Destination Southwest – A Talk with Mike Van de Ven

Written by Zoya Saxena

UT graduate and alum Mike Van de Ven returned to the classroom, this time sitting on the other side of the lecture hall. Van de Ven, Chief Operating Officer of Southwest Airlines, visited the sophomore Business Honors Lyceum to share advice with the students and talk to them about his time in college and career at Southwest. 

Ever since he watched UT play A&M during the Thanksgiving football game, Van de Ven  knew he wanted to come to UT. When applying to college, Van de Ven was also searching for the best school to complete his degree in Accounting.

 “UT has a great return on investment. I am proud of the quality of education which you can receive here in such a cost effective manner. That’s why I love this school,” said Van de Ven. 

Van de Ven said that he feels reenergized when he returns to campus and that his passion for education and development of young professionals is what keeps him coming back. 

“A while ago, my wife and I sat down and asked ourselves what we truly care about. I thought I would have a long list, but we were only able to come up with a few things: young people, education, and bringing that (talent) into our company,” Van de Ven said. 

Many students were curious about Van de Ven’s time at Southwest and what made him make the switch from accounting to the airline industry. Van de Ven explained that his job in accounting allowed him to identify problems or issues, but that he wanted to make a larger impact and be part of resolutions.

“It’s not about the money. It’s about the job. The best part about Southwest is that if you enjoy what you are doing, there is no limit to the work they allow you to do,” Van de Ven said.

Van de Ven also stressed the value of people, relationships, and the community. He said that anyone in the workplace needs to pass what Van de Ven has coined ‘the lunch test’. Van de Ven believes this mantra is a reason why Southwest is a successful people-focused and community-driven company.

He said, “You should be able to go to lunch every single day with the people you work with. It’s not necessarily the smartest person in the room, but it’s someone you can have a dialog with, and someone who brings an interesting perspective.”

At the end of the discussion, Van de Ven left the students with three key pieces of advice:

  1. “Stay connected to the people around you.”
  2. “Be yourself out there.”
  3. “If you are not having fun, don’t do it.”

Student Spotlight: Sloane Castleman

Name: Sloane Castleman

Major: Canfield BHP, Plan II Honors

Company: National Basketball Association (NBA)

Position: Team Finance Intern

Topics of Interest: Outdoor skiing, music, reading, photography, finding new restaurants

While some students searched Recruit McCombs for investment banking, marketing, or consulting internships last year, Sloane Castleman took a different route. She browsed Google for different Finance positions and eventually found a posting that stood out. After applying, interviewing, and getting the job, Sloane spent this past summer in New York as a Team Finance Intern for the National Basketball Association (NBA). 

Interning with the NBA before her senior year allowed Sloane to learn more about not only finance, but also basketball. She had the opportunity to compile the PNLs of each of the teams, review year over year team profitability, and analyze the models that the NBA uses for League financials. 

“I was specifically under the team and labor finance group and I helped create a model that was a template for the outputs that we needed to give the (team) directors. It was cool because I got to look at their other models and see how the NBA as a whole viewed leagues’ finances, including international leagues like the China League and Africa League,” Sloane said. 

Oddly enough, Sloane didn’t apply to the position as a major basketball fan. Rather, she applied because she thought the position would be a great learning experience. She said she wanted to explore something new and she loved sports, so it seemed like a great opportunity. In addition, Sloan studied abroad the semester before going into the internship and was able to take a Business of Sports class while in Europe that helped her the following summer. 

“I have never been a huge NBA follower or anything,” Sloane said, “But (the study abroad class) was a lot about the business of soccer and Formula One. It was cool to be able to take that into my internship because I would never have studied that here at UT.”

Although Sloane didn’t expect to take sports-related classes at UT, her Canfield Business Honors major helped her feel prepared in different ways. 

“In my final review my boss said I was good at communicating and presenting,” Sloane said. Being able to get up on stage and not be worried and then have people asking me hard questions and being able to think on the spot is something I definitely got from Canfield BHP.”

In addition to helping her improve her speaking skills, Sloane said Canfield BHP has helped her improve her focus on the bigger picture within business problems. She said Canfield BHP professors teach students to analyze details, but also take a step back to think about how the lessons they’re learning in classes or units fit into the larger picture.

“(My boss) said I was good at taking numbers and thinking about the cases and contexts they fit into, like the overall aspects within the company that those factors could be affecting,” Sloane said. “I think that’s a very Canfield BHP thing to be able to do because we’re taught to look at the big picture too.”

Overall, Sloane walked away from the internship knowing what she wanted to do full-time. She said she enjoyed her environment, but the strategy aspects of the job excited her most. Next year, Sloane will begin her full-time job at Boston Consulting Group (BCG). Her advice to other students is to not be afraid to take on new experiences because opportunities for learning are always available.

