Student Spotlight: Jay Shah – Texas 4000 Rider

Junior Jay Shah is majoring in BHP, Finance and Computer Science. Much of his time this year has been devoted to being a member of the Texas 4000 team. He will be one of about 70 students to ride from Austin to Alaska this summer to raise money and awareness for cancer research. We sat down with Jay to find out more about him and his experience so far with Texas 4000. You can read more about Jay on his blog at

What have you enjoyed most about being in the BHP?

I come from a small high school, TAMS, and was used to having a close-knit community and it has been nice to have that experience again in the BHP. I transferred in my sophomore year. I really wanted to be a part of BHP and take advantage of the small class sizes and great community. BHP students are eclectic and high-caliber. It is refreshing to be around people that are so driven.

You are also a computer science major. How do your degree plans complement each other and what do you plan to do after graduation?

Both degrees challenge me in different ways and the culture of both majors is very different. I feel like I am having a very holistic experience doing both majors. In computer science, everyone is very focused just on that, but in business, there is a lot more career diversity. In computer science you are thinking very logically and technically, but it is not strategy like it is in business with the cases we work on. Computer science is almost all theory. After graduation I would like to go into consulting or tech management.

Tell me about Loku, the start-up that you are involved in?

Loku is a website and a mobile app. Their moto is helping you live local and they aim to connect people with every local aspect of their community. It was started by a BHP alumnus and I heard about them my freshman year. They reached out to me and asked me to help them with their business development. I ran the sales team for a month, helped with user acquisition strategies, helped with the PR and social media, and much more. Being at a start-up you get to wear multiple hats. I learned so much that summer – from management to sales, to marketing, and even some engineering.

What is the Texas 4000 for Cancer and why did you get involved in it?

It is a group of about 70 students who bike from Austin to Alaska to raise money and awareness for cancer. We ride for 70 days, for a total of 4,500 miles. All proceeds go to cancer research at MD Anderson, and last year they raised $350,000. The non-profit has raised around $4 million since its inception in 2004. I really wanted to do something outside of the business school and learn more about non-profits. Leadership is stressed at McCombs, but this program has helped me learn how to really connect with people and be a better leader. The people in Texas 4000 have different ways of thinking, yet we all do it for a common cause. I think the program has helped me learn how to motivate people and connect with people on an emotional level.

What is your role in it this year and what are your personal goals related to it?

I am on the program committee, so I am the program lead. We host programs in every city we stop at along the way. We share information about why we are riding, cancer statistics, and encourage people in the local community to get cancer screenings. I am in charge of that programming. I train our riders on how to connect with people when presenting and be memorable. If more people get screened earlier and donate to the cause after hearing the program, I will feel we have been successful.

Every rider is required to raise a dollar for every mile we ride ($4,500), so we have all been reaching out to our friends, families and communities. Riders in the past have raised as much as $20,000. I would love for anyone who wants to donate to the cause to help support us. No amount is too small. Every day we share stories about how cancer has affected people, so people who donate whose life was impacted by cancer can let me know and I will share that with the group. My donation site is

You have participated in multiple case competitions during your time here. Why do you enjoy doing them?

Case competitions are great because you get the chance to apply what you learn in the classroom to real life examples. It isn’t just about how strong of a solution you have, it is also about how well you can convey your ideas and how strong of a speaker you are. It is also a great creative outlet, where you can take what you learn and find new ways to apply that information to solve problems. I find it interesting to learn how companies critique ideas to help prepare for the workplace. Judges will ask certain questions that you never really thought about. It is also a great way to work with a team and learn more about your personal strengths and weaknesses.

Fun and Games at Professor O’Hara’s HBA DWAP Event

written by Rachel Solomon

On Thursday, April 11, 2013, Accounting Professor William O’Hara and his wife, Beverly, took a group of 80 BHP students to Dave & Busters for a night of food, games, and bonding. After feasting on a delicious (and unlimited!) buffet of salad, chicken, salmon, rice, and an enormous plate of desserts, we rushed over to the arcade and started competing against each other in games of trivia, Dance Dance Revolution, and much more. Professor O’Hara challenged a group of students to a game of trivia and ended the night with a round of Doodle Jump on a giant screen.

