Student Spotlight: Arjun Menta

Many college students have hobbies outside of class. Sophomore Arjun Menta just happens to spend his leisure time finding ways to save the world.

Double majoring in BHP and biochemistry, Menta came to the 40 Acres with a passion for developing low-cost medical solutions.

“There’s a whole field of science called frugal science,” Menta said. “A lot of countries don’t have medical infrastructure, and some things that we take advantage of, that we won’t even bat an eye at — in other countries, people die because they don’t have them.”

During his transition from high school to college, Menta formed the idea of creating a mobile vaccine carrier that would allow physicians to bring preserved vaccines to developing nations that lack such medical resources. His involvement with this global issue stems from his observation of the inadequacy of medical infrastructure in his home country of India.

“I was very interested in doing this because in my home country, India, there are actually a lot of people who don’t have access to vaccines,” Menta said. “I saw this issue throughout the world, especially in developing nations, which are Africa, Brazil and other areas. I thought coming up with some type of solution to help those people would be something pretty cool to try to accomplish.”

Menta knew his idea could potentially save many lives and was determined to bring it to fruition. He became involved with the startup community at UT-Austin and joined Freshman Founders Launchpad, a platform that provided him with the resources to further establish his vaccine carrier idea.

However, Menta realized he would need a source of funding in order to fully bring his design to life. And that’s when he discovered Chasing Genius, a competition created by National Geographic that challenges participants to offer solutions to global health issues in exchange for a $25,000 reward that would fund the production of winning projects.

The sophomore placed as a finalist in the competition, earning nearly 500 votes on his vaccine carrier concept called VaxCube. Throughout the campaign, Menta garnered support for his design by highlighting the aspects that made it stand out from other vaccine carrier ideas.

“VaxCube is one of the first medical vaccine carriers that is designed to utilize an integrated Peltier device and solar panel in one combined system,” Menta said. “My design incorporates this system in an affordable manner to allow for longer-lasting blood or vaccine cooling than other medical coolers.”

In addition to having a unique design, Menta attributes his success to his application of business skills throughout the competition, which allowed him to elevate the effectiveness of his presentation.

“Being able to present and speak clearly — those are all things that no matter which career field you choose, it’s a very unique skill that really puts you on the edge, especially in such a competitive workplace that there is today,” Menta said. “Creating a good way to advocate your idea — I think that’s around 50 percent of the entrepreneurship process … Having these basic skills helped me take my idea one step further and show exactly what I wanted to show, and I was very fortunate to be selected as a finalist because of that.”

After wrapping up the Chasing Genius competition, Menta has decided to continue developing his passion for solving global health issues. He is currently still pursuing the funding necessary to build a prototype of his VaxCube design. Additionally, he plans to attend medical school after graduation and strongly believes BHP will help him reach this goal as a result of the diverse skillset he is currently cultivating in the program.

“I definitely think you should take advantage of the BHP resources,” Menta said. “Business is a language, and I think learning that is a very viable skill.”

Throughout his journey on 40 Acres so far, Menta has realized that exploring a wide range of opportunities has been his primarily takeaway for success.

“Definitely explore opportunities,” Menta said. “I encourage people to put themselves in uncomfortable situations and try things they wouldn’t have expected. Maybe there’s something you like that you won’t know until you try it.”

Student Spotlight: Rachel Diebner

Having primary interests in writing and journalism, Rachel Diebner didn’t exactly know how she found herself in the business school when she arrived on the 40 Acres as a freshman.

But three years later, Diebner has now found a home at McCombs. The senior is set to graduate with a double major in BHP and Plan II and a minor in supply chain management.

“BHP was something I never knew was coming and never knew I would fall in love with,” Diebner said. “It was the best choice I kind of accidentally threw myself into.”

Despite her initial hesitation about her academic career path, Diebner has always been certain about one thing: her passion for philanthropy. Outside of school, she devotes her time to serving her community through her involvement with Texas Orange Jackets and Chi Kappa Phi Service Society.

“To live a meaningful life means that I am uplifting and empowering other people,” Diebner said. “I’ve always had a heart for service. Both groups (Texas Orange Jackets and Chi Kappa Phi Service Society) have great mindsets about service. I appreciate learning about different ways to impact communities and exploring why we serve, who we serve and what it means to be a good citizen and community partner.”

Diebner is grateful for the unique opportunities she has experienced during her time as a member of her service societies. She cherishes her memories of the moments she has spent reading to children at Helping Hand Home.

