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RetailMeNot CEO On The Importance Of Persistence

Written by Madison Hamilton

Cotter Cunningham may be a CEO today, but it wasn’t always clear he’d eventually reach the top of the corporate ladder.

“I was a terrible student,” said Cunningham during a presentation on behalf of The Herb Kelleher Center for Entrepreneurship on Oct. 29.

Cunningham admitted that if he had tried to run a business straight out of college, he wouldn’t have known “what to do and what not to do.”

Cunningham is now the founder, president, and chief executive officer of RetailMeNot, the world’s largest online coupon and deals marketplace. Cunningham appeared for the Kelleher Center’s entrepreneur-in-residence speaker series. McCombs School of Business Entrepreneur-in-Residence and moderator of the event, Brett Hurt, BBA ’94, wanted to know how Cunningham achieved this success.

Before founding the Austin-based coupon company, Cunningham was the chief operating officer of consumer financial information website Bankrate and also worked as an executive with H&R Block. With each company, Cunningham developed skills and gained experience that prepared him for his current CEO position.

At age 40, Cunningham left his job and teamed up with venture capital firm Austin Ventures to start his own business. Cunningham invested $1 million of his own net worth in

“I believe you should invest in yourself,” said Cunningham. “Put your money where your mouth is.”

The site aimed to assist divorcees in financial matters, such as getting a new credit card. Cunningham explained that although he isn’t divorced, he enjoys advising people who are going through big life changes. His happily married wife was skeptical of the divorce-centric site, he joked. And although it never took off, Austin Ventures liked Cunningham and gave him another opportunity.

“They liked me. They didn’t like divorce,” he quipped.

During the transition, Cunningham went to a cocktail party in Florida where he was approached for divorce advice. Out of consideration, Cunningham took the meeting and was planning simply to refer the man to the website. As they began talking, the recent divorcee told Cunningham that he is looking to sell his online couponing company. Because Cunningham had never heard of online couponing, he was intrigued.

“It was insanely profitable, so that really peaked my interest,” explained Cunningham.

Soon after, Cunningham founded RetailMeNot.

“To succeed as an entrepreneur, you have to have a stunning amount of confidence in yourself,” said Cunningham. “Persistence has worked for me.”

When discussing entrepreneurship, Cunningham explained. “It’s not something I was born with; it was a developed skill.”

This article originally appeared on McCombsTODAY.

Summer in Scotland: Business Law and Birdies

Blake Jones is no stranger to traveling overseas. He has visited Ireland and England and most recently chose to spend the summer in Edinburgh, Scotland to study Business Law for six UT credits. In addition to travel, Blake also enjoys golf. Not only does he enjoy golf, he plays it well, maintaining a single-digit handicap. In the spirit of working hard as well as playing hard, Blake checked his golf bag with the rest of his luggage en route to Scotland.


How did golfing fit into your schedule while also studying Business Law?

Class got out at 1pm, which left plenty of time to play since the sun would set so late. Once we finished a round at 10:45pm, so time was never an issue. We routinely took a twenty-minute train out to play the courses in East Lothian where courses such as Muirfield are located and St Andrews and Gleneagles, site of the 2014 Ryder Cup, were only an hour train ride away. All in all, I believe I played 13 rounds during my time, and very easily could’ve played more, but I wanted to thoroughly experience Scotland beyond golf.

Was golfing more difficult in Edinburgh than in Texas?

 Golf carts are seemingly nonexistent in Scotland so definitely have your legs and back ready if you plan to play over there. But, the weather is what gave me the most trouble. In Texas I rarely encounter wind that calls for more than a one-club adjustment, but in Scotland the wind was often so strong that I found myself adjusting two or even three clubs and when there were crosswinds I found myself trying to hit something on a lower trajectory and just hoping I had judged the direction right, which unfortunately wasn’t always the case.

What role do you see golf playing in your future?

 My Dad has always told me golfing is a good hobby to have as a businessman and I can definitely see why. Golfing is unparalleled among sports in the way that it is so competitive yet at the same time allows for conversation in a relaxed setting.

What is most memorable about your time golfing in Scotland?

When we played a course out in North Berwick we happened to see Rory McIlroy walking the streets and then at the British Open I snapped a really cool photo with Phil Mickelson who went on to win.

Another notable memory of mine was when I birdied the 18th hole at St Andrews to a large on looking, clapping crowd of people just spectating at the historic Old Course.

What did you learn during your time abroad that you might not have learned otherwise?

