Student Spotlight: Kobi Naseck

Senior Kobi Naseck

Kobi Naseck will graduate this spring from Business Honors, Plan II Honors, and the Business & Public Policy Certificate Program. He is the president of the BEEVO Beekeeping Society. The organization, which was started in 2015 as a class project by three students, has now expanded in scope and has been successful in securing land on campus for beekeeping. Naseck and the group have been working to make the UT campus a more pollinator friendly space and decrease the stigma around bees and beekeeping in an urban environment.

Naseck discovered his passion for beekeeping during his freshman year. After graduation, Naseck will be headed to Green Corps, a one-year program that trains environmental organizers and places them on campaigns in different communities nationwide.  “I’ve always been environmentally-oriented,” says Naseck. “One of my really good friends from my freshman year was one of the founders of the beekeeping society, and she asked me to help. At first it was help writing petitions for grants, or helping at the site, and it turned into me becoming a part of it.”

Now the president of the organization, Naseck is working towards a bigger goal. “We’re working to get UT certified as a pollinator-friendly campus. It’s an actual certification by an organization called Bee Campus USA. We’ve adopted their framework as part of our activities. It’s things like having more native plants on campus and having workshops to educate people. We also have a committee of faculty that talk about how to make UT a pollinator home by using less pesticides or less toxic pesticides. Essentially, it means that there’s a little more aesthetic beauty to campus. Native plants are a little prettier and there’s a lot of hedge space at UT, so it’s nice to have flowers too. If UT does complete this, we’d be the biggest campus to have this certification.”

The BEEVO Beekeeping Society also sells the fresh honey collected from the bees they keep. “The money we receive from honey sales pays for the extractors, which is the centrifuge we spin the honey out of, as well as the filter, buckets, gear we need, and landscaping. We have weekly hive checks where you can get your hands dirty, put on the suit, and interact with the bees. We’ve had over 250 people in UT community do hive checks, which they might not have done in their lives otherwise. In the process they learn a lot about bees and how we care for them, how it’s not as hard as they might think, and that there’s a space for bees and other pollinators to coexist on campus.”

His advice for students looking to branch out by exploring their interests is to take chances. “Don’t be afraid to cold-email someone or reach out. The beekeeping society has students of all different majors, and that’s one of the reasons why I like it so much. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people, especially because I think a lot of the organizations on campus are no-experience-needed, and there’s a place for you.”

Naseck believes that it is always worth it to pursue your passions. “The BEEVO Beekeeping Society brings together students, faculty, graduate students, UT staff and administrators, and landscapers. It’s a very interdisciplinary and diverse committee, and it’s one-of-a-kind. Don’t be afraid to let something surprise you,” says Naseck. “It may be something you didn’t know you could be passionate about. I never once in my life before thought I would spend so much time enjoying beekeeping. The most rewarding part of it has been meeting other students and creating relationships outside of who I see every day. I’ve learned just as much from them as I have from the bees.”

After completing the training program with Green Corps, the organization will help place him in a full-time position with an organization with an environmentally friendly mission.


Student Spotlight: Abhishek Ramchandani

Abhi RamchandaniBHP senior Abhishek Ramchandani always knew he wanted to teach. After graduating, he will be pursuing a PhD in Accounting at the University of Texas at Austin. “The reason I first got into research was because I knew that I liked teaching. I looked at what would get me a teaching job. The answer was a PhD, and PhDs do research. So I realized that in order to start teaching, I would need to start doing research.”

Over the past four years, Ramchandani has indeed amassed a wealth of research experience across the fields of sociology, finance, MIS, and strategy. “As I started delving deeper, I realized that research is incredibly important. This connection is a little hard to see in business. Cancer research makes sense because cancer is a daily problem that people have, and we want to cure it. With accounting research, you have to wonder how it really changes the world,” says Ramchandani. “Yet, the real reason accounting research is important is because it redraws those lines that our economic society works on. We hold comments and beliefs that society is supposed to interact a certain way, that the economy is going to work a certain way, and that accounting information comes out a certain way. Research helps us look at how people are doing with the current state the world is in, and it tells us what is effective. We can redraw those boundaries. I have always thought research is really cool because you are extending the boundaries of what humanity knows and helping people lead better lives, even though it might not be super tangible.”

For students who may be interested in research, Ramchandani recommends reaching out to faculty, and going for it. “Freshman year, when I first started, I was looking to get into a finance project. I applied and didn’t get the position. I was very crestfallen. At the time, I was also in my sociology class for the core requirements. One day after class, I went up to my professor and told her I thought she was doing some really cool stuff, and then I asked if she would take me on. That’s all it took. We went to her office, talked for a while, and she told me that I had the necessary math skills but that my coding wasn’t up to par. So she gave me the resources I needed to learn.”

