BHP News The Business Honors Program Mon, 14 Apr 2014 15:51:12 +0000 en-US hourly 1 BHP Students Honored by McCombs Faculty, Staff and Peers Mon, 14 Apr 2014 15:51:12 +0000 Congratulations to all of the students recognized at the McCombs Honors Convocation last 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 – Dennis Thankachan

 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

R. Conrad Doenges Award – Michelle Moon

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 – Zachary Schultz, Anisha Srivastava

Sophomores – Varun Bhatnagar, David Yu

Junior – Neha Vaidya

Barbara Jordan Business Leadership Award – This award recognizes outstanding seniors who have shown great initiative, strong leadership, and outstanding motivation through their activities within the McCombs School.

 Josh Hu

Texas BBA Program Awards

BHP Outstanding Service Award – Courtney Brindle, ’14

BHP Student Leadership Award – Robert Belanger, ’14


Dennis Thankachan Rising Star

Rising Star winner, Dennis Thankachan, with BHP alumni Michael Daehne, Emily Benigno and Jeff Stevens

Michelle Moon Doenges Award

Doenges Award winner Michelle Moon with Associate Dean Dave Platt and BHP Director Robert Prentice

2014 George Mitchell Awards

George Mitchell Business Leadership Award winners


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Alumni Spotlight – Kelly Merryman, VP of Content Acquisition for Netflix Wed, 09 Apr 2014 14:37:33 +0000 Kelly Merryman headshotKelly Merryman, BHP ’98, manages content acquisition for Netflix in Europe.  She began her tenure at Netflix in 2007 licensing content for the US market. She co-led Netflix’s international expansion, acquiring TV series and films, in countries including Canada, Latin America, the UK and Ireland, the Nordic countries and the Netherlands. Prior to joining Netflix, Kelly held positions in digital distribution and business development at Sony Pictures Entertainment, and spent time at both Bain & Company and Audax Group, a private equity firm in Boston.

Take me through your career progression from starting at Bain to ending up at Netflix.

Coming out of UT, I was looking for an opportunity to work in management consulting. I thought it would be a great way to build a strong skill set working in different industries and learning about various companies. I accepted a job with Bain in their Dallas office as a consultant. I worked for an airline in South Africa and actually lived there for a bit. I also worked in the automotive and paper sectors, as well as online travel. I learned a lot about myself and about working in different, large organizations.

I felt it was time to make the bets myself and move away from consulting, so I decided to join a private equity shop. Audax Group was founded by leadership from Bain Capital, looking to return to Bain Capital’s roots of investing in middle-market companies. It was an opportunity to execute on the vision component I had worked on as a consultant and see if it actually worked. I got to see what it meant to motivate an employee base during a change in strategy. The experience of thinking about the value of brands and consumers was really fun.

After getting my MBA from Harvard I took a job in LA with Sony and spent two years in their business and corporate development group figuring out how their distribution of media was going to evolve with the introduction of digital. From there, I jumped into the licensing group to actually do the distribution deals and not just plan them. I enjoy the value of negotiating deals and finding a way for two partners to create a new business.

In 2007, a lot of players entered the market place for digital distribution and Netflix reached out to me about joining their team to do digital licensing. I have been here ever since and have had an unbelievable experience. We had about 7 million subscribers in the US when I joined, now we have over 44 million on the streaming side and about a quarter of those are outside of the U.S.

What are your key responsibilities and areas of focus as the VP of Content Acquisition?

I am responsible for content acquisition for Europe.  This means that my team and I set the programming strategy for Netflix in the different countries we serve in Europe.  We select the titles, negotiate the deals and manage the budget.  Another key part of my role is driving the European expansion strategy for Netflix, determining which countries we should move into next.  I do this in close alignment with our Marketing VP for Europe.

I read that one of the ways you determine viewers’ interest in a show before buying it is checking how it has done on piracy sites. Can you talk more about that?

There are a variety of ways in which we evaluate programming. We focus most of our time on feature films and scripted TV series. We look at their performance in the market to see what the demand is. Performance on piracy sites is one piece of the puzzle, so are box office figures and linear TV ratings as well as DVD sales. This information helps us understand where there is a need. If we can identify a TV series people are watching on a pirate site because it isn’t available, we can try to license it so they have a legitimate way to view that content.

Can you talk more about Netflix’s decision to make original series content?

Ted Sarandos, our head of content,  was the champion of House of Cards, one of our first original series. He had a vision and we all jumped on board quickly. As we continue to grow our business, we want to have a much more exclusive set of TV series and films, and some of those will be original productions. This helps us define our brand and generate excitement and buzz. Netflix today is much more like a channel, albeit pure on demand, instead of a broad distributor. This strategy helps keep subscribers longer.