Traveling abroad gives you a social experience that would be hard to come by otherwise. I compare it to a first year away at college in the way that you’re in a completely new environment forcing you to learn and adjust as you go. When you add in the change of culture as well, studying abroad definitely helps grow your social skills and perspective. The Law of the European Union class, taught by Professor Lane of the University of Edinburgh, was also a unique learning experience.

The structure and actions of government in the EU are often very different than what we see in America so it was neat to learn how and why they govern differently. I compare the class to a UT UGS class because while one may or may not use the material directly in their major, broadening your horizons by learning something new or different is always beneficial.

What advice would you give to someone traveling abroad?

Definitely plan to see the major landmarks and sites, but otherwise don’t feel the need to plan every little detail of your trip. Some of our most memorable experiences occurred when we were spontaneous or even ventured outside the parts concentrated with tourists.

Learn more about the Business Law Program in Edinburgh and other study abroad opportunities through Short-Term International Programs.

The Five Things I Learned Climbing Kilimanjaro

by Nancy Bonds, BBA Finance Junior


1. Fear is a good thing.

When people heard about my summer adventure in Tanzania, they asked if I was scared to climb the mountain. “Are you ready? Is it hard? Aren’t you scared?” they would rattle off as I chuckled to myself. I would sort of smile, and reply, “I’m pretty excited, but I am afraid of heights.” Most people looked pretty confused after I told them I barely made it to the second level of the Eiffel Tower when I was eight years old or that my freshman year of college I couldn’t walk across the Golden Gate Bridge without two people as buffers to the outer edge, but now I was climbing the tallest mountain in Africa?

Before I left, I stumbled upon a quote by Seth Godin that said, “If it scares you it might be a good thing to try.” I always enjoy challenging myself, and facing fears are sort of an ultimate challenge.

That’s never been more real to me than on the part of the hike that forces you to scramble along a 600ft wall, known as the Great Barranco. You have to climb, scoot, and hike up the wall and pray you don’t look down and see the small creek at the bottom.  I’m sorry to report I looked down. I immediately closed my eyes and was suddenly certain that climbing this wall was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do in my life. However, I also knew it was all in my head. I had to contain the fear and utilize the energy to keep climbing.

Fear, at the end of the day, is a good thing. If you harness your fear, you can use it to motivate, to encourage, and to prove to yourself and to others that you don’t let your fears win. Overcoming fear creates a mental toughness that will pay dividends not only when you’re trying to climb a mountain, catch a spider in the house for your younger sister, or watch bats on the South Congress Bridge, but also when you have to make a presentation, confront people with issues, or carry out your own big decisions in life.


2. Go Slowly.

I am an incredibly competitive person.  So, when we began our trek up the mountain, I was sure we could cut some minutes or even an hour off the “approximated hiking times.” However, as it turns out, the mantra for the guides is “pole pole” (pronounced poe-lay, poe-lay), which means slowly.   We started off on the trails and my first thought was a quote from The Devil Wears Prada, “by all means, move at a glacial pace,” coupled with a long eye roll.  I couldn’t have imagined how hard climbing uphill for seven days would be, so after the first thirty minutes I was thankful for the pace.

As you hike along the trail, porters and other guides simply see you and say “pole pole,” and it’s a reminder to go slowly along the way. But the phrase, I soon realized, was for more than just for the hiking speed. The guides encourage you to take in the views, the experience, and the people. More importantly, the saying is not just relevant while climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro. I’m in college, and sometimes I forget to take in the view from West Campus every once and a while; I forget to be spontaneous just because I can, and sometimes it’s easy to forget people as I continue through school. “Pole pole,” everyone. College is only four years.


3. Don’t eat the vegetable sauce.

Do you remember when you were a little kid and your parents made you have three bites of everything on your plate? Do you remember when you didn’t get to have dessert until you finished your vegetables? After a few days on the trail, I had reached a point where I couldn’t manage 3 bites and I certainly wouldn’t have gotten dessert. They served something called “vegetable sauce” with almost every meal. I cringed whenever I heard the word. It is a word I associated with a guaranteed upset stomach and a certain berry flavored tablet you can put in your water that I hope to never use again. The best thing about making it to the top was that they no longer had any reason to force me to eat it.

At the end of the day, the life lesson we can all gain from hiking Kili is just don’t eat the vegetable sauce. You don’t know what’s in it, and you will definitely regret it.

On a more serious note, we all have things we can’t change. Randy Pausch once said that “we can’t control the cards we’re dealt, just how we play the hand.” We will never know what’s in vegetable sauce, but I know that my experience on Kilimanjaro would not be the same without it. Even the things or people we don’t like can positively influence parts of our lives, so embrace your bad card every once and a while, it won’t ruin the entire hand.

