Search results: "elevate"

Elevate: Diversity & Inclusion Conference at McCombs

On February 8th, Texas McCombs hosted its first ever Elevate: Diversity & Inclusion Conference. This event aimed to identity how companies and business leaders create effective strategies to transform their current culture into one where both diversity and inclusion become embedded into the organization’s core values. Texas McCombs students and staff have been participating in more D&I conversations within the program and with the outside business community in recent years with an understanding that MBA community strength and positive growth is fostered through these efforts.

Elevate Diversity & Inclusion Conference at Rowling Hall on February 8, 2019. Photo by Lauren Gerson DeLeon.

The First Conference of Its Kind

Elevate was first conceived by MBA students Ashley Fox and DeAndrea Staes. They identified the diversity and inclusion space as a big opportunity for growth and community outreach for the MBA program.

Through the conference, Ashley and DeAndrea targeted the recruitment of underrepresented minorities as a potential improvement area for MBA programs and created an Elevate Diversity Scholarship to provide support to underrepresented minority students accepted to the McCombs School of Business.

Ashley Fox and DeAndrea Staes at Elevate Diversity & Inclusion Conference. Photo by Lauren Gerson

“The most impactful part of the conference was seeing what started as a small vision, grow into something phenomenal. Over the course of two days, seeing our sponsors, speakers, students and community come together in a collaborative fashion for a common purpose truly sparked something great for the future of McCombs,” says DeAndrea. “I truly enjoyed seeing participants roll their sleeves up at the design thinking session hosted by IBM to address critical questions like, ‘How do you find acceptance inside a company’s culture?’ and ‘What happens financially when companies are not diverse and inclusive?’ This set the tone for an amazing conference with powerful conversations.”

Elevate Diversity & Inclusion Conference at Rowling Hall on February 8, 2019. Photo by Lauren Gerson DeLeon.

We created this event to evoke change in the McCombs community and create a sustainable, long-term solution that would provide a forum for the University of Texas and greater Austin community to engage and learn about diversity, inclusion, and culture,” says Ashley. “The feeling after the Elevate Conference ended was indescribable. After we gave our closing remarks, we knew that this conference would be a marquee event and change agent for the Texas McCombs and Austin community for years to come.”

Elevate Diversity & Inclusion Conference at Rowling Hall on February 8, 2019. Photo by Lauren Gerson DeLeon.

Elevate Diversity & Inclusion Conference at Rowling Hall on February 8, 2019. Photo by Lauren Gerson DeLeon.

“I am truly proud of what Ashley and I were able to accomplish and know that this is just the beginning,” says DeAndrea. “We are excited to see what the future holds for this dynamic, student-led, electrifying conference!”

The Keynote Speakers 

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Finding Love at Texas McCombs

This Valentine’s Day, we revisit some of our favorite MBA love stories! Current MBA students and alumni who found love during their time at McCombs share their sweet stories below.

An Impromptu First Date 

Aneesh and Abhisikta on their wedding dayAbhisikta Dasgupta and Aneesh Bansal, current 2nd year MBA students, met at an improv team-building activity during MBA Orientation. Two free tickets to the Hideout Theatre were taped between their seats and thus became their first official date.

“We started going out immediately after orientation and love happened gradually. It’s nice to have a partner who knows what you are going through and is there to support you,” says Abhisikta. “It is definitely more rewarding than challenging. Getting your MBA can be very stressful, so we give each other space when needed.”

Abhisikta and Aneesh got married in January 2020 in Delhi, India.

“We both have Indian parents and Indian weddings can be crazy,” says Abhisikta. “We passed on most of the planning to Aneesh’s parents but still spent many sleepless nights trying to find the right balance of both cultures. Finally, we did manage to collapse a week worth of madness into a single day of events. It was a fun, happy day.”

Abhisikta and Aneesh Wedding Photos

Abhisikta and Aneesh during their wedding celebration.

