Business & Economy

UWF Executive Mentor Program celebrates anniversary, honors eight mentors

The University of West Florida College of Business Executive Mentor Program recently celebrated its fifth anniversary and recognized eight of its five-year mentors at its Annual Year End Recognition Ceremony.

The Executive Mentor Program accepts new participants each fall and spring semester and provides mentors and mentees a unique space to learn from each other. Student selection for the competitive program is based on campus and community service, prior academic and leadership experience, their ability to meet the eligibility requirements and maintain academic goals and their willingness to be active participants.

Mentees work with executives from Northwest Florida to receive professional development, networking opportunities and one-on-one guidance for their career aspirations. Mentors counsel, influence and prepare the next generation of business leaders by sharing their stories, knowledge, skills and advice, while offering mentees support and friendship.

One of the mentees, Kelly Chen, participated in the program while earning her master’s degree in accounting and attested to the quality of mentors and the importance of their relationship.

“No words of gratitude can fully justify the irreplaceable hours dedicated by my mentor.” said Chen. “My experience in the executive mentor program has simultaneously broadened my horizons and affirmed my pursuit in the accounting industry.”

Business executives James and John Hosman, Ron Jackson, Bob Larkin, Bob Ozburn, John Peacock Jr, Patrick Rooney and Buzz Ritchie have each mentored students since the program’s inception in Fall 2012.

“These executives have years of life experiences, tips to share and stories to tell,” said Dr. Sherry Hartnett, director of the Executive Mentor Program and clinical professor of business. “They are truly making a positive difference in the lives of these students. Mentoring is a wonderful and rewarding way to give back after all the successes they have had in their careers. I appreciate the time they volunteer for the program and am proud to call them friends.”

For Ozburn, the Executive Mentor Program is beneficial in that he positively impacts future professionals and feeds off their enthusiasm. Ozburn owns the real estate agency Ozburn Inc., LLC and serves on the REALTOR® Commercial Alliance Committee and Gulf Coast CMLS Governing Committee among other organizations.

“It is energizing to be around young people, especially ones that are in the learning mode and sorting out the direction they want to explore,” Ozburn said.

Ritchie shares a wealth of business expertise with his mentees in the Executive Mentor Program, but he said hearing fresh ideas from students and seeing the world through their eyes makes the time together just as beneficial for him.

“I hope I have positively impacted them as much as they have me,” Ritchie said. “It is definitely a two-way street of sharing and learning.”

The Executive Mentor Program pairs 50 students with 50 mentors each year. More than 95 percent of participants gain jobs in their respective fields after graduation.

For more information about the Executive Mentor Program, visit