participated in the program, which aims to help students hone their professional skills through workshops, conferences and online assignments while competing for scholarships. Students work to earn points during the fall and spring semesters before scholarships are awarded in May.
For top scholar Jacob Cook, a finance freshman from Plano, this was his first year participating in the program. Cook, who is a member of the accounting and finance clubs and American Red Cross, said this program helped him with career readiness.
“I learned I wasn’t prepared at all. This program helped me get everything organized that I need for a career, like a LinkedIn profile and résumé,” Cook said. “It also taught me hard work pays off. I’m very thankful because I know the college doesn’t have to do this, but rewarding students motivates us to work harder and put extra effort into bettering ourselves.”
The program works on a point system. Program activities are designed to help develop students in personal and professional branding, experiential learning and leadership development through engagement in college activities and events. Assignments include developing a personal mission statement, attending an etiquette presentation and completing an internship.
SFA sophomore Jose Gamez, an accounting major from Houston, is a second-time scholarship winner. He received a top scholar scholarship this semester and a $1,000 scholarship as a freshman.
“When I found out that I had won a top scholarship I was in my accounting class,” Gamez said. “I thought it was for a different scholarship, and as I was putting the letter in my backpack, my professor was encouraging me to open it. It made my day.”
Gamez is a member of the Organization of Latin Americans and the Accounting Club. He said his favorite passport program event was the résumé critique and the smart money week. The main lesson he learned from participating in this program was “strive for greatness. Don’t just settle for less.”
Another favorite Career Success Passport Program event among scholarship recipients was the College of Business’ College to Career Conference. During the conference, speakers representing companies from across the state, such as Kohls, Wells Fargo, Wintrust Commercial Finance, Commercial Bank of Texas and Austin Bank spoke with students during various sessions and executive panel discussions.
Francia Olivares, a marketing junior from Dallas and member of the Organization of Latin Americans, American Marketing Association, Beta Gamma Sigma and Dancers Against Cancer, was a top scholar and said the conference was one of her favorite events.
“The conference had a lot of workshops in one place, and it was a really important event,” Olivares said. “I was invited to the reception, and it was a great networking opportunity.”
Senior top scholar Karen Johnston, an accounting major from East Bernard and treasurer of both the accounting and tennis clubs, agreed the conference was a program highlight.
“A lot of employers attended and they had a wealth of knowledge. The best thing they told us was you could know more than anyone in the room but you have to be personable,” Johnston said. “It’s really helpful attending all of the events; they help you become a better business person.”
In addition to the workshops, the college hosted various speakers. Janet Watson, vice president of strategic sourcing at Baylor, Scott and White, presented on purchasing and vendor relations in supply chain management, and Corey Johnson, recent alumnus and former passport program top scholar, discussed his current position as a manager and recruiter for Pilot/Flying J Travel Centers. Additionally, Cooper Terry, SFA alumnus, offered job-search advice based on his experience as a district manager of Fastenal, a major employer of SFA business alumni. Current student Jalind Calhoun shared a video series on “Jackpreneurs,” which focuses on student entrepreneurship at SFA.
To learn more about the Career Success Passport Program, visit sfasu.edu/academics/colleges/business/student-services/career-success-passport.