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Mentorship, unique experiences define inaugural year of Zimmerman Scholars Program

This past year, 18 Davis College of Business & Technology students took their studies beyond the classroom and into the professional world as the inaugural class of Zimmerman Scholars.

The program, which started fall 2021, is designed to prepare top students for leadership positions in their fields through individual coaching, engaging with working professionals and leading real-life projects. All undergraduate students, including incoming freshmen, majoring in Accounting, Business Administration, Healthcare Administration, Business Analytics, Finance, International Business, Management, Marketing, or Sport Business, are invited to apply.

Zimmerman Family Foundation, Inc. contributed to its creation of the program, along with scholarships up to $5,000 for each Zimmerman Scholar.

The first year of the program included weekly cohort meetings, company visits and invitations to university meetings and events. That means meetings with the Davis College Executive Board of Advisors, comprising top area business leaders and trailblazing alumni. 

The first 18 students to be part of the program are some of the college’s most well-rounded, top academic performers and are involved in organizations across campus. They have goals of becoming CEOs, lawyers and leaders within internationally-acclaimed companies. Some are student-athletes, others are in honor societies on campus and some are involved in greek life. 

A highlight of the program is Career Treks, which take students to local companies to meet with their leadership about their operations and career opportunities. Zimmerman Scholars visited Miller Electric, Epping Forest Yacht Club, the Jacksonville Icemen, Forcura, and Far East Brokers, which was founded by Charles Zimmerman in 1981 in Jacksonville. 

“This program is getting me in the right doors and teaching me how to talk to the right people,” said Seledta Carlisle, a class of 2022 graduate. “It gives us knowledge outside of what we learn in our textbooks and makes it applicable. This, at the end of the day can be the same, if not more valuable than what you can find in a textbook.”

Zimmerman Scholars also had the opportunity to meet with University leadership. The group had a meet-and-greet with President Tim Cost, who’s also a former PepsiCo executive, and sat in on Davis College advisory board meetings. Access to University leaders was “a huge motivational factor” to apply for the program, said Zimmerman Scholar Enoch Kwakye ‘23. 

“I wanted to learn from these great people,” he said. 

Kwakye said he gained valuable knowledge from the etiquette dinner with First Lady, philanthropist and businesswoman Stephanie Cost.

“I learned how to work a room, how to engage in conversations during a networking event, the dos, and don’ts of company events. The list goes on and on,” Kwakye said. “These are things that are expected to be known yet it is hardly taught anywhere. Now I know exactly what to do during official company events and networking events, what to say and how to say it.”

The first class of scholars also has had the unique opportunity to help shape the program for future classes, Kwakye said. He and other students in the program worked to organize Career Treks, develop branding for the program with the University Office of Marketing & Communications and strategize future events with Dr. Wendy Gillis, the program advisor, and Dr. Barbara Ritter, the dean of the Davis College. 

Through meetings with Jacksonville University’s Career Management office, students’ resumes and interview skills were fine-tuned.

 “The program has already given me the insight of how companies work, what they expect to see from my resume during a job search, and what to look for in choosing a company to work for,” Kwakye said. “It has also taught me how to approach key stakeholders and how to present concerns and recommendations to them. It is like I’m armed for my future career.”

Students for the program are chosen through a competitive application process. 

Students who are selected for the interview round will be interviewed by the Executive Advisory Board. 

For more information, visit https://www.ju.edu/dcob/students/zimmerman-scholars.php.

By Katie Garwood