You were very involved in the expansion of Netflix to other countries. What were the main challenges in making those deals and how has that expansion affected the company?

The biggest question we had was “is Netflix a U.S. service?” We had to ask ourselves if everyone in the world would be interested in on-demand, or if that was uniquely American. Expanding into other countries validated that the demand was there. For the content side, we had to dive in and recognize that each market is unique and we needed to spend the money to develop those local partnerships to get the right content. We had to convince investors of the need for upfront investments that would pay off later. And they have.

What is the best part of your job?

The people. We have such a unique culture over here. We find really impressive experts in their space and give them freedom and responsibility. Being at the forefront of changing this industry is special and exciting.

Were there any specific classes at McCombs that stand out to you or helped prepare you for what you have been doing?

The case method taught in small classrooms was great. It was valuable to learn to work through solving a problem that wasn’t just in one area, but in all areas and learning how they came together. My favorite class was a marketing class taught by Shelby Carter. He would talk about unique challenges he had faced in his professional life and ask us how we would have dealt with it. Seeing those real-life examples and the grey area was enlightening. I realized nothing was as easy as it looks on paper and the answers aren’t always black and white.

Any advice for current BHP students?

Spend time networking with your classmates. They will be some of the most important people in your future. Always ask questions and ask speakers about their most challenging moments and how they handled it. Understanding how people deal with challenges can teach you a lot.

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BHP Students Collaborate With McCombs Faculty on Research Mon, 07 Apr 2014 14:16:24 +0000 Throughout their four years at UT, McCombs students are presented with multiple opportunities to enhance their skill sets and expand their knowledge. For students interested in research, one of these opportunities is working with a professor as a research assistant.

Research rankingThe McCombs faculty was recently named the no. 5 most productive in the world for research in the 2014 release of the University of Texas at Dallas School of Management’s Top 100 Business School Research Rankings.

BHP students have taken advantage of the research opportunities at McCombs and have partnered with McCombs faculty and visiting scholars to not only learn more about their industry of choice, but to take part in the discovery process of expanding and improving that industry. Angela Morisette, Aaryaman Singhal and Jane Tedjajuwana are three BHP students conducting research with McCombs professors this semester.


AngelaBHP and Marketing major, Angela Morisette, is collaborating with Jade DeKinder, an assistant professor of marketing in the program. The two are researching the stages of an initial public offering (IPO), where shares of stock in a company are sold to the public for the first time, and what factors contribute to a company’s valuation in advance of an IPO.

The research findings will be useful to Morisette this summer as she interns with machinery and equipment manufacturer, Caterpillar Inc. She plans to work in corporate marketing after graduation and feels her research background will have prepared her to appreciate the process that goes into interpreting big data and the complications that can arise.

“My experience with Dr. DeKinder has shown me that the starting point is often at the most basic level. You just have to ask and you can’t be afraid,” said Morisette. “If you think a professor is really cool or if you think the research they do is really awesome, all you have to do is ask to be involved, and you never know where that can go.”


AaryamanAaryaman Singhal is currently working with management professor, Ethan Burris, investigating how employees should frame their ideas when selling them to their managers. Professor Burris and Singhal are looking at how framing the voice in a promotive fashion (focusing on new ideas) or prohibitive fashion (focusing on problems that need to be stopped) can impact how managers evaluate the quality and viability of those ideas, and ultimately determine which ideas make it from inception to implementation.

“I chose to participate in research because I enjoy learning from the research and being a part of the discovery process,” said Singhal. “I feel that I learn as much from research as from class and what I learn from research is on the cutting edge of what we know about people today. Through our research we learn more about how people think and operate in the world around them. It’s exciting to be making the new discoveries with regards to how humans behave.”


janeBHP and Finance major, Jane Tedjajuwana, is collaborating with a visiting scholar and researcher from Sweden, Lisen Selander, and Information, Risk, and, Operations Management professor, Sirkka Jarvenpaa. The trio is researching digital activism and civic engagement at Amnesty International. As social media has made it easier for everyone to engage in civic causes, it has also created tension between activism based on long-term organizational memberships and a growing individualization focused on single causes in short-term forms. The project is in the early stage of data collection, both qualitative and quantitative.

Their research allows for Amnesty International, the world’s best-known incumbent in political activism, to understand the challenges in balancing the volatile nature of digital activism with sustained political engagement.

