Student Spotlight: Stephanie Morgan

BHP sophomore Stephanie Morgan, is taking advantage of as many opportunities as she can while she is in school. A Plan II Honors and BHP major, she feels she has the best of both worlds – receiving a strong liberal arts and business education. Stephanie has already participated in two study abroad programs, is an officer for the Honors Business Association, and will be interning with Amazon.com this summer. Originally from Atlanta, Georgia, she has already grown to love Austin and says she knows she made the right choice in choosing to come to UT and be in the BHP.

Being an out-of-state student, how did you hear about and decide to come to BHP?

I did my research and applied to a lot of universities. UT is one of the only universities where you can participate in a business and liberal arts honors program and still graduate in four years. I really liked the well-rounded approach to learning and MBA-style classes. I visited one weekend in the spring of my senior year and met the BHP staff and some current students, and just felt like it was where I was supposed to be.

You are the Financial VP for HBA. What do you enjoy about being involved with that group?

My favorite part is the opportunity to hang out with other BHP students outside of class in a non-academic setting and get to know BHP students in other grades. The BHP community is one of the strongest features of the major, and I think HBA is where you get the community feel the most.

You are interning with Amazon.com this summer. Tell me more about what you will be doing.

I will be working out of a fulfillment center in Phoenix which is the size of a football field. I will be managing a team of about 20 employees and will get to try all of the associate positions, so I will get to see the entire inbound to outbound route of a product.

What are you hoping to learn from the internship?

I am most excited about the leadership and management part of it. I think that is my strength and I am excited to learn more. I also think it will help me figure out if I want to go into supply chain for my career.

What was the interview process like?

I found out about the position because they were hosting a dinner and contacted HBA about meeting with student leaders. Because I am not a declared supply chain major, the position wasn’t open to me on OCR, but since I already had those contacts, I applied directly through the company. There was only one round of interviews. The interview had a behavior aspect and also a technical aspect, with a few supply-chain questions.

Tell me more about the summer study abroad programs you participated in this past summer.

I did two study abroad programs this past summer. I spent seven weeks in France and five weeks in Oxford. All of the classes that I took weren’t required for my majors, but were just classes that interested me. I took English courses taught by UT professors at Oxford.I took a French language course and a French culture course during my time in Lyon. Both programs were with other UT students. I didn’t know anyone else going and it was my first time going abroad, so it was a great growing experience. I became good friends with the other students and also got to stay with a host family in France, which was a great experience.

What are you involved in outside of class?

I am heavily involved with Texas THON. It is a non-profit organization on campus that raises funds for the Children’s Miracle Network at Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas. Our major event every year is called Texas THON. It is an event where people pledge to stand for 12 hours to raise money for the organization. The Miracle Kids are very inspiring and have been through more than most of us could imagine. I was the Catering and Sponsorship Chair this year, so I secured donations for food and prizes, and was heavily involved with organizing everything for the event. It is really important to me to be involved in community service and I have learned a lot from being involved in the organization. My management and business communications classes have been helpful to me in terms of leadership and it was neat to apply what I had learned. I also run a lot and ran the LiveSTRONG Half-Marathon recently. I enjoy staying active.

Do you have any words of advice for your fellow students?

Focus on things you enjoy. Don’t feel pressured to do what everyone else is doing. You will get the most out of your college experience by doing things that are important to you.

BHP Student Spotlight – George Chidiac

BHP freshman, George Chidiac, made his way to Austin from El Paso. As one of only a small group of El Paso students to come to McCombs, he has had to make new friends here. BHP has been a great place for him to make friends and UT and McCombs have allowed him to learn about and explore new areas of interest. We sat down with him to find out more about what his first year here has been like.

Why did you decide that the BHP was right for you?

I knew I wanted to do business wherever I went to school and I really wanted to live in Austin. BHP has a very strong reputation, so that was a big selling point for me. I made my decision during Discover BHP. When professor Prentice spoke to us about the program, particularly about the quality of the professors, it really sold me on the program. The student culture here is very supportive and very laid back; students know their peers are good and it turns into a collaborative effort to succeed, rather than being cutthroat.

What has been most surprising about the BHP so far?

There is so much about BHP that I didn’t know. The access to all the resources is amazing. People want to help you and they go out of their way for you. For example, I want to go the entrepreneurial route, and have been able to have discussions with the current McCombs Entrepreneur in Residence about what I would like to. I also have John Butler for a class, who has started many companies and has extensive experience in entrepreneurship. They are helping me find an internship and are also teaching me about starting my own business. Also the upperclassmen in BHP really mean it when they say they want to help you. They have recommended classes and professors to me, which has been really helpful.

What has been your favorite class this year?

