An Entrepreneurial Perspective in Lyceum from Cindy Lo

For those taking on an entrepreneurial path, Canfield BHP alum Cindy Lo is a wonderful example. Upon graduation, Lo took on roles in technical sales and consulting before founding the company she continues to run now: Red Velvet Events. 

Amidst all the business of being the CEO and Founder of an international events agency, Lo still finds time to come back to McCombs and meet with the sophomore Lyceum class each year. She said Canfield BHP funded her tuition and gave her amazing opportunities, so she loves coming back to the program and the students in it.  

“Someone else again funded my school and I always wanted to be able to do that. I feel like I’m in a place and a time in my life where I can easily give back in various ways,” Lo said. 

Lo especially hopes to encourage entrepreneurship during her visits because of the unique, go-getter nature of Canfield Business Honors students. Even if students don’t become entrepreneurs right out of college, Lo hopes that students are empowered to do so at some point in their lives.

I encourage (entrepreneurship) because of all the people I met through the (Canfield) Business Honors program, 90% of them are self motivated,” Lo said. “I guarantee you that anyone, as long as they can handle the grind, can be an entrepreneur. I hope that when students in the program hear me talk about it they see that opportunity.”

For Lo, entrepreneurship wasn’t something she saw herself doing in college. After working at a startup for a few years, 9/11 happened and she realized that there were other paths out there for her. Lo ultimately decided to pursue her passion for events and start her own company. 

“When 9/11 happened, I was actually outside of New York City. It made me wake up and realize maybe that’s not what I necessarily want to do forever and ever and life is too short,” Lo said. “At that point, the market was changing too. (The startup) where I was working changed directions. It gave me some time to rethink my path and through the help of some friends, I was pointed in the direction of events, but because no one wanted to hire me, I started this company with the intention of only running it for about a year and now we’re 17 years in.”

Lo said Canfield BHP played a large part in her life. From learning through group projects to gaining a better understanding of problems through case studies, Canfield BHP proved integral to her success. 

“Definitely the one thing that I really underestimated at the time, but now looking back, I realized a lot of this had to do with again, how (Canfield) BHP is situated and how the program structures classes around team projects,” Lo said. “Everybody has to understand how to assess the team dynamics, how do we get (the project) done in the timeline, and how do we work with everyone’s schedule. That alone has allowed me to be as effective as possible of a leader.”

Even more important than the projects, however, were the people in Lo’s class. She said being surrounded by students who were leaders on campus and self-starters made her want to be a  better version of herself.

“I was surrounded by a lot of natural achievers, and I took this for granted. I’ve learned over the years that I want to continue to surround myself with people smarter than me, so I can keep learning,” Lo said. “Canfield Business Honors allowed me to do that.” 

Shopping for careers with Brandi Joplin: What made her buy into Sam’s?

Article written by Zoya Saxena

What really goes on in the Club? Brandi Joplin, Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of Sam’s Club, visited the Canfield BHP class of 2022 during Business Lyceum to answer this burning question and share some experiences from her career path and time at Walmart. 

Joplin started out as an industrial engineering major at the University of Arkansas, but eventually made the switch to Accounting and completed her CPA. While in college, Joplin was extremely involved on campus, which remains a large reason why she feels compelled to return and talk to students. 

“I have a passion for connecting back to something that was such an instrumental part of my education,” Joplin said. 

Joplin remains a believer in keeping in touch with “the younger generation of leaders.” She said she stays involved because she sees students as the budding professionals which will one day be the driving force of companies today.

When asked how she ended up at Walmart, Joplin explained how she found her first job there through a previous connection from the University of Alabama. She encouraged students to build a strong network organically as they go through their careers and schooling.

“Relationships matter,” Joplin said. “I am a relationship person. I like to build my network before I need them. You don’t want to be in a position of need when you start building your relationships.”

Joplin went on to talk about how her experience at Walmart has been extremely fruitful. She spent time elaborating on employee dedication and the lively company spirit. Joplin said she is proud and excited to be a part of a company that closely aligns with her values.

“You need to find a company that invests in you and has a culture where you believe in their purpose,” said Joplin. “When I came to Walmart, I believed in its purpose.”

Joplin also emphasized the importance of building one’s career on experience. She stressed the value of learning from a breadth of opportunities, some of which can be acquired through rotational programs or just by being open to trying new things.

“It is important to have that hands-on experience. You always need to be in learning mode. Be willing to get your hands dirty,” said Joplin. 

 

Veronica Stidvent brings a law and policy perspective to Lyceum

For students who strive to enter education, public policy, or non-profit spaces to make a positive impact, Veronica (Ronnye) Stidvent, former Chancellor of Western Governors University (WGU) and current President of Stidvent Partners, proves that it’s possible. 

