Spotlight: Omar Ochoa, Former UT Student Body President & Canfield BHP Alum

After coming to UT as a Canfield Business Honors student and becoming the first Mexican-American student to serve as student body president, Omar Ochoa continues to make waves as an alumnus by running his own law firm in his hometown of Edinburg, Texas. 

Omar graduated from UT Austin in 2007 with a Canfield Business Honors undergraduate degree and a Master’s in Professional Accounting (MPA). He later earned his JD from the UT School of Law, where he became the first Latino to serve as Editor-in-Chief of Texas Law Review. Looking back on his experiences at UT, Omar considers his time priceless.

“I always say that some of my fondest memories are from UT,” he said. “The campus life is second to none, the city of Austin is such a great place to be, and the university an enclave within Austin that’s very culturally diverse. Having such a big research university with a great athletic program, great student involvement, and lots of organizations to be a part of is just a very dynamic place where you can really learn who you are and find yourself.”

While serving as the UT student body president in 2005 and 2006, Omar spearheaded a campaign to add another space on campus for students to convene. 

“At the time the student union was the only student space on campus and there really wasn’t a whole lot of spaces for students to build community,” he said, “So we organized a campaign to convince students that (adding a student space) was something that needed to be done and, luckily, they voted for it. Then came the student activity center.”

After earning his undergraduate degree, Omar went on to work for General Motors. He knew, however, that he wanted to be a lawyer, and came back to the forty acres a year later to earn his JD. 

“I had an internship with the general motors in Detroit, Michigan, and it was one of those internships ships that I took on not necessarily because I was looking for a longterm career with General Motors, but it was a great option that came up and I decided to try it out,” he said. “In the process of doing that job I got to know a lot of people there at GM and they offered me a full-time job upon graduation. So, I deferred my admission to UT Law for a year so that I could go work for General Motors. I did that with the idea that maybe I’d forego a legal career in favor of an accounting career and it was a really great job, but I knew I wasn’t going to get rid of the law school bug and that I would regret it if I didn’t go back, so I did and I loved UT Law.”

Omar said his business background from Canfield Business Honors helped him greatly when it came to law school and while practicing. 

“Every time I take on a new corporate client or every time I start a lawsuit where we’re suing a corporate entity, I have to learn all about that business, backward and forwards, financial statements, operations, you name it,” he said. “Being able to have a deep level of business understanding helps me to develop a good strategy for what I’m doing and ultimately serve my client. If I didn’t have that very solid business background from (Canfield) BHP I would not be as good of a lawyer as I am today.”

After law school, Omar went on to work for federal judges and at law firms in various cities, including Kentucky, Dallas, and Houston. Eventually, he found his way back home to the Rio Grande Valley, where he now runs his own practice with offices in Edinburg and McAllen. 

“I have a very special connection to the Rio Grande Valley. I was born and raised here, public school, right. All along the way. My family was very civically involved (growing up) and (they) are still down here,” he said.” I love the Valley and it is a very kind of deep part of my personality and it always has been. So I knew I would make it back here at some point in my career. I just didn’t know when or how.”

Professor Spotlight: Dr. Shefali Patil (MAN 336H)

For both online and in-person classes, Dr. Shefali Patil takes the Canfield Business Honors management curriculum to the next level. Dr. Patil teaches Organizational Behavior (MAN 336H) where she employs her research on decision making and operating in high-risk environments. Her passion for research stemmed from her own honors program at NYU Stern, where she pursued research in her senior year.

After graduating from Stern, Dr. Patil earned her PhD at Wharton at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Patil said she wanted to continue her work at a research-driven university. 

“I wanted to start off my junior faculty years at a very strong research-based institution,” she said. “UT was definitely on my list and, luckily for me, they offered me a job.”

Throughout her six years at UT, Dr. Patil has examined various behavioral questions by working with over 15 U.S. law enforcement agencies, the U.S. Army, and emergency medical rescue/healthcare organizations. For the past three years, she has been a professor for Canfield BHP. While introductory management courses are often critiqued for being overly theory-driven, Dr. Patil goes above and beyond in her curriculum development.