I would have to say my class with John Butler. It is called Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Being an entrepreneur is like being a pilot. You don’t just jump into a plane and start flying; it’s all about educating yourself beforehand. This class is teaching me about everything and why it works and why it doesn’t. That is giving me the tools to take my own ideas and test them. Dr. Butler is also very funny and super confident. He really knows his stuff and it is very reassuring to know that you are being taught by someone who is so knowledgeable. The books I have for many of my classes this year were actually written by the professors teaching me, so I know they are experts and that is really great.

What organizations and activities are you involved in?

I am involved in HBA, Young Life, BHP Steering Committee, and am pledging a fraternity. HBA does an event called “Dinner With a Professor,” and through that event, I was able to meet the professor I will have this summer when I take part in the BHP study abroad opportunity in Argentina. The social events for HBA involve all the classes, so I get to meet other BHP students outside of my class. I came here not really knowing anyone and it has been nice to have support from people in BHP and the other organizations I am involved in.

What do you like to do for fun in Austin?

I love dancing. I didn’t go dancing before I came here. A group of friends were going country dancing to Midnight Rodeo and I went with them and really loved it. I am hooked now and am actually taking a social dance class, which is a mix of all styles of dance; two-step, tango, east-coast and west-coast swing. It has helped me get out of my comfort zone.

As a freshman in the program, you were assigned a peer mentor. Was that relationship valuable to you?

Ben Rogers is my peer mentor and he has been great. He has taken me to restaurants around Austin for fun. We became good friends. He showed me around Austin and has always been there to answer any questions that came up for me. It was nice to know that I had access to someone who has done it already. He has been a peer mentor for several classes of BHP students, so it has also helped me bond with other students who had him as a peer mentor as well.

How do you think the funds from BHP alumnus, Woody Hunt’s, El Paso scholarships will affect students in the West Texas region?

The gift he made isn’t just important because of the money. It is actually bringing a much needed emphasis on UT to the region. A lot of the really gifted kids in El Paso leave and never come back, or they just aren’t challenging themselves like they need to. I think that if more El Paso students came to UT, they would be more likely to stay in-state and maybe go back to El Paso after graduation. The Hunt gift will be able to take money off the table of factors being considered when students are deciding. A lot of students are deterred by the costs since other schools are offering them scholarships. With a scholarship to BHP, they can really consider their options. This is a statement to students showing that we are going to reward those who are working hard, so work hard and challenge yourself. I wouldn’t have been able to come to UT if it weren’t for people who supported me both financially and personally. Help goes a long way and I think his help in the form of scholarships could be quite far reaching.

Student Spotlight: Sara Hollis

Sara and BHP student Justine Taylor-Raymond with a student from the orphanage.

Written by Robert Belanger

BHP Senior, Sara Hollis, recently accepted a position with DaVita in San Francisco as an analyst covering the healthcare industry. Healthcare is a passion of hers. Over her time at UT, Sara has been very involved with a group called the Wema Children’s Centre. Wema, which means “goodness” in Swahili, is an orphanage for children with HIV/AIDS in Bukembe, Kenya that houses over 160 children. Her work has greatly impacted the center, village, and associated school.

The center began in the summer of 2010 when a Harvard student, Laura D’Asaro, began working with the Highway Academy, a school located in Bukembe, and came up with the idea of starting an orphanage to support the growing number of orphans in the community. Sara and a high school friend, along with a few other Harvard students, traveled to Bukembe during early 2011 to help support the children’s center. While the first visit was exciting, it was clear that there was much that could be done to help the village. As the first non-governmental organization (NGO) to come in contact with the village, Sara and her associates had the challenge of assisting Wema in whatever they could, trying to establish it so that it could function in the group’s absence. One of the principal goals undertaken for the first trip was an HIV/AIDS screening and prevention program. Also, the group recognized the need for a computer to stay in contact with the school and orphanage directors. Sara says, “After our first visit, we left one of our MacBook computers with them so that they could be in touch with others and request aid from organizations. Before they were just sending letters and it wasn’t working because no one knew they were legitimate. While we were there the first time, we made a website for them to establish a public image for them. We knew we wanted to found an NGO so we could do legitimate fundraising and involve other students.”

The desire to increase her and others’ involvement with and awareness of the project grew. Besides starting an on-campus organization, UT Students for Wema, Sara has partnered with other organizations to affect change in the village. “It has almost been like a part-time job since I came back after my first trip during my sophomore year. It took a while for me to figure out how to get students involved. There were about 50 other student organizations on campus doing similar things, but they were all fragmented. We teamed up with Students for Clean Water to drill a well at the orphanage last semester, and that worked really well. It ended up costing around $50,000 and we were able to raise all of that through our work with the Students for Clean Water and through a corporate donation which came through Living Water International.” Since the beginning, it has been an effort that spanned geography. Students from UT, Harvard, Penn, MIT, and USC have worked on the project. Sara has been at the center of it all, recently working to establish 501(c)(3) status for the NGO and coordinating the completion of the water well.