“I first learned about research opportunities available to McCombs students through an info session,” said Tedjajuwana. “One thing I really liked was the fact that research projects focus on a very specific topic, but explore it much more in-depth than undergraduate classes do.”


Current BHP students interested in becoming a research assistant should connect with a faculty member whose research you find intriguing. Professors generally select students they’ve had in class or currently have in class as they often review their own research throughout the course.

Incoming students should consider joining the research-based First-Year Interest Group (FIG). The research FIG is designed specifically for freshmen of the program and meets weekly throughout the fall semester to discuss the importance of research and how to get involved in research at UT.

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BHP Class of 2018 Connects at Discover BHP Wed, 26 Mar 2014 16:18:30 +0000 Discover BHP Co-Chairs Nicole Chu and Neal Makkar

Discover BHP Co-Chairs Nicole Chu and Neal Makkar

Written by Nicole Chu, BHP sophomore and Discover BHP Co-Chair 

This past Saturday, more than 100 admitted students and their families flocked to campus for Discover BHP, a day-long showcase of everything the Business Honors Program has to offer. My co-chair Neal Makkar (BHP/Finance ’15) and I had the honor of planning the event, and we are excited to report that thanks to the combined efforts of the BHP faculty, staff, and students, the day was a resounding success.

Neal and I received so much positive feedback from the attendees: parents raved about the BHP’s 100% job placement rate and the stellar academics, students rejoiced at the vibrant community and extracurricular opportunities, and both praised the friendly, professional demeanor of all the current students, faculty, and staff. I cannot count how many times a guest approached me to tell me that the event had effectively raised his/her opinion of the Business Honors Program, and that it was the people who made all the difference.

I could not agree more with that sentiment: it is the people who invest their time into the program that make the BHP one of the preeminent undergraduate business programs in the country. Moreover, having met them myself, I have no doubt that the latest batch of students will continue this legacy and raise it to still greater heights.

To the Class of 2018: Welcome to the BHP! We cannot wait to see the great things you will accomplish on the Forty Acres. Here’s a quick recap of the day for those who weren’t able to join us.


Admitted students getting to know one another

Admitted students getting to know one another

We started the day bright and early in the SAC Auditorium, where BHP faculty director Robert Prentice rattled off an impressive list of BHP employers to dazzle our guests. Following his opening remarks, a group of volunteers took the prospective students out for small group icebreakers and a tour of McCombs. Meanwhile, academic advisor Tisha Monsey and admissions director Paul Pritchett hosted a Q&A-style information session for the parents. Once reunited, students and parents participated in a series of panel discussions covering a wide range of topics: student life, careers and internships, and study abroad.

Lunch was my favorite part of the day—and not just because of the delicious meal. I simply enjoyed the opportunity to interact with the admitted students and their families in a relatively informal setting, fielding questions about my experiences in the program and sharing general college advice. After the meal, Jeffrey Schwartz (BHP/Finance ’07) delivered the keynote speech, in which he discussed how the BHP and UT prepared him for his career path, which has spanned investment banking, business development and entrepreneurship.

Students attending Jade DeKinder's marketing class

Students attending Jade DeKinder’s marketing class

Hunger abated, the high school seniors returned to the business school for a taste of BHP academics. Half of the students participated in a mock marketing class with Dr. Jade DeKinder, and the other half experienced Dr. Robert Prentice’s business law class. In the meantime, the parents met members of the BHP Parents’ Council in another interactive panel discussion.

For the final session, parents and students came together in the SAC Auditorium yet again to hear from our esteemed faculty. Some of our most beloved BHP professors were joined by Associate Dean Dave Platt for an entertaining and informative discussion.

Before Discover BHP officially ended, Neal and I had one final surprise for our guests. We had spent the day bragging about the breadth of extracurricular involvement by BHP students, so we figured we should spotlight some of that talent. Aware that BHP/MIS sophomore Pearce Illmer was the music director for the a cappella group One Note Stand, we invited the group to perform. They sang a soulful rendition of “Morning Comes” by Delta Rae, and then led our prospective Longhorns in “The Eyes of Texas.” One Note Stand was well-received by the audience, if the number of phone recordings I saw in the audience is any indication. It was the perfect way to end the day.

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Alumni Spotlight: Ty Cobb, Director of Global Engagement at the HRC – Class of 2003 Mon, 24 Mar 2014 15:46:21 +0000 Ty CobbTy Cobb, BHP ’03, is the Director of Global Engagement at the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). Ty works to advance equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people around the world. Prior to launching HRC’s global initiative, he was instrumental in passing the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and an LGBT-inclusive Violence Against Women Act in his role as legislative counsel for HRC and while working for Senator Edward Kennedy.

