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Johnson College of Business and Economics Student of the Month

March 2015

Isabel Von StryCongratulations to Isabel von Stryk on being named Student of the Month for March at The George Dean Johnson, Jr. College of Business and Economics.

As she was being recruited to play tennis at USC Upstate, she did her research about the university, its curriculum and programs. She discovered was that it was a university with a good reputation, as well as a great business program, which helped her make the decision to come to Spartanburg from her native Germany.

Over the course of her successful tennis career, von Stryk has learned the value of developing a strategy for each match. As a business and administration major, she’s taken that knowledge and understanding to the next level in charting a course that has led to success in the classroom.

Of course, as a student-athlete she’s had to learn to balance the demands of her studies and her sport, but she also has found a way to get involved in as many extracurricular activities as her time allows.

“It is very important to get involved in organizations or clubs you’re interested in,” she stressed. “It helps you build up your own network of people and also helps you find yourself and develop your own skills.”

In addition, she noted that participating in events such as the Business Professional Series, for example, provides insight on how to engage in the real world, as well as gives you an appreciation for the opportunities you’ve been offered by the school and the value they add to your experience.

Whether having to juggle her class schedule around her tennis schedule, or work around both to become involved in clubs and organizations relative to her major, von Stryk acknowledges that the reward is well worth the challenge.

“The most rewarding aspect has been to realize that the hard work in tennis and the classroom, giving my best no matter what the situation is, leads to making it into Beta Gamma Sigma honor society or being named First Team All-Conference in tennis,” she said.

Set to graduate in May, she has her sights set on a summer internship in New York followed by graduate school in her home country.

“In the long run, I hope to find an interesting position in a major company being involved in some type of business strategy and development,” she said. 


Mario BlessingCongratulations to Mario Blessing on being named Student of the Month for March at The George Dean Johnson, Jr. College of Business and Economics.

For many students, working around class schedules, labs, and oftentimes a job is standard operating procedure each semester. For student-athletes like Blessing, there’s that and doing so around the added component of a sports schedule.

Despite the challenges, this standout basketball player for the Spartans recognizes the importance of learning to balance both school and sports.

“Finding time to do homework or study for a test while on a road trip is not always easy,” said Blessing. “It takes good time management and discipline.”

Though his decision to attend USC Upstate was directly tied to playing basketball, the Kusterdingen, Germany, native knew he had made a wise choice when he stepped onto campus.

“When I got here, got to see The George and take a couple of business courses, it was clear that this was what I wanted to do,” noted Blessing. “There are a lot of things I really like about Upstate; one is definitely The George and the professors here.”

Beyond meeting the immediate demands of his sport and his classes, he also values the extracurricular activities he’s been involved in and knows all the hard work has been worth the effort.

“Being able to step on the basketball court and play against some of the best competition in the country, and at the same time being able to get a degree and take in all the things that college has to offer has been most rewarding,” emphasized Blessing.

Set to graduate in May, this finance and economics major hopes to further his studies in graduate school after he’s explored life as a professional basketball player in Europe. 


February 2015

Dillon SwaynginCongratulations to Dillon Swayngim on being named Student of the Month for February at The George Dean Johnson, Jr. College of Business and Economics.

To study physics or economics, that was the question for Swayngim upon graduation from high school. Not sure he could measure up to the brilliance of the physicists like Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton and Niels Bohr who had inspired his love of the science; he opted for his next interest, economics.

“I decided that economics was something that interested me and chose to attend The George Dean Johnson, Jr. School of Business and Economics,” said Swayngim. “I like that USC Upstate is a smaller school where you can start a dialogue after, during or before classes with professors and really understand the intuition behind the material.”

Though taking a full load of classes, he’s also working with a commercial real estate firm that focuses on the industrial sector primarily in Upstate South Carolina. Balancing work and school has been the most challenging aspect of his collegiate career, but, he noted, “It is also a great chance for learning how to manage my time efficiently.”

Majoring in business administration with a concentration in economics/finance, he is set to graduate in May. He has appreciated the many opportunities he’s had to get involved in various aspects in college life from meeting new friends to learning new things, as well learning new things about himself and others.

“I think it’s vital to get involved,” added Swayngim. “Developing great networking skills is a valuable trait to have and will give one an advantage when they venture into the business world.”

Even more rewarding for Swayngim has been recognizing how he has gained the ability to apply what he’s learned to everyday life.
Though he has his sights set on continuing his education in graduate school, he has valued the numerous facets of his USC Upstate experience, thus far, in particular his classes, especially International Economics with Dr. Chase Dehan, and others taught by Dr. Sarah P. Rook, Dr. William Hankins and Dr. Jack Cheng.

Throughout his undergraduate career, Swayngim has tried to focus on a holistic approach which has given him a perspective that he’d like to pass on to others…“Strive to be a better version of yourself and always be willing to learn something new.”

It’s advice he’s glad he took.  


January 2015

Kiersten JamesCongratulations to Gaffney native Kiersten James on being named Student of the Month for January at the George Dean Johnson, Jr. College of Business and Economics.

“I always knew I wanted to do something with math,” said the junior accounting major. “So when I started at USC Upstate, the decision to work toward a Bachelor of Science degree in accounting was an easy one.”

In navigating her way through the challenges of learning to balance study, work and a social life, James has also learned to fully appreciate the rewards of that dedication; to fully appreciate when, as she noted, “you find that all the studying paid off and you earn an A or you get the internship you want and are confident that you know what you’re doing.”

Part of that confidence, according to James, has come from the encouragement and support received from faculty since she’s been at USC Upstate, especially from those in the accounting department. Professors, like Dr. Michael Cipriano, are willing to meet with you to help in any way; to make sure you know what you need to know when you graduate.

Participating in extracurricular activities, such as Accounting Club and serving with VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance), has also helped James gain a greater appreciation of her field with real world perspective.

“It has been extremely important for me to get involved in clubs and professional organizations relative to my major in order to connect the dots, so to speak, between classroom lessons and practical experience,” emphasized James. “In addition, my internship with Broad River Electric in Gaffney has allowed me to actually apply the classroom lessons of budget forecasting and reconciling bank statements.” 

On track to graduate in December 2015 (a semester ahead of schedule), James plans to go on to graduate school for her Master’s degree in accounting and would ultimately like to audit for a large accounting firm.

“While college has been all that I thought it would be, I was committed to finishing as soon as I could so I could begin work on my Master’s (degree) earlier in order to get a head start on my working career,” added James.

As she’s done throughout her college career, thus far, James continues to connect the dots of her dreams to help her achieve her goals.

Click here to view the JCBE Student of the Month archive.

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