BHP Students Take 2nd Place at National Stock Pitch Competition

This weekend, a team of four BHP University Securities Investment Team (USIT) students traveled to the University of Michigan Ross School of Business to compete in one of the oldest undergraduate stock pitch competitions, hosted by the Michigan Interactive Investments Team . USIT has historically done very well at this competition (3rd in 2016, 1st in 2014), and this year the team was thrilled to clench 2nd place!

The team, comprised of Karna Venkatraj (BHP Junior, USIT Industrials Portfolio Manager), Ryan Spencer (BHP Junior, USIT Energy Fund Analyst), Catherine Cheng (BHP Sophomore, USIT Senior Analyst), and Ananya Rajesh (BHP Sophomore, USIT Senior Analyst), beat out 25 teams from other top business schools.

Stock pitch competitions allow teams of students to formulate a variant view revolving aroung a particular security, conducting intrinsic and relative valuation to arrive at an implied valuation for the company. Students then present their findings to the competition judges in a preliminary and final round. This year, the team chose to pitch Hawaiian Airlines.

The four students on the team are leaders within the University Securities Investment Team (USIT), an investing team that seeks to provide financial education through active securities investing. USIT is the only UT finance organization to send teams to national competitions. The organization also boasts and all-female executive board, including two BHP students serving in the roles of President (Phoebe Lin) and Director of Investment (Megan Tran-Olmsted).

Student Spotlight: John Falke

BHP and Supply Chain Management senior John Falke never thought a big state school would be the right fit for him, but after attending Discover BHP as a senior in high school, he realized that UT and BHP were exactly where he wanted to be.  After four years at UT, his love for the University and for McCombs has only grown stronger.

One of his favorite experiences so far has been participating in the study abroad program for BHP, which took him to Buenos Aires his freshman year. Falke is also minoring in Spanish, so the experience helped him keep his Spanish skills sharp while learning more about a culture that was so unique and interesting. Following the coursework in Argentina, he was inspired to enroll in the Business and Public Policy program after taking “Non-market Strategies in Emerging Markets” at Universidad de San Andres. Through this program, Falke was able to examine the intersection of political decision-making to aspects of private sector business operations across the globe.

Within the Business and Public Policy Program and BHP, Falke thought critically about the impact he wants to have in his career and it prompted him to join Teach For America to participate in a grassroots movement for educational equity. He recognized how a broad level of community and academic support gave him a boost in high school and college. “In school, I had so many teachers who helped me guide my interests, but I didn’t really realize until I came to college that so many students don’t have that opportunity.” He will be teaching at a middle school in Dallas next year and hopes to support his students in the same ways that he was supported by his teachers in the past.

Outside of his school and career interests, Falke has been an active leader on campus. During his freshman year, he was elected as Business School Representative to Student Government (SG) and served on the Financial Affairs Committee. He later ran for and won his university-wide Representative election and became the chair of Financial Affairs, where he oversaw the SG budget, scholarships, organization appropriations, and funding for student initiatives. In addition, he has been involved in Senate of College Councils, Honors Business Association, Undergraduate Business Council, the College Tuition and Budget Advisory Committee, and served as a Camp Texas counselor. Last spring, he ran a Student Government presidential campaign and said that it was the most rewarding experience he has had at UT so far.

Falke says from his first student government position, to his upcoming Teach For America post, McCombs and the Business Honors Program have allowed him to explore different career options and gain insight from the diversity of career options of alumni and fellow students. Because of this, he has found a major, university activities and a job that connects with his passions, and allows him to encourage others to do the same.

Students Compete in International Case Competition at USC

In February a BBA team of three BHP juniors and one iMPA junior competed in the Marshall International Case Competition at USC. Only 17 top-ranked international and U.S. business schools were invited to participate in the competition. Although the McCombs team did not make it to finals, they performed well and placed second in their prelim room.

Teams of students represented schools such as University of Pennsylvania, University of Virginia, and Washington University in St. Louis. International competitors included Copenhagen Business School, University of Auckland, and National University of Singapore. The format for the competition was a 15-minute presentation with 10-minute Q&A. Teams had 24 hours to read the case and develop their solutions.

This year’s case focused on Intuit, a software company that creates financial tools for consumers and small businesses. Intuit’s most popular products are TurboTax and Quickbooks. The case asked teams to predict the needs of small businesses in 2026 and help Intuit prepare to meet those needs. Teams could recommend adaptations of Intuit’s existing products, suggest a new product offering, pitch a merger/acquisition, or come up with other ideas.

Eric Saldanha, BHP junior, explained the McCombs team’s solution. “We argued that predictive analytics would be the future of business technology,” he said. “With the rise of Big Data, businesses will have massive quantities of data to mine. However, understanding and analyzing that data will be a gargantuan task that Intuit can help with. With recent developments in machine learning and rosy expectations for future growth, we recommended that Intuit make investments in machine learning now so that it is the go-to provider of predictive analytics software for small businesses in 2026.”