“Internships are the best way to see what you enjoy. I realize how much I like to work in sports, but I also realized that cut and dry finance isn’t totally for me,” Sloane said. “With each internship experience, there’s so much you can learn, so keeping an open mind and looking for things that get you excited is the way to go about it.”

Canfield BHP Celebrates National Siblings Day

Great things happen when siblings experience the world together. The Wright brothers, for example, were the first to take man to the air. Together they changed the history of travel and aviation with their achievements in the early 20th century. Venus and Serena Williams changed the world of women’s professional tennis forever when the two sisters burst onto the scene in the 1990s, racking up numerous titles throughout the world. Both sisters have won Olympic gold medals. Many siblings often go off to run a business together and others venture off to great things to make the world a better place.

Today is National Siblings Day and in honor of this occasion, we wanted to feature current Canfield Business Honors siblings to share their experiences with our readers. The Canfield Business Honors Program has seen a fair share of siblings come and go throughout the years. It’s always a bittersweet moment to see them part when the oldest one graduates and enters the post-college world. For now, however, we’re just happy to have them with us!

Ellie and Emily Gex

Ellie (Left) – Freshman – Canfield BHP Class of ‘22
Emily (Right)  – Junior – Canfield BHP Class of ‘20

Ellie Says:

Q: What is it like being in Canfield BHP with your sibling?
A: It is so fun! My sister is so wise and has a lot of advice when it comes to which classes or professors to take. It’s also fun seeing her in McCombs.

Q: What advice, if any, could you provide for future siblings who find themselves in Canfield BHP together?
A: To take advantage of the time you have together!  It is such a sweet privilege to be able to invest in your relationship with your sibling that not many others have.

Q: Has being in Canfield BHP together brought you closer as siblings? If so, how?
A: Yes, definitely! Running into each other and talking before our classes start has brought us closer.  Also, her ability to relate and empathize with everything I’m going through (MIS) has brought more things in common between us.

Q: What lessons have you learned from your older sibling that you’ll take with you throughout your time at Canfield BHP/UT?
A: I’ve learned that if she can do it, so can I. I’ve also learned that even though classes are hard, school does not have to affect my personal life or emotions.  Emily has self-control, rarely appears overwhelmed, and always gives others the time of day even if she’s stressed which I hope to mimic in my life throughout my time at UT and in CBHP.


Emily Says:

Q: What is it like being in Canfield BHP with your sibling?
A: It’s really fun running into Ellie when we’re both sprinting into McCombs because we’re both running late for our respective 12:30pm classes. We’re usually both wearing the same Patagonia pullover and Outdoor Voices leggings and holding a cup of coffee.

We are so similar and its been great to completely understand each other with regards to classes, work/life balance, etc. I understand how hard MIS is, and I am able to give her advice on the projects. It’s fun seeing Ellie become really good friends with the people in her Canfield BHP classes, because I know that my Canfield BHP friends are my best friends, and I want that same thing for Ellie.

It’s also really funny because we are constantly forwarding each other business-related emails for events put on by Undergraduate Business Council and Honors Business Association, etc. Ellie and I went on a company visit to Whole Foods headquarters the other day together. Sisters who network together, stay together!

Q: What advice, if any, could you provide for future siblings who find themselves in Canfield BHP together?
A: Ellie and I try to make time every week to hang out one-on-one and catch up, and this is something I would recommend. Make it a recurring event on your Google Calendar! It’s great for Ellie and I to catch up on school, life, and friends.

Q: Has being in Canfield BHP together brought you closer as siblings? If so, how?
A: I think for the first time I’m really understanding how similar Ellie and I are. What I’ve seen her walk through as a freshman– finding a good friend group, staying up so late studying MIS and BA324 in Scottish Rite Dormitory, and figuring out how to balance school, sorority involvement, faith, and life was almost exactly what I went through. It’s cool to think of Ellie as an extension of myself, in a way, and being in Canfield BHP together has emphasized that for sure.

Q: What advice can you provide for your younger sibling?
A: School is not everything! It seems like it now, but it is not the reason we are on this earth. GPA fades, course schedules fade, even friends fades— the only thing we are able to hold onto is hope for the future and the fact that we have a good God that we can rest in, even when everything else around us may be falling apart.


Eric and Sam Lin

Eric (Left) – Freshman – Canfield BHP Class of ‘22
Sam (Right) – Senior – Canfield BHP Class of ‘19

Eric Says:

Q: What is it like being in Canfield BHP with your sibling?
A: Since we have a three year age gap – he’s a senior and I’m a freshman – I don’t really notice it. It’s only when I’m going for certain student orgs that he happens to be in charge of – any sort of business org – the seniors or the leaders tend to know my brother well. Academically though, since I’m in different classes than he is – he lives off campus, I live on campus – I don’t really interact with him as much as you’d expect. It’s not like I walk into a CBHP class and see him there. So it’s really just convenient if I need to borrow his car or if I have questions about a class or a professor or about the program as a whole. He generally knows all the answers. Other than that, I don’t force myself to interact with him too much because he has his own stuff that he has going on and I have my own stuff. The most interaction is inside student orgs or outside of school entirely.

