SARASOTA, Fla. (Dec. 09, 2016) Dr. Jean Kabongo’s undergraduate-level strategic management/decision-making class might seem like any other class at USF Sarasota-Manatee, yet there’s a noticeable difference. Students are engaged in projects grounded in the local business community.
Dr. Kabongo said he challenges his students using a combination of rigorous classroom instruction and experiential learning that tackles real-life business scenarios. The students appreciate the teaching formula, which is why for the third consecutive semester they’ve voted him as USFSM’s “Outstanding Professor.”
As the popular associate professor of business management accepts his award, a plaque, on Sunday at USFSM’s 66th graduation ceremony, he’ll be cheered for a teaching style made known to him decades earlier as a university student in the Democratic Republic of Congo, his home nation.
“I was educated by Jesuits and they were concerned not just about the particular topic they were teaching at the time, but about the whole individual,” he said.
That lesson stayed with Dr. Kabongo as he pursued a master’s degree in Mexico City at Universidad Iberoamericana, a Jesuit college, and later at Université Laval in Quebec City, where he earned a doctoral degree in business management in 2006.
Dr. Kabongo said he wants his students to learn not just from lectures and reading assignments, but also from work-related experiences. To do so, he tasks them with finding solutions to problems at actual businesses, such as how to lower costs, boost sales or make smart advertising decisions.
In some cases, the students take aim at issues arising within their own workplaces. In others, they tackle problems brought by local business owners seeking advice, such as how to market a coffee shop to “millennials.”
“I started a couple of years ago using the capstone experience because I wanted the make the classes more about experiential learning,” he said. “Instead of just listening to me, I wanted it to be more about the students themselves having an experience where they can learn to formulate, implement and evaluate a strategy. It’s a philosophy grounded really in the professional integration of knowledge and practice.”
The teaching method is proving a hit with students, however his classes are about more than experiential learning. They also incorporate a healthy dose of good old-fashioned homework. The professor insists on weekly reading assignments and coming to class prepared. To ensure his students do that, he gives quizzes to gauge whether they’re keeping up with the material.
“What I do in classroom is really prepare students for professional careers,” he said. “That has been the center of my whole philosophy of teaching.”
“This award is a testament to the hard work that Dr. Kabongo puts into his classes and the manner in which he connects with his students,” Dr. Curran said. “He has a knack for helping students understand the complex business issues they deal with in his courses. Dr. Kabongo cares deeply about the students taking his courses and that is evidenced by the fact that he has been chosen to receive this award by three different graduating classes.”
In addition to according special honors to Dr. Kabongo, who joined USFSM in 2010, Sunday’s commencement will formally recognize student Jennifer Caba, this semester’s “Outstanding Graduate” and winner of the “Golden Bull Service & Outstanding Leadership Award.”
Caba said she hopes to attend Officer Candidate School for the U.S. Marine Corps this spring.
The commencement begins Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Bradenton Area Convention Center, 1 Haben Blvd., Palmetto.
To learn more about USF Sarasota-Manatee’s College of Business, visit usfsm.edu/college-of-business.