Playing By the Numbers

In life, as in goalball, accounting major Justin Chan faces every challenge head on.


Photo by: Aimee Blodgett /USF


By Mary Beth Erskine News Writer


Justin Chan




A highly competitive game that has become the premiere team sport for athletes who are blind and visually impaired, goalball is fast paced and physically challenging. The game forces players to throw their bodies to the floor, diving head first to block a 3-pound ball – equipped with internal bells – from crossing the back line.

It’s a game Justin Chan started playing in middle school and has loved ever since. As a member of the Florida Association of Blind Athletes, he continues to dream of playing one day in the Paralympics.

“It’s a competitive thing,” said Chan, who was also a member of USF’s judo team, but now participates in the sport for pleasure and to reduce stress.

Chan is not one to shy away from a challenge of any kind – physical or mental. He is embracing one of the most academically rigorous majors in USF’s College of Business, accounting, with the same intensity that he has confronted other challenges in life. And with a current 3.8 GPA, he is doing it with tremendous success.

At last year’s College of Business scholarship luncheon, as a scholarship recipient himself, Chan shared those challenges with students and donors. A native of the Philippines, he told the story of how he was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of eight and left his homeland for treatment in the United States. During that time, a stroke and subsequent coma rendered him legally blind.

“I felt hopeless,” he said. “It seemed impossible to face life without a sense I depended on so much. But I began adapting to my new life by focusing on regaining strength in my legs after being in a hospital bed for nearly five months, learning Braille, and finally going back to school.”

Chan became valedictorian of his high school class. He says that through hard work, perseverance, and focus, he learned that he could do anything he dreamed of before the leukemia diagnosis.

One of the things Chan says he always could do well was understand numbers. “Numbers are so much clearer to me than words,” he says. So he is taking that aptitude, as well as his innate attention to detail, analytical skills, and the business foundation he has started as a management major, and is transitioning to accounting with the goal of becoming a certified public accountant.

“For me, finding the missing piece on a balance sheet is like putting a puzzle together,” he says. “I really enjoyed my intro accounting classes. Plus, USF has one of the best accounting schools in the country, so I decided I want to take advantage of that.”

Something else Chan has taken advantage of in the College of Business is its Bulls Business Community. Known as the BBC, it is one of seven living-learning communities at USF. A residential housing option, living-learning communities are built around an academic program or area of special interest, and provide students with access to special resources and activities.

Designed for students intending to major in business, the BBC is a highly desirable yet extremely selective living-learning community for which only the top incoming freshmen are selected. It offers the opportunity for students to live with other motivated business students and participate in exclusive events and activities designed to develop business skills, such as company tours, networking dinners with prominent Tampa Bay business leaders, alumni visits, improvisation classes, and business preparation sessions.

“Living in the BBC and being around other business students, making connections with people headed in the same direction has been great,” Chan says. “Last spring, through a BBC networking event, I was able to talk with the president of the Tampa Chamber of Commerce about his recent trip to China. It was awesome.”

Back at that scholarship luncheon, in discussing how he has overcome life’s obstacles, Chan referred to news anchor David Brinkley, who said a successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks, or obstacles, others throw at him.

Goalballs or bricks. Chan faces them all head on.

Mary Beth Erskine can be reached at 813-974-6993.