Student Spotlight: Tillar Murray

Tillar Murray cuts quite an imposing figure on a horse. With a confident, sure grip on the reins and a determined look in her eyes, Murray looks every inch the hardworking athlete she is.

Tillar says that rodeo is “the equivalent of a full-time job,” and that it is a challenge to manage her rodeo life with life as a full-time McCombs student.

“I think one of the biggest things I’ve learned in rodeo is self-discipline. Having a goal both inside and outside of school helps me stay on top of things,” she says. “It’s taught me that there are days where you have to sit down and study like crazy, and days where you’re exhausted. Through all of it though, I’ve learned that there’s so many blessings that come from hard work and I’ve learned to really love working hard and pushing myself.”

Murray recently competed in the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, where she won Round 7, and moved up from 12th in the world rankings to number six.

“The National Finals Rodeo is the Superbowl of rodeos. It’s something that I’ve dreamed about making as long as I can remember,” says Murray. “It’s so rewarding to see something that I worked so hard for all these years come true and I never really thought it would happen in college.”

Murray is currently majoring in BHP and Plan II Honors, and is considering adding a major in finance and a minor in accounting. She loves that BHP is smaller and focused on its students, classroom discussions, and interactions between peers and teachers. “I feel like it’s a place where I can really grow within McCombs, and have my own community in with a really specific network. I like how we focus on case studies and real-life business examples. We get to meet with a lot of BHP alumni and I think all of that’s really helpful to help us get into the business world and have more experience.”

Murray says one of the things she loves most about BHP is that as a group, BHP students really push each other to do their best in and out of school. “I love that everybody takes business to a whole new level by really engaging in it and helping each other out. We’re trying to excel in school not for the grade, but because we love learning. We enjoy what we’re doing in school and when everybody comes together and pushes each other to do better – it’s really hard to beat that.”

Tillar’s final words of advice are equally encouraging and pragmatic. This is clearly not her first rodeo. “You would be surprised what all you can accomplish if you work hard enough. I think people often underestimate their abilities because they don’t think that they are smart enough, or can be at the same level as another group of students. I find that that’s really not true. If you apply yourself and focus on your strong suits, while seeking advice for your weaknesses, you’d be surprised at how much you can accomplish, learn, and excel in. It doesn’t come easy, but I think students should know that they’re capable of a lot more than they think they can do.”

Top 5 Memories from the BHP Outdoor Leadership Trek

The BHP Outdoor Leadership Trek is a one-of-a-kind immersive educational experience that teaches BHP students about leadership and decision-making in the unscripted context of the wilderness. Seven BHP students, along with one BHP staff member participated in a National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) trip to Arizona in January.  Below are the top five memories from their time together as wilderness explorers!

1. Beautiful views

We hiked in the Galiuro Wildnerness of Arizona and summited near Kennedy Peak at an elevation of 7,540 feet. During our daily hikes, we encountered a variety of terrain that included dry and brushy vegetation, large rocks, exposed red soil, narrow passes, and wet forests. Naturally, some of our favorite memories were enduring a daunting uphill and turning around to see the setting sun setting over a canyon, traversing along the side of a steep mountain ridge, and sitting quietly under the stars in an open field on our very first night. We can describe it here and present pictures that may be worth a thousand words, but nothing compares to actually experiencing the significance of nature.

2. Cooking in the backcountry

Everyone raves about the food NOLS provides, which is more than just dehydrated soups and meal kits. Our rations contained raw ingredients such as flour, sugar, quinoa, couscous, dried fruits, hashbrowns, nut butter, and cheddar cheese; one pot, one pan, one cooking lid, and a spatula; and a spice kit. The spice kit is key to unlocking the magic of cooking in the backcountry because it allowed us to improvise and get creative. While we never learned how to bake cinnamon rolls or pizza on our trip, we did make a legendary quinoa soup, a tasty hashbrown breakfast with refried beans, tuna surprise, numerous quesadillas, and “tasted better than they looked” brownie and pancake scrambles.