The team had a phenomenal time seeing the Los Angeles area, and meeting teams from domestic and international schools. They were able to spend time in Santa Monica and visit The Getty Museum. One of the organized outings for competitors was to a barbecue restaurant in L.A. for dinner. The Texas team was asked many times by other teams how the barbecue compared to Texan fare. The team happily told them Texas barbecue was better.

The competition was a great experience for the four students who represented McCombs. “We learned a lot from the other teams and how they approached the case,” said Saldanha. “For example, non-U.S. teams placed a lot more emphasis on international markets and the needs of businesses in developing economies.” The team relied on each other’s strengths to come up with their solution in the allotted 24 hours and to confidently present it to the judges.

Student travel to case competitions is supported through generous donations to the Business Honors Program. Thank you to our alumni, whose support allows students to have enriching experiences such as this one. If you would like to make a gift to the BHP Alumni Endowed Excellence fund, click here.

Student Spotlight: Gracie Chambers

BHP sophomore Gracie Chambers is a marketing major from Ft. Worth, TX. Gracie characterizes herself as a creative, with an entrepreneurial spirit. She’s interested in pursuing a career in technology, user experience design and fashion.

Coming from a high school of 82 graduates, she was looking for the complete opposite in a college experience – a large university with a winning football team! She was hoping to attend an out-of-state school, but she knew she must consider UT first. After visiting UT though, she fell in love with the campus, McCombs, and the city of Austin. The university had everything she could dream of in a college. The BHP program, with its small cohort, made her transition from a small high school to a large university ideal.

Gracie learned a great deal about business even before entering McCombs. In high school, she started her own clothing line advertising the “city pride” of Fort Worth. “I learned a lot from owning my own business,” she says. “One of the biggest things I learned was how to work with people older than me.  I learned to stand my ground, even though I was younger. I also learned how to manage people.”

Gracie admits that balancing her school work and her business was very difficult. She feels she could have taken the business to a different level, expanding into other cities, but she prioritized school and friends over the business. Due to the demands of her course load, she made the difficult decision to sell her company her freshman year. “I reached out to a few potential buyers who I thought might be interested. I put together a booklet with all of the products, and information about the company, and ended up receiving an offer from a store that sold my products.”

Selling the business was very educational for Gracie who learned all the steps firsthand, including evaluating financial statements, calculating the worth of her business, working with lawyers, negotiating with the buyer and settling taxes.

With the business sold, her focus turned back to academics. While being at McCombs has definitely been a new challenge for Chambers, the BHP community has been a highly supportive. “In BHP, I’ve made awesome friends who encourage me to keep doing my best in whatever I want to do,” she says. Gracie is also a member of Kappa Alpha Theta sorority, and is planning to join their executive team.

Student Spotlight: Don Dao

Don Dao

BHP Sophomore Don Dao was raised a longhorn; his entire family went to UT. Even with this upbringing, he envisioned himself leaving Texas for college, but after being admitted to BHP, he ultimately decided to stay in Texas and attend UT Austin.  Don loved how BHP provides the resources of a small centralized program, with  a tight-knit community and great professors.

He is happy he ended up in Austin and is enjoying the city’s strong entrepreneurial spirit. He has been involved in the Austin start-up scene, and has been able to network through the business school community and the Austin community to get his start-ups off the ground.  He believes the entrepreneurial route allows individuals to pave their own way and fosters innovation.

Don and four other UT students are following their own innovative path, having created a start-up called Condecca. Condecca is a recruiting platform that connects college students with employers for short-term internships, short-term projects, and contract work. Don and his partners found that many students struggled with securing a good internship as an underclassman when they had no previous job experience.  “It’s a niche in the recruiting market that we’ve seen. This platform will allow students to build up their resumes, get recommendations,  and get experience that they would not otherwise have access to if they didn’t already have work experience,” he said. He hopes to eliminate the paradox of having to have experience in order to get experience.

Don has also interned with a Houston-based business technology company and is planning on interning in risk consulting this semester. In addition to his passion for business, he also stays active in two charities, the Mona Foundation and Sunflower Mission. He has helped build schools in several countries through Sunflower Mission and serves as a liaison between Mona Foundation and the Texas Wranglers, for which he serves as Vice President. 

“Giving food, water and clothes only lasts so long. Giving the people there an education as a means to escape poverty and give back to their community, has proven to be one of the most effective ways to raise entire communities out of poverty,” he said.

Don will continue to pursue his startup interests, but in the meantime, he is seeking to intern for a consulting firm or a boutique investment bank this upcoming summer. He hopes to run his own consulting or VC business one day.