“I’ve designed my entire course mostly on cognition and thinking skills and I challenge them to see always the opposite viewpoint– to see both angles and complexify the problem,” she said. (The class) is very much geared towards practicality, whereas I think a lot of research-based professors stick more to research in theory. For me, I just feel that undergrads are going onto different career paths, not necessarily research, so (pure research) is not what they need right now.” 

Dr. Patil said that she often implements significant group work and in-class activities to accomplish this application-based learning. As such, one would imagine that the recent pandemic would complicate things for her. Not one to be discouraged, Dr. Patil has actually used the pandemic to enhance her class. 

“I was actually pleasantly surprised because Zoom has amazing capabilities, especially it’s breakout groups. I have centralized my sheets and activities for students to download and then I’ve pre-assigned their breakout groups for (Zoom) classes,” she said. “Despite (everything) that’s going on with coronavirus, the exciting part is that students are relating everything that I’ve taught them in class to what’s going on in the real world.”

Five Ways to Prioritize Mental Health During Finals Season

Most students would agree that the end of a semester is a particularly hard time. Between last-minute assignments, final exams, and group project deadlines, it’s hard to stay sane, especially when coupled with quarantine. However, summer is just around the corner, and many Canfield BHP students have found ways to prioritize their mental health and stay motivated during finals season. Try out a few (or all!) of these tips and tricks to make the last couple weeks of school just a bit easier to manage.

1. Set a Schedule for Yourself
Many students have found that, because of quarantine, their routines and schedules have flown out the window. Now, more than ever, it’s difficult to focus on schoolwork and maintain the study habits that might be present while on campus. Canfield BHP junior Will Acheampong has found that structuring his days to be more like campus-life

“I know for myself it’s been tough to stay focused and on top of my work just because I’m at home with my parents and there are so many opportunities to not stay focused and really put in my best effort,” Will said. “I’ve been trying to structure my days in that I have certain hours I block off for classes and schoolwork and then other hours I have to do whatever I need to do for myself personally. By (doing this) I’ve been able to structure my life as I would if I had been at school.”

2. Prioritize Your Health and Wellness
This goes hand-in-hand with setting a schedule for yourself. Good nutrition and exercise habits are crucial for health, especially in times when the immune system might need to fight something. Canfield BHP junior Katelyn Anderson said a regular eating and exercise schedule has helped her manage life in quarantine.

“When this whole thing first started (during extended Spring Break), I kind of treated it as a big vacation.. there was no normalcy, no schedule,” she said. “I try to exercise and eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the times where those should be eaten to make each day seem similar to the schedule that I had back when I was on campus.”

3. Know When To Take a Break
Finals season is about more than taking exams. It’s also about taking care of yourself– be sure to take some time to yourself and continue to do the things that make you happiest. Canfield BHP freshman Rajit Garg says he’s been staying motivated by making sure he finds time to do things that make him happy as well.

“I try and stay motivated in a few different ways,” he said, “The first one is just by producing music, one of my biggest hobbies. (Music is) something I know I can rely on to take me away from school and work and stuff like that.”

Rajit says he also has been going on runs and spending extra time with his family when he’s feeling stressed. Doing these little things has helped him focus on schoolwork when he needs to, so he doesn’t feel overwhelmed. After all, study breaks are just as important as the grind.

4. Phone a Few Friends
While we might not be able to hang out on campus anymore, it only takes a second to scroll through your contacts and find a few friends to chat with during a much-needed study break. Canfield BHP sophomore Eri Adepoju said she tries to call a few friends a day, so she can keep up with them. She considers connecting with friends just as important as maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

“The transition to having classes online has not been easy for me, but I have been making sure to keep my physical, mental, and emotional health as a priority,” she said. “I make sure I eat three times a day, exercise or dance or move around at least once a day, and text or call my friends at least once a day, just so I’m not isolated.”

