Innovation Scholars

Providing unique job shadowing opportunities for incoming high-achieving first-year students

About the Program

The Innovation Scholars Career Exploration Program provides unique job shadowing opportunities for incoming high-achieving first-year students at USF St. Petersburg by partnering them with companies and professionals in and around Downtown St. Petersburg and within the St. Petersburg Innovation District. This program will provide students an introduction to one or more industries or job fields as they shadow mentors and test career options to help solidify major choices and academic paths early in their university experience.

Mentors are recruited from companies in a variety of sectors, including Financial Services, Arts, Engineering, Law, Information Technology, Accounting, Education, Non Profits, Healthcare, Insurance and others. Businesses will predominantly be within walking or trolley distance from the USF St. Petersburg campus.

Questions? Please contact Rita Zwiefel.


Three women holding papers and talking

Participatory experience is one of the best ways for students to define their career goals and then to actualize those dreams into reality. The number one outcome students and their families desire from their university education is a job related to their areas of interest. Therefore, career exploration must begin early so students can identify those areas of interest.


  • Hands-on experience that can help define career goals
  • Insight into interesting careers and industries
  • Chance to test career and major choices that help inform academic paths
  • One-on-one access to senior community leaders
  • Potential for future internships or other roles within the company


To apply for the Innovation Scholar Career Exploration Program, students must:

  • Be an incoming first time in college (FTIC) student at USF St. Petersburg in Summer or Fall
  • Have an interest in career exploration and some ideas for potential areas of interest
  • Minimum 3.75 GPA


We are currently accepting applications for the Fall 2024 program! The priority deadline is June 1, 2024.

Applicants who meet this deadline will receive priority consideration for mentorship opportunities and early notification of their application status. Applications received after this date may not be considered for the mentorship program. Don't miss your chance to join the 2024 Innovation Scholars Cohort!

Student Application

How the Program Works

  • First-time-in-college students attending USF St. Petersburg in Summer or Fall should apply by the program deadline, specifying their industry and job preferences.
  • Applicants will have a brief phone or video chat with the program coordinator before the fall semester begins to discuss their interests. The coordinator will review applications, match qualified students with mentors, and aim to align interests, offering alternative options if needed.
  • A program orientation and meet & greet reception will be held in mid-September for mentors and students. This is a mandatory event and students must attend to be eligible for mentor matching.
  • Throughout the semester, mentors and students will meet at least three times for two hours each session, including industry overviews, company tours, meetings, and sessions with senior leadership. Coaching and skill-building group sessions will be provided during the fall semester.
    • Students participating in Fall may continue with a mentor in Spring or explore other opportunities. These shadowing experiences may lead to internship opportunities in the second year, if interests align.

Responsibilities and Requirements

  • Maintain enrollment as a full-time student at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg.

  • Attend the Orientation & Kickoff session in mid-September (final date TBD).

    • This is a mandatory event, and there will be no makeup session. Attendance is required.
  • Complete a comprehensive goal-setting worksheet at the commencement of the program, in addition to mid-semester and end-of-semester surveys.

  • Demonstrate timely responsiveness by responding to any communication from the assigned mentor and/or the program coordinator within a 24-hour window.

  • Meet with the assigned mentor for a minimum of three meetings per semester, with each meeting lasting at least two hours, for a total of six (6) hours throughout the fall semester.

  • Promptly inform the program coordinator in the event of any challenges connecting with assigned mentors.


Mentor working with student

USF St. Petersburg is partnering with the St. Petersburg Innovation District to identify professional mentors from organizations and downtown St. Petersburg. Mentoring organizations will interact with incoming students, introducing them to professional topics, and assessing possibilities for future internships and roles within their organizations. 


