Student Spotlight: Sara Hollis

Sara and BHP student Justine Taylor-Raymond with a student from the orphanage.

Written by Robert Belanger

BHP Senior, Sara Hollis, recently accepted a position with DaVita in San Francisco as an analyst covering the healthcare industry. Healthcare is a passion of hers. Over her time at UT, Sara has been very involved with a group called the Wema Children’s Centre. Wema, which means “goodness” in Swahili, is an orphanage for children with HIV/AIDS in Bukembe, Kenya that houses over 160 children. Her work has greatly impacted the center, village, and associated school.

The center began in the summer of 2010 when a Harvard student, Laura D’Asaro, began working with the Highway Academy, a school located in Bukembe, and came up with the idea of starting an orphanage to support the growing number of orphans in the community. Sara and a high school friend, along with a few other Harvard students, traveled to Bukembe during early 2011 to help support the children’s center. While the first visit was exciting, it was clear that there was much that could be done to help the village. As the first non-governmental organization (NGO) to come in contact with the village, Sara and her associates had the challenge of assisting Wema in whatever they could, trying to establish it so that it could function in the group’s absence. One of the principal goals undertaken for the first trip was an HIV/AIDS screening and prevention program. Also, the group recognized the need for a computer to stay in contact with the school and orphanage directors. Sara says, “After our first visit, we left one of our MacBook computers with them so that they could be in touch with others and request aid from organizations. Before they were just sending letters and it wasn’t working because no one knew they were legitimate. While we were there the first time, we made a website for them to establish a public image for them. We knew we wanted to found an NGO so we could do legitimate fundraising and involve other students.”

The desire to increase her and others’ involvement with and awareness of the project grew. Besides starting an on-campus organization, UT Students for Wema, Sara has partnered with other organizations to affect change in the village. “It has almost been like a part-time job since I came back after my first trip during my sophomore year. It took a while for me to figure out how to get students involved. There were about 50 other student organizations on campus doing similar things, but they were all fragmented. We teamed up with Students for Clean Water to drill a well at the orphanage last semester, and that worked really well. It ended up costing around $50,000 and we were able to raise all of that through our work with the Students for Clean Water and through a corporate donation which came through Living Water International.” Since the beginning, it has been an effort that spanned geography. Students from UT, Harvard, Penn, MIT, and USC have worked on the project. Sara has been at the center of it all, recently working to establish 501(c)(3) status for the NGO and coordinating the completion of the water well.

Besides brining the village an established source of clean drinking water, the group has pursued several initiatives. One of these has been finding resources for the school to use to improve education for its students. Over the past winter break, Sara again traveled to Bukembe, this time brining over two dozen computers as well as books to establish a library. “The first computer helped them so much with getting aid from other organizations.” After the new computer lab was completed, “the teachers and students alike were so excited to try their hand at Microsoft Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and Gmail.” Other initiatives include starting a sponsor-a-child program, improving access to medical treatment, and identifying areas of growth for the center and school.

Overall, the experience for Sara has been special. “My involvement in this and communication with them has really put my life into perspective. It makes me really appreciate the education I have and be motivated to work hard, like they do.” And the experience is not a one-way street. “We all realized how much we have to learn from them, that the experience isn’t just about what we can do for them, but also what we can learn from them.” More information about the project can be found at, and Sara’s story about one of her trips can be found at View a slideshow of photos from her recent trip here.

BHP Students Fly to Atlanta for HBA’s Annual Company Field Trip

written by Stephanie Morgan

While boarding the plane at the Austin airport, excitement exuded from the fourteen Business Honors Students about to embark on a four day trip to Atlanta.  Some studied, some slept, and some socialized, but all were looking forward to stepping onto Southeastern ground. Each year the Honors Business Association (HBA) organizes a company field trip to visit large companies in a major metro area, and this year we chose Atlanta.