Abhisikta & Aneesh Wedding

Abhisikta says her best memories with Aneesh include getting lost while hiking and Aneesh’s cooking.

“We got lost while hiking on the Crystal Mountain (near Mount Rainier), roamed around for hours, thought we would be eaten by wild animals (it was getting dark), said our good-byes and love yous, but then spotted a lake and a bunch of tents and found a trail and are still alive to tell the tale!”

“Aneesh loves cooking for me and then he waits eagerly for feedback,” says Abhisikta. “I sometimes forget and he makes a very sad puppy face.”

Abhisikta and Aneesh are both joining Amazon after graduation in Seattle, where they plan to adopt two dogs and take full advantage of Amazon’s dog-friendly office policy.

Interviewing Your Future Husband 

When Caitlin Ellinwood, MBA ’19, was doing research for a start-up while in school, little did she know it would lead to the first conversation with her future husband, Jonathan Powell, MBA ’20.

“I was working for a robotics start-up founded by a McCombs alum and I needed to interview people related to the aerospace industry,” says Caitlin. “Jon had just started at McCombs a few weeks prior and I found out he was previously a helicopter pilot. I ended up interviewing him about his time as a maintenance manager for Apache Helicopters [in the U.S. Army].” 

Caitlyn and Jon wedding photoPhoto by Creatrix Photography.

Caitlin and Jon took a trip together to New Orleans after he completed his first semester of school to celebrate, which became a pivotal point in their relationship. The couple married in February 2020 in a “flash-mob style” wedding at the Mopac bridge alongside 50 of their closest friends and family members. 

“We chose Mopac bridge because Jon LOVES bridges! During our first trip together in New Orleans he dragged me across the entire French Quarter to see a bridge in the middle of the day while we were out with friends,” says Caitlin. “I complained at the time, but it has become one of our fondest memories. We’d visited the Mopac bridge a few times and thought it was a beautiful opportunity to show our guests Austin’s beauty and get to have fun on a bridge!”

Caitlyn and Jon on their wedding day
Photo by Creatrix Photography.

“Before we told people we were dating, we used to fist bump on campus when we saw each other. It has stuck as an inside joke between us and we still do it to this day,” Caitlin said. “It’s definitely a bit awkward at the beginning – it would be like dating a coworker. But once you’re settled in it’s great to have someone you can talk to you about classes, career goals etc.” 

Caitlin and Jon wedding photo.
Photo by Creatrix Photography.

They plan to lay low this Valentine’s Day and catch up on some alone time after the busy holiday season. 

Summer Love Turned Forever

Launa and John Bilal, both MBA ’17s, met at the  Consortium Orientation Program (OP) in 2015. John was much quieter than Launa, and his first impression of her was, “she’s a handful.”

Laura and John at graduation.

In 2016, they both moved to Dallas for their MBA summer internships and decided to live together. During that time, they fell in love.

“Being able to have a partner who is just as ambitious and understands the challenges and pressures of being in business school as well as the subsequent careers that we accept is important,” says Launa. “There is never a need to explain our frustrations, fears, or exhaustion during business school or with our work because we are sharing very similar experiences. In the same vein, we know how important it is to celebrate when either of us had milestones in business school or in our careers because we understand the challenges first-hand.”

launa and john

During their last semester of business school, Launa and John studied abroad in Switzerland and traveled together across Europe.

“One of our favorite places was Barcelona – we took a paella cooking class, marveled at La Sagrada Familia, walked through Casa Batlló, went to an ancient bath spa, and just otherwise enjoyed the culture and beauty of Barcelona,” says Launa. “It was a wonderful few days of being together, enjoying each other, and not thinking about school, work, or anything in between.”

Launa and John on their wedding day.

Launa and John both travel for work, and so this will be the first Valentine’s Day they will be spending together since getting married. They will be celebrating with a night out in Dallas.