4. Tired is not an illness.

The entire hike, I worried about making it to the summit. My legs hurt. I couldn’t eat. I was cold. I remember days where I struggled to put one foot in front of the other. The summit hike on the night of day six and the early morning of day seven (you depart at midnight and hike at night) is roughly six hours straight uphill. Every 15 to 30 minutes our guide, Solomon (an incredibly fitting name), would ask how we were doing as we ascended the mountain. After about two and a half hours he turned to me and said, “Jambo, Nancy!,” which essentially means “how are you doing?” I sort of wryly smiled and said “I’m just so tired,” and I am sure he could see it written all over my face.  He looked back at me and said, “Tired is not an illness, so we’re not turning around.” Solomon’s wise words could not be more applicable, even to our non-mountain climbing lives.

Often times at school, at work, or while climbing a mountain we just tend to wear down as the journey progresses. Most of our jobs as students, interns, or hikers revolve around maintaining a mental attitude that motivates us to keep studying for that exam, making that excel model, or trekking up that mountain. We just need to remember that “tired is not an illness,” and we shouldn’t turn around. Studying, working, and hiking all have their own purposes.  Even though you don’t understand why you need to know accounting, don’t want to rebuild your model, or can’t see the top of the mountain, just keep pushing forward. The class will end. The project will stop. And I promise the view from the top is worth it.



5. We all have stories.

As it turns out, Mount Kilimanjaro is not wi-fi enabled, so I had to spend two weeks in Tanzania (with a couple exceptions) talking to the people on my trip. Initially wary of the lack of phone usage, I soon adapted to some old school communication methods, from writing letters to chatting in front of fires. We told stories from elementary school, awkward tales from middle school, absurd high school drama, and incredible adventures. We all have stories. Whether they come from family trips to Brazil or the time you tried to jump over a wall and missed. I think most of the time we just forget to tell them to each other . We forget that we make stories every day. After hearing about my friend pulling a row boat to shore in a hippo pool, after listening to my guide talk about his first trip up the mountain, and after rattling off my own tale about a fall down a switchback, I realized we all have something to say. We all have moments that we can share with each other. Be adventurous, take a step back, and remember to tell your story.

McCombs Executive Mentorship Dinner

written by Catherine Butschi, Freshman

At the McCombs Executive Mentorship Dinner, I learned what it means to be a part of the Red McCombs School of Business. Michelle Obama could not have said it better; “When you’ve worked hard, and done well, and walked through that doorway of opportunity, you do not slam it shut behind you. You reach back, and you give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed.”

Over the course of two hours, relationships were formed over the common ground of being a part of the McCombs legacy. Alumni of McCombs took this evening to reach back and open the door for us. Executives shared their insight into the working world. These mentors gave us an opportunity to network and to ask how McCombs initiated their career path. They gave advice and shared admirable stories.

Holding the door open creates a legacy. It creates a community. Senior Jeff Stevens, chair of the BBA legacy committee, said, “Building a McCombs community is just as important as what we do in the classrooms and organizations.”

By listening and interacting with these fellow McCombs legacies, I saw what opportunities await BBA undergraduates. I feel honored to be part of McCombs and urge others to be apart of this legacy. These Executives have inspired me to assist in maintaining the McCombs legacy and I look forward to attending events like this dinner now and after graduating. Furthermore, every undergraduate can begin participating now during the BBA Legacy Campaign at the end of March.

Thank you to all of the peers, mentors, and everyone who assisted in executing such a wonderful evening. The legacy created before us keeps rolling, so my fellow peers, I challenge you to be a part of the legacy and to reach back and hold the door open for others. We bleed burnt orange. Hook ‘em.

We would like to thank the following alumni for their participation and for connecting with our BBA/MPA students.

1. Keat Wilkins – CEO, Sense Corp 2. Jeff Eller – Chairman, Public Strategies 3. Steve Rohleder – Group Chief Executive, Accenture (Health & Public Service Operating Group); former Accenture COO 4. Sandy Gottesman – LiveOak Gottesman 5. Darrell Windham – Head of the Corporate Law Practice, Greenberg Traurig; former Head of the Corporate Law Practice at Fulbright & Jaworski 6. Jim McBride – Founder and Managing Member, Blue Sage Capital 7. Gary Valdez – CEO, Focus Strategies 8. Joe Holt – CEO, JPMorgan Chase, Central TX 9. Kevin Hegarty – CFO, UT; former CFO of Dell Financial Services 10. Ken Cho – Co-Founder, Spredfast 11. Rick Thielke – Portfolio Manager and Head of Analytics, SandRidge Capital 12. Jack Baum (to confirm) – Partner 2m Co, CEO of Food, Friends & Company

Big Data is the New Oil – McCombs Executive Summit

written by Ryan Upchurch, Undergraduate Business Council

Last Saturday, the Undergraduate Business Council hosted the McCombs Executive Summit at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center. The topic of this year’s summit was “Big Data.”