After graduating from UT Austin and earning a law degree from Yale, Stidvent served at the White House under George W. Bush for five years. She then returned to UT as the Director for Politics and Governance for the LBJ School of Public Affairs where she spearheaded the development of the department of Business, Government, and Society and founded a Hispanic leadership initiative within McCombs, Subiendo. After her time at UT, Stidvent served as Chancellor of WGU Texas and now works as President of Stidvent Partners. 

Amidst all her work, Stidvent still finds time to come speak to Canfield Business Honors students in their Business Lyceum class on an annual basis. During her visit, Stidvent outlined her career path and answered questions from Canfield Business Honors students. She said her career played out quite differently than she imagined. While she had always seen herself practicing law, opportunities came her way and she took advantage of them.

“The shifts in my career were all serendipitous. My whole life I had really planned on being a litigator – that’s what I wanted to do, but opportunities came my way, the first one, of course, being the opportunity to go work in the White House,” Stidvent said. “Suddenly I was in the policy track and not so much into a purely legal track. I’m glad I took on (these opportunities), but I couldn’t have foreseen them.”

Stidvent said she enjoys coming back to UT because of the students she gets to interact with during her visits. As a guest speaker for Business Lyceum, she values the opportunity to both provide advice to future leaders and learn from the very students she advises. 

“I really enjoy (coming to speak). The students ask such great questions and it makes me think. I walk away for several days trying to come up with more in-depth answers in my head, so it’s been really fun (to visit)” Stidvent said. “I also just like the opportunity to come back to my alma mater. I love the opportunity to talk to really smart students who are enthusiastic and engaged and ready to change the world.”

Stidvent’s advice for students who want to enter into law or policy is to learn to understand and empathize with both sides of every issue. She said to practice this while engaging with the world, whether it be through newspapers, magazines, or social media. As a student, she involved herself in Texas Orange Jackets, The Liberal Arts Council, and The Daily Texan, all of which allowed her to practice her dual approach to decision-making and argumentation. 

“I urge all students to really learn to argue both sides of any issue,” Stidvent said. “Whether it’s a business decision, whether it’s a legal issue, or whether it’s a policy issue, understanding both sides will help you reframe your thinking. It will help you sharpen your own argument and it will help you understand the other side.” 

Student Spotlight: Rahul Das

Name: Rahul Das

Major: Canfield BHP, Plan II Honors, Marketing 

Previous internship: Southwest Airlines

Topics of Interest: Social entrepreneurship, adoption studies, design thinking, soccer, IM volleyball, sharks

 

For students who want to pursue non-profit work while in college, Rahul Das proves it’s possible. As someone passionate about education and entrepreneurship, Rahul spends the majority of his time working as Chief Operating Officer of a student-led non-profit, The Exponentialists. 

The mission of The Exponentialists is to empower students in underserved communities through entrepreneurship. Rahul and the rest of the team spend their time mentoring students at  Eastside High School to help them start their own small businesses. 

“We teach them about important business and entrepreneurial concepts. By the end of the year, (the students) have fully developed business ideas,” Rahul said. “Then they have the opportunity to pitch (their idea) to a panel of Austin entrepreneurs and investors to win seed funding for their idea or an invitation into our incubator program.” 

In addition to working in the Austin community, Rahul has gone abroad to fulfill The Exponentialists’ mission. This past summer he went to Medellin, Colombia to run an entrepreneurship camp called Los Exponencialistas. 

“We ran a week long camp to 56 students who come from rural areas who wouldn’t know the tools otherwise without our help,” Rahul said, “We’re planning on going back to Medellin in the winter to do another camp. We’re trying to reach out to Mexico City and have something lined up there as well.”

In addition to working with The Exponentialists, Rahul is a student-leader in the University Management Business Research Association (UMBRA), an organization that consults pro-bono for local Austin businesses, and a bedtime reader for Helping Hand Home, a home for mentally-abused or neglected children. 

Rahul said he’s incredibly grateful for the opportunity to act on his love for non-profit organizations throughout college. He said Canfield BHP has helped him follow his passions and encouraged him to become a better person throughout.

“(The classes) force me to learn how to be independent and think critically and foster analytical thinking skills,” Rahul said. “Also, the community within Canfield BHP, whether it’s the alum or the current students, push me to be a better version of myself.”

Alumni Spotlight: Aaryaman Singhal

 

Aaryaman Singhal HeadshotBy far one of the greatest things you can do for your community is to give back. Canfield BHP Alum Aaryaman Singhal has decided to do just that. We caught up with him recently to discuss his time as the Chief Operations Officer at Groundwork Dallas, a nonprofit dedicated to improving the natural surroundings of Dallas and beyond. Aaryaman also walks us through projects that have been keeping him occupied since graduating and explains what he enjoys most about his job as COO.

Tell us about Groundwork Dallas’ story and what interested you in the position?