3. Learning wilderness survival skills

Throughout our course, we learned practical outdoor skills like dressing in layers to stay warm and dry, cooking with creativity (see above), selecting appropriate campsites, pitching storm-proofed tent shelters, reading topographic maps and terrain features, and bear hanging (suspending our food bags from trees to prevent bears from getting to it). While we found some humor in doing the actions, the reality was that we needed to practice all these skills to survive for 8 days in the great outdoors. It’s easy to take certain luxuries like dorm rooms, running water, and cafeterias for granted. We truly felt empowered and ready for anything once we learned basic skills to take care of ourselves and be self-sufficient with very few resources.

4. It snowed!

Every NOLS expedition is different – we can’t predict the routes we will take, how our group will work together, or what the weather will be like. Previous NOLS participants told us about the challenges they faced, but no one could prepare us for the unique challenge of waking up to three inches of snow. We had to re-pitch tents that blew away in the middle of the night, find our buried kitchen equipment, hike and trail-find as it continued to rain and snow, and melt snow as a water source. Our snow day tested our physical and mental resolve, but it was also beautiful and fun to play in. We also learned an important lesson: Snow is the BEST toilet paper.

5. Bonding with BHPals

Here’s the funny thing about spending 8 days dealing with uncertainty with 6 other students and very little alone time: You get VERY close. We developed our own language to describe things, starting with “backcountry,” or what we had previously called the wilderness. This language evolved into euphemisms and inside jokes like “take a walk” (going to the bathroom), “spikes on the left” (watch for sharp objects), “SCAT!” (bear droppings ahead), “pothole water” (questionable drinking water), “beat the beep” (pack faster), and random squeals and squeaks (either Judy or Will tripped). It’s not easy nor fun to describe inside jokes to people on the outside, so we’ll close by encouraging you to go on a NOLS trip as soon as possible. We promise you’ll learn about leadership, engage in self-reflection, practice survival skills, and laugh until your stomach hurts.

Meet the BHP Board – Part 1: Michael Daehne, Vik Kalra, Michelle Stevens

This is our first of a few posts we will be doing dedicated to introducing you to our BHP Advisory Board. The BHP Advisory Board is comprised of around 20 alumni representing a mix of class years, occupations and locations. The mission of the board is to drive continued excellence of the BHP and development of leaders through advocacy, connection, and engagement. The board will be ambassadors for the program in their communities, support fundraising objectives, and assist with recruiting the top students in the nation to the program. Board terms are two years. We greatly appreciate the service of these alumni to BHP.

It only seems right to start this board introduction with our fearless leader – Michael Daehne. Michael is the current board chair. He graduated in 2012. While at UT, he majored in Business Honors, Corporate Finance, and Actuarial Mathematics. Michael is currently a Senior Engagement Manager at Sense Corp, a management and technology consulting firm, where he leads large-scale transformation projects for Fortune 500 clients. During his nearly six years at Sense Corp, Michael has worked on more than 30 projects across half a dozen industries, and developed expertise in the areas of business process optimization, business intelligence and analytics, and customer experience transformation. He enjoys watching Texas Football, eating Texas Barbecue, and listening to Texas Country Music (notice a theme?).

Vik Kalra is a Vice President at Platform Partners, a middle-market investment firm based in Houston. At Platform, Vik is on the Board of Directors of Beneplace and Vortex and is involved with ALM First, Firestone & Robertson Distilling and SmartSky Networks. Vik previously worked as a Vice President for Parallel Investment Partners, a middle market private equity firm in Dallas, and at Pacesetter Capital Group, a Dallas-based lower-middle market private equity firm. He graduated in 2002, having completed majors in Business Honors and Plan II Honors, and went on to earn an MBA from Harvard Business School. He has two young children, and enjoys playing fantasy football.

Michelle Stevens graduated in 2014. She met her husband, Jeff, while in BHP, and they married two years after graduating. Michelle is in the Upstream Ventures organization, supporting M&A activity for ExxonMobil. She began her career there after graduation as a financial analyst in the Development Company supporting assets in Romania and Guyana for two years. She loves to travel, volunteer and spend time with her family.

We look forward to introducing you to our board through a series of these posts. Applications for the BHP Advisory Board are accepted once a year in the Spring. If you have feedback for our current board, please reach out to our board chair, Michael Daehne.