The panel with a cross-industry selection of executives.

The event hosted a Q&A panel featuring a selection of cross-industry executives from the fields of technology, social media, retailing, banking, advertising and mobile communications. Companies represented included Target, AT&T, Facebook, Adlucent, Cisco, and BBVA Compass. This panel was facilitated by our own McCombs professor, Dr. Michael Hasler.

The seven company representatives shared insights on how they use big data analysis in their decision processes. Dr. Hasler summarizes: “Big data analyzing is experiencing a shift from being a competitive advantage to being a competitive necessity.” After the panel, attendees were broken up into groups to work on case questions facilitated by the company representatives. The companies gave insight into the challenges that appear in their worlds, and how to approach and solve these questions.

Working on case questions.


The Summit concluded with a three course lunch and a presentation from keynote speaker, John Gordon, Director of Strategy & Product Management for the IBM Watson Solutions Division. Gordon spoke on the rise of a new era of data generation, and how the businesses that will harness and leverage this data will be truly successful. Gordon said, “80% of that data is unstructured and unleveraged. Data is growing exponentially. Soon, you will be able to ask more questions than anyone ever has before. You’re going to be more informed that anyone ever has before.”

Michelle Moon and Adam Petras

Gordon also pointed out that, “Data is the new oil.” Dr. Hasler explains, “Oil changed the economic structure in the beginning of the 20th century. Data is driving the activity in the beginning of the 21st century. When oil comes out of the ground, it is black mud and we cannot use it until it’s been refined. The same is true for big data. Once it is refined, it becomes information and we can make decisions.”

The event was enjoyed by the company representatives and the 80 students, who graciously gave up their Saturdays to learn.


Dr. Michael Hasler is the Director of the new Masters of Science Business Analytics Program to be launched in fall 2013. For more information and to find out how to apply, visit their website at the link above.

Meet Mr. McCombs 2013

by Ryan Upchurch, Undergraduate Business Council


Last Friday night, nine contestants from various McCombs student organizations came together to compete for the title of “Mr. McCombs.” Mr. McCombs is a male beauty pageant that raises money and canned goods for charity. The contestants choose the charity of their choice to give to, upon winning, and the canned goods are given to the Capital Area food bank. The Daily Texan and Good Morning Texas provided  coverage for the event.

Isoken is the new Mr. McCombs!

After dancing, dressing up in their finest suits and swimwear and showcasing their talents, Isoken Omoruyi, the Asian Business Student Association rep, came out with the crown. Isoken’s high spirits and self-composed song he performed with an accompanying band propelled him to the top and allowed him to stand out to the judges. Conrad Bates, of the Undergraduate Business Council, won the title of “Mr. Congeniality.”The event raised over $750 dollars for charity and more than 4000 cans, which are donated to the Capital Area Food Bank. This is far more than past Mr. McCombs pageants have ever brought in.

Conrad (center) is Mr. Congeniality.


Isoken’s song: UT is Number 1


Leadership Program Analyzes Critical Community Issues

by Chandler Nunez, Marketing Junior


On Saturday, February 2, the Leadership Program 3rd Year Cohort took a day to reflect on Common Purpose, Controversy with Civility, and Collaboration.  Our Students met with Leadership Austin, an organization dedicated to developing leadership skills to address critical community issues, and we learned about the lack of affordable housing in the Austin metropolitan area.  Ryan Robinson, a UT alum and demographer for the city of Austin, gave a presentation about demographic trends in Austin and another UT alum, Tom Stellman, CEO and founder of TIP Strategies, talked about the economy of Austin and the changes over the past decade.

Leadership Program students heard about the demographic and economic trends that lead to the gentrification of many Austin neighborhoods and how this led to higher rent costs in Austin and caused a lack of affordable housing in the city.  Students were able to experience this reality thanks to the help of Foundation Communities, a non-profit that focuses on providing affordable housing in Austin to low-income individuals. The cohort had the privilege of serving food to residents at Skyline Terrace and learning about the lives of those around them. Many students were surprised to see that many of the people around them were college-educated people who had been struck by hard luck in the economy.