You received your undergraduate degree and law degree from UT. How do you think UT and BHP prepared you for your career?
I’ve been a lawyer, lobbyist, congressional staffer, public speaker, program director, and manager. All of these roles required different skills, and many of those required were things I learned in BHP. My business background has given me a unique perspective in each of these roles. And, all those case studies were certainly helpful when planning for and launching a new program at the Human Rights Campaign.

What was your career progression after graduating from law school?
I went directly to Bracewell & Giuliani in Dallas where I worked for a year. I then moved to another firm in Washington, DC, Sidley Austin. I stayed there until I began as counsel to Senator Edward Kennedy, where I worked to secure passage of the Hate Crimes Prevention Act in the Senate. It was my first experience working on LGBT rights, but one I’ll always remember. After Senator Kennedy died, I became a lawyer and lobbyist at HRC for several years before getting the opportunity to launch a global program.

What new challenges do you face in this new role in global engagement?
Starting a new initiative from scratch has been a huge challenge. It has been an entrepreneurial adventure, and an opportunity for personal growth. Aside from that, it’s emotionally draining to see some of the more horrific situations LGBT people face across the world. Nearly 80 countries criminalize same-sex relationships – five of which actually punish individuals with death. And, on top of criminalization, several countries have now begun to outlaw public advocacy for LGBT rights. Transgender individuals, as well as those who are lesbian, gay and bisexual, face violence and persecution, some of which is government sanctioned or even condoned by the victim’s family.

There is a lot going on right now with the LGBT rights movement. What is it like being on the front lines of the fight for equality?
Nearly every day is filled with a new dramatic twist or turn. While several countries took big leaps forward last year with marriage equality and strengthening transgender rights, countries like Russia, Uganda, and Nigeria took huge steps backwards. The world is being pulled in two directions and I’m glad to be part of the momentum pulling us closer to a world where individuals aren’t denied their human rights because of who they love or who they are. One of the most rewarding aspects of my job has been meeting human rights defenders from around the world who have become the catalysts for change in their home countries.

What are you spending most of your time on in your new role?
As the LGBT community has gained ground in the U.S., our opposition has lost its momentum. Their decades-long winning streak at the ballot box ended in 2012 when we gained marriage equality in Maine, Washington, and Maryland. As such, in 2013, we started to see anti-LGBT Americans – like Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage – spending more time abroad preaching intolerance and promoting junk science. There is a growing American industry of exporting hate. And dozens of Americans and American organizations are involved in the industry. At this current moment, I’m fixated on a project to expose, combat, and counter the messages of these Americans.

What has been the most meaningful achievement in your career so far?
Being part of the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” DADT repeal was the first issue I worked on at HRC, and I became extremely close with many of the service members who lost their careers because of DADT. Many of the folks affected by DADT had spent decades serving their country only to be discharged because of who they love. The law made no sense. Repeal of the law provided the opportunity for so many in the community to heal from the experience of being told by our government that they were less than equal simply because they were gay or lesbian.

What is your pie in the sky goal for your time at the HRC?
From Cameroon to Jamaica, there are LGBT activists who are fighting to combat violence, stigma, and discrimination just because of who they are. While the laws in each country and culture may differ, these activists are working towards the goal of full inclusion and equality for fully realized LGBT lives around the world. I would like to see HRC play a pivotal role in connecting the work of activists to build a stronger, more connected global equality movement.

What advice would you have for current BHP students?
Unless you’re in the minority, you probably don’t know where you’ll be in ten years. You don’t know what opportunities will open up before you. It’s important to constantly challenge yourself to gain new skills so that you can take advantage of opportunities when they arise. If you feel comfortable in what you’re doing, it’s time to do more. I grew the most as a professional when I put myself into extremely uncomfortable situations that made me do things that I wasn’t particularly thrilled to be doing – public speaking, networking outside my usual circles, taking on monstrous writing projects, and such.

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Junior Bradley Roofner Pursues Passion for Entrepreneurship Mon, 17 Mar 2014 14:42:28 +0000 HatTee_logoWithin two weeks of starting at UT, BHP junior, Bradley Roofner, partnered with his roommate and Computer Science junior, Logan Brown, and co-founded HatTee, a company that sells golf caps that hold tees. Three years later the duo has taken full advantage of the entrepreneurial opportunities Austin and UT have to offer, increasing sales tenfold in under a year.

Roofner and Logan started their sales on campus, “We designed and ordered our own hats online and added the tee holsters ourselves,” said Roofner. “We began selling the hats to fraternities and sororities. We sold a lot of hats pretty quickly.”