5. Take a Minute to Reflect
Of course, these tips might not be for everybody– every student is different, so it’s important to self-reflect and think about what might motivate you personally. Kisara Dang, a Canfield BHP freshman, said her self reflection has helped her manage the feeling of being cooped up at home. For Kisara, she found that using her Google Calendar and running have been the two best ways to stay motivated.

“I’ve been reflecting a lot on what motivates me personally,” she said. “I know if I schedule something in my Google Calendar I’m more likely to get it done, so I’ve been scheduling both work and workouts in my calendar… Running has been really helpful for my mental health. It’s been an escape for me to be able to run instead of sitting inside all day.”

Whether it’s using the G-Cal, going for a quick jog, chatting with a friend, or grabbing a bite to eat between assignments, remember to prioritize your mental health during this time of year and reflect on what motivates you to get through it all. Although it may feel like it, finals won’t last forever!

A Big Thank You!

If you haven’t already noticed, Canfield BHP’s social media presence has been refreshed and updated constantly. We’ve made an effort to provide our students, parents, alumni, and readership the best and most engaging content possible. To accomplish this, we often source fresh ideas from you, our students! However, many times we brainstorm and generate content as a team. By we, I mean the Canfield BHP Student Marketing Team.

Madison Mohns Headshot

Canfield BHP Senior and Social Media Assistant, Madison Mohns

Although we’ve been at it for what feels like a very long time, it’s only been a year since I came along and started working with this incredible team of creative and ingenious people. But the person who kick-started this effort deserves all the praise in the world. That person is, of course, Madison Mohns. She’s a senior this year and will be graduating this month.

I speak for the rest of the staff when I say that Madison has been an amazing Social Media Assistant. The work and effort she has put into making our online presence what it is today has been incredible. It’s her proactive and creative ideas that keep our audience wanting more and engaging with us always. During Madison’s time here we’ve seen our presence increase dramatically. Through her efforts, Madison helped us achieve our goal of over 1000 followers on Instagram before the end of her tenure with us, an achievement we’re very proud of. Madison has been a big part of the team from the very beginning and though we’re sad to see her leave, we know she’ll do great no matter where she goes! 

As Canfield BHP Staff Director Shelley Nix put it, “Madison has been an integral part of building the Canfield BHP social media presence and she has taken it to a new level with her fresh and innovative ideas. I am so grateful for her contributions to the program and the Canfield BHP team.” 

Canfield BHP Director of Academic Services, Paul Pritchett, who has known Madison since the day she started on the Student Marketing Team, had this to say, “I remember when Madison was hired by our office as a freshman in the spring of 2017 to lead our social media team and be a peer advisor. We didn’t have an Instagram account and our overall social media presence needed quite a bit of work. Madison quickly jumped in and made a huge impact in our office, on social media, and of course in our program. Madison has been instrumental in helping Canfield BHP increase our out-of-state reach. Madison’s creativity, hard work, and passion for helping current and prospective students have helped to shape Canfield BHP into one of the top programs in the nation. I had the unique pleasure of being Madison’s supervisor, co-worker, advisor, and friend. I can’t thank her enough and I look forward to seeing what the future holds for her!” 

We can’t thank Madison enough for all that she has done for the program and our social media. We wish her the very best in all of her future endeavors but we know she will go on to do some amazing things. Any place would be lucky to have her. Thank you, Madison! We wish you all the best and more! 


Student Spotlight: Katherine Z. Chen

Katherine Chen Headshot

Katherine Z. Chen

Katherine Z. Chen

Class: Junior

Topics of Interest: Finance, Impact Investing, Entrepreneurship, International Development, Non-governmental Organizations

Studied Abroad: In Spain, 2020 Spring Semester  

One of the best ways to make society better as a whole is by giving back. Gandhi once said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” Therefore, it makes sense that finance and community service would find synergy in non-governmental organizations like ‘Caritas Madrid,’ where fellow Canfield BHPeer Katherine Chen volunteered her time to help refugees in need during her time studying abroad in Spain. 