Groundwork Dallas is an environmental nonprofit that focuses on two types of programs.  One is restoring green spaces in Dallas; that means removing litter from the environment, building trails so that people can access wilderness areas, and installing benches, picnic tables, wide-viewing platforms, and bridges so that people can enjoy the spaces with family or friends. Groundwork Dallas also runs a wonderful youth program primarily for students who are underrepresented in the outdoors. Their families might not have the means to buy equipment or take camping trips. The program allows them to go canoeing, camping, and mountain bike riding – all for free. They also receive environmental education, volunteer opportunities, and environmental job training. Through these experiences, they also benefit just from being outside, which research shows, provides physical and mental health benefits.

I found Groundwork Dallas as a volunteer while working at Southwest Airlines. I volunteered regularly for a year, served on the board for a year, and have now been on staff as Chief Operating Officer for a year. Because we’re a small nonprofit, I have received many opportunities for growth here. With my business background, I try to manage as many office tasks as possible so our team can focus more on the fieldwork. For me, I felt it was a great opportunity to use and develop the skills I developed during my time at Southwest. Here, I do finance, accounting, strategy, marketing, sales, operations, and technology. There’s never a dull moment.

Take us through a day in your shoes as COO at Groundwork Dallas.

There is no “typical day” in my job. Just looking at a random day on my calendar, last Tuesday, we hosted 110 students from a local high school at one of our cleanup sites. I helped load trucks and set everything up for the day.  Some students picked up trash in our canoes, others helped move debris from flood events that occurred over the last couple of months. Halfway through that, I stepped away to meet with my city council member. I’ve been working on building a relationship with him and letting him know a little bit more about our organization so we can improve our city together. Later, I came back to the cleanup site and finished out the day there.

My days range from hosting cleanups to facilitating board meetings. Anything outside of our direct programs to building trails or work with our youth directly tends to fall into my lap – and even those do sometimes.

What do you enjoy most about working at Groundwork Dallas?

One is that I regularly get to go outside for my job. Last week, there were two different days where we were working on building relationships with different groups of funders and partners, and I got to take them paddling down the fork of the Trinity River. Getting to canoe, camp, or volunteer outside for work is incredible.

Secondly, the sheer variety of tasks that I work on at Groundwork Dallas is exhilarating. There’s always a new challenge. I’m always learning something new. I don’t think that I would have been able to get that type of hands-on learning in any organization that was larger than 12 or 15 people. It’s only been a year so there’s so much more to learn still – and it’s really exciting.

Tell us about a project you’re currently working on and what you plan to achieve.

When I arrived at Groundwork Dallas, we tracked all of our expenses in a way that combined GL accounts,  grant-specific expenses, and project-related expenses into one hierarchy. In reality, this metadata is all different and independent. I worked with our accountant to define all of our grants and types of expenses we have, such as office supplies, tools, and machinery costs. Then, we identified every program that we run, every grant we have, and the spending restrictions on each grant. After implementing some new financial tracking tools and processes, we can track each transaction to all appropriate spending categories.

A big project for Groundwork Dallas is the Frasier Dam Recreation Area. It’s 115 acres of wilderness in West Dallas, which is an industrial and more neglected part of the city. After many years of cleanups and partnering with the City of Dallas, the recreation area is now open to the public.  We’re working to build more trails and install more picnic areas there now.

How do you think your time at CBHP aided your success at Groundwork Dallas?

Two ways. First, education in all aspects of the business (marketing, finance, law, org behavior, technology, etc.) is critical for me in my role. I have a major role in all of these verticals of our organization. The second way and more important way is that in MIS301H I learned how to figure stuff out when I am lost. While having some background in many aspects of business is great, I mostly figure stuff out on the fly like I had to in 301H.

What can the community do to help Groundwork Dallas in its mission to regenerate, sustain, and improve the Dallas Elm Fork Greenbelt and Great Trinity Forest?

Volunteer – bring your office or community group. We love hosting groups of all sizes, 10-200. Email us at volunteer@groundworkdallas.org to learn more.

Partake – come enjoy the spaces we have developed in Dallas (Hines Park and Frasier Dam Recreation Area) and/or tell others about them.

Do you have any advice for current Canfield BHP students?

I almost dropped the program on a few occasions because I didn’t always feel like I fit in. I am so glad I stuck it out for the background knowledge which makes me more effective in the field of my choice today. There are lots of Canfield BHP students who don’t go the consulting/banking route. Follow your passion because your day to day job is too much of your daily life after graduation to be doing something you don’t deeply care about.

Groundwork Dallas believes that everyone deserves a green, healthy, and resilient environment. Be a part of the wonderful work Aaryaman and the amazing people at Groundwork Dallas are doing for their community. If you have a passion for the great outdoors and would like to help keep Dallas Elm Fork greenbelt clean visit groundworkdallas.org or email Aaryaman at Aaryaman@groundworkdallas.org.