The real turning point for their company came just five short months later when they showed their product in the PGA Merchandise Show in Miami, FL, one of the top shows for equipment manufacturers and people in the golf industry to launch their products for the year. “As college students we were able to approach it very humbly,” said Roofner. “We wore suits instead of the normal khaki pants and polo. People took interest in wanting to hear about our product.” It was at the merchandise show that Roofner and Brown met a majority of their current connections, including a contact based out of Thailand who coordinates the supply chain management of the product overseas.

Their success has not come without challenges, “Everybody has more grey hair than you,” said Roofner. “Being able to communicate on the same level and have credibility has been the most difficult part with each step of the company.”  Roofner found McCombs staff to be helpful during this process. John Butler, Director of The Herb Kelleher Center for Entrepreneurship, reached out to Roofner and helped create the HatTee business plan. BHP marketing professor, Leigh McAlister also offered guidance, “She gave me some great advice to go after the higher clientele and not to lower our prices so we could offer a premium product,” said Roofner.


Bradley Roofner (right) with co-founder and partner, Logan Brown. Photo credit: The Daily Texan

HatTee now works mainly with large companies, supplying promotional items for their client’s shareholders and investors. The company also sponsors various golf tournaments and charity events offering their product as giveaway gifts.

As for the future, Roofner and Logan are currently talking with potential buyers of the patent. While they have enjoyed growing their company and learned many valuable lessons along the way, Roofner would like to see the HatTee brand taken further, “We see the future of the product as one that can be most successful when it reaches the average golfer. We aren’t the best company to make that happen, we lack the brand presence and marketing force to bring the idea to the masses,” said Roofner.

They hope the right buyer could take their product the rest of the way there. Regardless of what happens to the product, it was a great learning experience for Roofner and affirmed his passion for entrepreneurship.



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Alumni Spotlight: Nick Garcia – Sponsorship Specialist at the NBA, Class of 2010 Thu, 27 Feb 2014 16:48:04 +0000 Nick GarciaNick Garcia graduated from BHP in 2010 with a second major in Marketing and a minor in Sports Management. He knew early on that he wanted to work for the NBA. Using the tools he learned from his peers and mentors in the BHP, he carved an unconventional career path for himself on his way to becoming a Sponsorship Specialist for the NBA.

You went to work for the NBA right after graduation. Tell me more about your career progression there and how you landed the job.

Growing up, I always wanted to work in sports so I used BHP as my stepping-stone to do just that. As a freshman, I researched the bios and career progressions of all the top executives in sports. From there, I was able to map exactly what I thought would make me an excellent candidate to work in sports post graduation. By the time I was applying for full-time jobs, I had completed four sports-related internships, varying from collegiate, professional, and Olympic levels. Then, it was as simple as going to the NBA Career Website to apply for their NBA Associate Program my senior year. I believe my internship experience, combined with my academics, helped me get the position. They typically only accept six out of 2,500 applicants, so it is very competitive.

I started in a rotational program and spent eight months of the year on Latin American business development. An opportunity came up for a consulting role in Team Marketing and Business Operations (TMBO) and I decided to transition over since it is considered to be the most prestigious group at the NBA. In the beginning, I worked on a lot of case studies and I found a better way to improve some of the fundamental resources we provided to teams, which got me noticed and promoted. Since my first promotion, my positions have been more team-facing, I’ve been doing more presentations to team leadership which allowed me a lot of visibility. I have been able to move up quickly because I have shown advancement in the areas I have been tasked with. Currently, I am a Sponsorship Specialist with TMBO.

How did BHP prepare you for what you are doing now?

The biggest thing was the competitive edge and high standards set by some of the most elite  students and professors at UT. I knew I needed to come to class extremely well prepared every day because I wanted to contribute to discussions and group projects as much as I could. It helped me be successful. Now at the NBA, my colleagues are some of the best in the industry and I need to be prepared to stand out and contribute. I always think, what comment will my boss make and what comment will my boss’ boss make. It is the same as when I was in school and prepared for what my classmates would be asking in class.  If you practice with the best, you become the best.

How did you find opportunities in your interests when you were at UT?

I had a lot of personal ambition to work in the industry. I did informational interviews with anyone and everyone I could find in the sports industry. I would ask them how they got to their job, then I would interview their boss and ask how they got to their job. It helped me find the areas I was interested in and figure out how to get there. It was a lot of work. I took the initiative and was proactive.

What do you enjoy most about working in sports and your current position?

