Date ArticleType
8/21/2020 St. Pete News

Innovation Scholars program returns to help incoming students explore career paths

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (August 20, 2020) - For the second year in a row, a job-shadowing program will offer first-year students a head start in exploring their interests and career path. This year, the Innovation Scholars Career Exploration Program at USF’s St. Petersburg campus will pair nearly 100 students with professionals in downtown St. Petersburg, giving them a sneak peak into day-to-day activities in the professional world.  

“This program is a unique opportunity for students to gain early exposure to careers and career advice from local professionals,” said Kasey Kobs, coordinator for internships and career experiences, who is overseeing the program. “Students are able to broaden their network of connections while testing out potential occupations – both of which are invaluable for future career success.” 

Last year, a cohort of around 30 incoming students were matched with mentors representing organizations and businesses just a short distance away from the university. Due to the positive experience of students, this fall semester nearly 100 incoming freshmen applied for the program and may secure mentorships at places like Duke Energy, Pinellas County Schools, Raymond James, NOAA Fisheries Service and the Florida Orchestra.

Over the course of the semester, Innovation Scholars students meet with their mentors at least three times, shadowing their daily activities, attending business meetings and getting a glimpse of what it's like to join the workforce. This semester’s meetings will be held virtually due to the coronavirus. 

Opportunities for shadowing range from the arts to finance, and from health to marine science, covering a wide variety of industries in the city. The experience is intended to provide students with greater understanding of the organization they’re assigned to and a perspective on what it would be like to work there.

For business major Fabrizio Petrozzi, who participated last year, the Innovation Scholars program offered an opportunity to explore his interests early on without committing the time and effort typically needed for an internship.

“Having just begun college, I didn't want to commit to something like an internship,” he said. “The Innovation Scholars program seemed like a great opportunity to begin networking and to learn about professional environments.”

“The experience has also allowed me to see what I like and dislike about a career in this field, changing my future goals slightly,” he added.

Both students and professionals stand to benefit from participation. As mentors teach and train students, they assess potential for future internships and roles within their organizations. It also gives professionals the chance to give back to the community and pass on life lessons to the next generation. 

Chuck Egerter, founder and CEO of cybersecurity firm Guardian Eagle, served as Petrozzi’s mentor during fall 2019. As an engineering student years ago, an internship at Lockheed Martin was ”instrumental in shaping my career and path forward,” Egerter said. 

Through the program, Egerter hopes to provide similar support for students.

“Giving students a deeper look into careers while they are still in their freshman year gives them a chance to make sure they are on the academic path they want to be on,” added Egerter, who is returning to serve as a mentor in fall 2020. “Finding out that a career in a specific field isn’t what you really want to do is just as useful as finding out that you love it. The sooner students can evaluate things like this the better.”

The University of South Florida
The University of South Florida is a high-impact global research university dedicated to student success. Over the past 10 years, no other public university in the country has risen faster in U.S. News and World Report’s national university rankings than USF. Serving more than 50,000 students on campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Sarasota-Manatee, USF is designated as a Preeminent State Research University by the Florida Board of Governors, placing it in the most elite category among the state’s 12 public universities. USF has earned widespread?national recognition?for its success graduating under-represented minority and limited-income students at rates equal to?or higher than?white and higher income students. USF is a member of the American Athletic Conference. Learn more at?