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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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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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