Dr. Jean Kabongo, Ashley Metelus, Amber Haller and Matthew Bertrand.

USFSM Professor, 3 students to be recognized at commencement

By: Rich Shopes

Posted: December 10, 2015

SARASOTA, Fla. (Dec. 10, 2015) Three students and a professor will receive special recognition at Sunday’s fall commencement exercise.

The commencement, at the Bradenton Area Convention Center, 1 Haben Blvd., Palmetto, is scheduled for 2 p.m.

A total of 230 candidates for graduation are anticipated to participate.

The three student honorees, to be recognized for academic and volunteer achievement, are: Ashley Metelus, Amber Haller and Matthew Bertrand. The outstanding professor is Dr. Jean Kabongo.

Here is a synopsis about Dr. Kabongo and the three students:

Outstanding Professor Award

Dr. Jean Kabongo

Dr. Jean Kabongo is an associate professor of strategic management and entrepreneurship in the College of Business at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee. Prior to joining USFSM in 2010, Dr. Kabongo was an assistant professor at Millersville University in Millersville, Penn. He also taught at Virginia State University.

Dr. Kabongo graduated in 1990 with a BA in philosophy from the Institut Saint Augustin, Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and earned an MBA in 2001 from the Universidad Iberoamericana, Mexico City. He received his doctoral degree from the Université Laval, Canada, School of Business, in 2006.

Admired by students and colleagues alike, Dr. Kabongo is passionate about education, entrepreneurship, economics, the environment and international affairs. He has traveled widely, including as a representative of the Congo Basin Forest Partnership (CBFP), an organization that promotes sustainable management of natural resources in western equatorial Africa.

Closer to home, he has encouraged his students to develop entrepreneurial projects within local communities. This award, given by students, recognizes Dr. Kabongo’s outstanding contribution to USF Sarasota-Manatee.

Outstanding Graduate Award

Ashley Metelus

The USF Alumni Association is pleased to announce Ashley Metelus as the Outstanding Graduate for fall 2015.

An avid volunteer and scholar, Ashley is enrolled in the College of Arts & Sciences. She has worked as a research assistant for three professors and a graduate student, has been recognized by four honor societies for academic achievement and has volunteered since 2013 as a USFSM Ambassador, representing the campus at community and alumni events.

She has twice traveled to Uganda as part of a research effort, interviewing child survivors of Uganda’s civil war during one such visit. She was interviewed by local radio on her second visit, serving as an inspiration to young people.

Ashley has twice presented her work at national research conferences for undergraduate studies and this past summer participated in an extended research program at the University of Virginia.

In addition to serving as a student Ambassador, Ashley has volunteered with Habitat for Humanity, worked as promotional director for Bulls on Parade and contributed significantly to the recent Duvall Family Studies biennial conference.

Ashley will graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in interdisciplinary social sciences. She hopes to continue her studies at a university in Massachusetts.

Golden Bull Service & Outstanding Leadership Award

Amber Haller

Well known by USF Sarasota-Manatee students and faculty, Amber Haller is an exceptional student dedicated both to her studies and service toward others.

Her many activities include serving as a Student Government senator and president of both the Criminology Club and Matadors’ co-ed softball team. She is an officer in the Adventure Club and Box Office Bulls Club and has worked with the Campus Activities Board, Habitat for Humanity and Relay for Life to raise funds for cancer research.

A native of Williamsport, Ohio, where she attended Westfall High School, Amber now lives in Englewood. In 2013, she transferred to USF Sarasota-Manatee from the State College of Florida. She works part-time at her family’s office cleaning business, enjoys reading true-crime novels and owns three Chihuahuas, including two that she rescued.

Amber will graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in criminology studies. She hopes to pursue a master’s degree in criminology at USF Tampa next fall.

King O’Neal Award

Matthew Bertrand

Matthew exemplifies the best in academic achievement at USF Sarasota-Manatee. A psychology major with a minor in sociology, Matthew maintained a perfect 4.0 Grade Point Average throughout his duration at USF Sarasota-Manatee.

That is a stellar accomplishment on its own. But combine that with the fact that Matthew earned that perfect score while employed full time as a Manatee County sheriff’s deputy. Working the 3 p.m. to 3 a.m. shift, Matthew took a variety of day, weekend and online classes to earn his degree in five years.

Matthew, 38, credits his wife and three children with supporting him throughout his educational journey. But he isn’t finished just yet. With his family’s blessing, Matthew has decided to continue his education at USFSM and recently completed his first semester working toward a master’s degree in criminal justice administration.

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