Penn State Smeal BOSS program introduces diverse students to business

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — As a rising high school senior, James Dowdy thought he would spend his college years in Nashville, Tennessee, or maybe Athens, Georgia.

After spending two weeks in the Business Opportunities Summer Session (BOSS) at the Penn State Smeal College of Business, his final destination shifted farther north.

“BOSS played an integral part in my coming to Penn State. Before BOSS, it was one of my top three. After BOSS, it was my first choice,” said Dowdy, a rising sophomore who grew up in Douglasville, Georgia, west of Atlanta.

In its ninth year, BOSS is an annual two-week summer residential program designed to enhance the learning and understanding of a college business degree for rising high school seniors. Participants live in dormitories and attend daily events with local companies and undergraduate business school classes, as well as listening to guest lecturers. Most participants come from minority backgrounds.

“Diversity Enhancement Programs created BOSS with the intent of getting underrepresented students to apply to Penn State and, in particular, Smeal. BOSS continues to be able to attract a strong group of potential diverse students from all over the country,” said Jamie Campbell, assistant dean for diversity enhancement.

“We have had students from California to Pennsylvania take part in the program over the past nine years, and each class continues to be stronger than the previous one.”

Dowdy’s friend had attended BOSS in the summer of 2013. That and a family trip he made to Happy Valley to see some of his father’s friends who work here, encouraged Dowdy to come to BOSS in 2014.

“Before BOSS, I wanted to do chemical or mechanical engineering. After I went through BOSS, I really fell in love with business,” he said.

Now he’s contemplating a major in finance, management, or risk management (enterprise option).

Dowdy spent his time during the most recent BOSS working as a program assistant and conducting his own College 101 sessions. He gave advice on budgeting time and money, adjusting to life away from home, and working with this year’s students on the business plans they presented on the final day of the program.

One such student is Ariel Kentish-Davis, a rising senior from Upper Marlboro, Maryland. Her two weeks in BOSS sparked changes in her list of college favorites, as well as her intended college studies.

Penn State and Smeal, she said, ascended from a possible destination to among her favorites. And, her exposure to undergraduate courses during BOSS altered her academic plans to majoring in finance and double minoring in international business and accounting. She said she would like to be the chief financial officer of a company overseas.

“I like the environment here, the classes and the professors,” Kentish-Davis said. “It’s really interesting meeting different people from different backgrounds. It was nice meeting some international people. The classes were really helpful. They will help me prepare for finance classes I will be taking my senior year.”

Kentish-Davis was not the only student influenced by the varied experiences at BOSS.

“I definitely see changes,” Dowdy said. “A couple students came up to me and said, ‘Penn State’s my No. 1 now.’”

Through 2016, 190 students had attended BOSS.

Media Contacts: 
Last Updated August 03, 2016