I fundamentally believe in the product we are pitching. Some people say sports is too much of a business and athletes get paid too much, but it is really amazing how sports bring people together. It brings them together in a way nothing else does and I love working in an industry that provides people that escape. The world cup is one of the best examples of that. So many countries in the game face civil unrest, but during that moment, they are all one.

Tell me more about the marketing side of your work. What are the key differences of marketing in a sports setting?

I don’t really think it is that different. It is the fundamentals of business. We are trying to understand our consumers. We survey our fans to get information to put together our marketing strategies. Those who operate sports teams like a traditional business are the most successful.

You worked with Latin America. How did conducting business with Latin American countries differ from conducting business in the U.S.?

We were moving business down there and getting the infrastructure set up to have the first NBA office in Latin America . The skepticism from the locals was high because we are an American Company. We had to work a lot with the government and get their approval for everything. I mean everything. There was a lot of red tape and it was difficult getting them on board for basketball since soccer is the predominant money making sport in the region.

What BHP class do you think was most valuable to you?

BA 324 was probably the most valuable. It provided me with the fundamentals and the ability to communicate my ideas, whether it be in meetings, presentations or emails. I think that is a big part of why I rose up the ranks so fast. I see a lot of new grads who are too conversational in tone. I always knew how to be very professional. The group projects in all my classes also really made a difference in my ability to work in teams.

What advice would you have for someone from BHP looking to take a different career path?

If you have something you are passionate about, find a way to make a career out of it. Whether it is through informational interviews, or looking at Linked In profiles of those you admire. I had the ambition to do something I love. I dismissed financial considerations. I wanted to do what would make me happy and thought the money would come. Entry-level salaries in sports are lower, but once you break through that first tier, you tend to be at a higher level than other business industries. The fact that I was a business honors student and not just a sports management major set me apart because I understood how sports is a more than a game, it’s a business.

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Students Take Fourth Place in a Non-Profit Case Consulting Competition Tue, 18 Feb 2014 17:37:39 +0000 BHP students Robert Ma, Thomas Pigeon, Jane Tedjajuwana and Shannon Wey took fourth place at the McDonough-Hilltop Business Strategy Challenge at Georgetown University in Washington, DC this month. Twenty teams competed, 11 from the U.S. and nine international, in this unique non-profit case consulting competition. This year’s case centered on expanding job opportunities available to members of the National Institute for the Blind (NIB).


From left: Jane Tedjajuwana, Robert Ma, Thomas Pigeon, Shannon Wey

“The main goal of NIB is to help the blind become independent personally and financially. Our job in the case competition was to find ways for the NIB to open up job opportunities not only within the federal government, but in the private sector and in the service industries,” said Shannon Wey.

The team presented a three-pronged solution which involved starting an internship program allowing blind people to get a foot in the door with employers, building a stronger network of partner companies across the nation, and implementing a talent showcase open to companies to show what blind people are capable of with current assisted technologies.

The unique emphasis on non-profit organizations altered the way the students view not-for-profit work, “We realized all the different obstacles that are placed in front of a non-profit, be it people’s biases against the people the organization is trying to serve, to limited opportunities, to financial restrictions,” said Thomas Pigeon. “It gives you a greater appreciation for how they maximize every dollar they are given.”

“Non-profit put such a huge twist on it. I’ve done six or seven case competitions and this is the one I’ve enjoyed the most because the nature of the case made if feel more fulfilling because I felt like I was contributing to a greater cause,” said Robert Ma. The students were also able to dedicate more of their efforts in areas, which may not receive as much attention in typical business case competitions. “Because it’s a nonprofit we didn’t just focus in on revenue,” said Jane Tedjajuwana. “We didn’t look at the financial projection at all in the first round because they just wanted to hear our ideas and gage how realistic it was because ideally they wanted to be able to implement the solution.”

The team also enjoyed meeting other competitors from outside of the U.S. and hearing their global perspective on the case. “It provided a really unique experience for all of us. We appreciated how international it was. We met people from Hong Kong, Australia, Germany and Singapore,” said Robert Ma.

After taking a closer look at non-profit organizations, all of the team members said they would now definitely consider working with non-profits after college.

The trip was not all work. The group managed to find time to visit the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial and made sure to make a pit stop at Georgetown Cupcake.