After lunch, one Foundation Communities’ resident, Dalton Duffie, gave a testimonial about his struggles with alcohol and drug addiction, his homelessness, his path out of homelessness and into affordable housing, and his staying six years sober and clean. The Leadership Program students were able to ask questions about his family relationships, his usage habits and their causes, and the goals he has set for himself.

Students were also able to listen to a panel that consisted of Frank Fernandez of Green Doors, Walter Moreau of Foundation Communities, and Leslee Froelich of CommUnityCare. With such varied backgrounds of an Ivy Leaguer engaged in public transportation issues, a champion for affordable housing, and an advocate for accessible healthcare services, students received a multitude of perspectives from issues such as the economic development in Austin to how non-profits work with one another to accomplish goals for the entire community.

Afterward, it was time to reflect on what we had learned that day and every one of us realized that while it is easy to get caught up in the money making associated with business, there are other issues that communities are facing.  Communities need the help of everyone to make housing affordable and to increase the diversity within a city.

The Leadership Program would like to thanks its corporate sponsors for making such events like this possible.  Special thanks to PWC, BBVA Compass, and Shell.

Vivian Tan: Inauguration, Obama, Bush & Beyoncé

Me all bundled up in my 5 layers. AMERICA!

By Vivian Tan, Sophomore, accounting major from Houston, TX.

While most students were attending their first or second week of spring semester, I hopped on a plane, with scarves and hand warmers packed in my carry-on, to attend the swearing in of the 44th President of the United States. After attending President Obama’s first inauguration through a similar program for high school scholars in 2009, my expectations of the Collegiate Presidential Inaugural Conference (CIPC) were high, and I was by now means disappointed.

As an alum of the National Young Leaders State Conference, I was able to attend this 5-day program, which brought over 900 scholars, ages 18 to 70, from all over the world, including Germany, South America, and Australia together. This networking heavy conference gives scholars the opportunity to mingle with one another as well as significant political leaders, including political consultant Joe Trippi.

Found a fellow Longhorn, Aaron, (and coincidentally we were both sporting burnt orange things) and Aggie Margaret.


Upon arrival at the conference, I was welcomed with conference “swag”, which included an inaugural badge and a welcome book with information about Washington D.C. and the history of the inauguration. The arrival period for the scholars gave early birds (like me) a chance to walk around the hotel and enjoy all of the free amenities the program provided. One of the exciting exhibits the hotel had for the scholars of CPIC was a “Making Connections” Board. This board gave everyone the chance to see how far others had traveled to come to the conference, and where I bumped into a fellow Longhorn!



President Obama taking his presidential Oath of Allegiance

On inauguration day, I woke up at 4:00 a.m. geared with our inauguration “swag bag” that included hand warmers and snacks, grabbed a quick breakfast and boarded the bus at 5:15 a.m. Usually, a trip to the National Mall only takes 15 minutes; however, this trip took over an hour because we had to go around the city due to blocked streets. We were dropped at the Smithsonian and we were greeted by dinosaur exhibits, ocean exhibits, and the Hope Diamond. Many of us wanted to stay in the Smithsonian to keep warm, but I wanted to get as close to a front-row-seat as I could!  A few other scholars and I ventured out into the 16 degree weather to make our way through the crowds of people, I’m sure all dressed in at least 5 layers (like me!). After making our way through two sections of security, we finally found a spot where we could witness history in the making. Playing the part of the typical tourist, I proudly waved my American flag in the air, while still managing to take pictures of anything and everything that happened during the ceremony, from Kelly Clarkson to Beyoncé to people perched in trees (yes, people!).

Former Governor of Florida, but forever a Texas Ex, Jeb Bush. Hook ‘em! (Yay for his burnt orange tie!)

Throughout the conference, we were split into 32 groups and engaged in discussions that ranged from, “Where did you guys eat last night?” to “What are your thoughts about faith and politics?” We were able to listen to influential keynote speakers, including the power couple Mary Matalin and James Carville. One of the keynote speakers, Jeb Bush, a UT alum who sported a burnt orange tie during his presentation, spoke about education reform and the need for emphasis of comprehension. (I had the urge to scream out “TEXAS” in hopes of the returning “FIGHT”, but I decided to refrain.) One of the most inspiring (and my favorite) moments of the conference was when Reverend Jesse L. Jackson spoke to us. He made the entire room stand and chant his poem “I Am – Somebody” and told us, “We are not the future, we are now,” reassuring us that we CAN make a difference.

