College welcomes third class of Seneff scholars

October 22, 2021

Luke Hopkins says he doesn't want Seneff Scholars to see the program as another graduation medallion or as another line item on a resume.

"I would want them to say it was a valued experience," he says.

So it goes for the James M. Seneff Honors Program, a collaboration of the College of Business and Florida State University Honors Program. The program, in its third year, features top undergraduate business students, and it emphasizes leadership, networking, innovation, collaboration, lifelong connections – and lasting lessons.

"So much of higher education, I feel, is teaching students to follow along the same path that they've followed since kindergarten, which is, ‘Do this, read this many books, get this sticker, memorize this multiple-choice exam, get an A,'" said Hopkins, the program's director. "We're going for the opposite of that. I want students to find true value in being part of this program."

Hopkins, an associate lecturer in the College of Business, welcomes the third Seneff Scholars class and the second class since he became director in early 2020. The 2021-22 Seneff Scholars include:

  • four students who are majoring in finance – Thomas Beamish (spring 2023), Samuel Howard (spring 2023), Lindsay Merrifield (spring 2023) and Ryan Ollar (spring 2023);
  • two in marketing – Adrienne Lesho (spring 2023) and Sophie Steiner-Fraser (spring 2023);
  • one in accounting – Alexa Brunkow (spring 2024);
  • one in risk management/insurance – Lily Drasutis (spring 2024);
  • one in marketing and sport management – Victor Achard (spring 2024);
  • one in management information systems and sport management – Easton Place (spring 2024);
  • one in finance and real estate – Benjamin Almirall (spring 2023);
  • one in finance and marketing – Marisa Balzano (spring 2023);
  • one in management information systems – Kristin Day (spring 2024);
  • one in finance and risk management/insurance – Juan Coste Delvecchio (spring 2022);
  • one in management and interdisciplinary social sciences – Stephanie Remy (spring 2024); and
  • and one in finance and real estate – James Wood (spring 2023)

"These 16 students represent another outstanding cohort of student scholars from various disciplines who make the College of Business proud," said Michael Hartline, dean of the College of Business. "We're delighted they benefit from the talent and passion of Luke Hopkins and the generosity and vision of James Seneff and the CNL Charitable Foundation."

The college established the program in fall 2019 through part of a $5 million gift from CNL Charitable to honor Seneff, a college alumnus (B.S. Business Administration '68), 2006 College of Business Alumni Hall of Fame inductee and the foundation's founder. Seneff is also founder and executive chairman of Orlando-based CNL Financial Group (CNL), a private investment management firm.

To become eligible for the program, students must have been accepted into the University Honors Program and admitted into the College of Business. The program, which accepts applications at the beginning of each fall semester, dovetails with the honors program and the Garnet & Gold Scholar Society, which allows students to gain educational benefits beyond the College of Business.

Hopkins says he aims to build the Seneff Scholars program so that high school honors students see "FSU as a target university because of this program alone."

Seneff Scholars get an individualized mentorship program and professional development opportunities that include special meetings with top business leaders. Each cohort focuses on a special project that challenges students to go beyond traditional academic thinking in their approaches to business issues and problem-solving, Hopkins said.

The program also includes mentoring from previous cohorts. Recently, Hopkins brought in last year's cohort for a speed-networking session with the current class of students.

"They just lined up the tables and spent five minutes getting to know one another," Hopkins said. "No structure, just conversations -- because I wanted those relationships to develop naturally."

Hopkins, winner of a 2016-2017 University Teaching Award, says he takes the same approach to a course he teaches the scholars. He'll change the topics if he finds students uninspired by them, he says.

He recently spent two weeks with students on how to handle bad news and rejection, which he said many honors students rarely experience through their college years.

"I want to talk about what's relevant," Hopkins said. "I want to talk about what's real, what's applicable. I don't want to just check a box. I want these students to leave and say, ‘That was a great experience. Not only did I learn about business concepts, but also valuable life skills.'"

-- Pete Reinwald