After arriving, we traveled to Turner Broadcasting System headquarters in the heart of downtown Atlanta.  The people at TBS were incredibly warm as they gave us tours of their facilities.  Highlights included seeing screening rooms where both the east coast and west coast version of every station that TBS owns is airing simultaneously, meeting illustrators for Cartoon Network, and walking on the set of the NBA studios!  (We even got to sit in Charles Barkley’s and Shaquille O’Neal’s chairs, and we got to view a recording on the brand new full-court set!)  The panelists from Cartoon Network and Adult Swim showcased the many opportunities available at Turner while revealing their genuine passions for their jobs.

The next day, we arrived at the 26-story headquarters of Coca-Cola.  There, we received a tour of the facility which not only highlighted the company’s important history and recognizable brand but also revealed its culture of southern charm.  Some of our favorite parts of our visit included seeing the preserved office of Robert Woodruff (Coca-Cola’s CEO from 1923-1954), sitting in the executive board room on the top floor with fantastic views of the Atlanta skyline, and discussing what life is like at Coke with University of Texas alumni.

Afterward, we travelled to The Home Depot Support Center which, coincidentally, just felt like home.  Even though 6,000 people worked in the building, the company still had a small community feel.  Every employee we saw was wearing a Home Depot apron over their business casual—a physical reminder that customers and sales associates always come first.  We really enjoyed the panel discussion (which included a UT alum!) because it was clear how engaged the panelists were with their company and how much passion they had for The Home Depot value system.

After two long but enjoyable days, we were excited to use our free time on Saturday to explore Atlanta.  We visited the World of Coca-Cola where we tried every Coke product being sold around the world, we toured the Georgia Aquarium, the largest aquarium in the world which houses favorites like whale sharks, dolphins, otters, and beluga whales, we strolled through Centennial Olympic Park which was built for the 1996 Summer Olympics, and we watched the Atlanta Hawks battle the San Antonio Spurs at Philips Arena.

While we are all happy to be back in Austin, we all agree that CFT 2013 was an amazing experience. Tommy Pigeon, BHP and MIS junior proclaims, “My career skills were enhanced significantly by listening to the panelists and employees at all three of the companies we visited, and I also was able to develop my friendships with other BHP students whom I had never met before going on this trip.  In essence, CFT reflected the benefits of being active in HBA, reminding me why this organization truly is the most special one on campus.”

Alumni Spotlight: Neel and Bridgette Naik Make Strides in AIDS Care

BHP husband and wife duo Neel and Bridgette Naik have taken a different route from many of our grads and are making strides in the arena of AIDS care in Africa. Neel, BBA ’05, a doctor, and Bridgette, BBA, MPA ’06, an accountant, moved to Tanzania earlier this year to work for the Baylor College of Medicine International Pediatrics AIDS Initiative (BIPAI). Bridgette helps run the business side of the clinic in Tanzania, and Neel is one of the physicians there. We caught up with the two of them recently to learn more about how their work is going.

Tell me a bit more about what each of you are doing now.

Bridgette: I do some finance and accounting, as well as budgeting and grants for the clinic. I also deal with a lot of HR and management issues. Before taking this job, I worked in public accounting as an auditor for about 5 years. I was working a lot and wasn’t happy. I wanted something more fulfilling and then I found this job with BIPAI and have been there over a year now.

Neel: BIPAI sends doctors from the U.S. to clinics in Africa, so I am working for a clinic in Tanzania. I provide care for children with HIV. I also train general practitioners there to support the clinic. During my residency I completed an elective with the organization while Bridgette was searching for non-profit jobs. She found a position with the organization, which she knew about from my rotation. It was great how it worked out, because we were both able to come for our jobs.

How has it been for you being partners in life and in work?

Neel: It is nice. We’re able to have lunch together.. We drive to work together. We don’t have too much direct work interaction, but we get to see the clinic from different vantages, which is interesting.

Are you ever at odds with each other on matters regarding the clinic where the medical needs may not align with the financial and business needs?