Being able to experience this historical event with my new but great friends from all over the world was honestly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I learned so many things from others that I would never have had the opportunity to learn in a classroom.  Although my time at the conference was short, it was truly inspiring and something I will never forget.

Beyoncé before she sang the National Anthem.


To become involved in this program you must be alum of one of the following: Congressional Youth Leadership Council, National Young Scholars Program, National Youth Leadership Forum, International Scholar Laureate Program, Golden Key International Honour Society, Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, National Society of High School Scholars, or National Society of Collegiate Scholars.

* I was nominated in middle school for National Youth Leaders State Conference and also attended the High School Presidential Inaugural Conference.



How I discovered my Passion – Leadershape Institute 2013 (and my love for bread pudding)

By Erika Gaffney, Major: MIS, Graduation: May 2014

From January 6 to 11, the McCombs Office of Student Life organized the annual Leadershape® Institute. The purpose of the LeaderShape® Institute is to provide a breakthrough in the leadership capacity of participants and facilitators. In this blog, Erika Gaffney shares her experiences from this intense and highly interactive leadership program.

Erika with her LeaderShape Family

Can you imagine spending six days in one place with 60 other people that you have never met? Can you imagine leaving at the end of day six, wishing you could spend another two weeks with the same 60 people, who are no longer strangers?

There is no way to describe the experience I had at LeaderShape that will do it any justice. There isn’t anything that I would trade for my time at this retreat. In that short amount of time, I forgot about the world outside of Newcombe Tennis Ranch.

I learned so much about who I am as a leader and even more about who I am as a person, like I am ten times more energetic than other people. I became friends with the entirety of the sixty students I attended with. I played an insane amount of group games that I had never heard of (and, trust me, by the end, I was dying to play more). And, without giving too much away, I challenged myself to do things I never thought I could do.

LeaderShape isn’t just a building experience. It didn’t just take who I already was and made me into a better leader. It also helped me discover parts of myself that I didn’t know existed and that I am happy to claim as being part of who I am. For instance, I have a passion for underprivileged kids that goes deeper than I realized. Oh, and I apparently love bread pudding.

When applying for LeaderShape, one question on the application was to include a vision for the future to make the world a better place. My vision was one in which underprivileged children would have the knowledge to apply and go to college. Going into LeaderShape, I was unsure what to do with my new and underdeveloped aspiration. Through an intensive and gratifying week I polished my vision for the future and developed goals to help bring it to life.

The week began with a focus on building a community. We built our LeaderShape community by being introduced to what we called the Learning Community (all of us as a big group) and forming our Family Clusters (a smaller setting with nine students). The Family Clusters became an important part to the experience and was a safe place to grow as a person and make mistakes. As the week progressed, we discussed leadership being a group effort, looking beyond what is to see what can be, bringing our visions to reality, leading with integrity, and staying in action after the week’s end.

At one point during the retreat we all sat down to further develop our visions. I realized then that the future I wanted wasn’t necessarily all kids going to college, rather all kids knowing that they have the opportunity to break the mold and get a higher education. Further on in the week, we each came up attainable goals having to do with our unique visions. I am now in the process of reaching one of my goals by volunteering for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas.

The best part of LeaderShape was what I walked away with. I had new goals  for the future, an actual plan to start helping underprivileged kids, and a support system larger than I had ever experienced.

Nobody can take away what I learned and how I changed through this experience. Nobody can take away the bond I share with each and every person I met that week.

Can you imagine it now?

Find out more about the Leadershape® Institute and how to get involved.


McCombs students visit top companies in New York

by Ryan Upchurch, Undergraduate Business Council

From January 2 to the 6, the Undergraduate Business Council ventured to New York City for this year’s winter company field trip. 44 McCombs students met with some of the top companies in the Big Apple. For the first time the Company Field Trip Committee introduced two tracks: Finance and Marketing. The Finance track visited Evercore, Greenhill, Goldman Sachs, and Jefferies, while the Marketing track included Young and Rubicam, NBC Digital, TIME Magazine, and J.Crew.


Students had the opportunity to do everything from getting the chance to meet high-end investment bankers to seeing the summer 2013 line for J.Crew. Finance senior Jeff Stevens added: “It was great to be able to experience the culture of these companies first-hand. You really get to know a firm by going to their offices to see how their people interact and talk with them about their jobs.”

Company field trips are designed to further students’ knowledge of a specific company in an industry. Students get to network with executives, ask questions about the recruiting process and gain a deeper understanding of the firms.


