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The Business Honors Program

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BHP Students Honored by McCombs Faculty, Staff and Peers

Congratulations to all of the students recognized at the McCombs Honors Convocation last Friday. Here is a list of the BHP students who received awards at the event. In addition to these individuals, we were proud to honor many of you for your outstanding scholastic achievements and want to congratulate all business students and organizations who were honored with an award this year.

McCombs BBA/MPA Alumni Advisory Board Award

Rising Star Leadership Award – Dennis Thankachan

 This award is presented to a graduating McCombs undergraduate or MPA student who has proven an established commitment to service within the McCombs School through outstanding scholarship and achievements, as well as exemplary leadership and community involvement. The recipient demonstrates significant growth potential as a future leader in the McCombs community.

BHP Award

R. Conrad Doenges Award – Michelle Moon

This award is given to a Business Honors senior, who in the judgment of their peers and the BHP faculty and staff, have distinguished themselves in academics and leadership.

Undergraduate Business Council Awards

George Mitchell Business Leadership Award - This award recognizes students who have exhibited strong leadership within the McCombs School. There are two winners per class.

Freshmen – Zachary Schultz, Anisha Srivastava

Sophomores – Varun Bhatnagar, David Yu

Junior – Neha Vaidya

Barbara Jordan Business Leadership Award – This award recognizes outstanding seniors who have shown great initiative, strong leadership, and outstanding motivation through their activities within the McCombs School.

 Josh Hu

Texas BBA Program Awards

BHP Outstanding Service Award – Courtney Brindle, ’14

BHP Student Leadership Award – Robert Belanger, ’14

 

Dennis Thankachan Rising Star

Rising Star winner, Dennis Thankachan, with BHP alumni Michael Daehne, Emily Benigno and Jeff Stevens

Michelle Moon Doenges Award

Doenges Award winner Michelle Moon with Associate Dean Dave Platt and BHP Director Robert Prentice

2014 George Mitchell Awards

George Mitchell Business Leadership Award winners

 

Alumni Spotlight – Kelly Merryman, VP of Content Acquisition for Netflix

Kelly Merryman headshotKelly Merryman, BHP ’98, manages content acquisition for Netflix in Europe.  She began her tenure at Netflix in 2007 licensing content for the US market. She co-led Netflix’s international expansion, acquiring TV series and films, in countries including Canada, Latin America, the UK and Ireland, the Nordic countries and the Netherlands. Prior to joining Netflix, Kelly held positions in digital distribution and business development at Sony Pictures Entertainment, and spent time at both Bain & Company and Audax Group, a private equity firm in Boston.

Take me through your career progression from starting at Bain to ending up at Netflix.

Coming out of UT, I was looking for an opportunity to work in management consulting. I thought it would be a great way to build a strong skill set working in different industries and learning about various companies. I accepted a job with Bain in their Dallas office as a consultant. I worked for an airline in South Africa and actually lived there for a bit. I also worked in the automotive and paper sectors, as well as online travel. I learned a lot about myself and about working in different, large organizations.

I felt it was time to make the bets myself and move away from consulting, so I decided to join a private equity shop. Audax Group was founded by leadership from Bain Capital, looking to return to Bain Capital’s roots of investing in middle-market companies. It was an opportunity to execute on the vision component I had worked on as a consultant and see if it actually worked. I got to see what it meant to motivate an employee base during a change in strategy. The experience of thinking about the value of brands and consumers was really fun.

After getting my MBA from Harvard I took a job in LA with Sony and spent two years in their business and corporate development group figuring out how their distribution of media was going to evolve with the introduction of digital. From there, I jumped into the licensing group to actually do the distribution deals and not just plan them. I enjoy the value of negotiating deals and finding a way for two partners to create a new business.

In 2007, a lot of players entered the market place for digital distribution and Netflix reached out to me about joining their team to do digital licensing. I have been here ever since and have had an unbelievable experience. We had about 7 million subscribers in the US when I joined, now we have over 44 million on the streaming side and about a quarter of those are outside of the U.S.

What are your key responsibilities and areas of focus as the VP of Content Acquisition?

I am responsible for content acquisition for Europe.  This means that my team and I set the programming strategy for Netflix in the different countries we serve in Europe.  We select the titles, negotiate the deals and manage the budget.  Another key part of my role is driving the European expansion strategy for Netflix, determining which countries we should move into next.  I do this in close alignment with our Marketing VP for Europe.

I read that one of the ways you determine viewers’ interest in a show before buying it is checking how it has done on piracy sites. Can you talk more about that?