Through his experience as a research assistant, Ramchandani can attest that help is never far away. “Professors are so willing to help if you ask them. It’s important, however, to read their research – don’t just reach out to someone because they’re hiring. If you like their research and can talk meaningfully about it, professors will love it. I made sure that whoever I was reaching out to, I was reading their research and really, truly enjoyed it. You need to know what you’re talking about. If you come on for a year-long project and don’t think what they’re doing is interesting, you probably aren’t going to apply yourself to the work.”

Ramchandani has also honed several important skills through his time in research. “I wrote a case for Professor Hannah and he gave it back with a thousand edits. I rewrote it so many times. I learned how to write better, and more academically. Now when I am writing case reports or audit documents, I know how to write just the right amount to get all the information across but not lose the reader to boredom.” Another skill he learned was how to critically reason. “Research definitely helps you make connections between areas,” says Ramchandani. “I’ve learned to parse statements which are complex but perhaps logically flawed. Sometimes logical fallacies can be said in a way where you believe them simply because of the way they are said.” He believes the best skill he developed though is the ability to tell a story. “Research can be a particularly drab story. It’s a lot of data and numbers, and nobody’s going to delve into your numbers and models unless you can tell them why they should care about it. When I was working with these top-level researchers at McCombs, what I learned from them was how to be infectious with my passion.”

Ramchandani will be continuing his passion for research and teaching McCombs as a PhD student, but he is grateful for his years in BHP, and the skills he learned in the program, which he was able to apply to his research as an undergraduate.

Alumni Spotlight: Michelle Lin – Vice President of eCommerce and Marketing, Bastide

Michelle Lin

Featured: Beauty/Fashion, Marketing, Entrepreneurship

Michelle Lin is the Vice President of eCommerce and Marketing for Bastide, a French beauty start-up. Previous to starting Bastide, Michelle built her marketing expertise at Procter & Gamble. She graduated from BHP in 2009 with degrees in Finance and English, and went on to earn her M.B.A at the Duke Fuqua School of Business, with a focus in strategy and entrepreneurship. We recently caught up with Michelle to learn about Bastide and the beauty industry.

Bastide is a very unique brand. Can you tell me more about it, and how you became involved?

Bastide is a beauty startup from the South of France – we have a collection of natural beauty products all made by different artisans in Provence. I’m actually the only non-French employee. We have been building the company for more than two years and launched into the US and France a year ago. The company is owned by Frédéric Fekkai, who made his fame from Fekkai haircare, which was later sold to P&G, where Frédéric and I met. It was a great learning experience at P&G to learn the fundamentals of brand building, but I wanted to work on building smaller brands and touch more parts of the business. After Fekkai,  Frédéric came to me with the idea of starting a new company – Bastide. Even though my title is Vice President of eCommerce, we are a true scrappy start-up team, so we all wear multiple hats.  I cover everything from product development, to branding, to setting up our pop-up shop. It’s very all-hands-on-deck and exactly what I wanted.

Now that our team’s a little bigger, what I focus on is how to become a great direct-to-consumer brand. Because we are a French brand, it’s very different trying to navigate our way in the e-commerce space. There’s a lot of very cool, trendy e-commerce brands from the U.S. and they have very American practices. We are learning to merge our French style with American best practices. I am spending a lot more of my time on how we articulate our brand positioning in both markets, especially as it relates to social media.

What is it like to work in marketing in the beauty and luxury beauty industry?

Marketing in the beauty industry is often quite unique because in many of the big companies, like L’Oreal, Estee Lauder, Coty, and P&G, the marketing function is the lead function, not a support function. Marketers are responsible for leading the team, delivering the product, and delivering business results.

The way I would describe the job is in thirds. One-third of it is really sexy stuff that people associate with marketing  – dealing with ad agencies, influencers, editors, photoshoots, and events. Another third of it is project management, which is almost like the complete opposite. It’s defining the product, negotiating with multifunctional partners, getting research and development to work faster, and making the supply chain better. The last third of the job is P&L management like knowing your sales, your margins, and your cost structure. Overall, a third of it is the really creative side of it and two-thirds of it is business management.  

Was it always your goal to work in the beauty industry?

At McCombs, I actually studied BHP, Finance, and English. I took marketing courses but I wasn’t a marketing major. I always say that what I’m doing now is a marriage of what I studied. One of the things I appreciate about BHP was that they pushed us to intern early and get as much work experience as possible. I had done a finance internship in energy and oil after my sophomore year, and I realized I absolutely hated finance. The people are great, but I was doing stuff like tracking the foreign exchange on chemical symbols I didn’t even understand. I was so appreciative of that experience sophomore year, because when I recruited junior year I knew what I wanted. I wanted to deal with more creative elements, and to work with something that was more tangible.  The consumer goods industry was then an obvious choice.