McCombs Students Discover NYC and E&Y

Back (L to R): Alexandra Webb, Amber Jones, James Gonzalez, Maureen Ezekor, Shakaila Jones; Front (L to R): Angelica Van Horn, Hortencia Campbell


Winter break was wonderful, right? After a busy fall semester and the stress of finals it sure felt good to relax and kick back … at least for a while and then it was back to business for these seven McCombs students (see photo). Back to business in New York City!

The group participated in the “Discover Ernst &Young Conference” that took place from January 3 to 5 in the Big Apple to check out one of the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For. Ernst & Young (E&Y) ranks 57 in the 2013 rankings, up two spots from 2012.


A total of 146 students (selected out of over 1,000 applications) from 77 universities attended the conference in New York. McCombs had the strongest showing of all universities with a total of seven students present.  “It was nice to meet so many students from other universities,” Angelica Van Horn, a third year MPA student, says. “We were put into different groups for all the activities. This made it easy to meet new people and offered a great networking opportunity.”

At the conference the students had the chance to meet and talk to CEO Jim Turley as well as E&Y representatives from across the country and learn about their services and culture. Activities and workshops at the conference were designed to allow the participants to understand the expectations in the different service areas (Tax, Advisory, and Assurance). “I’m leaning towards assurance services,” Angelica admits. “And while it was interesting to listen to the presentation of the tax services, I ended up talking to the assurance manager for a very long time.” She and her fellow Longhorns enjoyed the audit and tax simulations that were run with current E&Y employees and the group did really well. The students also appreciated the career advice they received. “Our speakers talked to us about the mentorship program that helped them excel in their careers,” Angelica says. “And they gave advice on how to stay motivated even if your career path is not taking the form you thought it would.”

All work and no play? Of course not! The conference also offered fun social events. “We participated in a scavenger hunt through the streets of New York and were treated to a dinner cruise through the New York Harbor where we passed by Ground Zero and the Statue of Liberty,” says Angelica. “We not only had the opportunity to talk to company representatives about the business but we also got to spend time with them in relaxed social settings.” Angelica and her friends were able to get a good insight into the profession and the company. This experience will help them in their recruiting decisions. For now it’s back to business at McCombs and we wish them all the best for a successful spring semester!


Meet our BBA Student Commencement Speaker: Kristal Braley

Like a typical McCombs student Kristal Braley is used to juggling a lot of activities: classes, exams, student organizations, and work. Only in Kristal’s case she keeps all the balls in the air with one hand: in the other hand she holds her three year old son, Bryce. Being a single mother and an involved McCombs student requires advanced skills in time management and a lot of hard work.

Working hard comes naturally to Kristal. The North Dakota native started working when she was 14 years old to gain some financial independence from her parents. Soon she was working 40 hours a week. Being independent and self-sufficient has always been important to Kristal. She was the only girl in her automotive and shop classes in high school. “I like to learn many different things, especially when other people say ‘No, you can’t’,” says Kristal.

The words “No, you can’t” would also become a powerful motivator to apply to college. College had never been on her mind: her parents didn’t have any college experience and her many jobs had taken a toll on her GPA. So she continued to work, often three jobs at a time. One of them came from Kristal’s love of football which landed her a gig with the Green Bay Packers’ Tailgating Tour. Her outstanding work ethic and great people skills made her financially quite successful but still left her wanting more: a college degree to be able to advance. And there it was again, the “No, you can’t!” from employers, friends and parents. And that’s when Kristal really got started.

After earning a 4.0 GPA at a technical college in Madison, she was ready for the big league: an application to McCombs. Why business and why Texas? Kristal explains: “Whatever your passion, a business degree can get you there. And why Texas? I researched many business schools. McCombs was my natural choice: excellent academics, great resources and high rankings. And football!” When she moved to Austin, she didn’t come alone. She had a little passenger in her car when she crossed the country to come to Austin: her three month old son Bryce.

With the start of classes at McCombs the juggling act really began: classes, homework, group projects, work, and Bryce. Finding and paying daycare posed the biggest challenge. Funds in general were so limited that Kristal started thinking about dropping out. Thanks to the support of the organization “The Nurturing Center” she made it through these tough times. At first Kristal thought she could do it all but after a year she realized: “One thing had to drop: My grades, my work or my son.” She stopped working, took on student loans and now was able to fully take advantage of all opportunities that McCombs offered.

Her favorite classes include Strategic Human Resources and Leadership Issues with Prof. Kristi Loescher. Another highlight was Prof. Brian Lendecky’s Accounting Practicum class that allows students to become volunteer tax preparers at low-income neighborhoods.