“The primary objectives of going to business school should be to elevate yourself, learn about yourself, and explore areas that you otherwise would not have the opportunity to do in your previous careers,” says Launa. If you happen to meet someone who you feel you could also grow with and grow to love, that is a plus! Do what you set out to do – grow and challenge yourself – and the rest will fall in place.

#FultonFloresMerger

Cassie Fulton and David Flores are proud members of the Evening MBA Class of 2016 and even gave a nod to their b-school background at their wedding last year with a creative hashtag: #FultonFloresMerger.

“We met during the first orientation weekend of the program,” says Cassie. “David spotted me walking down the stairs and we ended up walking to dinner at the stadium together. At the end of the weekend, he ended up asking for my number so we could grab lunch — and the rest is history!”

Cassie famously told her brother she was getting her MBA not her “MRS”, but came away with both. Cassie and David tied the knot in February 2019 in Austin, Texas and reserved a whole table just for their “McCombies.”

Cassie & David WeddingCassie and David posing with their McCombies at their wedding.

“We started our relationship by taking the Myers-Briggs [personality assessment] with our classmates — this was VERY helpful,” says Cassie. “Being in class together and trying to navigate being a couple, trying to make friends or network with peers, and also be professional in the class environment was tricky. Being McCombies together, we made great friends in the program and built a great network. We also have similar motivations and language when discussing life and our careers.”

Cassie & David Wedding Photo

After business school, David’s job moved them to Minneapolis, MN and then to Raleigh, NC. They just moved back to Austin and don’t plan to leave again. Cassie is VP of Global Product Marketing at CPA Global and David is a Senior Customer Support & Engagement Manager at Collins Aerospace.

Out of the Friend-Zone 

Kinza Azmat and Nishanth Ramesh graduated from the Weekend MBA at Dallas/Fort Worth program in 2018. They first met a pre-MBA happy hour and their story is a little different from the other MBAs.

Kinza Azmat and Nishanth Ramesh

“I know what you’re thinking: boy meets girl, girl meets boy, love at first sight. That’s precisely the opposite,” Kinza says. “We friend-zoned immediately and continued as platonic group mates. Suffice it so say that this friendship extended beyond graduation, especially since we’d seen each other at our highest and lowest points while at McCombs.”

“Our classmates were akin to VC firms, seeing our relationship’s potential much before the original founders,” she says. “Even at the insistence of many friends, we were obstinate to external advice and continued to remain friends.”

A year after graduating from McCombs, Kinza decided to move to Denver. But before moving, she wanted to close all open chapters in Dallas – subtly dropping hints to Nishanth about a potential relationship. The target audience did not receive the intended message; Nishanth invited other McCombs friends to all of Kinza’s attempts at a “real date.” Finally, Kinza point blank asked him out and he enthusiastically agreed.

“Our first date consisted of a Brandi Carlile concert, a cozy sushi spot, and the realization that all of our classmates were right,” says Kinza. “Love was a matter of weeks, a shared home came next at 6 months, an engagement at month 8, and a wedding-to-be in October 2020!”

Nishanth wanted the proposal to be fun and include their friends, at a place special to both of them – the climbing gym. Kinza enjoys competing in bodybuilding and trains to peak for photoshoots, so Nishanth coordinated a faux photoshoot of Kinza climbing at the local gym and she didn’t suspect a thing. But then, Kinza started getting suspicious, especially when Nishanth asked her to take the tape off her fingers before the next route.

“As she was being lowered from her last climb, the rope turned and she saw all of our friends gathered at the bottom, smiling and cheering,” Nishanth says. “The rope was still tied in to both of us, highlighting how she’d been trapped…oops, connected for life when she said ‘yes.'”

Kinza Azmat and Nishanth Ramesh surrounded by their friends after the proposal.

Kinza and Nishanth surrounded by their fellow MBA at DFW classmates after the proposal.

Dave Jackson, Senior MBA Admissions Officer in Dallas, who admitted both of them into the program, was one of the many spectators there to witness the proposal.