There are a variety of ways in which we evaluate programming. We focus most of our time on feature films and scripted TV series. We look at their performance in the market to see what the demand is. Performance on piracy sites is one piece of the puzzle, so are box office figures and linear TV ratings as well as DVD sales. This information helps us understand where there is a need. If we can identify a TV series people are watching on a pirate site because it isn’t available, we can try to license it so they have a legitimate way to view that content.

Can you talk more about Netflix’s decision to make original series content?

Ted Sarandos, our head of content,  was the champion of House of Cards, one of our first original series. He had a vision and we all jumped on board quickly. As we continue to grow our business, we want to have a much more exclusive set of TV series and films, and some of those will be original productions. This helps us define our brand and generate excitement and buzz. Netflix today is much more like a channel, albeit pure on demand, instead of a broad distributor. This strategy helps keep subscribers longer.

You were very involved in the expansion of Netflix to other countries. What were the main challenges in making those deals and how has that expansion affected the company?

The biggest question we had was “is Netflix a U.S. service?” We had to ask ourselves if everyone in the world would be interested in on-demand, or if that was uniquely American. Expanding into other countries validated that the demand was there. For the content side, we had to dive in and recognize that each market is unique and we needed to spend the money to develop those local partnerships to get the right content. We had to convince investors of the need for upfront investments that would pay off later. And they have.

What is the best part of your job?

The people. We have such a unique culture over here. We find really impressive experts in their space and give them freedom and responsibility. Being at the forefront of changing this industry is special and exciting.

Were there any specific classes at McCombs that stand out to you or helped prepare you for what you have been doing?

The case method taught in small classrooms was great. It was valuable to learn to work through solving a problem that wasn’t just in one area, but in all areas and learning how they came together. My favorite class was a marketing class taught by Shelby Carter. He would talk about unique challenges he had faced in his professional life and ask us how we would have dealt with it. Seeing those real-life examples and the grey area was enlightening. I realized nothing was as easy as it looks on paper and the answers aren’t always black and white.

Any advice for current BHP students?

Spend time networking with your classmates. They will be some of the most important people in your future. Always ask questions and ask speakers about their most challenging moments and how they handled it. Understanding how people deal with challenges can teach you a lot.

BHP Students Collaborate With McCombs Faculty on Research

Throughout their four years at UT, McCombs students are presented with multiple opportunities to enhance their skill sets and expand their knowledge. For students interested in research, one of these opportunities is working with a professor as a research assistant.

Research rankingThe McCombs faculty was recently named the no. 5 most productive in the world for research in the 2014 release of the University of Texas at Dallas School of Management’s Top 100 Business School Research Rankings.

BHP students have taken advantage of the research opportunities at McCombs and have partnered with McCombs faculty and visiting scholars to not only learn more about their industry of choice, but to take part in the discovery process of expanding and improving that industry. Angela Morisette, Aaryaman Singhal and Jane Tedjajuwana are three BHP students conducting research with McCombs professors this semester.

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AngelaBHP and Marketing major, Angela Morisette, is collaborating with Jade DeKinder, an assistant professor of marketing in the program. The two are researching the stages of an initial public offering (IPO), where shares of stock in a company are sold to the public for the first time, and what factors contribute to a company’s valuation in advance of an IPO.

The research findings will be useful to Morisette this summer as she interns with machinery and equipment manufacturer, Caterpillar Inc. She plans to work in corporate marketing after graduation and feels her research background will have prepared her to appreciate the process that goes into interpreting big data and the complications that can arise.

“My experience with Dr. DeKinder has shown me that the starting point is often at the most basic level. You just have to ask and you can’t be afraid,” said Morisette. “If you think a professor is really cool or if you think the research they do is really awesome, all you have to do is ask to be involved, and you never know where that can go.”

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AaryamanAaryaman Singhal is currently working with management professor, Ethan Burris, investigating how employees should frame their ideas when selling them to their managers. Professor Burris and Singhal are looking at how framing the voice in a promotive fashion (focusing on new ideas) or prohibitive fashion (focusing on problems that need to be stopped) can impact how managers evaluate the quality and viability of those ideas, and ultimately determine which ideas make it from inception to implementation.

“I chose to participate in research because I enjoy learning from the research and being a part of the discovery process,” said Singhal. “I feel that I learn as much from research as from class and what I learn from research is on the cutting edge of what we know about people today. Through our research we learn more about how people think and operate in the world around them. It’s exciting to be making the new discoveries with regards to how humans behave.”