Bridgette: Not really, but there are times when Neel can provide insight into issues I face. Patients are always asking for things, and Neel can fill me in on if they really need them and their availability. Neel is always looking for how to start new initiatives for better care, but I manage our budget and have to be mindful of operating costs and salaries.

Why were you drawn to AIDS work?

Neel: We were drawn to the opportunity to travel to a country that needs help and has a big need for medical care. It has also been interesting to learn medicine in a different setting. In the U.S. we have so much technology at our fingertips. It isn’t like that here. For example, here we only have X-rays, we don’t have CT scans. I think that has helped me grow my skills. I also see diseases I would never see in the states. It is a good cause and our work does make a difference; it gives kids access to care and medicine that can help them live a healthy life. I feel good about myself every day, since I am working towards making a difference in the AIDS epidemic.

Your resume says you work with around 700 HIV infected children. That is a staggering number. What is that like for you?

Neel: The number is closer to 1,000 now. There are 160,000 children infected with HIV in Tanzania. Of those, only 17 percent are on medications, either because they don’t know they are infected or do not have access to medications.  Also only 59 percent of mothers are receiving medications to prevent transmission to their babies. Here there is just not much access to care. We have a lot of work to do, but that is why we are here. We have a big team here with two clinics. I see about 10-15 patients a day. The patient cases are more complex and take longer, so that is why we can’t see as many patients each day. We also focus on the whole patient, not just HIV, but everything. We have a social worker and counselor. It’s tough because death is more common here and the public hospital is pretty inefficient and isn’t the level of care I am used to. I am one more doctor in a county that doesn’t have that many, which helps. I do really worry about my patients. These are very sick children.

What are the difficulties and frustrations of practicing medicine in Tanzania?

Neel: The social aspect of medicine here is dire. Many of our children live with other family members because their parents have died. Some of those caretakers are good but others are not. There isn’t child protective services here. Finances play a big role: not only does it prevent some patients from furthering their education, but it also may jeopardize their health. Sometimes parents can’t afford the medicine a child needs, or even the proper food to help them grow. This is mitigated for our patients by our clinic because it provides all its medicines for free and also provides Plumpy Nut to patients who are severely malnourished. However, if we don’t have a medication in our stock that is needed, then it is up to our personal donations. For example $350 pays for an entire chemotherapy regimen for Kaposi’s Sarcoma, but for most people here that is unaffordable. And it seems silly that a child’s cancer can’t be treated because of $350. Having said all that, with all the lows, there are also ups. We have a dedicated staff, a teen club support group, and a program called Stitch by Stitch that teaches girls from our clinic how to tailor bags and run a business. I can honestly say that we have saved the lives of dying children, which unlike shows such as ER or Grey’s Anatomy may make it seem, doesn’t happen every day. So overall for all its frustrations it is equally inspiring. With all the problems we face, at least each day we make progress and move forward.

What is daily life like for you guys now?

Bridgette: First, Tanzania is a beautiful tropical country. The Serengeti National Park is only a 2 hour drive from our house, so we’ve been able to go on a few safaris. We can see Lake Victoria from our porch and the scenery is very pretty. Driving here is crazy. There are carts, people, potholes, and motorcycles everywhere. There are about 1 million people here and there are only a couple ‘grocery stores’ with limited items from home that are very expensive. The other day we bought a bottle of syrup that was about $8, but well worth it for our pancakes. We do most of our shopping at an outdoor market and that is definitely more interesting and lively than HEB. Since there isn’t much to do in town, like there isn’t even a movie theater, we spend a lot of our free time swimming, reading, cooking, and talking to our family on Skype.

Any advice for current students or things you wish you had known?

Bridgette: You can apply the skills that you have learned in BHP in a variety of occupations. Think outside the box about how you would like to contribute to society. You probably have the skills to make your passions into a career. You never know where you will end up. Although your first job may not be the one you have forever, you will learn a lot from it.

Neel: I still remember my TA in BA 101 told our class that our future jobs should be a balance between our interests and passions, money, and life. That balance is different for everyone and you have to find what works for you. Find your balance and you’ll be happy.

