» FEATURE STORY
Transforming Business Students
Trading in her backpack for a briefcase and her Sketchers for Louboutins, senior Megan Chavez will soon leave the UTSA College of Business as a well-rounded professional. A senior majoring in management and marketing, Chavez will graduate this spring with two completed internships, an international immersion to Italy and with leadership experience that includes serving as president of the Business Student Council.
Transforming business students into business professionals is the goal of the College of Business. With over 5,000 students, the college has the largest undergraduate business program in the University of Texas System.
Charged with making that goal a reality is the college’s Center for Student Professional Development (CSPD). Housed on the college’s “Main Street” on the second floor, the center offers specialized services to students to help them achieve this transformative experience. Espousing the college’s mission of providing rigor with relevance and theory with practice, the CSPD balances the academic and experiential aspects of an undergraduate education to create a unique UTSA experience for undergraduates.
”In the College of Business this formula for success includes academic excellence, leadership experience, global experiences and professional development,” said Dean Lynda de la Viña.
“We want to help students develop a balanced portfolio of academic training, leadership development and career readiness to place them on the path to professional success,” said Dr. Lisa Montoya, associate dean for undergraduate studies and executive director of the CSPD.
With 17 undergraduate majors, business students can choose from a variety of academic programs.
Junior Caitlyn Chapman chose to attend the College of Business because it had been designated a Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security. “Considering information assurance is my passion, this made UTSA an easy choice,” she said.
Accredited by AACSB International, the college provides a comprehensive business education that is taught by award-winning faculty and researchers who are internationally recognized and respected in their fields.
“We expect a lot from our students, so we must provide them with high-evel services as well,” said Dr. Lynda de la Viña, dean of the College of Business. “Starting with high-quality academic programming and academic guidance, we provide students with the tools that they need to become successful business leaders in the global community.”
A graduate of Business Careers High School, Alfredo Gomez was drawn to the college for its financial programming. “I fell in love with the Financial Studies Center, and I got to use it as a freshman,” said Gomez, a sophomore majoring in finance. “Not many schools have a facility of this caliber that undergraduates can use.” A member of the college’s student Investment Society, he polishes his skills by working as an industry analyst reviewing the student-managed portfolio operated by the society.
Both Chapman and Gomez also participate in the college’s award-winning Business Scholars Program (BSP), which serves more than 100 students each semester. BSP provides customized academic and professional development services for students who are the first in their families to attend college. Through this program, students participate in community service activities and have the opportunity to network with corporate executives and hear from business leaders such as Lanham Napier, president and CEO of Rackspace Hosting.
Specialized academic programs such as the college’s Business Honors Program, Latino Financial Issues Program, and Leadership Challenge allow students to broaden their perspectives through exposure to community leaders, personalized academic attention and participation in service learning activities.
“We’ve created a blueprint for our students to help them move forward in their academic program and to become well-rounded professionals. We’ve set expectations for what we want them to achieve before they graduate,” Montoya said.
This business blueprint contains 21 action items such as maintaining a 3.0 GPA, meeting regularly with academic advisers and faculty, participating in student organizations and international experiences, practicing professionalism, seeking a mentor and purchasing a business suit.
Teamwork and leadership potential are developed through participation in one of the 14 business student organizations. The Business Student Council, composed of representatives from all business student organizations, provides leadership and professional development opportunities for all business students.
“Student organizations provide students with a vehicle for social and leadership development,” said Julio Ramos, director of student services in the CSPD. “On campus organizations provide a safe forum for students to practice teamwork, conflict resolution, professional development, presentation and public speaking skills.”
As part of the Business Student Council, Chavez was challenged by Dean de la Viña to form a taskforce to review the potential and value of using e-tablets in the classroom. The students gathered data and presented their findings to the dean, which have resulted in a pilot project this fall utilizing e-tablets.
“Come in with an open mind and take advantage of all the programs and opportunities that are available in the College of Business,” said Chavez. “By showing initiative and taking charge of your future, your opportunities become endless.”
Expanding the horizons of business students and preparing them for a business world that is increasingly diverse and global is a vital aspect of the college’s transformative experience. Students are encouraged to explore international experiences and immersion programs sponsored by the college’s Office of International Relations. Sixty-eight business students participated this summer in specialized 10-day immersion programs that were funded by the college. The students visited the Canary Islands, Chile, China, Finland, Italy, Singapore, Spain and Vietnam.