Besides brining the village an established source of clean drinking water, the group has pursued several initiatives. One of these has been finding resources for the school to use to improve education for its students. Over the past winter break, Sara again traveled to Bukembe, this time brining over two dozen computers as well as books to establish a library. “The first computer helped them so much with getting aid from other organizations.” After the new computer lab was completed, “the teachers and students alike were so excited to try their hand at Microsoft Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and Gmail.” Other initiatives include starting a sponsor-a-child program, improving access to medical treatment, and identifying areas of growth for the center and school.

Overall, the experience for Sara has been special. “My involvement in this and communication with them has really put my life into perspective. It makes me really appreciate the education I have and be motivated to work hard, like they do.” And the experience is not a one-way street. “We all realized how much we have to learn from them, that the experience isn’t just about what we can do for them, but also what we can learn from them.” More information about the project can be found at http://wemachildrenscentre.org/, and Sara’s story about one of her trips can be found at http://sarahollis.blogspot.com/. View a slideshow of photos from her recent trip here.

BHP Student Spotlight: Robert Belanger

BHP Junior, Robert Belanger, grew up in Syracuse, NY, but found his way to Texas and loves being an Austinite and BHP student.  He is a peer advisor for the program and is very active in the UT Senate of College Councils. Belanger was just named as one of two junior recipients of the distinguished Texas Exes President’s Leadership Award, which recognizes students who have demonstrated outstanding leadership on campus.

What made you consider BHP?

I have family in Texas and had visited as a kid. When I was thinking about schools, I knew I wanted to go to a big state school that had great sports and pride that some of the smaller schools don’t have. I knew I was interested in business and Texas has a really good business program. When I visited, I absolutely loved it and knew it was the perfect fit for me.

Did you experience any culture shock when you moved here?

In general, people here are much friendlier and more laid back than where I grew up. There was a lot more pressure to do well in high school and students around me were so competitive. I appreciated the peer mentor groups and the Leadership Kickoff event because they helped me have a built-in group of friends right from the start of my freshman year. BHP professors encourage collaboration and we did a lot of team building in our peer mentor groups. That is part of why I think students in the program are so collaborative and willing to help each other succeed, which was a big change for me coming from a very competitive high school.

What are some of the more memorable experiences you have had in the BHP?

Dr. Prabhudev Konana, chairman of the Department of Information, Risk, and Operations Management, asked me to help him with a new research project. I had built a relationship with him during my MIS class and done well in his class. I worked with him and some of the best professors in the IROM department on the project. They were creating a new master’s program in business analytics and I helped with comparison research, looking at other programs like this across the country, as well the job market for grads from programs like this across the nation. Now they are taking applicants for their first class and it feels good to have been a part of making it happen.

What do you plan to do for your internship experience this summer?

Over the summer when I started thinking about internships, I narrowed it down to energy, real estate or investment banking, but ultimately settled on energy. I started going to information sessions for companies and talking to my peers and that helped me decide on energy. I have applied for several opportunities and have three interviews in January. Two are with energy-focused investment banks, and the last one is for the finance department for an energy exploration and production company. I hope that the internship experience will help me decide if energy is something I want to do full-time after graduation.

You have been pretty involved with the Senate of College Councils. Tell us more about that.

The Senate of College Councils allows me to do a lot related to curriculum and academic programs. My first year  in Senate, I was involved with looking at integrity issues and how the honor code is viewed on campus. This past year I chaired the curriculum committee. That committee has been responsible for legislation on a variety of issues including academic advising, degree programs, earning minors, and core curriculum reform. Most of what we do is through the lens of how we can help increase four-year graduation rates and improve the academic experience for students

You recently traveled to compete in a case competition, how was that?

It was my first off-campus case competition and was in Tucson, Arizona. I went with my teammate, Michelle Moon. It was a little more competitive than the ones I had done on campus. It was really interesting because we were able to meet students from across the country and even from other countries. This case competition was ethics-focused and the topic was hydraulic fracturing, which we are both interested in. We did well, but didn’t win. It was a good learning experience though.

You are a peer advisor for the BHP. What do you like about that role?

One of my favorite reasons for being a peer advisor (PA) is that I get to have a lot of interaction with other BHP students and help them. They can’t always get in with an advisor right away, but the peer advisors are always there to help them and give them advice based on our experiences. We are a resource for other students. BHP is very student-focused. We have so many student workers including PAs , peer mentors, student recruiters, and others. Students are involved in all aspects of our programming. It is fun to work with the staff and be involved in benefiting the program and students. It is a great way to have an impact on the program.

Do you have any advice for underclassmen?