Alumni Spolight: Nancy Lu – Fancy PR

Nancy Lu

Featured: Music Industry, PR, entrepreneurship

Meet Nancy Lu: lead storyteller of NYC-based Fancy PR, lover of music, and BHP 2009 alum. After graduating with a BHP and Marketing degree from UT, she delved into writing for magazines, coordinating events, and running point on press for up-and-coming musicians. We recently got to visit with Nancy about Fancy PR and her experience in the music industry.

You have held a host of social media, PR, and editing positions in the music industry. Can you walk me through how you got into this industry and got to where you are today?

If you’re the self-starter type, there can be low barriers to entry to the music industry. I’ve typically erred toward playing it safe when it comes to life decisions and my career was no different. I first toyed with the idea of a summer internship at a major label, but at the time, most internship openings were unpaid, and you could only apply through a company portal, as opposed to Recruit McCombs. I didn’t hear back from any of them. I took that as a sign that music wasn’t the path for me, and subsequently picked up internships at a research company, GM, and finally an advertising agency. Upon graduation, I started working for a healthcare consulting company. I thought I would love it, but ultimately the job wasn’t for me!

While working full-time as a healthcare consultant, I also maintained a music blog with a fellow BHPer, John Michael Cassetta, and found it to be a soothing outlet from the day job that I hated. I eventually started covering music at a few other places, and that transitioned into some event planning for those outlets as well. At this point, I had the “aha! moment” realization that I needed to actually give the only thing I’ve consistently cared about the old college try. So, I moved to New York. Through a friend of mine, I was able to secure a summer internship at a music publicity company. Fast forward through moonlighting as a cocktail waitress, running a pop up shop for a couple months, and working as a social media manager at a photo and illustration agency, to finally being offered the opportunity to do press in-house at an artist management company.

One big takeaway I have from my journey is that there is no one way, right way, or right time to break into the music industry. If there’s something in your life that you’re deeply passionate about, go for it! Hard work and gratitude will get you there and even if it doesn’t work out, now you know and you’ll have no regrets.

What is Fancy PR and what work are you doing there?

We’re a music publicity company that started in May 2014, based in New York City and L.A., and we handle promotions for music artists and events. As a publicist, my job is to tell the artist’s story in a compelling and meaningful way. When we are considering onboarding clients, we weigh whether or not we think that artist will have longevity in the industry, and whether we are personally passionate about their music. I am very much a believer in teamwork and in the adage that no man is an island, so it’s nice to have my partner, Nick, to bounce ideas off of, and to have another perspective.

What inspired you to jump into the deep end and start FancyPR?

I found myself in a part-time PR position barely able to pay rent. The experience and team were wonderful, but with almost no disposable income nor promise of full-time employment in the immediate future. I was looking to change my fortune.  I interviewed at a few different places but none of those opportunities panned out. After several months of interviewing and becoming more frustrated, I decided to break off on my own. It was not my first choice, but having the support of friends made it possible. I feel very fortunate that Fancy PR has been able to stay afloat for this long because it definitely takes a village! I think entrepreneurship is a beautiful thing, but only with a solid business plan in place, because like everything else, there are pros and cons. It’s important to live in the present but also be mindful of the future. Most importantly, you have to have a solid support structure of friends and family.

How do you think your BHP and Marketing degrees from UT aided you in what you are doing?

The most helpful class in BHP for me was BA 101H. It might seem like a simple thing, but writing emails is seriously an art! Accounting was also useful because knowing basic bookkeeping is so important when it comes to keeping track of finances. Business owner or not, everyone should know the golden rules of accounting!  Overall, being around people who were driven and crazy intelligent in BHP felt constantly motivating. I hope that motivation is something I’ve been able to carry through to my professional career.

What kind of activities were you involved in while at UT?

I was involved with HBA, Senate of College Councils, Mortar Board, and Orange Jackets.  HBA was the first organization I joined as a freshman and was a part of for all four years. These student organizations gave me an idea of what it’s like to work within a team structure of my peers, delegating and also handling a multitude of tasks. I also worked as fundraising coordinator at KVRX for a year, and it was an amazing outlet for me music wise at the time.