Inside USD

SBA Provides Students ‘Passport’ to Success

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Want to take a tour of a San Diego guitar facility? Want to meet the CEO/founder of a wine company? How about getting career insights from top business professionals, learning how to build a professional network on LinkedIn or attending a panel discussion with members of the entertainment industry?

If you’re a declared business major at the University of San Diego, you’re probably already aware that these upcoming events are prime opportunities toward fulfilling your graduation requirement for the Professional Development Passport Program.

If not, or you’re a new student, perhaps you heard about a very popular passport event in February? Business finance alumnus Lorenzo Fertitta ‘91, chairman and chief executive officer of Zuffa LLC, which owns mixed martial arts’ Ultimate Fighting Championship, filled the KIPJ Theatre with passport students interested to hear about his rise in the business world.

The School of Business Administration’s passport program, which started in January 2009, is a graduation requirement for all declared undergraduate business majors. It consists of three mandatory requirements — meeting with SBA’s Career Services, attending a networking event and completing an online USD Senior Exit Survey — and nine flexible passport points including attendance at specific events, completing a not-for-credit internship, community service project participation or attending an approved off-campus seminar or conference.

“It’s a passport to success in the business world,” said Jewel Leonard, assistant director of SBA Undergraduate Programs. “The passport program helps students understand that they need to be looking beyond their four years in college to develop the necessary professional skills that will benefit them in all ways of life.”

Just ask Jennifer Ix, a May 2011 Business Administration graduate, who speaks highly of the passport program’s value.

“The word ‘requirement’ sometimes carries a lot of unwanted weight with busy USD students,” Ix said. “Requirements can be seen as chores, but I would strongly encourage students to steer clear of this mindset. The passport program is something business students should look at as an extremely rewarding and beneficial opportunity. Taking advantage of the passport program will allow you to learn everything you need to know to begin life in the professional world after graduation. It’s the final tool that students need to combine with everything they learn in the classroom.”

Chris von Huene, a junior business finance major, has heeded this advice several times over. He’s already attended more than 30 passport-approved events, particularly enjoying panel discussions on finance and job recruiter insights.

“Passport program events have helped me greatly. They’ve given me an opportunity to gain real world knowledge, provided me with a few mentors and additional insight into the career paths I’m considering,” von Huene said. “I believe the combination of my education in the classroom and the passport program provides a well-rounded basis for a great education.”

Ix said her favorite experiences in the passport program came through connecting with Christy Bergheim, director of SBA’s Career Services Department.

“Christy’s dedication to her business students and the program was a big influence in how I approached the passport program,” Ix said. “I understood the passport program was designed to continuously prepare us and put us in that job search mindset as even younger undergrad students. I took advantage of all the events that were workshops, such as the ones on resume building. These were extremely helpful. Business professionals were guiding us through the essential process of building our resumes and the interview process.”

Bergheim, who is constantly creating ways to connect students with business community leaders, alumni-run companies and USD parents whose companies get involved with the school, said the passport program has been “revolutionary” for her department.

“A Passport Program event helps us bring in great guest speakers and makes me confident that we’ll have a terrific audience when someone like Al Carey, the CEO of PepsiCo (Nov. 1, 12:30 p.m. KIPJ Theatre), comes to speak to our students,” she said.

Ix, who interned at Global Village Concerns while at USD and now works for GEICO Insurance where she’s currently going through its supervisor leadership program, helped herself through attendance at networking events.

“Those are ultimately what helped me the most in my internship and job search. Being able to interact with employees in an environment that’s comfortable for everyone is essential at that stage in the job search. I got my internship and current job through USD’s passport events and career center.”

The passport program also rewards proactive business students, von Huene said.

“You get what you put in,” he said. “If you simply go to a seminar, make no effort at all to talk to others who attend, don’t take notes and don’t talk to speakers afterward, you won’t get much value from the passport events. But, if you take the passport events as an opportunity to meet new people and learn something new, then you’ll definitely achieve that goal.”

— Ryan T. Blystone

Lorenzo Fertitta photo courtesy of Rodney Nakamoto

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