BHP Professors Use Innovative Techniques In The Classroom

We often hear from alumni and parents asking about the BHP classroom experience and what new things students are doing in the program. This semester two BHP professors tried something new with their classes. Dr. Leigh McAlister, who teaches BHP Principles of Marketing, paired BHP alumni with students in her class for a day to coach them in their area of interest. And Dr. Ethan Burris, who teaches Organizational Behavior, an upper-division management class, paired his students with MBAs in a challenge to raise money for the Make-a-Wish Foundation.

Dr. McAlister: Connecting BHP students and alumni

Vivek Shah, partner at Consortium Finance and BHP alum, speaking with students interested in investment banking

Vivek Shah, a 2003 graduate of the program and chair of the BHP Advisory Board Mentoring Committee, was happy to help when he heard Dr. McAlister was looking to bring alumni from all career paths in to talk about how marketing relates to what they do. “We on the board are looking to find ways to increase the connection between alumni and students, and to play a larger role in helping students as needed,” said Shah.

BHP alumna and CTO at Tiff’s Treats Cookie Delivery in Austin, Jocelyn Coe Seever, speaking with students interested in consulting

The class was broken down into smaller groups and matched with an alumnus who is currently working in the student’s chosen field. Each group was asked to come up with a new product idea to meet the needs of some customer segment in their business. The second task was to write a positioning statement for that new product. Groups fragmented throughout the classroom and into the Atrium. Idea generation began and students listened closely.

Shah hopes to see interactions like this continue. “As for the future, I think we could see more professors finding interest with bringing students into the classroom,” he said. “We could also have guest speaker sessions where an alum gives a relevant lecture about a topic being taught in class but bringing a real world and real time vantage point. Hopefully we have just scratched the surface here.”

Dr. Burris: Pairing BHP students with MBAs

In Dr. Burris’ management class, students competed in a Donald Trump-esque ‘Apprentice’ like challenge. Each group, consisting of BHP students and MBA students from his Power and Politics elective, was tasked with raising enough money to fund one wish for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, about $5,000, in ten days.

Dr. Burris replicated a technique used by Wharton professor, Adam Grant, author of New York Times bestseller, Give and Take. Students were able to apply influence techniques to “real-life” situations when soliciting donations for Make-A-Wish. Pairing undergraduate students with MBA students added another element to the process, “It was a two-fold debrief,” said Burris. “On the one hand influence played a part in tactics and strategies of getting donations. Secondly, group members also had to influence each other, bringing high power and low power dynamics to the surface.”

After the ten-day challenge, the final outcome of all groups combined was $136,065 in donations for Make-A-Wish Foundation. Students used various approaches ranging from low cost options such as email and Facebook to high effort options like reaching out to family and previous employers. Some groups took a “divide and conquer” approach while others worked together as a cohesive team. “The winning group had one member who interned for Google connect Make-A-Wish with Google Grants,” said Burris. “They applied and will most assuredly secure the grant, which is worth $10K per month in ad words. They prorated it for the year.”

We are always excited to see this kind of innovation happening in the classroom, and appreciate that our professors are always finding ways to challenge the students more and expose them the all of the resources available to them while they are here at McCombs. Thank you to Dr. Burris and Dr. McAlister, and to all of the alumni who gave up a full day to be with our students. Those alumni involved were Vivek Shah, Betsy Greytok, Jocelyn Coe Seever, Allison Steinberg, Craig Wielansky and Maneesh Verma.


Yum! Brands’ Liz Williams Talks Tacos with BHP Students

Written by Amy Yu, BHP sophomore

Liz Williams, Chief Financial Officer of Taco Bell USA at Yum! Brands and a BHP alumna, visited BHP sophomores in their weekly Honors Lyceum course last Wednesday. Williams shared her wisdom and even brought free Doritos Locos Tacos coupons for everyone. With an undergraduate degree and MBA in marketing, Williams admits that her path to a CFO position at Taco Bell was not typical but says the marketing background has enriched her career.

Williams grew up in Iowa but fell in love with the University of Texas at Austin while on a college visit. While working towards a Business Honors and Marketing degree, she also found time to serve as president of the Texas Panhellenic Council and as a member of Student Government. She also interned at Dell when the company was still a “smaller start-up” with only a few employees and interns. After graduating in 1998, Williams stayed in Austin to work in brand management with Dell. She found that while she enjoyed her work, she wasn’t passionate about the high tech field and left to pursue an MBA at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

After Northwestern, Williams went on to work for Boston Consulting Group. While working on different cases and projects there, she discovered a passion for consumer, retail and packaged goods. As a result, she left BCG for Yum! Brands in Dallas, where she led corporate strategy before choosing to specialize in the finance track within the company. She joined Taco Bell in 2011.

Williams said that though she has worked in several different and unrelated industries, the key to smooth transitions is to “let things pull you.” She noted that Yum! Brands pulled her into an industry she was already passionate about and she was excited to part of the team that introduced Doritos Locos Tacos and will soon be introducing Taco Bell breakfast to the public. She advised students to explore different industries and fields to discover what they love and attributed her much of her success to mentors that guided her and encouraged her to develop her potential when she was unsure of her own abilities.

