Alumni Spotlight: Phil Canfield

In the thirty years since Phil Canfield graduated from the University of Texas with degrees in Business Honors and Finance, much has changed in the world, in Austin, and on our campus. We begin our conversation discussing the increasing number of hipsters in the city (we are meeting during SXSW, after all) and then move into talking about the dynamic relationship between artificial intelligence and business. Despite this rapid evolution, Mr. Canfield agrees that one thing has remained constant: The caliber of the Business Honors Program and the benefit of receiving a Business Honors degree.

“The BHP was a small group within a large university, which allowed for teamwork and the ability for us to have a small cohort of really bright students that I could work with, learn from, test ideas out, and play ideas off of each other. It was seamless going from that environment to sitting at a desk at Kidder, Peabody, and Co. working on financial models and being part of a deal team,” Mr. Canfield shares. Throughout our conversation, we keep coming back to this theme of the strong relationships students build with each other through their time in the program. He believes these tightknit relationships are one part of what make the honors program unique. “It’s not just the friendships, it’s also learning how to work with other people,” he says. “Also, the faculty. Those are the two things that make a great learning experience: A great group of engaged students whom you know and build relationships with combined with a faculty that pushes you, teaches you things that perhaps weren’t intuitive, that surprise you, and importantly, a faculty that is doing research in areas that are going to be important for the future.”

Mr. Canfield vividly remembers being pushed and challenged in his honors classes. When asked about his favorite memory, he laughs and says he doesn’t have a favorite memory, but he definitely has a class that he remembers the most. “I think everybody who comes to BHP is used to making A’s. So, we had this Operations Research class, and I remember about 4 weeks into the class, I was sitting with my group of 5 or 6 friends that we studied with and 2 or 3 of them really got it in a way that I didn’t. And I realized that I wasn’t going to get it. It was the only class at UT in my entire 4 years where I said, ‘You know what, I think I’m shooting for a B in this class.’ And it’s so funny because I think about that all the time; it’s the only time I’ve ever just stepped back and said, ‘Wow, there’s something about the way that they think that’s different than the way I think. This makes sense to them and this is really hard for me.’”

Mr. Canfield believes the difficulties that honors students face together, like challenging courses, are what allow the close friendships to form. “BHP is an intense program. Any time a group of people go through something with that intensity together, they create a bond. The great thing about bonds like that is they really stand the test of time.” As an example, he recalls calling his BHP peers when it came time for him to think about what he was going to do after his first two years in investment banking. “It was useful for me to be able to call friends of mine who I had this shared experience with,” he says. “At the time, most people only worked for two years and then went and got an MBA, and I was thinking about not doing that. That’s a big decision, it’s the kind of decision where there aren’t that many people you can really talk to about it.”

After two years at Kidder, Peabody, and Co., Mr. Canfield joined GTCR, a private equity firm. After two years as an associate there, he started thinking about getting his MBA. “At the time in private equity, there were very few people who did not have an MBA. I felt like as long as I stayed on track at GTCR, working with people I knew and who knew what I was capable of doing, things would probably be fine; but I had this nagging concern that there was more that I could know, so I decided to pursue an MBA.” Mr. Canfield started at the University of Chicago Booth School on a part-time basis, working full-time during the day and taking classes in the evening. “That didn’t last too long,” he chuckles. Eventually, he took two quarters off from work to finish his degree.

Reflecting on his experience in the MBA program, he recalls how prepared he was for the curriculum and how his past BHP classes allowed him to customize his MBA degree. “I was incredibly well-prepared. In fact, I got to skip a lot of the intro-level, first-year MBA classes. The neat thing about that was that it enabled me to quickly go to the higher-level classes and get a dual concentration in finance and accounting. I probably would not have been able to do that if I didn’t have the BHP background. The BHP enabled me to get a more broad experience when I did decide to go get an MBA, and it allowed me to tailor that experience more to what I felt I needed for my career.”

Mr. Canfield is now a successful Managing Director at GTCR, a leadership position he has held since 2007. He and his wife Mary Beth are also devoted philanthropists who focus on education. In November 2018, we celebrated the official naming of the Canfield Business Honors Program in the McCombs School of Business after a generous donation from the Canfields. They believe that contributing to education has the highest return on investment. “In my deepest part of my heart and soul, I’m an investor. I think, ‘Let’s do something early, let’s make an investment, let’s put capital into something, and then let’s see that have a return over a long period of time.’ For me, investing in someone’s education is exactly the same thing. I’ve always felt like it’s really important for our society to support getting everyone an opportunity to have a great education. I also think it’s a great investment that enables people to do something really fantastic.”

In closing, Mr. Canfield offers the following words of advice for our current students: “Enjoy the experience, but also make sure that whatever you choose to concentrate in, really make sure you focus on the fundamentals of that concentration.” He talks about Novak Djokovic, the best tennis player in the world, and how he drills and works the fundamentals with a hitting partner and his coach. “Why does he do that?  Because those fundamental skills need to happen automatically. If your concentration is accounting, then you need to work on it so hard that it is just intuitive to you. The test of knowing the fundamentals in a particular topic is you can look at a problem that you’ve never seen anything like it before, and you can intuit how it must have to work. That’s when you know you really understand it at the detailed level and the abstract level because you can take all the stuff you know about that particular topic and say, ‘Well, I’ve never seen this particular area before, but it must work this way.’ In business, to succeed in your career, you need to be functioning at that level.”

