Dr. Timothy Bisping, dean of Stephen F. Austin State University's Rusche College, presents a $2,500 Student Success Passport Program Scholarship to Connor Vilven (top left), an SFA freshman international business major from Austin; Braxton Berthot (top right), an SFA sophomore general business major from Douglass; Kareene Telesford (bottom left), an SFA junior accounting major from Grenada in the Caribbean; and Corey Johnson (bottom right), an SFA senior marketing major from Dallas.

NACOGDOCHES, Texas - Stephen F. Austin State University's Rusche College of Business awarded 44 scholarships totaling $50,000 to students in the Student Success Passport Program. The college awarded four $2,500 scholarships to top scholars and 40 $1,000 runner-up scholarships.

"This program is life changing for students. It helps provide them the skills needed to succeed when they graduate and also helps alleviate some of the financial worry higher education can cause," said Megan Sellers, coordinator for career success and corporate engagement and an academic advisor in the college.

The program, which began in fall 2015, aims to help students hone their professional skills through workshops, conferences and online assignments while competing for scholarships.

"The program was a huge success this year. Participation increased, and we had great attendance at all our events," Sellers said. "I am extremely proud of these students who received scholarships. I watched them work hard to learn, grow and develop professionally this year."

As a top scholar, Connor Vilven, an SFA freshman international business major from Austin, received a scholarship and remembered first becoming interested in the Student Success Passport Program during orientation.

"The Passport Program is awesome," Vilven said. "During the past two semesters, I definitely learned professional and personal development skills, and I've improved my ability to present myself professionally."

The program works on a point system. Program activities are designed to help develop students in personal and professional branding, experiential learning, leadership development, and engage in college activities and events. Assignments include developing a personal mission statement, attending an etiquette presentation, completing an internship and more.

SFA sophomore Braxton Berthot, a general business major from Douglass, received a top scholar scholarship for the second consecutive year and said, "I love this program and the College of Business."

Top scholar Kareene Telesford, a junior accounting major from Caribbean island Grenada, also received a scholarship. "The Passport Program opened up a lot of opportunities for me to learn professional concepts," she said.

The College of Business' College to Career Conference was a favorite Student Success Passport Program event among scholarship recipients. During the conference, speakers representing companies from across the state, such as Kohls, Wells Fargo, Wintrust Commercial Finance, Commercial Bank of Texas, Pilgrim's Pride, Austin Bank and more spoke with students during various sessions and executive panel discussions.

Top scholar Corey Johnson, a Dallas senior marketing major, agreed this was his favorite event sponsored by the Student Success Passport Program.

"I loved hearing what professionals said we should expect when we graduate and the different things to watch for in the corporate environment, as well as how to be professional, respect people and earn respect," Johnson said. "It is a huge honor for me to receive this scholarship. I worked very hard. The Passport Program motivates you to be successful when you graduate."