When you get here, you feel like you have to know what you want to do for the rest of your life, but that is not true. Take advantage of the opportunities that are presented to you. Keep an open mind and don’t worry about knowing exactly what you want to do. Some of the best experiences for me were opportunities that came up randomly and that I took advantage of, but wasn’t necessarily looking for. It helped me figure out what I liked doing and what is important to me.

Student Spotlight: Holland Finley

BHP junior Holland Finley loves sports. She is a world champion wakeboarder and has competed in pole-vaulting, cheerleading and diving as well. She attributes her competitiveness and perseverance to being raised around sports. She brings that same drive to her academics and leadership activities at UT. We sat down with Holland recently to find out more about her passion for wakeboarding and what she has been up to lately.

You are a world champion wakeboarder. Tell me more about that.

When I was 7, I started water skiing on a family vacation. Over the next couple of years my brother became interested in wakeboarding and encouraged me to try it when I was 12. I was a cheerleader and had learned tumbling moves growing up. My brother and his friends, recognizing the parallels between the sports, encouraged me to try some of my tumbling moves on the water. My first trick was called a “tantrum,” which is like a standing back flip from wake to wake. I had a lot of falls before I landed my first invert, but I was determined – you never land a new trick your first time. As my brother became more invested in the sport, he became sponsored and was asked to compete in the national tournament for wakeboarding. I was 13 at the time, and my dad encouraged me to compete in the national tournament as well. I ended up taking second place in the 13 and under girls’ division and from then on I was hooked. After that tournament I received product sponsorships from a couple different companies including Cobian Solewear, Angel Eyewear, and Gator Boards.

Growing up wakeboarding definitely had its challenges. I was really one of the only girls riding competitively in Texas. When I would practice, it would be me and 18 to 20 year-old guys. It was tough at first, but I got used to it and always had my older brother and family supporting me.  When I was 17, I was elected to the U.S. Wakeboard Team to compete in South Korea for the World Championship. I met so many riders from around the world and won a world title! That same year I was voted “Female Amateur Wakeboarder of the Year,” and was honored with a  write up in the US Waterskier Magazine.

What lessons do you think you learned from those experiences?

I learned perseverance, determination, and how to hold your own in a field full of guys. I had so many injuries that I had to work through. I have had a torn MCL, separated ribs and scars all over. It is crucial  to persevere and have a competitive streak. I think being in sports has helped me manage my time and set goals in the academic setting. Wakeboarding was also my first introduction to business. I dealt with sponsors and was a speaker at different boat shows. That influenced me to want to pursue business as a degree.

Are you still pursuing competitive wakeboarding?           

I am a member of the Texas Wake, the wakeboarding club team for UT. Additionally, I give lessons on the side on Lake Austin during the summer and warm months. School is ultimately the most important thing in my life, and has taken a primary role the last couple of years.

What else are you involved in on campus?

I am the tappee trainer for the Orange Jackets. I educate new Orange Jackets and assist them with executing their year-long service project. I am also associate director of philanthropy for student government, where I am heading up a new initiative called Orange Outreach, and am on the philanthropy committee for my sorority, Tri-Delt.

What is the new initiative you are working on, Orange Outreach?

I am working with a team of people from Student Government to connect people to large-scale projects and build a bridge to different non-profits in Austin. We are producing a newsletter and blog with different volunteer opportunities. At this age, everyone is keen to be a part of the community and this is a great way to introduce people who have never volunteered before to doing that. As a member of UT community, I have learned the power of the student body to affect positive change. I have had a passion for volunteering since high school. Through student government, I have a platform to help develop that passion in other students as well.

You grew up in Austin. Did you always know you would attend UT?

I have burnt orange blood. Everyone in my family went to UT. I actually thought I would go out of state, but after visiting some of those schools, I realized that I HAD to go to UT. The platforms available here for students to have their voices heard is unique and not paralleled. I love it here. I went to Discover BHP and was so impressed by the BHP students who spoke at that event. Business Honors has had an incredible impact on my life and I really value the mentorship program and the fact that I know my classmates.

Any plans yet for after graduation?

I am planning on going to law school. I am going to write my Plan II thesis on corporate social responsibility and its importance in today’s society. I think corporations have immense capacity to do good, while building their brand. I think that type of mentality needs to be more prominent. I am hoping to ultimately find a role at a corporate foundation or as a consultant for corporate social responsibility.

Do you have any advice for students just getting started at UT and in the BHP?

Explore what UT has to offer. Go to performances and sports games. Talk to your advisor. Tap into the UT support network. I just saw John Legend and that was amazing. My first couple years I would wait and see what my friends were going to, but I have started just going to things myself and making new friends, I think that is important. Embrace the resources UT has to help you change the world, and have as much fun as you can in your time here.