He also has some advice for prospective Canfield BHP students that we wholeheartedly agree with: “You should come here because it’s the best undergraduate business program in the country. You will learn a tremendous amount, you’ll make great friends, and it will serve you very well in your career.”

Watch the video celebrating the newly named Canfield Business Honors Program here.

Student Leadership Skills Reach New Heights Through Outdoor Expedition

By Stephanie Cantu. As told by Cindy, Derek, Elmer, Evie, Jerry, Kirsten, Nachiket, Richard, Robert, and Sreya.

The National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) is a one-of-a-kind immersive educational experience that teaches Canfield BHP students about leadership and decision-making in the unscripted context of the wilderness. Over the course of eight days in January, ten CBHP students travelled through the Galiuro Mountains of southeastern Arizona. Although conditions were largely cold and wet with intense precipitation, the group also experienced highlights such as making pizza, seeing a full arc double rainbow, throwing a backcountry birthday party, and forging deeper bonds and connections. As a group, we put together our top four take-aways from the trip:

  1. Gaining perspective and making the abstract more concrete

In the wilderness, concepts like self-care become real and you actually have to internalize what to do in difficult situations. We had a saying on our trip that we heard on day one: “Cold is a choice.” Essentially, it reminded us that if we were cold, we had to do something about it – put on another layer, do some jumping jacks to generate body heat, etc. This saying applied to any other feeling, such as sensing the start of a blister or being hungry or tired. “It is a simple concept, but one none of us had needed to act on before,” said Sreya. Also, the difficulties we faced on the trip put every day annoyances into perspective: “I complain less about the cold,” said Evie. And everyone else chimed in that “MIS 301H is not that bad.”

  1. Appreciation of nature

Backpacking for several days without technology may not be how most people envision spending their winter break, but everyone agreed that their love of nature grew as a result of attending. “I’m more motivated to get my friends together and go out into the Hill Country for a hike,” shared Kirsten. Jerry added, “I’m more romantic about the absence of technology. I bought this small notebook to take all my notes on instead of a laptop or a tablet.” The students also shared how rewarding it was to “work for the view” and hike to the top of Kennedy Peak for the sunset. “On most other trips, I would normally just take a bus to the top of a vista. It was much more satisfying to know I hiked to the top myself,” said Evie.

  1. Building character and leadership skills

Each day, we learned NOLS curriculum before the day’s hike began or on the trail. For example, one day a few of us took a snack break and learned about risk assessment and likelihood using red and green peanut butter M&M’s and our instructor’s hiking poles. In addition to formal curriculum, we also developed our personal leadership styles and skills through daily feedback from our hiking groups. “I learned I’m a stronger person and leader than I realized,” said Sreya. The leadership feedback also impacted Jerry, who has carried what he learned on the trek into his honors courses: “When I got my MIS 301H group, I immediately sent out a schedule with due dates for completing parts of the project. I was worried about being too commanding or dictatorial, but then I remembered all the feedback I got on the trip about how helpful it was when I took charge, and I felt less doubt,” he said.

  1. Closer friendships

Ultimately, the greatest take-away from our time in the backcountry were the bonds we formed. “I got close to people I didn’t really know well before,” said Elmer. A lot of bonding happened during the evening down time in camp, either over (responsibly-built!) campfires or having 8 students crowd into a 3-person tent to talk until 11:30pm. Because the students didn’t have any form of technology with them, they had ample time to connect interpersonally. “I’m more conscious of being on my phone now,” said Kirsten. “I think if we had had our phones on the trip, we wouldn’t have bonded as much.”

In the end, NOLS provides invaluable leadership experience and the chance to connect with the great outdoors and each other. The 2019 expedition encourages you to attend because, according to Cindy, “We’re the only undergraduate program in the country to do a course like this. It’s such a unique experience; when else would you have this kind of opportunity?” We promise if you go, you won’t regret it.

Check out a student-made video of our experience here!

You can also read Evie’s personal blog account of her experience here.

Curious what our 2017 and 2018 cohorts have to say? Read about them here and here.

BHP MIS Professors Bond with Students at Annual Dinner Event

This week, BHP freshmen went to Clay Pit Indian Contemporary Cuisine for the annual, and much anticipated, MIS Dinner with a Professor, with professors Ashish Agarwal and Prabhudev Konana. The dinner started with Mango Lassis and Samosa for all, while Dr. Konana and Dr. Agarwal underwent the enormous task of ordering food for everyone at the table, family style. Students feasted on Naan, Biriyani and even some lesser known Indian cuisine like Dhingri Mattar Paneer and Channa Saag.

Student were delighted to listen to interesting conversation about the professors’ personal life, advice and insights.