“Through Chi Kappa Phi Service Society, I became connected to Helping Hand Home, a residential treatment center for children who have experienced abuse and neglect,” Diebner said. “During the summer after my sophomore year, I volunteered there every Friday night as a bedtime reader: I’d spend an hour or two reading my old childhood favorites, like Junie B. Jones or Where the Wild Things Are, to the youngest girls’ cottage. Being able to provide the girls with things their parents might not have been able to at the time — a sense of comfort and security as they crawled in bed at night, a magical story as they drifted off to sleep, a love for books and reading — was extra special.”

Diebner believes it is actually her dedication to social impact that has allowed her to realize her academic and professional aspirations in the business world. When she interned at McKinsey & Company as a business analyst last summer, she discovered that creative thinking skills used in business can be applied to resolving current social issues.

“Part of why I like McKinsey is because they aim to tackle the world’s most challenging problems,” Diebner said. “I think that I’ll grow tremendously from surrounding myself with such smart, driven people, and I hope that someday I’ll be able to use the lessons I learn to tackle the world’s most challenging social impact problems. I want to apply that business-minded thinking to nonprofits and socially-driven organizations around the world, helping them help more people.”

After completing her summer internship with McKinsey, Diebner has decided to accept a full-time offer to pursue a career in consulting with the firm after graduation.

Everything has neatly fallen into place for Diebner at this point in her life on the 40 Acres, but she believes she couldn’t have thrived without learning from both her successes and failures along the way.

“It’s OK to not have it all figured out yet,” Diebner said. “All the pieces will slowly fall into place … It’s OK to take time to explore random things, to dabble a little bit, to make mistakes and fail and figure things out. That’s the best way to go about finding what path is right for you.”

Student Spotlight: Mason Lee Lynaugh

Mason Lee Lynaugh strolls into the McCombs atrium and takes a seat at one of the many tables scattered around the room. He raises his left arm onto the armrest of the chair, revealing a tattoo of an Eames chair on the inside of his forearm.

“When (the Eames chair) came out, it was so ergonomically well-designed,” Lynaugh said. “It was art. I was raised by designers — my parents were graphic designers, so they had these chairs in the house. I like having it on me because it’s just kind of the way I look at the world. I want to look at the world, like, ‘Let’s solve problems, and let’s make things practically beautiful — the way it’s supposed to be.’ Plus, it reminds me of my childhood.”

Lynaugh is quite comfortable in his own skin. The senior transferred into BHP as a sophomore but decided to take a gap year in 2016 to dedicate himself to his deepest passion: music. Lynaugh’s choice of stepping away from the comfort of being a college student was simple — he couldn’t deny his ardor for his craft.

“I’m pretty determined about things when I choose to do something,” Lynaugh said. “Over winter break (of sophomore year), I made my first actual good song, and I was like, ‘This is awesome. This is what I want to do.’ A lot of people in McCombs are happy, but they always have something under their skin that they really want, and I was like, ‘Why not just actually do it?’ … I was super confident, and it didn’t even seem like a decision — it seemed like just what was going to happen.”

Along with his new lifestyle, Lynaugh also adopted a new name — he released a hip-hop EP titled, “The Last of the Natives,” under the stage name “Mace Lee” on Spotify in early 2017. Aside from being classically trained, Lynaugh taught himself how to make hip-hop music and learned audio engineering on his own. The avid Kanye West fan also attributed his musical skills to studying the practices of his favorite hip-hop artists.

However, Lynaugh didn’t completely put his business mind to rest. Even before releasing his record on Spotify, he realized the importance of marketing himself in order make his music accessible to as many people as possible. In addition to promoting his music on social media, Lynaugh hosted an event on campus last fall to physically launch a mixtape he recorded in 2016. He also performed live shows featuring his own music to further establish himself in the local hip-hop scene.

With a hip-hop record and social media marketing experience under his belt, Lynaugh is now ready to begin his senior year in BHP. After spending a year away from McCombs, he is much more appreciative of the program’s value and of his network of peers.

“When you step out and leave UT, and you get a little slice of life, and that slice of life is cold and has been sitting out in the room for about a day, and you don’t have a microwave — you get to see a very different side of the world and really appreciate things that you didn’t appreciate before,” Lynaugh said. “I came back and realized every class matters. Everything I do here matters … I took for granted the environment and being able to be surrounded by people with similar ambitions.”

Moving forward, Lynaugh plans to channel his colorful palette of skills into a career in consulting. He’s confident that he will find success as a consultant because he appreciates the versatility that is unique to the consulting role.

Out of all the experiences he’s had since arriving on the 40 Acres, Lynaugh believes following his passions has been his biggest takeaway.

“Don’t forget your dreams from high school,” Lynaugh said. “No matter how weird they are, just keep them in mind … At the end of the day, you’re going to need a job, and you might as well find something that’s interesting to you because a lot of times, those dreams can translate.”