Arthur Mills IV, BBA ’96 and MBA ’04, shares his career journey to becoming the chief operating officer for New Teacher Center and reflects on his memories as a student at UT. Arthur lives in Atlanta and currently serves as Chair of the MBA Advisory Board. We are very thankful for his impact and dedicated involvement with the McCombs School of Business!
Please talk about your experience as a student here at McCombs. Why you came here, groups you were involved with, favorite class/teacher, etc.
I came back to McCombs (BBA ’96) because I was thrilled to join an amazing group of people that made up our 2004 class, in an academically challenging environment that had served me well previously, and be part of the culture that makes McCombs unique across the MBA landscape. I was about as active as most in our class, serving on the Graduate Business Council (GBC), McCombs Admission Committee (MAC), President of the Black Graduate Business Association (BGBA) in my second year, and Net Impact. This guy Jay Hartzell taught one of my early Finance courses, and I still consider he, Sandy Leeds, Eugene Sepulveda, John Doggett, Dean Eric Hurst, and far too many others to name, as major contributors to my growth and success.
Please provide a brief summary of your career path since graduating.
I left the comfortable confines of Austin after graduating for Minnesota’s Twin Cities, signing on with General Mills in Minneapolis after a fabulous summer internship the prior year. I joined Mills’ Meals Division where we revitalized its Progresso Soup brand, growing its profitability from $70MM to $150MM in three years.
I later moved to Miami, FL, to take on an incredible role as Regional Controller for General Mills’ small but rapidly growing Latin America and South Africa international region. While the travel and Miami life were amazing, leaning into building infrastructure and other foundations for future success cemented my passions for strategy development, setting a clear vision, and building strong teams as a leader.
In 2010, I made a major career pivot and accepted an initial two-year Broad Residency role to join the fourth largest school district in Georgia, ultimately spending my longest career stop to date (8 years) leveraging my business and people-centered expertise to help that district of 98,000 students across 100 schools and with 14,000 employees develop a new “Charter System” governance model and implement a new strategic plan to sustainably improve student achievement, and later transform its talent management practices and leadership pipelines.
I am currently the Chief Operating Officer for New Teacher Center, a $30MM non-profit focused on disrupting the predictability of educational inequities for systemically underserved students, from preschool through high school, by accelerating educator effectiveness. It’s exciting to join a passionate and accomplished team that has clearly articulated very high expectations about our organization’s impact within the field of education.
What are you most proud of in your career so far?
I can’t believe I’m at the point to say “looking back,” but I’m extremely proud of the leaders and true rock stars I have been able to work with, mentor, grow, and help achieve their own personal and professional goals. Each time I get a quick note of a promotion, new assignment, or award, I am reminded about the importance of relationships and how much they really matter – especially the teacher and school leaders I’ve worked with in my more recent times, because that impact is magnified in the kids and communities they serve, and the future we will all soon see. There’s enough wins out there for everyone; it’s much better to go farther together than faster alone.
Has your career played out the way you expected?
Yes, and no. In my UT undergrad days my diverse interests led me to take several political science and public policy classes to augment my Finance BBA, and after graduation I really contemplated going to law school, so I always expected to find some way to leverage my business acumen in more mission-driven arenas at some point.
McCombs’ program flexibility and responsiveness to student needs were extremely helpful in preparing me for later steps in my career. Our class was the Texas+ Program’s first cohort, I was accepted into Eugene Sepulveda’s Community Development Non-Profit Consulting Practicum and continued volunteering with our group’s partner organization the remainder of my two years, and was fortunate to add a few business, policy, and law courses in at LBJ during my MBA. Those experiences showed me that having a double bottom line impact was both possible and needed in the world.
How have you stayed involved with the school as an alumnus?
I loved reading those application essays and doing interviews while on the McCombs Admissions Committee with some great people during my time in the program, and continue to do alumni interviews in Atlanta, which is a great way to be an ambassador for McCombs in an area that has a surprisingly deep pool of McCombs alum. It’s also very humbling as the students continue to amaze me with their ideas and experiences. I remain passionate about increasing multiple dimensions of diversity within the McCombs program, and I’ve taken great pleasure to speak at several Explore McCombs and McCombs Diversity Weekends to share my experiences and recruit extremely talented potential students from underrepresented groups to the program.
I was honored to share my personal leadership story as 2018’s Commencement Speaker last spring, and I have served on the Alumni Advisory Board since 2015, becoming chair of the Alumni Programs Committee the past two years where we have tried to improve our alumni database, rethink our events…including this year’s McCombs Homecoming event, and submitted MBA Rising Star nominations to Dean Hartzell. This month, I became Chair of the Alumni Advisory Board, where I’m excited to continue our focus on inclusion, increasing alumni engagement, and ensuring the voices of all our McCombs alumni across each of our award-winning programs are in the room and at the table.
How have you personally benefitted from being a part of the network?
I’ll go back to the relationships I’ve formed since starting my MBA. Our class’ fifteenth reunion coincided with this year’s new McCombs Homecoming events. It was deeply rewarding to celebrate our class’ collective successes and shared memories, realizing our impact on each other and the world has been tremendous. I’ve also gained many new friends and mentors along the way due to our common ties to the McCombs network. Far too many to name but I’ve been blessed to have a robust personal board of directors to help guide my steps.
Any other community involvement, hobbies or tidbits you’d like to share?
My wife Carla and I absolutely love living in Atlanta where we are both active in the community with shared passions for young people, diversity, and the cultural arts. I am a member and Board Financial Secretary with the mentorship organization 100 Black Men of Atlanta, was recently selected as chair of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s Advisory Council, a newly formed group focusing on broadening the ASO’s inclusiveness and reach across Atlanta’s diverse communities, lead as Assistant Scoutmaster of Troop 2600 where I’ve used my own Eagle journey to mentor our troop’s first four Eagle Scouts, and serve as a Deacon at our church, the House of Hope Atlanta.
Follow my culture and leadership topics on Twitter at @amills4 and my hashtags for the year #CultureVsEverything, #LeadWithIntent, and #LoveMyASO.