The lyceum course stresses leadership and ethics, which Williams said she has had to address during her time in corporate America. She stressed the importance of “doing the right thing,”even when the correct choice may be difficult to make in the short-run. She also addressed the 2011 lawsuit against Taco Bell that claimed the chain did not use real meat in its products, saying that while the allegations were damaging and false, as a leader she treated the lawsuit and other obstacles as learning experiences.

HBA Hosts Events to Connect Students with Profs Outside of the Classroom

On Wednesday November 6, Honors Business Association students celebrated Thanksgiving early with a few “turkeys.” While no birds were consumed, fun was definitely on the menu as about 30 students gathered in the Texas Union Underground bowling alley for a PHIT (Professors Have Interests Too) with Dr. Burris and Dr. Prentice. The professors were eager to interact with students outside of the typical classroom environment, and students took full advantage of the informal networking opportunity to get to know two of the Business Honors Program’s finest professors. While some bowling balls may have ended up in the gutter, the event overall was a striking success!

Meanwhile, for one day only, FIN 357H students were able to forget about betas and the Capital Asset Pricing Model to focus on the beauty of the Texas Hill Country. At the annual Professor Hadaway DWAP (Dinner with a Professor), students were treated to a relaxing visit at the No Rules Ranch located outside of Dripping Springs. Away from the hustle and bustle of Austin, Professor Hadaway and her husband treated her students to a tour of the ranch and a wonderful meal. Due to the recent rains, students even got to see the rarest of sights – a waterfall in Texas! While it was easier for some students than others to put finance out of their heads for one day, all students agreed that the net present value of the DWAP was overwhelmingly positive.

–Written by Jace Barton, HBA Financial Chair

BHP seniors honored by Texas Parents as 2013 Outstanding Student Finalists

Michelle Moon (left) and Holland Finley (right)

Congratulations to BHP seniors Holland Finley and Michelle Moon for being honored by Texas Parents as two of the four Outstanding Student Finalists selected from the UT student body. Each year, since 1951, Texas Parents proudly selects two award recipients (one male, one female) and recognizes four award finalists who demonstrate exceptional leadership, scholarship, character and service. Holland and Michelle were presented at the November 1, 2013 Celebration of Leadership Dinner among family members and close friends and were recognized at a field presentation held during the November 2 home football game.

“It was an incredible experience, and it was so humbling to be surrounded by extraordinary achievers and givers to this University. It was a nice reminder of how much this school has given to me, and how rewarding my experience has been because of the community I have been able to find on this campus.” – Holland Finley, nominated by Randall Ford of Rec Sports and fellow student, Taylor Pousson

“Everyone was so nice and appreciative. It wasn’t so much a congratulations as a thank you. I do this because I love it. So being thanked for something I do everyday was such a rewarding experience. Unbelievable really. The fact that it was Texas parents recognizing graduating seniors created an amazing sense of family. I’m so thankful for the opportunities I’ve had at UT. It’s given me and environment where I can thrive. I feel like I should be thanking them instead of them thanking me.” – Michelle Moon, nominated by Paul Pritchett of BHP

Michelle Moon shown on the Jumbotron at the November 2 home football game

BHP senior, Helen Tau, joins Texas Women’s Basketball as a walk-on

It is a rare occurrence to experience a dream come true, which is exactly how BHP senior Helen Tau describes becoming part of the Texas Women’s Basketball roster as a walk-on this year. Helen played basketball in high school and hoped to continue the sport into her college career. She tried out for the team as a freshman, but did not make the cut. Determined to keep basketball in her life, she applied to be a basketball manager for the women’s team every year until she filled the position last year as a junior. Helen was also the only female on the men’s practice squad, a team of players that did not make the team, but still come together to enjoy the sport and scrimmage against the university teams for practice.

It was during a scrimmage that Helen’s abilities were noticed. “The first thing that we noticed right off the bat was Helen’s commitment to our program,” said Karen Aston, head coach of the women’s basketball team “When she said she was going to do something, she followed through with it. Last year she served on a volunteer basis. Her commitment level was phenomenal based on the fact that she wasn’t receiving any benefits from the volunteer work.” (as quoted on

Helen could not be more thrilled to have the opportunity, “It’s completely a dream come true, and I never would have expected this to happen.” To some it may seem that making a drastic change during senior year may throw a student off kilter, but Helen is happy to adjust, “I plan my day around eating and sleeping at the right time so that I’m ready for practice. This is a once in a lifetime chance for me so I want to make the most of it. The physical exhaustion after practice makes doing homework challenging, it’s been a complete lifestyle change, but I’m learning how to find that balance.”

As a senior BHP and Finance major, Helen is grateful for the timing of this opportunity, “I think it’s a good thing it didn’t happen earlier because it would have conflicted with recruiting. It probably would have taken over my college career and I’m happy that I had time to do other things like my internships.”

Helen will suit up for the Texas Women’s Basketball team’s first game against UTSA this Sunday, November 10 at 2pm.