USF Sarasota-Manatee grads look to Career Services office for next step

SARASOTA, Fla. (May 4, 2015) – Michael Aemisegger Jr. is set to start an accounting job next week. Jessica Mahon has already lined up an insurance sales position. And Will Riforgiat is eyeing two possible jobs at Publix Super Markets Inc., in associate relations or employee assistance.

The three, who were among the 286 who graduated Sunday from the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee, credited the university for opening doors to their new careers.

“It definitely helped on the communications side,” Mahon, 30, said as she waited to receive a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary social sciences at the Bradenton Area Convention Center, the site of the university’s 63rd commencement ceremony.

“The Career Services Center … helped me build a better resume and that definitely helped me find a new job,” said Mahon, who landed a position at State Farm in Lakewood Ranch.

For many approaching graduation, the center’s help is indispensable.

Aemisegger, 29, parlayed an internship this past spring into an accounting job at Kerkering, Barberio & Co. in Sarasota.

Like Mahon, he turned to the USF Sarasota-Manatee Career Services office for help taking the next step. The office helped polish his resume while also producing business cards and a personal website to highlight several class projects.

“They also ran through an interview with me, going over different kinds of questions they might ask, body language, stuff you wouldn’t think of,” said Aemisegger, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in accounting. “You have to do everything you can to differentiate yourself from the other job candidates.”

Since moving to the first-floor student services wing in August 2013, Career Services has boosted job and internship placements, while increasing its employer list. Students can sit with a counselor or scan online resources, including OptimalResume, a program that helps users build resumes, web portfolios and business cards. The program can also run through mock interviews, as in Aemisegger’s case.

From May 2014 to this past April, the center’s student registrations doubled while the number of employers posting openings for jobs and internships rose 44 percent. The Sarasota-Manatee campus

Left to right: Regional Chancellor for USF Sarasota-Manatee Dr. Sandra Stone, Outstanding Graduate Award Winner Colleen Bankuty and USF System President Dr. Judy Genshaft at Sunday's commencement.

Left to right: Regional Chancellor for USF Sarasota-Manatee Dr. Sandra Stone, Outstanding Graduate Award Winner Colleen Bankuty and USF System President Dr. Judy Genshaft at Sunday’s commencement.

placed more than 150 students during that time.

Higher visibility – moving out of the student government wing to a newly renovated space – accounted for part of that increase. Also helping, the center added a career coach and an internship coordinator for hospitality and technology jobs to further boost placements.

“Our main goal is career readiness to make sure that students have all the tools and resources that they need … to find a job,” said Toni Ripo, Coordinator of Career Services. “Several times in their lifetime they might change not just jobs but careers, and they will need to know how to retool and rebrand and get back into the job market quickly.”

Aemisegger won’t be alone when he strides into Kerkering Barberio May 11 to start his new job.

He’ll have company in the form of fellow alum Colleen Bankuty, this year’s recipient of the Outstanding Graduate Award.

Like Aemisegger, Bankuty worked first as an intern at Kerkering Barberio.

She landed the position after a meet-and-greet with about a dozen accounting firms at USF Sarasota-Manatee’s Selby Auditorium. By September 2013, the 28-year-old mother of two had a job offer in hand.

“They asked me to come back after the 2013 tax season,” she said.

As she spoke, dozens of degree candidates clad in USF-green commencement robes waited outside the convention hall to march inside. Although 175 candidates attended the ceremony, the 2015 spring class included many more: 286 in all (253 bachelor’s degree and 33 master’s degree candidates).

As the group strode inside, hundreds of well-wishers – friends and family – applauded loudly and snapped photos from folding chairs and the bleachers.

Dr. Sandra Stone, regional chancellor for USF Sarasota-Manatee, also received a loud cheer.

Addressing the graduates, she spoke of partnerships between the university and surrounding community, in particular with organizations where faculty and students played a role this past academic year, such as the Resort at Longboat Key Club, the Mote Marine Laboratory and the Manatee County School District.

“Impactful programs and projects like these are built because of students like you and because of the dedication and foresight of our local leaders, business owners, alumni and friends,” Dr. Stone said.

She was followed by USF System President Dr. Judy Genshaft, who presided over the ceremony. She told the graduates:

“For the third year in a row, USF ranked among the top of the State University System of Florida’s performance funding measures based on important criteria such as graduation rate, degrees produced in areas of critical need and average starting salaries.

“That means our students have been the ones to work hard to graduate in the tough fields of today’s global job market and are the ones now in demand as new employees,” she said. “This is your achievement.”