Three from UB business school win NABA scholarships

Business majors Jenae Jenkins and Michael Asmerom win scholarships to continue MBA studies

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Three students from University of Bridgeport’s Ernest C. Trefz School of Business  have won National Association of Black Accountants, Inc. (NABA) scholarships.

Business majors Michael Asmerom, Jenae Jenkins, and Kevin Laing will receive their awards at the NABA Night of Stars gala on Thursday, April 20, 2017. Scholarship amounts are not revealed until the ceremony.

This is the second consecutive year that Asmerom has won a NABA scholarship.

Both Asmerom and Jenkins will graduate with bachelor’s degrees in business in May 2017 and both are returning to the Trefz School of Business later in the year as graduate students. Asmerom plans to earn an MBA in Entrepreneurship; Jenkins will pursue an MBA in Accounting.

“We are so proud that two of our students are being recognized by NABA, which represents the highest standards in business, and we are particularly pleased to have Michael and Jenae awarded for their hard work,” Trefz School Dean Lloyd Gibson said. “They are remarkable students who have already pushed the boundaries of success.”

With its guiding motto of “Lifting as We Climb,” NABA, Inc. awards 50 national scholarships per year, ranging from $1000 to $5000, to help students of color who are preparing to enter various accounting, finance, and business professions.  Since 1960, the organization has provided more than $11 million in scholarships.

About the NABA Scholarship winners at the Ernest C. Trefz School of Business:

Michael Asmerom was eight years old when he immigrated to the U.S., and was raised in Harlem by his mother, a single parent who worked the nighttime shift at a hotel so she could attend nursing school during the day. She passed away on August 1, 2016, just days before Asmerom won his first NABA scholarship.

Despite the huge loss, coupled with the responsibility of watching over his younger sister and brother, Asmerom, 22, didn’t falter from his studies as a senior this year. He remains on the President’s List for top scholars and volunteers with Food Recovery Network, the student club he founded to donate meals to those in need.  With guidance from advisers at UB’s Student Entrepreneur Center, he is launching an online textbook company.

In the past year, Asmerom said his most important project was paying tribute to his mother by publishing a memoir called African Booty Scratcher. The title of the book refers to the derogatory term hurled at Asmerom when he first arrived in Harlem and struggled to adjust in an often unwelcoming school and foreign culture.  Buoyed by his mother’s love and inspired by her fortitude, Asmerom said he made it a goal to defy cruel epithets with hard work and the highest of standards.

Jennae Jenkins, 21, is from Brooklyn, New York. A curious and eager student who excelled in math and environmental science, she said she opted to study accounting and “follow in the footsteps” of her mother, who is a CPA.

Jenkins is the vice president of the UB Student Programming Board, a member of the Black Student Alliance and the Accounting Society, a former student ambassador for the Office of Admissions, and a frequent volunteer. In March 2017, she participated in Alternative Spring Break, volunteering at local child centers, community gardens, and a homeless shelter in Atlanta.

In January 2017, and with support from her adviser at the Trefz School, Jenkins obtained a paid internship at Bregman and Company, a tax and consulting firm. Working from the firm’s Stamford, Connecticut offices, Jenkins prepares taxes for C corporations, individuals, and partnerships. Tax deadline hits weeks before finals. Nonetheless, Jenkins said she remains as committed to her chosen field as ever.

“People feel you’re not interacting with accounting, but you’re able to get people’s stories through their numbers. Accounting is so much more than math,” she said, adding that winning the NABA scholarship “means the world to me, especially being African American and what NABA represents.”

 Kevin Laing, 22, was a sophomore in high school when he started working the cash register at his father’s Quiznos restaurant. “I enjoyed seeing the different transactions, doing the cash drops and deposits,” said Laing, who is from Shelton, CT. “I thought it was interesting.”

Viewed over time, money exchanged tells a story: of growth and, sometimes, road bumps. Those stories captured Laing’s interest, so when he enrolled at UB—his father’s alma mater—he decided to focus on transactions by majoring in accounting.

Since then, Laing has learned and become “passionate” about a more specialized field known as IT auditing, which combines programming and auditing. Outside of class, Laing volunteers to prepare taxes for international students and has interned at regional CPA firms and local business, like Two Roads Brewery in Stratford, where he worked in accounts payable.

He graduates in May 2017.  After that: graduate school and sitting for the CPA and CISA (Certified Information Systems Auditor) licensing exams. Eventually, he’d like to work for one of the big four—Ernst & Young, KPMG, Deloitte, PricewaterhouseCoopers—or at a regional CPA firm.

In the meantime, winning a NABA scholarship “is amazing. It came out of nowhere, and it’s a big honor,” said Laing.

Media contact: Leslie Geary, (203) 576-4625, lgeary@bridgeport.edu

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