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The Business of Ballroom Dancing

USF students in the College of Business turn to the dance floor to become comfortable in the corporate world.


Video: Katy Hennig | USF News

By Katy Hennig

USF News


TAMPA, Fla. (April 29, 2013) - When J.R. Haworth says he wants you to feel awkward, it’s actually a good thing.


“If you feel awkward, if you feel uncomfortable, you’re growing, you’re adapting and you’re learning how to overcome your fears,” said Haworth.


Students at the University of South Florida’s College of Business have been in plenty of awkward situations throughout the year as part of the Corporate Mentor Program directed by Haworth. 


Now they are learning the moves of a professional with ballroom dancing instructor Tom Stango.


“Five, six, seven, eight, quick, quick, slow.”  Stango leads the group through the steps of the rumba, one of more than six types of dance they are learning.


“The ballroom dance starts off just like that. It’s an extremely awkward situation for a lot of them. They’ve all been to the club but this is very different, you have to conduct yourself as a professional and move with another person in close proximity to you and it’s an excellent exercise,” said Haworth.


The program is structured to help transition business students from college into the career environment and is based on a series of experiences guided by a professional mentor. The mentors introduce them to all sorts of different activities from meetings to job shadowing to attending networking events.


“The students come from which fork do I use if I’m on a job interview at a fancy dinner all the way to how do I make a presentation to high level executives,” said Haworth.


The Corporate Mentor Program is full of first generation students, who will be the first in their family to graduate from college and enter into the corporate world.


According to Haworth, these business, accounting, finance, and management information systems undergraduate students are learning some of the most crucial skills required to be successful in a corporate atmosphere.


“The ballroom dancing provides communication. It provides their brand and a culmination of their presence. This is the final thing we do at the very end of the year,” said Haworth.


USF College of Business student Anna Morra is majoring in accounting and said the Corporate Mentor Program has helped her strengthen her leadership skills and build confidence. Morra has really enjoyed the finale of the class with steps in ballroom dancing.


“The ballroom dance lessons were very engaging, surprising to the class, and sparked my curiosity. It was interesting to feel the complexity of ballroom dancing by having to interact with a new partner for every song. It really tested our confidence and adaptability,” said Morra. “The Corporate Mentor Program has immersed me in Tampa to be an engaging student, active volunteer, and effective networker.”


Katy Hennig can be reached at 813-974-6993.