BHP freshman, Josh De Anda, says, “Dr. Konana talked about the value of a math or economics background in business, cultural differences he’s seen, and the state of American higher education.”

Specifically, Dr. Konana explain how so many top traders and bankers have backgrounds in economics and math since these fields are the building blocks for the kind of financial modeling that they do. He discussed how he incorporates those concepts into his course for that reason, to give BHP students a leg up.

Dr. Agarwal spoke about his favorite music, hobbies, adolescence and schooling, as well as his philosophy on teaching. Students compared their favorite Guns and Roses and Led Zeppelin songs with Dr. Agarwal, as well as opinions on cold vs. warm calling.

It was a great night full of learning and laughs and at the end the students surprised the professors with a  card thanking them and expressing how wonderful they thought the event was! Dinners with a Professor are organized by the Honors Business Association, and supported by BHP fundraising efforts.

BHP Students Honored for Leadership and Service to McCombs

Congratulations to all of the students recognized at the McCombs Honors Convocation this past Friday. Here is a list of the BHP students who received awards at the event. In addition to these individuals, we were proud to honor many of you for your outstanding scholastic achievements, and want to congratulate all business students and organizations who were honored with an award this year.

McCombs BBA/MPA Alumni Advisory Board Award
Rising Star Leadership Award – Sai Yeluru

This award is presented to a graduating McCombs undergraduate or MPA student who has proven an established commitment to service within the McCombs School through outstanding scholarship and achievements, as well as exemplary leadership and community involvement. The recipient demonstrates significant growth potential as a future leader in the McCombs community.

BHP Award
Conrad Doenges Award – Sai Yeluru

This award is given to a Business Honors senior, who in the judgment of their peers and the BHP faculty and staff, have distinguished themselves in academics and leadership.

Undergraduate Business Council Awards

George Mitchell Business Leadership Award – This award recognizes students who have exhibited strong leadership within the McCombs School. There are two winners per class.

Freshmen – Nivva Emmi

Sophomores – Siji Deleawe, Daniel Madden

Juniors – Daniel Miyares, Megan Tran-Olmsted

Barbara Jordan Business Leadership Award – This award recognizes seniors who have been committed to leaving a legacy of mentorship, leadership and passion at the McCombs School. There are two students selected each year for this award.

Seniors – Mackenzie Moore, Eric Saldanha

Texas BBA Program Awards

BBA Outstanding Service and Leadership Awards – Erika Rodrigues, Jon Burstain, Rakshana Govindarajan, Mackenzie Moore, Aasim Maknojia, Kenny Young, Kobi Nasesk, and Callie Blumenfeld

 

McCombs Teams Dominate at National and International Case Competitions

Ashley Akin, Swetha Davuluru, Anushka Madhuvarshi, and Rebecca Ortiz

This past weekend, McCombs sent a team comprised of four BHP sophomores, Ashley Akin, Anushka Madhuvarshi, Swetha Davuluru and Rebecca Ortiz to the University of Washington Global Business Case Competition in Seattle. The competition featured a short and long case. The UT Austin McCombs Team won their bracket for the short case and took second place for the long case.

Twelve teams from around the world competed at the event. The competitors included American University of Beirut (Lebanon), Maastricht University (Netherlands), Peking University (China), Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Ecuador (Ecuador), Thammasat University (Thailand), Universidad Panamericana (Mexico), University of Hong Kong (Hong Kong), University of Sydney (Australia), Western University (Canada), University of Arizona and University of Washington. The long case focused on global expansion for Amazon Web Services. The winning team was Thammasat University, but Texas was a close second.

“We were so much more invested in the product of our work because we had a whole week of bonding with the other participants,” said Rebecca Ortiz. “It was humbling to hear the experiences that led each international team to Seattle, and to present to a full auditorium about a case that particularly challenged us. When selecting the countries for our solution, we had to consider so many factors, yet create a cohesive strategy and story. The fact that there were no overlapping countries presented by the four finalists really shows the diversity of thought we saw during the week.”

Also this month, the USC Value Investing Group hosted its third annual USC Stock Pitch Competition and two UT teams took home first and second place. Twenty teams from across the country competed. Eric Sun (BHP sophomore), Nick Marchenko (BHP freshman), Dhruv Dhuper (BBA freshman), Joseph Buschmann (BBA senior), and Bryan Goh (BBA junior) took first place. They are all members of the University Securities Investment Team, a group which also financed their travel to the competition. Daniel Chen (BHP Senior), Michael Everett (BHP junior), Jackie Ye (BHP junior), and Reese Davis (BHP junior) took second place at the event.

“Competing at USC was an amazing experience,” said Eric Sun. “We got to meet a lot of students from around the country and watched some amazing stock pitches. Given the caliber of everyone there, we were shocked and ecstatic when we made it into the finals and even more so when we won! I definitely learned a lot from this experience and know more about the economics of the international tobacco market than I ever thought I would.”

Congratulations to all of these students on these impressive wins!

Eric Sun, Nick Marchenko, Dhruv Dhuper, Joseph Buschmann, and Bryan Goh