Program News: Interview With New BHP Director Andres Almazan

Andres Almazan

Professor Andres Almazan is the new Director of the Business Honors Program. Appointed by Dean Hartzell, Professor Almazan has taught Finance and Economics at the University of Texas at Austin for the past twenty years. As the new Director, Almazan says he is “looking forward to immersing [him]self in the BHP community and sharing very special moments in students’ lives.” Taking over the mantle from Professor Prentice, Professor Almazan demonstrates the same enthusiasm towards starting a new semester. “I feel that I will learn a ton from the students, from the rest of the BHP team, and from the undergrad McCombs community. Having a leadership role in a program like BHP is indeed a once in a lifetime opportunity. I can’t wait for the school year to start!”

Professor Almazan has historically been recognized for his great teaching by graduate schools both here at McCombs and elsewhere. When asked about the differences in teaching undergraduates and graduates, Professor Almazan highlighted compelling points about the advantages he sees in teaching undergraduates. “In both cases, my teaching style and philosophy has been very similar. I always have high expectations about my students’ performance and I think it is fair that they have high expectations about my performance in class,” says Almazan. “I want to establish clear pedagogical objectives, to develop critical thinking, and to offer the students state-of-the-art knowledge of the subject matter. With that being said, undergraduates may have a relative lack of professional experience compared to graduate students. This, however, is amply compensated for by their energy, passion, and ability to learn new ideas with very little preconceptions. Having the opportunity to teach a student relatively early in their life allows me to have a greater impact on the student’s mind.  This is particularly true with subject matter like Finance that requires students to develop new ways of thinking about problems.”

Professor Almazan also believes that the Business Honors Program is successful because of the quality of students enrolled in the program. “Our main strength is having access to a pool of students of superb talent. Our students have the potential to think and behave as the leaders that our firms and our society demand,” says Almazan. “We must do everything in our hands to enhance students’ human capital and ensure that such potential materializes. To accomplish this objective, we must keep doing the many good things that we now do in BHP without losing sight of what is happening in the business world and in society.  Our permanent and long-run challenge is to ensure that we are keeping up with our mission of making our students systematic thinkers, individuals who act with integrity and conscientious leaders.

When asked what he would like students to know about him, Professor Almazan was quick to highlight his personal investment in the well-being of students. “They should know that I care,” says Almazan. “This means that I strongly value the success of the BHP community and fully identify my success as BHP director with the success of the BHP students.  I embrace this responsibility and look forward to giving my best to accomplish what I consider as a very noble goal.”

An interesting fact about Professor Almazan is that he has a multitude of global experience. “When I arrived to the US in 1991, I could spend months without paying attention to what was happening in other parts of the globe,” says Almazan. Now with a background replete in experiences such as teaching in London, presenting at conferences in Amsterdam, Montreal, and Beijing, and being a dual Spanish-American citizen, Professor Almazan is well-aware of what students need to compete on the global stage. “Nowadays, globalization is a reality in business and in everyday life. We recruit, compete and measure our success in the global arena.  We prepare ourselves to address challenges that affect the whole world and should embrace such challenges with passion and an open mind.”

One of Professor Almazan’s major goals of his first year is to engage with students and let them know that he is here for them. “I want to be visible to the students and available as another resource to them. I want to become a familiar figure in the program,” says Almazan. How does he plan on starting? “I will meet freshmen in a kick-off event, teach all sophomores this semester, organize some town-halls for upperclassmen and ensure that all students can visit me if they wish to do so. I plan on having an open door policy in my office — to be frank, this will be the policy even after the first year.  I want to know what is going on in students’ experience in BHP and I want students themselves to talk to me about it. Of course, I will also be delighted to participate in students’ initiatives and events. In fact, I would like take this opportunity to invite the students to visit me and to ask students to invite me to their activities as well.”

Finally, Professor Almazan has a unique and ambitious long-term vision for the Business Honors Program. “Technology is playing a more crucial role every day. We can seize this opportunity to be more interdisciplinary without losing any of our current strengths. It is paramount that we keep the special character of BHP, a program that produces visionary business leaders who act with integrity.  If we do our job, we will be among the top business programs in the world, and we aspire to be second to none. Since I see no ceiling in the achievements that our students can reach, I set my expectations accordingly. I firmly believe that the sky is the limit.”