I had recruited for P&G in a finance role originally. I called them desperately and asked them to put me in something else after realizing I wanted to pivot. They thought I would be a good fit in their consumer insights division, where I interned and then returned full-time for the first two years out of college. Qualitative and quantitative research has really changed since then because of technology. After two or three years in consumer insights, I realized I wanted to control more of the business and have more ownership. I switched over to brand management, where you own not only the creative and the brand, but also the bottom line.

The beauty industry is great as a marketer because it is an emotional industry. People have a lot of passion, or at least a lot of opinions, on their beauty products – whether it’s a razor, a face cream, or a fragrance.  To be able to build brands that hold such an emotional spot for people is really special.

What advice would you give current students?

Get work experience as quickly as possible. I wish I did this more. I now live in New York, and I see interns who are willing to work for school credit, who are much more willing to put themselves out there earlier. The work experience and the work itself is very different from what you’re studying. The earlier you can get yourself out there, the earlier you can figure out what you like or don’t like.  Especially at the pace of today’s technology, youth can be an advantage in many industries, so use it to your advantage and get out there.  

I also wish I had asked for help more as a student. There’s so much leeway to ask for help from peers and alumni as a student. These are things I do naturally now, but didn’t do as a student. There’s a big BHP presence in New York and we’re always asking each other for help professionally or personally.

I think the best piece of advice I tell myself, even now, is to imagine what you want your life to look like on a Thursday afternoon and Tuesday morning. Sometimes we only imagine the highlight reel or the low points of a job, but those moments are fleeting and not very representative of how we spend most of our time. Think about those Thursday afternoons – what you want your work to be like, who would you want to be working with, what do you want to be learning, how do you want to spend your time. Those little subtle moments should really guide your bigger decisions rather than thinking about the highlight reel of what you do.

Student Spotlight: Omar Olivarez

Omar OlivarezWhen Omar Olivarez talks about Project RISE, he can’t help but smile. “Project RISE is a non-profit founded by Ashley Chen, a BHP graduate. It’s all about promoting entrepreneurship to underserved youth in the Austin community and teaching them skills like leadership, teamwork, and good communication.”

Olivarez is currently a senior in the Business Honors Program and an MIS major. He came to UT from La Blanca, a small town just east of Edinburg in the Rio Grande Valley. Through Project RISE, he has been able to use his own experiences and knowledge to give back to the community. “We’re teaching high-school students concepts we’re learning in our classroom, and it’s really exciting to see them get into college and graduate from high-school,” he says. “One of our students comes from a single parent household with many siblings. She was absent sometimes because of her family situation, but in the end, she pitched her final business plan to the community and had the idea to develop a LinkedIn for teachers to help connect teachers to schools with needs. It’s really rewarding to see students’ plans come to fruition at the end of the program.”

Olivarez also encourages all students to pursue and build their ideas. “I’d like to give a shout-out to all students who have started something of their own, whether it’s a nonprofit, an organization, or a business. Perhaps it won’t last in the long-term, but I think that having that initiative is awesome.” He says what he’s learned from Project RISE is that people need to keep creating and innovating. “It’s what drives our market. I would applaud anyone who has ever made something in college and I think people should keep making stuff.”

In addition to working with Project RISE, Olivarez has also served as a Peer Mentor to the BHP class of 2021. His peers are his favorite part of BHP and have made his college experience unforgettable. “The students I’ve met through being a Peer Mentor are a wholesome, quirky group. They face a lot of hardships and competition, but they have a lot of resources on campus to help them. I am proud that they’re able to handle everything without feeling overwhelmed.”

After graduation, Olivarez will be working for Southwest Airlines in software engineering. He says his career path was slightly unexpected, but ultimately the perfect fit for him. “Keep your options open,” Olivarez says. “It’s more than okay if you have an idea of what you want to do, but flexibility helps. I was very into consulting a year ago and now, after competing in hackathons and building cool stuff, I’m really into software engineering.”

Olivarez has a working theory that happiness is infectious. “I think when you’re helping the community and bringing happiness to other people, all the energy you’re using to make that happen is rebounded and compounded,” he says. “For example, I volunteer with Capital Community where I work with older parents who might not speak English or know how college applications work. I work with them to understand how FAFSA and taxes work. Seeing their faces as they realize that they can make an impact on their own children’s lives is very gratifying. All the energy I spend doing that comes back to me and makes me want to do more.”

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.”