BHP Student Spotlight: Robert Belanger

BHP Junior, Robert Belanger, grew up in Syracuse, NY, but found his way to Texas and loves being an Austinite and BHP student.  He is a peer advisor for the program and is very active in the UT Senate of College Councils. Belanger was just named as one of two junior recipients of the distinguished Texas Exes President’s Leadership Award, which recognizes students who have demonstrated outstanding leadership on campus.

What made you consider BHP?

I have family in Texas and had visited as a kid. When I was thinking about schools, I knew I wanted to go to a big state school that had great sports and pride that some of the smaller schools don’t have. I knew I was interested in business and Texas has a really good business program. When I visited, I absolutely loved it and knew it was the perfect fit for me.

Did you experience any culture shock when you moved here?

In general, people here are much friendlier and more laid back than where I grew up. There was a lot more pressure to do well in high school and students around me were so competitive. I appreciated the peer mentor groups and the Leadership Kickoff event because they helped me have a built-in group of friends right from the start of my freshman year. BHP professors encourage collaboration and we did a lot of team building in our peer mentor groups. That is part of why I think students in the program are so collaborative and willing to help each other succeed, which was a big change for me coming from a very competitive high school.

What are some of the more memorable experiences you have had in the BHP?

Dr. Prabhudev Konana, chairman of the Department of Information, Risk, and Operations Management, asked me to help him with a new research project. I had built a relationship with him during my MIS class and done well in his class. I worked with him and some of the best professors in the IROM department on the project. They were creating a new master’s program in business analytics and I helped with comparison research, looking at other programs like this across the country, as well the job market for grads from programs like this across the nation. Now they are taking applicants for their first class and it feels good to have been a part of making it happen.

What do you plan to do for your internship experience this summer?

Over the summer when I started thinking about internships, I narrowed it down to energy, real estate or investment banking, but ultimately settled on energy. I started going to information sessions for companies and talking to my peers and that helped me decide on energy. I have applied for several opportunities and have three interviews in January. Two are with energy-focused investment banks, and the last one is for the finance department for an energy exploration and production company. I hope that the internship experience will help me decide if energy is something I want to do full-time after graduation.

You have been pretty involved with the Senate of College Councils. Tell us more about that.

The Senate of College Councils allows me to do a lot related to curriculum and academic programs. My first year  in Senate, I was involved with looking at integrity issues and how the honor code is viewed on campus. This past year I chaired the curriculum committee. That committee has been responsible for legislation on a variety of issues including academic advising, degree programs, earning minors, and core curriculum reform. Most of what we do is through the lens of how we can help increase four-year graduation rates and improve the academic experience for students

You recently traveled to compete in a case competition, how was that?

It was my first off-campus case competition and was in Tucson, Arizona. I went with my teammate, Michelle Moon. It was a little more competitive than the ones I had done on campus. It was really interesting because we were able to meet students from across the country and even from other countries. This case competition was ethics-focused and the topic was hydraulic fracturing, which we are both interested in. We did well, but didn’t win. It was a good learning experience though.

You are a peer advisor for the BHP. What do you like about that role?

One of my favorite reasons for being a peer advisor (PA) is that I get to have a lot of interaction with other BHP students and help them. They can’t always get in with an advisor right away, but the peer advisors are always there to help them and give them advice based on our experiences. We are a resource for other students. BHP is very student-focused. We have so many student workers including PAs , peer mentors, student recruiters, and others. Students are involved in all aspects of our programming. It is fun to work with the staff and be involved in benefiting the program and students. It is a great way to have an impact on the program.

Do you have any advice for underclassmen?

When you get here, you feel like you have to know what you want to do for the rest of your life, but that is not true. Take advantage of the opportunities that are presented to you. Keep an open mind and don’t worry about knowing exactly what you want to do. Some of the best experiences for me were opportunities that came up randomly and that I took advantage of, but wasn’t necessarily looking for. It helped me figure out what I liked doing and what is important to me.