“Group projects and team meetings posed a challenge. But I invited my teams to my home or brought Bryce to the group meetings. My team members were cool with that and really enjoyed my son,” says Kristal. She took time to serve on the College Tuition and Budget Committee and they made Bryce an honorary member. He was also Kristal’s date for her ring ceremony this semester. And they both were featured in the McCombs Today article What makes you happy?

As graduation approaches and job applications start, this management major is excited to explore opportunities in Human Resources. Her plans for the future include coming back to campus to pursue a graduate degree. But right now graduation first: She will celebrate with her family and most of all with her son Bryce. “This is just as much his day as it is mine,” Kristal says. Congratulations, Kristal and Bryce!

McCombs Fall 2010 Case Competition Results

UBC Case CompetitionOn November 1, OtherInbox, a local Austin startup, presented 15 teams of McCombs students with a problem about how to improve their email organizing business. The participants researched and developed innovative ideas throughout the week and presented their solutions to a group of judges on Saturday, November 6.

Congratulations to the Tower Solutions team members: Gautam Shah, Kelley Rytlewski, Michael Koetting, and Chris Schulze for taking the 1st place award. These students will travel to the University of Southern California next spring to represent the McCombs School of Business in USC’s annual international case competition.

Recognition also goes to the MIR Solutions team members: Harvey Powers, Carlos Bencomo, Jamie Roh, and Suhith Shivani for their 2nd place finish. Alan Goldstein, YiYi Huang, David Casso, and Emile Gerard of the Oprime Advisory team finished in 3rd place. The competition was very intense this year and OtherInbox was extremely impressed with all the participants.

The Undergraduate Business Council would like to thank the students for their participation and recognize OtherInbox, ConocoPhillips, Accenture, Walt Disney, and the Office of Student Life for their help and sponsorship.

Nov.15-20 – Fall 2010 Asian Business Students Association and Roden Scholars Case Competition

Do you want to improve your speaking skills, analyze a real-life consulting scenario, network with companies, AND win cash prizes? Asian Business Students Association and Roden Scholars is hosting the Fall 2010 Case Competition and offering $3800 in cash prizes.

 Kickoff  was on 11/15 at 6PM in the CBA Special Events Room. Please note that a $40/team refundable deposit is due for all participating teams.

 The competition begins on 11/20 at 8 AM in GSB 2.124.

Each team of four members much consist of AT LEAST 1 business student and 1 engineering student. Don’t know of an engineering student but want to compete? No problem. Just find our Facebook event and we can match you up.!/event.php?eid=100122053392875

Alpha Kappa Psi Raises Over $1,000 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation

Alpha Kappa Psi - Make A Wish FoundationOn Sunday, October 24, 2010 Alpha Kappa Psi, co-ed business fraternity, hosted their first annual charity kickball tournament benefiting the local chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The very successful event was organized by Philanthropy Director, Kendra Kirk, and brought twelve teams of over 150 players and spectators together at Del Valle Softball Complex. Several McCombs Affiliated Student Organizations and UT student organizations participated alongside local businesses and friends. Centex Merchants were awarded the first place prize, a boat cruise for 50 on Lake Travis.

Kendra, who created the idea for the event, wanted to balance AKPsi’s charity golf tournament in the spring with a fall event. Thanks to the immense support from local businesses, the net proceeds of the event exceeded $1,000 and will all be donated to Make-a-Wish. 

 To learn more about Alpha Kappa Psi, please visit Contact Kendra Kirk at [email protected] or President Adam Lindemuth at [email protected] with any questions or opportunities.

Sept. 14th – University Finance Association hosts Capital One

“The Future of the Mortgage Industry”

Sam Deshpande, Senior Vice President, Marketing & Analysis, Home Loans

Date: September 14, 2010

Time: 5:30-6:30 p.m.

Location: UTC 1.130

Food: Freebirds

This event is open to all students and will be highly informative. The mortgage industry will be discussed in detail by an expert, and students will get a chance to ask questions. Contact [email protected] for questions.

Sept. 14th – Australia, Hong Kong and Thailand info session

Learn more about BBA International Programs at

Sept. 14th – Study Abroad Info Session

Tuesday, Sept. 14th,  4 – 5 p.m., CBA 4.350

Have you considered studying abroad while at McCombs? Come to an info session and find out how! All students interested in studying abroad on any of our 28 exchange programs must first attend an information session before scheduling an appointment with one of our study abroad coordinators. These sessions are designed to answer any questions you may have, and to provide basic information on what you need to do to go abroad!

Spaces are still available for Spring 2011 exchanges, so attend an info session and apply by October 1st. Learn more at

Get Connected with BBA International Programs!


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