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janeBHP and Finance major, Jane Tedjajuwana, is collaborating with a visiting scholar and researcher from Sweden, Lisen Selander, and Information, Risk, and, Operations Management professor, Sirkka Jarvenpaa. The trio is researching digital activism and civic engagement at Amnesty International. As social media has made it easier for everyone to engage in civic causes, it has also created tension between activism based on long-term organizational memberships and a growing individualization focused on single causes in short-term forms. The project is in the early stage of data collection, both qualitative and quantitative.

Their research allows for Amnesty International, the world’s best-known incumbent in political activism, to understand the challenges in balancing the volatile nature of digital activism with sustained political engagement.

“I first learned about research opportunities available to McCombs students through an info session,” said Tedjajuwana. “One thing I really liked was the fact that research projects focus on a very specific topic, but explore it much more in-depth than undergraduate classes do.”

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Current BHP students interested in becoming a research assistant should connect with a faculty member whose research you find intriguing. Professors generally select students they’ve had in class or currently have in class as they often review their own research throughout the course.

Incoming students should consider joining the research-based First-Year Interest Group (FIG). The research FIG is designed specifically for freshmen of the program and meets weekly throughout the fall semester to discuss the importance of research and how to get involved in research at UT.

BHP Class of 2018 Connects at Discover BHP

Discover BHP Co-Chairs Nicole Chu and Neal Makkar

Discover BHP Co-Chairs Nicole Chu and Neal Makkar

Written by Nicole Chu, BHP sophomore and Discover BHP Co-Chair 

This past Saturday, more than 100 admitted students and their families flocked to campus for Discover BHP, a day-long showcase of everything the Business Honors Program has to offer. My co-chair Neal Makkar (BHP/Finance ’15) and I had the honor of planning the event, and we are excited to report that thanks to the combined efforts of the BHP faculty, staff, and students, the day was a resounding success.

Neal and I received so much positive feedback from the attendees: parents raved about the BHP’s 100% job placement rate and the stellar academics, students rejoiced at the vibrant community and extracurricular opportunities, and both praised the friendly, professional demeanor of all the current students, faculty, and staff. I cannot count how many times a guest approached me to tell me that the event had effectively raised his/her opinion of the Business Honors Program, and that it was the people who made all the difference.

I could not agree more with that sentiment: it is the people who invest their time into the program that make the BHP one of the preeminent undergraduate business programs in the country. Moreover, having met them myself, I have no doubt that the latest batch of students will continue this legacy and raise it to still greater heights.

To the Class of 2018: Welcome to the BHP! We cannot wait to see the great things you will accomplish on the Forty Acres. Here’s a quick recap of the day for those who weren’t able to join us.

 

Admitted students getting to know one another

Admitted students getting to know one another

We started the day bright and early in the SAC Auditorium, where BHP faculty director Robert Prentice rattled off an impressive list of BHP employers to dazzle our guests. Following his opening remarks, a group of volunteers took the prospective students out for small group icebreakers and a tour of McCombs. Meanwhile, academic advisor Tisha Monsey and admissions director Paul Pritchett hosted a Q&A-style information session for the parents. Once reunited, students and parents participated in a series of panel discussions covering a wide range of topics: student life, careers and internships, and study abroad.

Lunch was my favorite part of the day—and not just because of the delicious meal. I simply enjoyed the opportunity to interact with the admitted students and their families in a relatively informal setting, fielding questions about my experiences in the program and sharing general college advice. After the meal, Jeffrey Schwartz (BHP/Finance ’07) delivered the keynote speech, in which he discussed how the BHP and UT prepared him for his career path, which has spanned investment banking, business development and entrepreneurship.

Students attending Jade DeKinder's marketing class

Students attending Jade DeKinder’s marketing class

Hunger abated, the high school seniors returned to the business school for a taste of BHP academics. Half of the students participated in a mock marketing class with Dr. Jade DeKinder, and the other half experienced Dr. Robert Prentice’s business law class. In the meantime, the parents met members of the BHP Parents’ Council in another interactive panel discussion.

For the final session, parents and students came together in the SAC Auditorium yet again to hear from our esteemed faculty. Some of our most beloved BHP professors were joined by Associate Dean Dave Platt for an entertaining and informative discussion.

Before Discover BHP officially ended, Neal and I had one final surprise for our guests. We had spent the day bragging about the breadth of extracurricular involvement by BHP students, so we figured we should spotlight some of that talent. Aware that BHP/MIS sophomore Pearce Illmer was the music director for the a cappella group One Note Stand, we invited the group to perform. They sang a soulful rendition of “Morning Comes” by Delta Rae, and then led our prospective Longhorns in “The Eyes of Texas.” One Note Stand was well-received by the audience, if the number of phone recordings I saw in the audience is any indication. It was the perfect way to end the day.