“Not only is it great to have two of my favorite people meet in the program and become engaged, but the fact that so many of their classmates were there when Nishanth proposed also testifies to the culture of the program and the relationships you form.” says Dave.

Kinza Azmat and Nishanth Ramesh

This Valentine’s Day, Kinza and Nishanth are staying true to their nature of valuing adventurous experiences and plan to go shoot zombies in a virtual reality arcade, followed by a romantic dinner.

“Our advice would be to keep doing you, make friends, experience new adventures, and let your feelings guide your life,” says Kinza.

An Adventure in Love

Lis Reed and Peter Mamone, MBA ’15s, first met on the McCombs Adventure Program (MAP) tubing trip right before orientation. They became “fast friends” after learning about each other’s military background and officially started dating that spring of their first year at McCombs. They knew they loved each other after spending a summer apart. 

Lis Reed and Peter Mahome

“We did our first year internships in different places: I was in the Bay Area with Apple; Pete was in Dallas with Deloitte. We knew it was love when we really missed each other over the summer,” says Lis. “These days we’re both at Google here in Austin.”

One of their favorite memories at McCombs was traveling to Singapore, Malaysia, and the Philippines with classmates for a Global Connections MBA Study Tour. 

“It was a once in a lifetime experience and awesome to share it with each other! It was really nice to be with someone who understood how chaotic business school schedules can get and who values their career.” 

Lis Reed and Peter Mahome

This Valentine’s Day weekend the couple will be heading to Nashville to celebrate their 2nd wedding anniversary.

Best wishes to all our McCombs couples! ❤️

Community Spotlight: Texas McCombs MBA Women

Texas McCombs has had the privilege of partnering with the non-profit organization  The Forté Foundation to provide access to education, opportunities, and a supportive network to empower women in business education and management leadership since 2001.

Forté is committed to “changing the balance of power in the workplace” and strives to provide women with the resources they need to become leaders in business. The foundation has awarded $180 million in fellowships and has helped nearly 8,000 women earn and pursue their MBA.

Forté also provides advice and resources on their Business 360° Blog, hosts women-lead webinars and connects students and working-professional women all year around.

McCombs continues to be an active partner by participating in Forté events across the country and hosts women-focused conferences and events every year. We also attend their annual conference every year. This event brings together women from across the nation for a weekend of professional development and networking with top industry leaders, employers, and peers. This year’s conference was held in Chicago in July.

Firsthand Experience: Being a Forté MBA

Elpidia Gamez, MBA Class of 2021

Elpidia Ellie Gamez, new MBA and Forté Fellow, said she chose to attend McCombs for the collaborative community and plans to pursue a healthcare concentration. She appreciated that McCombs gives her the opportunity to work with the globally-recognized Dell Medical School and the College of Pharmacy on pharmaceutical innovation and commercialization.

“I can continue to develop and improve my leadership skills through McCombs’ unique MBA+ Leadership Program and participating in student-led organizations, such as GWiB and MBA Healthcare Association,” says Elpidia. “Also, Austin is not only a cool city with great eats and a fun social scene, but also a center for innovation and budding technology.”

McCombs hosted a pre-conference dinner for our Forté fellows at Giordano’s for a taste of famous Chicago deep dish pizza. This gave our fellows the chance to meet and talk about their post-MBA ambitions and goals. The conference kicked off with keynotes and discussions from business leaders. The fellows then had breakout sessions and panels based on their career and industry interests.  Forté also held a Career Expo and Networking Reception where the fellows met with representatives from Forté corporate sponsors who were ready to provide opportunities, advice, and insight.

“It was really great to see so many companies demonstrating their commitment to diversity and inclusion and advancing women in leadership with their participation throughout the day and then at the career expo. The room was abuzz with excitement to meet and speak with potential employers so I’m very grateful to our Career Services team who helped us prepare our pitches and for the engagements we had throughout the conference,” says Elpidia.

