BHP Freshman Pioneers Innovative High School Tutoring Program


BHP freshman, Anisha Srivastava, started a unique mentoring program this year called Project Activate. The program is designed to bring college students and high school students together for tutoring. A group of UT freshmen including students from BHP and Plan II honors will be selected each year to pair with a group of high school freshmen at local Austin high schools. Each high school student in the program will receive one-on-one tutoring from a UT student in five subjects including: algebra, biology, English, geography and geometry.

The program officially launched on March 19 with a group of high school students that were recommended for the program by their teachers. “It’s started smaller than we hoped with nine high school students total, but I’m so happy to get started even if it is a smaller start than we hoped for,” said Anisha. “Despite the small group, it went really well. The students reacted so positively and I think we’re really going to have some great results!”

Anisha hopes her program will go beyond just tutoring, “I want to make this program different from other tutoring programs by adding a mentoring aspect,” she said. “The tutor and high school student will progress through their four years together, all the way through to graduation.” She is hopeful that the narrow age gap between tutors and students will prove effective. “We just went through this process of learning the material and we remember having to make the same connections they’re having to make right now to make the material make sense,” said Anisha. “In addition to teaching the material, the tutors are teaching them how to learn something.”

The idea behind Project Activate is to activate the potential in students. The big focus for Anisha is on activating intellectual interest, goals, career aspirations and creative thought. “The idea that you can succeed,” she said.

The idea for Project Activate stemmed from a non-profit organization Anisha co-founded with her twin brother, Arjun Srivastava who is also a Plan II Honors student studying business and pre-med. The duo started goMAD (Make A Difference) during high school in Allen, TX. This organization raised $10K in its first year for a home in India that cares for 40 HIV positive children. “Fundraising for an international cause started to feel impersonal,” said Anisha. “So, Project Activate is my way of expanding the idea of goMAD by practicing philanthropy at the local level.”

Success of the program has already spread to other school in the Ausitn Independent School District; Anisha recently met with another local high school interested in implementing the program at their school.

Looking ahead to the future of Project Activate, Anisha hopes to continue to recruit BHP and Plan II freshmen to grow the program and connect with more high school students, “MY BHP peers are some of the brightest and most passionate people I have ever met,” said Anisha. “I know that each BHP student involved in Project Activate will go above and beyond to help the high school students achieve their absolute best.”

BHP and Plan II students interested in getting involved with Project Activate should email Anisha directly to discuss the program.




Alumni Spotlight: Pegah Javidpour Taylor – Principal for KIPP CONNECT, Class of 2007

Pegah JavidpourPegah Javidpour Taylor graduated with degrees in BHP and MIS in 2007. She is now the principal for KIPP CONNECT Houston Middle School in Houston. The school will serve 108 5th grade students in Fall 2014, and will ultimately grow to serve approximately 430 students from the Sharpstown and Gulfton neighborhoods of southwest Houston. Pegah believes that all students in this world deserve an excellent education, and she has made her life’s work to try to end the injustice that is hindering this.

You started at KIPP through Teach for America right after college. Why did you decide to go to TFA?

It started with doing Business in Brazil, a McCombs study abroad program, after my freshman year. I was starting to pay attention to when I was just taking notes in class for learning and when I was actually passionate about what I was learning. One of the things we learned about in the program was education issues in low-income areas of Brazil, and how so many children didn’t have access to education after primary school. I was very interested in that topic and realized I was passionate about education and mentoring.

When I returned to McCombs, I signed up for the Bridging Disciplines Program which allowed me to combine my interest in education with my interest in business. Through the program, I was able to have internships in the education field that counted for business credits. I had a few internships, including ones with Teach For America’s Human Resource Department, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and the Dept. of Education in Washington, DC through the Archer Program. Through my internships in education policy, I realized that as much as I loved working on a level that was impacting students across the nation, what I really wanted was to work directly with children. So I joined Teach for America after I graduated college, so I could have a direct impact on kids at the classroom level.

KIPP serves students from low-income families. Tell me more about their model and what makes their schools unique?

KIPP caters to low-income families or those who do not have access to resources other more affluent families may have. The students are in school longer, which helps them catch up since they tend to come in more behind.  Research says that the discrepancies in children’s knowledge, experience, and parent-child interaction lead to children from high-income families being exposed to 30 million more words than children from low-income areas. The students also don’t always have access to extracurricular activities, so KIPP offers that during the school day. Another difference is that we have a KIPP Through College program, so our students are tracked starting in 8th grade to make sure they have the support they need to go to and through college. We are very focused on student achievement, but in a well-rounded way. We teach character in addition to academics, which is unique.

You have been with KIPP for six years now. What do you love about working for KIPP.

I love the staff. Because of our extended hours, extended school year, and unique mission, there is a special breed of teachers that are attracted to the school. They have a similar mindset. They believe that every student has the ability to learn and go to college. It is amazing to see the growth of our students over time. We work really long days, so to have that to get up to is great.

You are in your third year of the KIPP School Leadership Program. Tell me more about that.

I am a Fisher Fellow this year through the KIPP School Leadership Program. It is my third year in the program. The first year, I was in a training program for Grade Level and Department Chairs, and the second year, I was in a training program for Assistant Principals. It is a fellowship for any person nationwide starting a KIPP school. You get a year to plan when you open a new KIPP school. I traveled to about 30 schools across the nation to come up with my structures for the classes and the culture of our new Houston campus school. We also have ongoing programming to cover different topics, such as budgeting and hiring. It all started with a five-week summer institute with courses taught by experts in various fields, including business, education and sociology. There are 18 other people like me opening up KIPP schools this year, but I am the only one in Texas. This varies year-to-year based on specific growth plans of the different KIPP regions across the nation.

What has been the most meaningful accomplishment for you so far in your career?

My first year of teaching I had tremendous student achievement in my 8th grade math class. They had the highest achievement of any class in the district. One student in particular represents so much to me. She came in with very low scores and told me she was not a “math student.” In that year, I saw what was truly possible with any kid. She struggled in many ways, but she grew so much both in character and in math abilities. More importantly, she proved to herself what she can be capable of.  That is why I do this work. She reminds me that all the work I do is for students like her who don’t believe in themselves, but then show themselves they can achieve.

How do you think BHP prepared you for what you are doing now?

Having a business background has really helped me manage all the different aspects of my job. Sometimes I feel like I am running a small city. The BHP community helped me turn a huge campus at The University of Texas into a small family. I made great connections through the program. BHP also gave me a vision of what I wanted my students to be able to achieve.  BHP helps me see what amazing high school seniors need to be capable of to have a great college experience and opportunities.

What advice do you have for current BHP students?

I always followed my passion for education and kids. I suggest students do what they are passionate about and not feel like they are wasting a degree if they do not follow the traditional route.  Their business skills can be applied no matter which field they go into.  . I am so glad I have followed my heart, and it is okay to be non-conventional. You want your job to feel like something you would do if you weren’t getting paid for it. So, think about the different organizations you are involved in now and the parts of your day you choose to do.  Those parts of the day will usually show you what you would do even if you weren’t getting paid.  This way you can turn what you love doing into a career or weave it into your full-time job.

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.


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.”


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.”


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.”


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.