Beta Gamma Sigma Inductees, Outstanding Students Inspired to ‘Seize Opportunities’

KENNESAW, Ga. (May 14, 2018) — As the Coles College of Business’s most exceptional students gathered for an awards ceremony in their honor, and with many of them graduating the same day, the event’s keynote speaker reminded them to always maintain a passion for learning new things.

The advice came from Mike Smith, a shareholder with the law firm Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, as well as a member of the Coles College Advisory Board. Smith is the College’s spring 2018 honorary inductee into the Beta Gamma Sigma Honor Society. He delivered the keynote at the Beta Gamma Sigma and Outstanding Student Awards Ceremony held May 9 in the Burruss Building.

Beta Gamma Sigma Spring 2018 Mike Smith
Honorary Beta Gamma Sigma Inductee Mike Smith giving his keynote address

When Smith graduated from California State University in the 1970s with a degree in accounting, he quickly settled into a comfortable position as a tax accountant in Beverly Hills. However, he soon developed an interest in tax law and made the tough decision to go back to school to earn his law degree.

“Going back after you’ve already been through school, you wonder how am I going to make it,” Smith said. “And you wonder will it really be worth the investment spending another three years trying to do something that you don’t already know how to do.”

Smith received encouragement from one of his former professors, who shared the story of a chance encounter he had with trumpet player Herb Alpert. Alpert asked the future professor to be his new band’s business manager. Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass went on to become an international sensation, while representing the band launched Smith’s professor’s management career.

Realizing that success can only come to those who search for opportunity, Smith enrolled in the McGeorge School of Law at the University of the Pacific. He passed the bar in 1983 and began a 30-plus-year career in business law.

The moral of the story, he said, is not to be afraid of moving forward.

“In your careers you’ve got to cover your bases, be on the forefront of technology, know what’s going on, and seize opportunities,” Smith said. “If you see something that’s not right, that’s an opportunity. Go for it.”

Beta Gamma Sigma Spring 2018 Mike Smith

Among the students attending the awards ceremony were the spring 2018 inductees into the Beta Gamma Sigma Honor Society. Representing the top 10 percent of juniors, and the top 20 percent of seniors and graduate students in Coles College, Beta Gamma Sigma inductees display an unmatched commitment to academic excellence.

Beta Gamma Sigma membership is only available to the top students at the 785 business schools globally accredited by AACSB International, the most prestigious accrediting body in the world. Coles College inducted 50 students into Beta Gamma Sigma during the ceremony.

“We’re recognizing the very best students at one of the very best business schools,” said Dr. Kathy Schwaig, Dean of Coles College.

Beta Gamma Sigma 2018 Guy Ingram III
Dean Kat Schwaig (center) inducts MBA student Guy Ingram III into Beta Gamma Sigma

Schwaig called attention to the many famous members of Beta Gamma Sigma that the Coles inductees will join, including a 2015 Nobel Laureate in Economics, a 2016 Olympic medalist, and the founder of the popular smartphone application, Pokemon Go.

“You really are coming into an exclusive group of business graduates,” she said.

In addition to the Beta Gamma Sigma induction, the event also included the 2017-2018 Coles College Outstanding Student Awards – given by each graduate and undergraduate academic department to an exceptional student in their program – and a recognition of the outgoing graduates in the third cohort of the exclusive Coles Scholars Program.

Outstanding Student Spring 2018 Kelly Dobson
Student Kelly Dodson (left) receiving the Information Security & Assurance Outstanding Student Award from lecturer Andy Green 

Smith concluded the ceremony by presenting Schwaig with a donation to Coles College from his law firm to help fund student scholarships, and by offering some additional advice to the honorees.

While he said it is important for students to use their positions as leaders in their degree programs and in their future professional roles to achieve their own goals, he advised them to also focus on helping others unlock their potential.

“Mentoring relationships are the best because you get to know that person and help make sure their lives are going fine in ways other than in the academic field,” he said. “And if you inspire them, you can create a spark or a fire that will ignite their enthusiasm.”

-Patrick Harbin

Photos by Catalina Calvo