Q: What advice, if any, could you provide for future siblings who find themselves in Canfield BHP together?
A: I would say don’t rely on your sibling because you don’t want some sort of dependency to develop. If I would’ve developed too much of a dependency on my older brother, then when he graduates this semester I would be stranded without his help. So I force myself to break away from establishing any significant dependency on whatever value he provides to me because that would hinder my ability to sustain myself.

Q: What lessons have you learned from your older sibling that you’ll take with you throughout your time at Canfield BHP/UT?
A: The biggest thing I’ve definitely learned from him is understanding how to value your time and prioritize what matters the most to you, whether that’s academics or extracurricular. He’s shown me that academics don’t mean everything and to spend more time doing stuff outside of class that means more to me.


Sam Says:

Q: What is it like being in Canfield BHP with your sibling?
A: The truth is we’re so busy we don’t run into each other. I almost never see him physically unless it’s on purpose like whenever we need groceries, shopping, or need to get a haircut. I don’t run into him. He has intense classes and is busy all the time. He’s working two internships at the same time and I’m doing a bunch of stuff with orgs. We usually don’t run into each other at all. In fact, other people who are my peers in CBHP tell me they run into him like, “Hey, I saw your little brother again!” and I haven’t even seen him in a week! He’ll randomly reach out to me and say, “I’m taking this class and I’m struggling” with his question and I’ll jokingly be like, “I can’t help you because I did worse.”

Q: What advice, if any, could you provide for future siblings who find themselves in Canfield BHP together?
A: The biggest thing for other siblings in Canfield BHP is; don’t be afraid to talk about a mix of work and personal life with your sibling. When my brother first came, he was like “Okay, I’m going to focus on getting my work done and then Sam, we can go eat together and do whatever.” I gradually offered him help with this stuff.

Q: Has being in Canfield BHP together brought you closer as siblings? If so, how?
A: We’ve always been close. We lived together for over a decade. So we’ve always been close. It’s more just proven that we’re close siblings to begin with. We already know everything about each other. It’s just proving that despite not seeing each other all the time we still randomly connect.

Q: What advice can you provide for your younger sibling?
A: Challenge yourself. Get out of your comfort zone. Do something that you would never see yourself doing and pass it forward to somebody else.

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.

BHP Alumni Involved in My All American Movie

BHP alumnus Adam Blum with director Angelo Pizzo and UT Legend Frank Denius.

BHP alumnus Adam Blum with director Angelo Pizzo and UT Legend Frank Denius.

Three BHP alumni, a fellow McCombs graduate, and a current student in the program have played roles in the development, production and marketing of the new UT football film, “My All American.”  The film shares the story of an incredible young man, Freddie Steinmark, who played for the 1969 Championship Team.  Freddie is a legend in the UT football community and UT alumni played a crucial role in bringing the film to life.

Corby Robertson Jr. (BHP Class of 1969) played linebacker for the Texas Longhorns football team from 1966-68, earning All American status in 1967. Corby was on the team with Freddie Steinmark and is featured in the book about Freddie, “Courage Beyond the Game,” which served as the basis for the movie. Corby has been working closely with the film’s executive producers throughout the filmmaking process.

Adam Blum (BHP Class of 2006) is an investor in “My All American.”  Adam also drove efforts to staff UT student interns in various roles, providing Longhorns a once in a lifetime opportunity to work on a major motion picture being filmed in their backyard.  Adam also played a key role in connecting the filmmakers to some of UT’s most successful alumni and top administrators and he loosely portrays Frank Erwin in a banquet scene in the movie.

Susan Thomson (BHP Class of 1999) is a marketing and strategy consultant on the film. She led several efforts to connect with current UT students and with high school football booster clubs across Texas.

Kell Cahoon (BBA 1982, MBA 1987) is a co-producer on the film as well as an investor in My All American. Kell is a writer/producer whose credits include “King Of The Hill,” “NewsRadio,” “Psych,” and “The Larry Sanders Show.” He has been involved with “My All American” since it’s inception.

Rachel Moore (BHP Class of 2017) is currently an intern on the film assisting with research, and outreach to current students.

The film was directed by Angelo Pizzo, the screenwriter for “Rudy” and “Hoosiers.” The movie premiered at the Paramount Theater in Austin last week and is now in theaters nation-wide. You can view a trailer of the film here.