USFSM students and mentors at the Sarasota Chamber's offices Friday.

USFSM, Sarasota Chamber partner on ‘Shadow Day’

By: Rich Shopes

Posted: February 04, 2019

SARASOTA, Fla. (Feb. 04, 2019) – Pre-engineering student Brock Bradley learned about hydraulic systems, while across town Lacey Davis was quizzing pre-kindergarten teachers about lesson plans. Meanwhile, senior Lukas Oest was digging into social media marketing and analytics.

The three were among a group of USF Sarasota-Manatee students Friday who participated in “Shadow a CEO Day,” which pairs students with local business leaders.

Introduced last year by USFSM and the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce, the shadow program offers students a glimpse into the working lives of local professionals. For Oest, the opportunity also provided a chance to see how lessons learned in the classroom  apply to real-world scenarios.

“It brought me beyond the classroom experience and I learned a lot about marketing platforms like Google Analytics,” said Oest, a business marketing major at USFSM. “It’s important to keep up with changes in marketing and the different trends today, and how people get their message out.”

Through the chamber’s assistance, the 11 USFSM students were paired with executives for two hours. Afterward, the group met at the chamber’s offices in Sarasota for lunch and to discuss their experiences.

Oest, who graduates in May, met with marketing professionals Matt Murphy and Adam Cellini from Visit Sarasota, which promotes tourism to Sarasota County. He learned how the agency tracks online tourism-related traffic and how it connects with people on social media and highlights Sarasota as a tourist destination.

Oest said he’d recommend the shadowing experience to any student interested in exploring a profession.

“It’s a great way to connect with local business executives who are willing to sit down and listen to what you have to offer. You just don’t get that very often, that one-on-one time,” he said. “It also helps you to learn about other businesses and industries to see whether they might a good fit after you graduate.”

USFSM leaders said the program’s intent is to help students recognize the potential for high-paying, meaningful careers in the Sarasota-Manatee market. Lacey Davis, a criminal justice and social work student, said the experience opened her eyes not only to the local job market, but also to a possible profession.

“It showed me new avenues,” she said.

Davis shadowed Dianne Lawrence, a program manager for the Early Learning Coalition of Sarasota, a county program that encourages early learning to help children succeed in elementary school and beyond. Davis observed classroom activities, talked with pre-k teachers and learned about connecting with students.

She said she knew prior to the event that she wanted a career focused on children, but the experience talking with Lawrence and the teachers opened her eyes to multiple career possibilities, though not necessarily connected to teaching.

“I know I want to do something to help children,” she said.

The shadow program, which occurs yearly, is open to any student but ideal for those trying to learn about different professions and job opportunities while networking with local professionals. Through the experience, students learn which professions are aligned to their interests and goals.

“The program provides USFSM students the opportunity to gain experience and knowledge while developing skills in the authentic context of the workplace,” said Jay Riley, USFSM director of business outreach and engagement.

Brock Bradley, a pre-engineering student, was paired with Bill Michel, vice president of UFlex USA, a manufacturer of hydraulic components for the marine industry. Bradley said that before Friday’s event he envisioned a career designing and building vehicle engines. However, the shadowing experience showed that his skills could be applied in multiple settings, including hydraulics.

“It helped to show me what a mechanical engineer can do and the other areas where I could apply my skills, like the marine industry,” he said. “I enjoyed it a lot. It was a great experience.”

In addition to UFlex USA, the Early Learning Coalition of Sarasota and Visit Sarasota, also participating in Shadow a CEO Day were:

  • WWSB (ABC-7 Sarasota)
  • Baltimore Orioles
  • Marie Selby Botanical Gardens
  • Schroeder-Manatee Ranch Inc.
  • Gulf Coast Community Foundation
  • Observer Media Group
  • Congressman Vern Buchanan, district office
  • iHeartMedia, Inc.

Read more news stories below or view as a list