A panel of women leaders at The 2019 Forté MBA Leadership Conference in Chicago.

The second day of the conference kicked off with discussions from industry-leading women from Chevron, Google, Liberty Mutual, and Walmart. Forté then hosted career development breakout sessions like, “Leveraging Men as Mentors & Sponsors,” “Classroom Communication Strategies,” and “Set Yourself Apart with Personal Branding.” The fellows also got the chance to vote on Power Pitch Presentations where women-led teams pitch a business plan to panel of judges for feedback and chance to win seed money to continue their business idea during or after business school.

“I thought it was incredibly brave and empowering to see these ladies present their business plan with so much passion and polish to a room full of strangers who were all there to support with cheers and applause,” says Elpidia. The day wrapped up with the Edi Hunt Award and a conversation featuring Jessica Bennett, author of the Feminist Fight Club.

In conclusion, Elpidia expresses one of the best takeaways from the conference:

“I left Chicago inspired and better prepared to further the progress driven by the women who came before me who are now industry leaders both on-campus and in my future workplace.”

Elpidia with her power word “victorious” at the 2019 Forté MBA Leadership Conference in Chicago.

McCombs Graduate Women in Business (GWiB)

The McCombs chapter of the National Graduate Women in Business organization (GWiB) hosts an annual Women in Business Leadership Conference which brings together students, alumni, faculty, and influential businesswomen to address issues and challenges that affect women in today’s business environment.

GWiB also sponsors a professional development series, meets with prospective students, offers a mentoring program, hosts social outings, and organizes an annual boat cruise across Lake Austin. The org also spotlights it’s members on their Instagram page to highlight goals and achievements.

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Every week, we feature a woman from our community. Our #wcw this week is second-year Manasa Murthy! #whymccombs Name: Manasa Murthy Hometown: Diamond Bar, CA Past Work Experience: Critical Care Clinical Pharmacist (Ascension Health) Future Career Goals: After graduation I will be working at HEB as their Director of Health & Wellness. Our goal is to improve the health of Texans through food and innovative services. McCombs organizations and leadership positions: Past Co-President: Health Innovation Fellows, Past Co- VP Events: GWIB, Past VP: Indian Graduate Business Association, Past Board Fellow: Half Helen Foundation, Past Co-Women’s Weekend Chair, MAC Member Who is YOUR #wcw and why? I have many #wcw at McCombs but if I had to pick one it would be Lily Trieu. Lily  is always the first in a group to make others feel welcome and included. She is passionate about education and diversity and goes above and beyond to make meaningful change. I respect Lily for always standing up for what she believes in and know she will do amazing things in the future.

A post shared by GWiB at McCombs (@gwibmccombs) on

Discover McCombs: Women’s Weekend

In addition to conferences and meetups, Texas McCombs encourages all women MBAs interested in the program to attend our annual Discover McCombs: Women’s Weekend held each fall. Students get the opportunity to tour the beautiful UT Austin campus and Rowling Hall, plus engage with our community through panels, events, and sessions on program resources.

Last year’s Women’s Weekend welcomed 56 MBAs and kicked off at the Kendra Scott Home Office! The attendees also helped FloCode put together 315 Flo Packs for women in need and participated in Google’s #IAmRemarkable workshop. It was truly an amazing event.

McCombs also hosts diversity and inclusion conferences and workshops such as Elevate and Diversity Weekend.


If you’d like to connect with Elpidia about her experience with Forté, the MBA application process, or her background, reach out to her.

We will be highlighting more students and events throughout the year so be sure to subscribe to our blog. If you would like more information about the Texas McCombs MBA program, we encourage you to attend an MBA event—class visits, campus tours, or info sessions on-campus.

Contact our MBA admissions committee with any questions you have. Hook ’em!

Which Part-Time MBA Program is Right for You?

