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Penn State Smeal Diversity Enhancement Programs helps students make the most of their college experience

November 24, 2020

BOSS in Pittsburgh
A group of BOSS students pose in front of PPG Place in Pittsburgh in June 2019. The group visited the Pittsburgh office of EY as part of a day in the life of an accountant learning experience.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — For Penn State Smeal College of Business freshmen Dashawn Derr, Adam Habona, and Adam Douglas, Smeal’s Office of Diversity Enhancement Programs was a deciding factor in their decision to attend Penn State.

Derr and Habona had their first glimpse into college life as members of the Business Opportunities Summer Session (BOSS) 2019 cohort. BOSS is a two-week program for high school students, many from underrepresented populations, interested in pursuing a business education in college.

During their two-week summer residency Derr and Habona were able to sample business courses led by Smeal faculty, explore career options, and work as part of a team to develop and present a business plan.

“BOSS was an amazing experience,” Derr said. “I learned how to write a resume and dress for an interview, and I was able to practice public speaking. I also had a chance to network and meet a number of Smeal faculty members.”

Prior to BOSS, Habona said that he did not have a good understanding of what each business major was about or what value there was in earning an MBA.

“For me, the experience was really worthwhile. As a first-generation college student, BOSS even helped me understand the more practical things, like how a dining hall worked and what it was like to be in a dorm,” Habona said.

While a program like BOSS can influence a student’s decision to enroll at Penn State, for many Smeal students, it’s the variety of academic, professional, and personal enhancement opportunities sponsored by Smeal’s Office of Diversity Enhancement Programs that are the deciding factor.

Jamie Campbell, assistant dean for Diversity Enhancement Programs, and his staff are making a difference in a variety of ways:

  • Personalized academic planning
  • Financial aid and scholarships
  • Diversity-focused student organizations
  • The annual START (Striving Toward Awareness and Respect for Tomorrow) conference, a student-run event featuring best practices pertaining to diversity topics and initiatives


But Campbell’s reach often goes beyond just the programming his office offers each year.

“I know that regardless of what is happening with the pandemic, regardless of what is happening as an academic institution, if I need some resources or I need advice or guidance, I can go to Jamie and say ‘I am struggling with this.’ and he’ll always have some sort of advice for me,” said Douglas.

Douglas, who said he plans to own his own business one day, understands just how valuable a Penn State degree can be.

“I’ve met people who need a lot of assistance to be here, and the support they receive is really empowering,” he said. “Getting that Penn State degree can make all the difference.”

Habona said that there were challenges in coming to college, but Campbell and his team have made him feel at home.

He and Douglas are recipients of the University’s Bunton-Waller Scholarships. Each year, individuals from various ethnic and cultural backgrounds are selected on the basis of professional and academic potential and receive both financial and academic support throughout their undergraduate years.

“The Bunton-Waller scholarship is one of the biggest reasons I am able to go to college,” said Habona.

Douglas agreed.

“If I weren’t on a scholarship, I probably would not have gone to college,” he said.

“Our students are good students. They’re doing really good work, but they sometimes need just a little help to see them through,” Campbell said. “Offering a textbook, providing a tutoring session, or helping students with an unexpected expense can make all the difference.”

Derr said that it means the world to him to see Smeal support students who contribute to the diversity of the student body.

“Kids like me, who grew up in certain situations, feel destined to never make it out of their neighborhood,” he said. “Smeal’s support for diversity programs is an equalizer, an opportunity that kids would never have received otherwise. Without it, I would not have been able to come to Penn State.”

About Diversity at Smeal
The Smeal College of Business is committed to encouraging a sense of community that welcomes, celebrates, and promotes diversity among all of its members. Through a number of services and opportunities, the college works with incoming, current, and international students to enrich the academic experience and to connect them with our many corporate partners. For more information on diversity enhancement efforts at Smeal, visit www.smeal.psu.edu/diversity/.

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