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Junior Jeffrey Li Working to Make Positive Changes to Medical Research Thu, 13 Feb 2014 16:59:31 +0000 JeffLiJeff Li was drawn to UT by the roaring school spirit, high-caliber academics and top-notch funding for research. When he started at UT he found a land of opportunity as he made the transformation from Biochemistry major in his freshman year to a double major in BHP and the Dean’s Scholar Honor’s Program in natural sciences. He also received the Unrestricted Endowed Presidential Scholarship, which is one of the most prestigious continuing student scholarships offered by UT and has also become heavily involved in research, “I’m so thankful that I chose UT because there are a lot of opportunities here that I don’t think I would’ve found elsewhere,” said Li.

Jeff LiLi has always known that he wanted to go into healthcare and research, interning at the Texas Medical Center immediately after graduating high school Now as a junior in the BHP, Li has found a new interest in examining how healthcare and business intersect, “I want to learn more about how to take the business principles from my BHP courses and cross-apply them to make healthcare more efficient. I want to make a big contribution in this area,” said Li.

He is specifically concerned with how research funds are allocated and the extended time gap between when a medical breakthrough begins at the laboratory bench to ten plus years when it reaches the patient’s bedside. “It’s interesting to me how someone puts a quantitative value on someone’s potential research. I think business concepts and risk management can play a big part in improving this decision-making process by decreasing possible risk and subjectivity,” said Li. “Something McCombs is really good at is teaching us how to make the best choices with a limited amount of information and that’s something I want to continue to learn here and apply to interdisciplinary healthcare and science fields.”

As for the time gap in the research process, Li would like to find improvements to promote efficiency. “What I want to do is leverage education and sustainable business models to develop new therapies for things like Alzheimer’s and cancer, and create new technologies,” said Li. “And I’d like to accelerate that development – get the necessary approval, get it to the patient’s bedside and then bring the information you collect from the patient’s bedside back to the lab bench creating bi-directional communication.”

Jeff Li (front) with Learn To Be

Jeff Li (front) with Learn To Be

Shortly after beginning in the BHP, Li discovered another passion for education through Learn To Be, a non-profit organization that offers free online tutoring services to underprivileged children across the country. Li became involved with the UT chapter, started by a group of BHP students, after learning about the group’s mission. “A lot of times tutoring doesn’t make it to the areas that need it most,” said Li. “What most schools in the nation do have is a computer and internet access, which is really all we need.” Learn To Be has over 600 tutors across the nation made available to students in grades 5–12 via different pre-existing technologies.

Ultimately, Li is working towards creating a better world for generations to come, “I believe that people should not be a victim of their DNA. People should not be a victim of the zip code from where they grew up. Everyone should have the right to aspire to something,” said Li.

Jeff LiLi’s outstanding contributions on campus have not gone unnoticed. He was recently chosen as a recipient of the Texas Exes Presidential Leadership Award, which recognizes undergraduate students who have demonstrated outstanding leadership within the student community at UT Austin. “It means the world to me,” said Li. “I really love that the UT community rewards students for taking a blind leap of faith to make real changes in this world, holding true to the motto, ‘What starts here changes the world,’” said Li. He also encourages his peers to find their passion and take action, “A lot of people think they’ll wait to create change until they get a job or finish graduate school, but you can make a difference right here, right now.”

Li will graduate next year and plans to continue on to medical school. His hope for the future is to work as an intermediary improving the health of others by further opening the valve between research and healthcare.






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Alumni Spotlight: Tom Li – Investment Banking Associate at Nomura Mon, 10 Feb 2014 19:17:51 +0000 Tom LiTom Li graduated from the BHP in 2005 and has since lived all over the US and the world. From NBC Universal in London to investment banking in Hong Kong, Tom has been able to explore new industries and rise quickly in his positions. He is currently an Associate at Nomura International in their investment banking division, focused on the consumer and retail sector. He previously held positions with Liz Claiborne and NBC Universal/General Electric.


You have been able to work in London, Barcelona, Hong Kong, Singapore and Mexico. What have you enjoyed most and found most challenging about working abroad?

I have enjoyed immersing myself in different cultures the most. When working and living abroad, I like learning about the people and their history as well as understanding their perspectives and their point of views. The constant moving around has been difficult, having moved 10 times in the last decade both domestically in the US and internationally. It has been challenging to build a network of close colleagues and friends because you have to basically start again with every move. Being part of a program like BHP and attending a school like UT Austin helps. In most cities that I have lived, I have been able to reconnect with a friend from school or meet up with UT alumni living in those cities.

You have worked in a variety of industries and a variety of roles. Were the moves you made intentional or did your career path just lead you in those directions?