This MBA Insider info comes from Sharon Barrett, Director of Working Professional and Executive MBA Admissions.

If you compare the class profiles of our Executive MBA with our Professional MBAs– Evening MBA, MBA at Dallas/Fort Worth, and MBA at Houston programs– the differences can seem obvious. But there’s actually a broad grey area, where many professionals could fit well into either the Executive MBA or one of our Professional MBAs.

In the end, it’s a very personal decision about where to submit your application. But remember, it’s a two part process. You decide where you belong and the admissions committee agrees on the fit. Here is some advice on how to make an informed choice about which Working Professional MBA program to choose.

Consider Your Level & Years of Work Experience 

Average work experience for the MBA Programs:

Program 80% Range Minimum
Professional MBA 3-10.5 years 2 years
Executive MBA 9-21 years 8 years

While people with the minimum eight years of experience do join the Executive MBA, there are relatively few. Executive MBA candidates become more competitive closer to ten years of work experience. On the other side, Professional MBA candidates must have a minimum of two years of full-time work experience, and candidates get competitive with closer to four years. The admissions committee doesn’t simply count the years but evaluates the level and quality of your work experience– the impact you’ve made in your organization, advancement in your role or responsibilities, and unique accomplishments.

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Professional or Executive: Which MBA Program is Right for You?

This MBA Insider info comes from Sharon Barrett, Director of Working Professional and Executive MBA Admissions.

If you compare the class profiles of our Texas Executive MBA with our Professional MBAs (Texas Evening MBA, Texas MBA at Dallas/Fort Worth, and Texas MBA at Houston programs), the differences can seem obvious. But there’s actually a broad grey area, where many professionals could fit very well in either type of program.

In the end, it’s a very personal decision about where to submit your application. But remember it’s a two-way street. You decide where you belong, and the admissions committee agrees on the fit. Here is some advice on how to make an informed choice about which MBA program to choose.

Consider Your Level & Years of Work Experience Carefully

Average work experience for the Texas MBA Program:

Program 80% Range Minimum
Professional MBA 3.25-11 years 2 years
Executive MBA 8-22 years 8 years

While people with the minimum eight years of experience do join the Executive MBA program, there are relatively few. Executive MBA candidates become more competitive within the 9-10 year range of work experience. On the other hand, Professional MBA candidates must have a minimum of two years of full-time work experience, and candidates get competitive with closer to four years. The admissions committee doesn’t simply count the years, but evaluates the quality of your work experience (the impact you’ve made to your organization, advancement in your role or responsibilities, and other factors), and also your level within the organization.

Generally, students in the Executive MBA have managed people, either directly or dotted-line, as well as budgets. Some rose to this level sooner in their careers than others. If you work in a small organization, your responsibilities can elevate very quickly. There are many manager level employees in the Professional MBA programs as well, but also quite a few individual contributors.

Executive MBA candidates on the low end of work experience and unsure of whether or not they would be a fit, should request a resume review. A short chat with a member of the admissions committee can allay any doubts about whether or not your work experience is appropriate and/or competitive.

Visit a Class to Gauge Your Fit

There’s no better way to self-assess than to sit in on an actual MBA class, especially one of the discussion-based ones. You can sign up now for an Executive MBA, Evening MBA, MBA at Houston, or MBA at Dallas/Fort Worth class visit now.

During the class, you’ll witness the collaborative and team-based environment that’s a big part of the fabric here at McCombs. The questions you should be asking yourself during your visit are: What can I contribute to this conversation? What assets would I bring to my study team?

Start Your App by Our Next Deadline: March 27, 2018

Texas MBAs are collegial, yet competitive. And the program you join will define your close-knit, professional network while in the program and beyond. Attend an event soon, or reach out to us with questions. Strategic thought about where you begin your relationship with the Texas MBA network sets you off on the right foot for your MBA journey and your career goals beyond the program. Ready to apply?

Hook ‘Em! \m/

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