As a small thank you to Professor O’Hara, we decided to follow the trend started by last year’s DWAP (Dinner With A Professor) attendees and pool our tickets together to win a giant teddy bear, musical tie, camcorder, and several other prizes for O’Hara.

While leaving Dave & Buster’s, I overheard many of my friends talking about how much fun it was to just be a kid again. Running around in an arcade and racing cars, throwing basketballs, and beating each other in air hockey was just the escape we needed from the stress of midterms, recruiting, and securing our summer plans. On behalf of everyone who attended the DWAP, we want to thank the O’Hara’s for providing us with the opportunity to relive our childhoods, if only for a couple of hours.

McCombs Honors Convocation Recap

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.


Undergraduate Business Council Awards

George Mitchell Business Leadership Award – Jacob Spangler ’15 & Dennis Thankachan ’14

This award recognizes students who have exhibited strong leadership within the McCombs School.

Barbara Jordan Business Leadership Award – Jeffrey Stevens ’13

This award recognizes outstanding seniors who have shown great initiative, strong leadership, and outstanding motivation through their activities within the McCombs School.


Texas BBA Program Awards

Outstanding Service Award – Michelle Moon ’14 & Christopher Schulze ’13

This award recognizes students who have made a significant contribution through dedicated service to the Texas BBA Program.

Student Leadership Award – Robert Belanger ’14 & UZ Zhan ’13

This award recognizes excellence in student leadership.


McCombs BBA/MPA Alumni Advisory Board Award

Rising Star Leadership Award – Jeffrey Stevens ’13

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.

Alumni Spotlight: Susan Pettit Thomson – Class of 1999

Susan Thomson, BHP ’99, co-founded and co-produces FilmMatters, a film dialogue series that focuses on the use of film to encourage social change.  Susan spent over 12 years as a media consultant, with roles in strategy, operations, and distribution at Warner Bros., Sony Pictures, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Really Useful Group,” and the BBC before co-founding FilmMatters.



You didn’t begin your career in the entertainment industry. Why did you decide to venture into it?

It was a progression. My first job was in New York City at Lehman Bros. When I was at UT, I minored in Classics and Art History, so I decided to take an internship with a museum on the weekends. I knew I loved both art and business, and soon realized that a better merge of the two disciplines actually existed in the entertainment industry. I decided to move to Dallas to work for Arthur Andersen’s Consulting arm, and started learning about the work we did for entertainment clients. I also volunteered with a Film Festival in Dallas during my spare time, and I loved it. My mentor suggested that I move to Los Angeles and work for a studio if I really wanted a career in the entertainment industry. A connection from the Dallas Film Festival helped me get my job in LA.  After 5 years in LA at Warner Bros. and Sony Pictures, I decided I wanted to move to London and I thought consulting would be a good way to put my core skills to use and develop as a Manager.  I got a job with Deloitte Consulting with the help of a strong referral from a friend I’d met back at Arthur Andersen training 6 years before. During those years that I was in LA and then in London, I continued to do projects with the people I had met through the Dallas Film Festival.  I produced some events for them and helped bring a few films to the festival. When I moved back to the States in 2010, I started FilmMatters with one of the women I’d been working with on and off for 10 years.

Tell me more a bit more about FilmMatters.

My friend Melina McKinnon and I started FilmMatters because we just love filmmakers that are trying to change the world for the better.  For years, we had both been counseling super passionate filmmakers who often had a nearly completed film but had no clue about distribution options or how to take that film through the system and actually achieve their desired impact. Sometimes they hadn’t even defined the impact they wanted so there’s your first problem. I think the root of a lot of missteps – especially for young filmmakers – is just a lack of education.  The film industry is deliberately opaque, so that’s not surprising.

Our team decided to put together panel discussions that deal with what we call “Movies with a Mission” and stated key goals “To educate, entertain and inspire”.  We bring in people like PBS execs, TV and Film Producers and Filmmakers ranging from novice, to Oscar nominated Directors to share their experiences and offer advice.  We just had our 3rd event last week at the Dallas International Film Festival and each one just gets better.