We caught up with Katherine recently and heard about her interests in finance and impact investing, working with NGOs around the world, and how that has shaped her worldview.  

Why Finance?  

To be honest, I wasn’t sure what major I wanted to pursue coming into college. I decided to choose finance because it seemed like a major that would be difficult to learn on my own. Over time, I’ve found an interest in impact investing and using finance as a means to help traditionally underserved communities.   

The field that I’m most passionate about right now is international development. This is where I see the greatest intersection between business and social impact but on a global scale. The summer before junior year, I interned at an international development organization called the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs, which is a program of the Aspen Institute in Washington, D.C. As an intern, I worked with various NGOs, institutions, and foundations to figure out how to support local entrepreneurs in developing countries. Much of my time was spent researching how financial inclusion can help spur economic growth, and I felt like this was an area where I could continue to utilize my skills and channel my passion.  

I also spent my first year of college volunteering at a nonprofit called Manos de Cristo, where I taught fifteen low-income, Spanish-speaking adults fundamental computer skills. Many of these students were able to use these skills to build resumes and find jobs online, and three of them ended up securing jobs in Austin. It was very rewarding and by far one of the most memorable aspects of the job. Working directly with communities is something I want to continue to do in the future.  

Katherine posing in front of a castle in MadridTell us about your Study Abroad experience in Madrid.  

This spring semester, I studied abroad in Madrid at Universidad Pontificia Comillas. I took three business classes and one Spanish class at the local university. One of my favorite classes was my international finance class because it was interesting to learn about the global economy from the perspective of the Eurozone, rather than the U.S. We had a lot of interesting discussions about current events, such as Brexit, the 2020 World Economic Forum in Davos, and towards the end of the semester, the impact of coronavirus on the global economy. Through these classes, I learned how interconnected and interdependent the world really is. On a personal level, my business courses were very impactful because I want to work internationally in the future, and it was helpful to learn from professors who have had careers all over the world.  

During my time in Madrid, I volunteered at a local NGO called ‘Caritas Madrid’ that supports refugees coming into Spain. I also volunteered with a group of students at my local university to teach Spanish to refugees through a program called ‘Proyecto Hospitalidad’. It was such a cool experience, especially since there has been a major influx of migrants and refugees from the Middle East, Latin America, and Africa into Spain in recent years. Although my time was cut short there, I’ve thankfully been able to continue the research project that I had started in Madrid, which focuses on the ethics and transparency of refugee-related NGOs. It’s been great being able to continue that work back at home.  

The best part of studying abroad is by far the people. I had five roommates — three from the United States, one from Switzerland, and one from Spain — who quickly became my family. I also made friends with other U.S. and international students, for instance, one from Morocco who I still keep in touch with today. We’ve all promised to visit each other and return one day, especially since things ended so soon.

Katherine rides a camelWhat interests you about working with global NGOs?  

I think I’m privileged to have the type of education that Canfield BHP offers. A lot of people around the world don’t have access to the same quality of education, experiences, or opportunities to make an impact in their own way. On a personal level, I want to extend my resources to people who need it. And on a cultural level, I want to learn from people who come from backgrounds that are vastly different than mine, yet still play a unique role in our global community. It’s challenged my assumptions, for sure.

What is your advice to students interested in a similar path?

My path has been a bit more non-traditional, which comes to show that one of the greatest things about Canfield BHP is that it’s so flexible. There are so many ways to broaden your education outside of the business school, especially through minors or certificates in other colleges at UT. There are also so many unique opportunities outside of the classroom to explore other interests, such as doing a more non-traditional internship or volunteering in the community. I think by pursuing your individual passions alongside business, you’re able to find fulfillment in your own way. Plus, we can all benefit from a more diverse community.

I would also encourage everyone to study abroad, if possible. Studying abroad has definitely been the most fulfilling experience of my college career.