“As part of my immersion experience to Singapore and Vietnam, I experienced different cultures, learned about doing business in foreign countries, attended lectures at local universities and visited cultural and historical sites,” said Nadine Suh, a senior majoring in international business. “Being able to combine my studies with my passion for learning about other cultures and countries was invaluable to me.”
Recognizing that not all students can study abroad, the college has also developed an innovative International Seminar Series that brings lecturers from across the globe to San Antonio. Students can participate in these weekend seminars and earn academic credit for their endeavors. Six international seminars were held last year.
Students can also add to their professional skill set by completing a certificate program in bilingual business that provides students with the knowledge and confidence to conduct business in Spanish. Students take three business courses taught in Spanish, an international comparative course and complete an internship or immersion experience in a Spanish-speaking environment to receive the certificate.
“Students gain competitive knowledge from participating in international programs,” said Lisa Gomez, director of operations for the college’s International Engagement Office. “Learning about international business and trade from a different perspective is what students will need to be successful in the work force.”
The final component of the business blueprint is to provide career preparation programs and services to students to give them a competitive edge in obtaining internships and securing employment. The CSPD conducts career counseling and hosts numerous industry panels, networking receptions and on-campus interview sessions to expose students to the professional world.
“They assisted me in forming a résumé in order to be marketable to potential employers,” said Nicodemus Abowd, a senior majoring in real estate finance and development. “Moreover, they helped me align my career and aspirations.” Abowd completed an internship this summer with The Weitzman Group.
The signature professional development program is the H-E-B Career Action Program (CAP), named in recognition of a $1 million endowment established by H-E-B for the CSPD.
The 15-hour professional development program includes a comprehensive overview of résumé writing, interviewing and career counseling combined with workshops where students practice making introductions, networking and business etiquette. Offered in conjunction with the college’s business communication and development course, more than 1,200 students were exposed to the program last year. The program culminates with a daylong CAP conference that features over 100 mentors from leading companies.
“The CSPD is dedicated to helping business students transition into the working environment,” said Jamaal Hollingsworth, a senior majoring in management. “I learned how to network and market myself.” Through his participation in CSPD programming, Hollingsworth has completed internships with the Federal Housing Authority, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the PM Group.
These comprehensive programs are seeing huge dividends from both students and employers, too. Following participation in the CAP program, 99 percent of the students agreed that they are confident and fully prepared to enter the job market.
Senior Sheila Dorsey parlayed those new skills into an internship position with Rackspace Hosting. “The campus resources available to students are invaluable,” said Dorsey, an accounting major working in the company’s tax department. “The CSPD has been one of the most integral resources I have utilized on campus. It has provided me with a wealth of knowledge that I’ve used to better differentiate myself in the job market.”
“Recruiters are looking for students who have internship experience,” said Karen Rayzor, director of student professional development. “They’ve told me that they prefer students with professional experience over those with just high GPAs.”
Recent accounting graduate Cristy Borman credits the CSPD for helping her with her successful job search. A first-generation college student, Borman leveraged a spring internship into a job offer as an internal auditor with Tesoro following graduation this spring.
“I developed confidence and strength through working with the career counselors in the center,” she said. “The College of Business strives to create opportunities for students to grow professionally for success upon graduation.”
This transformative program has also left employers satisfied with UTSA recruits. According to a recent survey, 97 percent of employers were very satisfied with College of Business intern placements. Recognizing the benefit of this approach, employers have also contributed financially to help support continued CSPD programming. Leading benefactors include Boeing, JPMorgan Chase, Rackspace, Billie and Kyle Seale, Security Service Federal Credit Union, The AT&T Foundation and Wachovia.
“We gauge our success based on the feedback we receive from both students and employers,” Montoya said. “Our students are leaving our programs with more confidence and professional acumen. Just the other day, an employer mentioned that they preferred recruiting at UTSA due to the professional poise of our students. That is the best compliment that our program could receive.”
UTSA College of Business
One UTSA Circle
San Antonio, Texas
Tel: (210) 458-4313
Fax: (210) 458-4308