News at Smith

Smith Terps are Excelling with the Smith Business Academy

Oct 12, 2015
Experiential / Reality-based Learning


Smith student Philip Peker ’18 writes about the school’s Smith Business Academy.

As an undergraduate student at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business, you’d be hard-pressed to find an organization in Smith that doesn’t match up to at least one of your professional goals or passions. There seems to be endless options, and infinite routes one can take to get involved. But one organization in particular occupies a very interesting niche; a niche that is very broad, but in another sense, selective and exclusive.

The Smith Business Academy (SBA) is an organization for under-represented male students, designed to help build professional networks, relationships, and a foundation for a successful career in the business world. SBA covers a wide plethora of issues, offering academic guidance, networking seminars, advice on how to “dress to impress” and how to build one’s personal brand.

Melanie Ashton, the staff advisor for the SBA, shared how incredible and unique of an experience advising this group of students is. “SBA is a great initiative to build a community of leaders,” and this community will be able to propel the new generation of minority students to unprecedented heights. Melanie helps the academy connect with key players in Smith, such as the Office of Career Services and the Office of Alumni Engagement. SBA Facilitator, Kelvin Coleman, has been with the academy since its founding.  And Mr. Coleman continues to work alongside Dean Victor Mullins.  According to Mr. Coleman, “Student engagement in the business academy affords these emerging leaders unparalleled opportunities to shape and refine their personal brands and build productive academic and future career related alliances.  I am honored to be a part of it."

Two current members of the academy offered their insights, sharing stories, mementos and experiences as a part of such a dynamic and charismatic community of leaders. Roman Fuentes, a sophomore marketing major, told me that “having Dean Mullins sitting in on our meetings every time, talking to us, mentoring us, is very inspirational. He is a role model for us.” Dean Mullins treats this academy as his child, and puts energy and sweat into making sure these students get all they worked for. Austin Jones, an international business and finance double major says, “I’ve seen people grow as business students with my own eyes, slowly filling in the missing links in their professionalism.” Austin is striving to grow the SBA name on campus, so that more people are aware of the fantastic professional resource SBA is.

Nahom Tekle, an unassuming, mild-mannered student, with a knack for bold ideas, actions and undoubtedly, dressing well, is the president of the SBA.  During our talk, Nahom offered some rich insight on the academy. “The Smith Business Academy stands for three things: knowledge, skills and outcome.” Each meeting, Nahom and his executive board discuss a topic, such as, resumes and cover letters, teaching the group how to write an effective cover letter, and then telling them how they can apply the nuggets of knowledge they learned that day. When put into action, these skills will likely result in internships, jobs and professional success, which is the ultimate hope of Nahom and the members of the team. Nahom emphasized the importance of having the veterans of the academy mentor the incomings, and to create a mutually beneficial symbiosis between new and old members. “The goal is to spark intrinsic motivation,” Nahom told me, barely able to hide his contagious enthusiasm. Last year, four students landed internships as sophomores because of their involvement with the Smith Business Academy. Results aren’t a dream for the academy; they’re a reality. “Its incredibly rewarding to see something you helped build directly touch the lives of people day in and day out.” With the clock winding down for Nahom as president, he hopes to be able to pass on the torch to the next generation of executive team members, and see the organization grow in force. Nahom hopes that more and more people realize the power of joining SBA, and how it can help them develop and grow as business students.

SBA is unquestionably selective. GPA, course rigor and extracurricular involvement are all important criteria, but as Nahom points out “we really focus on whether you have the dedication and commitment to make an impact for yourself and for others.” Making an impact in a community that historically has the lowest retention rate and the highest dropout rate is of paramount importance. This issue is clawing at our backs, but many refuse to talk about. Well, Nahom and his team also refuse to just talk about it. They would rather do something about it. The SBA is revolutionizing the way minority students think about their past, their present, and their potential, and for them, this is only the beginning. These students are hungry, and they won’t rest until they reach the top.

2015-2016 Smith Business Academy Membership

Brandon Lucas (Class of 2019)
Samuel Mensah (Class of 2019)
Julian Colicchio (Class of 2019)
Marcus Washington (Class of 2018)
Thomas Urrutia (Class of 2019)
Christian Phillips (Class of 2017)
Ethan Parker (Class of 2019)
Anthony Rodriguez (Class of 2019)
Carlos Diaz (Class of 2019)
Joshua Davis (Class of 2019)
David Potter (Class of 2018)
Kirklan Bryson (Class of 2019)
Adriano Backes Pilla (Class of 2019)
Daniel Simanovsky (Class of 2019)
David Dixon (Class of 2018)
Executive Board 
Nahom Tekle (Class of 2017)
Austin Jones (Class of 2018)
Daraine Harris (Class of 2017)
Jaelin Cook (Class of 2017)

For more information on the undergraduate program at Smith, visit:


About the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business

The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and part-time MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, specialty master's, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.