Alumni Spotlight: Ty Cobb, Director of Global Engagement at the HRC – Class of 2003

Ty CobbTy Cobb, BHP ’03, is the Director of Global Engagement at the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). Ty works to advance equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people around the world. Prior to launching HRC’s global initiative, he was instrumental in passing the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and an LGBT-inclusive Violence Against Women Act in his role as legislative counsel for HRC and while working for Senator Edward Kennedy.

You received your undergraduate degree and law degree from UT. How do you think UT and BHP prepared you for your career?
I’ve been a lawyer, lobbyist, congressional staffer, public speaker, program director, and manager. All of these roles required different skills, and many of those required were things I learned in BHP. My business background has given me a unique perspective in each of these roles. And, all those case studies were certainly helpful when planning for and launching a new program at the Human Rights Campaign.

What was your career progression after graduating from law school?
I went directly to Bracewell & Giuliani in Dallas where I worked for a year. I then moved to another firm in Washington, DC, Sidley Austin. I stayed there until I began as counsel to Senator Edward Kennedy, where I worked to secure passage of the Hate Crimes Prevention Act in the Senate. It was my first experience working on LGBT rights, but one I’ll always remember. After Senator Kennedy died, I became a lawyer and lobbyist at HRC for several years before getting the opportunity to launch a global program.

What new challenges do you face in this new role in global engagement?
Starting a new initiative from scratch has been a huge challenge. It has been an entrepreneurial adventure, and an opportunity for personal growth. Aside from that, it’s emotionally draining to see some of the more horrific situations LGBT people face across the world. Nearly 80 countries criminalize same-sex relationships – five of which actually punish individuals with death. And, on top of criminalization, several countries have now begun to outlaw public advocacy for LGBT rights. Transgender individuals, as well as those who are lesbian, gay and bisexual, face violence and persecution, some of which is government sanctioned or even condoned by the victim’s family.

There is a lot going on right now with the LGBT rights movement. What is it like being on the front lines of the fight for equality?
Nearly every day is filled with a new dramatic twist or turn. While several countries took big leaps forward last year with marriage equality and strengthening transgender rights, countries like Russia, Uganda, and Nigeria took huge steps backwards. The world is being pulled in two directions and I’m glad to be part of the momentum pulling us closer to a world where individuals aren’t denied their human rights because of who they love or who they are. One of the most rewarding aspects of my job has been meeting human rights defenders from around the world who have become the catalysts for change in their home countries.

What are you spending most of your time on in your new role?
As the LGBT community has gained ground in the U.S., our opposition has lost its momentum. Their decades-long winning streak at the ballot box ended in 2012 when we gained marriage equality in Maine, Washington, and Maryland. As such, in 2013, we started to see anti-LGBT Americans – like Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage – spending more time abroad preaching intolerance and promoting junk science. There is a growing American industry of exporting hate. And dozens of Americans and American organizations are involved in the industry. At this current moment, I’m fixated on a project to expose, combat, and counter the messages of these Americans.

What has been the most meaningful achievement in your career so far?
Being part of the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” DADT repeal was the first issue I worked on at HRC, and I became extremely close with many of the service members who lost their careers because of DADT. Many of the folks affected by DADT had spent decades serving their country only to be discharged because of who they love. The law made no sense. Repeal of the law provided the opportunity for so many in the community to heal from the experience of being told by our government that they were less than equal simply because they were gay or lesbian.

What is your pie in the sky goal for your time at the HRC?
From Cameroon to Jamaica, there are LGBT activists who are fighting to combat violence, stigma, and discrimination just because of who they are. While the laws in each country and culture may differ, these activists are working towards the goal of full inclusion and equality for fully realized LGBT lives around the world. I would like to see HRC play a pivotal role in connecting the work of activists to build a stronger, more connected global equality movement.

What advice would you have for current BHP students?
Unless you’re in the minority, you probably don’t know where you’ll be in ten years. You don’t know what opportunities will open up before you. It’s important to constantly challenge yourself to gain new skills so that you can take advantage of opportunities when they arise. If you feel comfortable in what you’re doing, it’s time to do more. I grew the most as a professional when I put myself into extremely uncomfortable situations that made me do things that I wasn’t particularly thrilled to be doing – public speaking, networking outside my usual circles, taking on monstrous writing projects, and such.