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Darla Moore School of Business

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Finance student will be one of first Rising Scholars to graduate

Student Zachary Gutstein will be one of the first of the inaugural Rising Scholars to graduate when he completes his finance degree this week.

From Hartsville, South Carolina, Gutstein, who is majoring in finance and is completing the Business Analytics Undergraduate Concentration, is graduating a year and a half early. He is one of the first success stories of the Rising Scholars program, designed to connect underserved students pursuing degrees within the Moore School with key opportunities and resources across campus.

“I am living proof of the value that the Rising Scholars program provides to its chosen few students,” Gutstein said. “The plethora of resources increased the capacity for my individual success — the program’s success has coincided with my own. A significant portion of that success can be attributed to the benefactors of this program such as [Moore School senior director of undergraduate student services] Brian Shelton and [Moore School associate dean for diversity and inclusion] Deborah Hazzard. Without these two and my fellow scholars, my future would not be as bright as it is today.”

As part of the Rising Scholars program, which entered its fourth year in 2021-22, students attend a tailored session of the University 101 first-year experience course; participate in social, academic and professional development activities; network with successful alumni; are paired with faculty and peer mentors; receive personal finance education; and can obtain BB&T emerging leadership certificates.  

Additionally, all Rising Scholars have the opportunity to reside in a living-learning community during their freshman year and have access to peer tutors and ad hoc academic resources. Students with financial need receive a renewable scholarship each academic year.

Incoming freshmen selected for the program join a cohort of driven individuals actively seeking to complete their college degree while further developing the skills necessary to become successful leaders.

Like most of his fellow Rising Scholars peers, Gutstein considers himself an ambitious person who has always been eager to learn; he finished his associate degree while he was in high school so he could graduate from college early and save money.

While Gutstein’s parents were college graduates, Gutstein grew up in a county where most residents don’t have college degrees and are blue-collar workers. He also overcame adversity after losing his mother when he was 13 to brain cancer.

Similarly, overcoming adversity and developing resiliency is a trait many Rising Scholars have in common.

Gutstein initially joined the Rising Scholars program because he liked the idea of beginning college with a built-in support system. Personal relationships created by attending tailored courses and living in the same residence hall made adjusting to college life easier, he said.

Prior to coming to USC, Gutstein admits he was a shy person, but thanks to the Rising Scholars program, he made connections with like-minded individuals who share similar experiences and backgrounds like his.

“I recommend Rising Scholars to incoming students because it’s a way to meet people, especially those who may overlap culturally,” he said. “With them all coming from South Carolina high schools and being overachievers on a relative scale, Rising Scholars are like-minded individuals.”

Gutstein went on to participate in the USC Student Advisory Council and will earn a Graduation with Leadership Distinction. 

In the past, Gutstein interned for First Command Financial Planning, an organization dedicated to helping military and federally employed families with their financial security. Gutstein calls the work he does with First Command “altruistic” because he enjoys assisting those who have served their country.

He was so inspired by their patriotism that he has joined the Army Reserve to truly understand what they’ve gone through so he can better serve them. He is also considering attending Officer Candidate School to become a second lieutenant. 

After basic training, Gutstein plans to earn an MBA and hopes to pursue a career as a financial advisor.

He said he also hopes he can retire within 20 years and go on to teach financial literacy to underprivileged youth in South Carolina; either in his hometown of Hartsville or in the capital city, Columbia.

-James Culbertson

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