It was partly intentional and a lot of luck. I have usually set a general goal that I’d like to reach and worked towards it. Then, I encounter some twists and turns on the way. For example, I decided that I wanted to pursue a career in the film industry while in college and lucked into it getting involved with film shoots in Austin. I ended up interning on the movies Friday Night Lights and Idiocracy as well as with the Texas Film Commission. Those experiences gave me a slight advantage when interviewing with GE/NBC Universal for their Financial Management Leadership Program, which I found through the McCombs Career Center. With the move from entertainment to fashion, I worked well with the boss I had in London at NBCU. He moved to Liz Claiborne and asked if I would be interested in joining him, which I did. It was fascinating to learn about the fashion industry and to see the media/entertainment industry from another perspective as well as better understand why companies are willing to pay millions of dollars for a thirty-second ad spot on TV. After I got my MBA, I decided it would be good to obtain some investment banking experience to enhance that expertise in my skill set, so took a position with Nomura International in investment banking. Working at Nomura also allowed me to see and understand the difference between working for a non-US (Japanese) company versus an American company.

In your role with Liz Claiborne you developed partnerships with Chinese companies. What was that process like and how different is the process when working with companies in other countries?

The process was difficult. The company was trying to turn around the Liz Claiborne brand at the time, and most people were focused on the core domestic business. I was in charge of the longer-term strategy of the business to ensure its success in the future upon revitalization of the brand. One idea was to further expand Liz Claiborne’s presence in Asia. It was challenging to build partnerships in Asia because it was difficult to find the right partners, particularly in China. I reached out to some advisory firms that connected me with potential companies that could be the right fit as a partner in Asia. We invited those companies to our showrooms in New York City to take a look at the new brand concept and designs as well as to learn more about each other. It was important to pay attention to and respect the different cultures when dealing with people from other countries. I remember wanting to go beyond the surface level of understanding another’s culture, but did not find that to be very easy. I have concluded that is something you learn over time and with experience working with people from other cultures.

Why did you choose to do your MBA at IESE in Barcelona?

It is a great school in an amazing city. I also wanted to challenge myself and live in a country that has a completely different culture and language. Language skills help when you are working internationally. It is better to speak the local tongue if you can, even if you are not fluent in it. The act of trying to speak in another language demonstrates your respect for another culture, which I found is often appreciated. I also like being taken out of my comfort zone and wanted to live in a country where English wasn’t the national language and people took siestas. It was important for me to gain a less US-centric perspective of the world, having lived in the US a majority of my life at that point. The experience allowed me to understand an international perspective of the US as well as made me appreciate certain elements of our US society even more. An unexpected benefit is that now I have friends across the world, as only around 10% of the student population is from the US.

Are there any deals you worked during your time doing M&A work that really stand out to you?

My first one. When I was at NBC Universal working with Telemundo, we acquired a small Hispanic TV distribution company. It was my first M&A deal and was very interesting because it combined my passion for film/tv/media with my corporate finance education. It was the first time I felt truly challenged and used the finance and accounting knowledge that I had learned from UT. I was good at it, and it planted a seed in my head that I could do this in the future. I took intermediate accounting when I was at UT and that helped prepare me for this deal, although I remember that class being extremely difficult when I took it.

Tell me more about the work you did at NBC Universal. Why did you decide to go to work for NBCU and GE after graduation?

It was a dream job for me at that time. I was considering just moving out to Los Angeles to work in the film business upon graduation, but when I got the job I was excited because NBCU felt like a natural fit. I joined NBCU/GE’s Financial Management Leadership Program. They use the program to build the finance leadership pipeline at GE. It is a two-year program. You complete four, six-month rotations, and they send you on company-taught courses throughout those two years. For the first two years at NBCU, I worked in different finance roles in different businesses. I worked at CNBC, Telemundo, Universal Studios and NBC Universal Television Distribution. After the two years, they sent me abroad to London to work in the NBCU International business that was tasked with international expansion. The program set me up with a great network. It is kind of like a mini-MBA.

You have had leadership roles with some great companies. What do you think has been the key to success in your own career?

Finding a mentor is important. Working hard and intelligently is also vital for success. It is key to figure out how to do things quickly and efficiently and how to deliver what people are really looking for, not just what you are told to do. Spend some time to scope out what is needed before you start working. If you understand what needs to be done and what is expected, it will be easier to figure out who to go to for help and how to prioritize your workload and manage your schedule. I have been lucky to be given a lot of autonomy in my roles to have the ability to do this, and that has been very important to me.

What advice do you have for current BHP students?

Do what you are passionate about and interested in. If you are really interested in something, you will be much better at it than if you did something thinking that is what you think you should do. Beyond earning a living and building a great career (in which BHP students will undoubtedly be successful), aspire to also make a positive contribution to society.

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