You have had many different types of roles in your career. What skill sets do you think have been most transferable?

I think the ability to listen and dig down into the detail to find the source of problems is one of the best skills I’ve honed and put to use in a variety of situations.  A lot of times you discover that a problem is people-related instead of process-related and if you want to fix something, you have to sell the person on “the new way” and make sure they are capable of doing it.  The other obvious one is project management and people management.  Last week one of our great interns thanked me for giving him context about what his tasks, which are fairly dry, would be used for. I had great managers along the way reinforce things like that.

How did your career changes come about? Were they intentional, or were they more related to opportunities that came your way?

They were all very intentional. I thought a lot about what I wanted to do next and I always had a through line in terms of my actions and goals.  Working at a bank, I realized I would be better in consulting, learning transferable skills. I wanted to understand the business of making films, so I moved to an entertainment company. At this point I had a team working for me, but not much skill at how to manage teams. I still wanted to work in the entertainment space, but I also wanted to learn to be a better manager, so I went back to consulting in the entertainment industry. That job was always going to be for a short period as an opportunity to transition. Once I had my first child, I wanted the ability to choose my projects and be involved in the creative side of the business.  By then I had built the reputation and skill sets I needed to do just that. Each move I made was because I wanted to round out my skill sets or work in a specific industry.

Which project or job have you enjoyed the most?

Working for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Really Useful Group” was possibly my favorite role. It was so intensely British. My job there was what I know how to do best. I was the jack of all trades project manager and I diagnosed problems and fixed them. Musical theater is like nothing else; you encounter very interesting, passionate personalities. I was the middle man between creative and business types, which I really enjoyed. Andrew Lloyd Webber was producing music for Phantom of the Opera 2 in the next room, so that was really amazing, and I got free tickets to all the shows!

What advice would you offer current students?

Do something in your spare time to learn more about an industry you enjoy. When I left Arthur Andersen it was 2001 and a manager I knew told me he didn’t understand why I would leave such a secure job on a wild hair. Three months later Enron exploded, and a lot changed for everyone at that firm.  If you aren’t enjoying what you are doing, don’t stay where you are just because you think it is a sure thing, because it may not be. Nothing is anymore.  Push yourself in that first job as hard as you did when you were a student. You are never going to have less responsibility than at the beginning of your career, so it is a great time to pour your energies into work and build a solid reputation. That said, set goals for yourself outside of work and don’t lose that other part of your life. Whether it be physical goals, travel plans, learning a new language, or something else, just don’t lose the other layers that make you fulfilled and stimulate you. In every job you do, if you see your boss’s job and don’t want that for yourself, then you are probably in the wrong place. As long as you know you are only there for a short period of time, it is okay, just make sure you know your exit strategy.  One of my greatest friends in BHP, Carrie Rippstein Show, sent me an email that first year of work when I was an analyst and absolutely in the thick of what felt like complete drudgery – long hours of detailed boring work.  Of course I now realize the skills I learned on that job were very important and helpful later, but none-the-less, it was a tough time.  The email included a quote that said, “He who masters the grey every day is a hero.” I really loved that line and it got me through some long afternoons.


Three BHP Students Recognized for Outstanding Leadership

Congratulations to Jacob Spangler, Dennis Thankachan and Jeffrey Stevens for being recognized as outstanding leaders! Sophomore Jacob Spangler and junior Dennis Thankachan were both selected to receive the George Mitchell Business Leadership Award, recognizing students who have exhibited outstanding leadership within the McCombs School. Jeffrey Stevens was selected to receive the Barbara Jordan Business Leadership Award, recognizing seniors who have shown great initiative, strong leadership, and outstanding motivation through their activities within the McCombs School.

They were three of only eight McCombs students to be honored with the awards, and were selected from a pool of 51 applicants. The awards will be given during the McCombs BBA Honors Convocation on Friday, April 12, where the school annually recognizes academic, teaching and leadership excellence.