  • Opportunities to mentor motivated and enthusiastic student
  • Grooming students for future employment
  • Publicity on USF St. Petersburg’s website, in public meetings, and in news releases

Responsibilities and Requirements

  • Download the Mentor Handbook
  • Attend a meet-and-greet reception in mid-September.
  • Meet with mentee(s) 3 times for at least 2 hours per semester, during which time the mentor:
    • Assesses student interests and abilities
    • Provides an overview of the industry, company and key positions
    • Provides a tour of the organization, introductions to other staff
    • Invites mentee to shadowing opportunities during company meetings or events
    • Facilitates meetings with company leadership/executive(s)
  • Complete a short (five minute) monthly survey about the student's participation in mentorship activity
  • Communicate at any time with USF St. Petersburg program coordinator or Career Services regarding any issues or concerns with the student throughout semester

How the Program Works

  • First-time-in-college students coming to USF St. Petersburg in Summer or Fall semester apply to program indicating job sectors of interest.
  • The program coordinator will review applications, determine availability and pair qualified students with an appropriate mentor match. The program coordinator will aim to meet the interests of qualified students but may offer alternative options when necessary.
  • Students and mentors attend a meet-and-greet reception in early September.
  • Mentors and students meet a minimum of three times throughout a semester for at least two hours. During these meetings, mentors provide students an overview of the industry, a tour of the company, attendance at company meetings or events, and at least one meeting with senior company leadership.
  • Students who participate in the Fall have the possibility of continuing with a mentor into the Spring semester, or exploring another mentor opportunity.
  • Where interests and needs align, these shadowing opportunities set the stage for an internship experience during the students’ second year.

Mentor Application

Please complete the application to be included in our mentor pool. Application does not guarantee a mentor match. Matches are made based on student and mentor interests and career paths.

Mentor Application


The Innovation District is a collaborative community in St. Petersburg, Florida that fosters growth, learning and inspiration by bringing innovative people and organizations together. It includes representatives from the health care, marine science, education and research communities. 

To learn more, visit the District’s website 

News Buzz 




We thank the following participating St. Petersburg organizations and businesses:

AARP Florida
Andi Matheny Studios
Andrea Pawlisz
Bank OZK
Bayfront Health St. Petersburg
Barkett Realty
Be Your Best Self & Thrive Counseling
Boys & Girls Club of the Suncoast
Bridges Across Borders
Caring Community Counseling
CASA (Community Action Stops Abuse)
City of St. Petersburg
Clearwater Marine Aquarium
Doyle Wealth Management
Duke Energy
Empath Health
Fairgrounds St. Pete
Family Study Center
Federal Bureau of Investigations
Fish & Wildlife Commission
Florida Representative Ben Diamond
Florida CraftArt
Friends of Strays
Franklin Templeton
George F. Young, Inc
Gibbs High School
Grow Smarter
Guardian ad Litem Foundation of Tampa Bay
Guardian Eagle
HD Interactive
Homeless Leadership Alliance
Integrated Regional Laboratories
Integrated Regional Laboratories
Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital
John William Berger III
Ligon Dental Group
Lime Communications
Melissa Williams, Attorney

Museum of Fine Arts St. Pete
My Spine and Joint
National Forensic Science Technology Ctr New Era Thinking Group, LLC
NOAA Fisheries Service
Pasco County Sheriff
Pilot Bank
Pinellas County Schools
Pinellas County Sheriff
Pinellas Medical Associates
Poynter Institute
Plasma Therm
Pyper, Inc.
Raymond James
RD Sea
Ronald McDonald House Charities
Soul Media
Smith & Associates Real Estate
St. Pete Arts Alliance
St. Petersburg Museum of History
St. Petersburg Parks & Rec
St. Petersburg Police Department
St. Petersburg City Council
St. Petersburg Free Clinic
St. Petersburg Group
Suncoast Developers Guild
Tampa Bay Estuary Program
Tampa Bay Rays
Tampa Bay Watch
Tucker Hall
The Disco Dolls
The Fairgrounds
The Florida Holocaust Museum
The Florida Orchestra
The Sewest Society
The Vinoy® Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort and Golf Club
The Dali Museum
The Well for Life
US Geological Survey
USFSP Police Department