A month-long, interuniversity competition hosted by Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School and Global Forex Trading (GFT) concluded on October 31. Only one student took home the grand prize, but each of the nearly 300 participants from 16 schools in three nations came away from the competition with something highly valuable: real-world experience in global finance.

GFT, the world-leading provider of real-time currency dealing, pricing and comprehensive services for retail and institutional foreign exchange traders, provided each competition participant with a simulated trading account of $50,000. Students used their fake funds to invest in global currencies using real-time data with the goal of increasing their accounts as much as possible over the course of the competition. Students had available to them all the same tools as professional traders.

Students were required to keep a trade journal listing each trade placed, the reason for placing the trade and the result after closing out the trade. For many students, this journal was also part of a classroom grade, as several of the participating schools have incorporated the competition into their finance students’ curriculum.

The individual winner of the trade competition was former Mays student Brazos Lackey, who grew his account 501 percent. Second place went to Zeeshan Khan from Penn State, showing 264.5 percent growth. Third place was Mays student Joshua Groner, with account growth of 251.6 percent.

Of the school’s participating, Fairfield University had the highest average growth for their team of students. Fairfield was the only team to have a positive average percent return collectively.

“The credit crisis made the markets highly volatile,” said Detlef Hallermann, assistant clinical professor of finance at Mays. Hallermann has coordinated the competition each year since its inception four years ago. “This period that the competition took place in was the most volatile month in history. The currencies were bouncing all over the place,” he said, which gave students a wild ride as they tried to predict trends and make smart investments.

“It was a great experience,” said second place winner, Groner, a junior finance major from Midland, Texas. “I learned a lot about myself and whether or not I could handle the pressure of watching the market going up and down. If someone wants to do finance for a living, they’ve got to be able to deal with making a lot of money one day and losing a lot the next.” Groner said the experience solidified his plans to pursue investment banking after graduating, though he says the current financial crisis does have him worried about his job prospects. “I’m just hoping that everything will settle down before I graduate,” he says.

The winner of the competition, Kahn will receive a $10,000 Forex trading account that he can invest with for six months, retaining any revenues he creates in that time. Last year, Mays student Vipin Sethi took the top spot in the competition.

About Mays Business School

Mays Business School currently enrolls more than 4,000 undergraduate students and 875 graduate students. Mays is nationally ranked among public business schools for the quality of its undergraduate program, MBA program and the faculty scholarship of its 110 professors in five departments.

About GFT

Founded in 1997, Global Forex Trading (GFT) is a world-leading provider of real-time currency dealing, pricing and comprehensive services for retail and institutional foreign exchange traders. GFT has served a global customer base in more than 120 countries through its DealBook® 360, DealBook® WEB and DealBook® Mobile trading software and 24—hour dealing desk operation. The company’s world headquarters is based in Ada, Michigan, with global offices located in Chicago, New York, Tokyo, Sydney, Australia and London (London office operated through GFT Global Markets UK Ltd.). More information about GFT can be found at www.gftforex.com.

Categories: Students

After a day of applying their best advertising skills, two students from Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School showed their marketing talents as members of the top placing teams at this year’s Houston Advertising Federation’s annual student advertising competition. Mays students Kenya Madyun ’09 and J.T. Steinert ’09, both marketing majors, served as consultants for their respective teams, developing creative business strategies for one of today’s top corporate firms, Hewlett Packard. Madyun’s group took first in the contest and Steinert’s took second.

Sponsored by HP, the event challenged student participants from around the region to develop and prepare a comprehensive multi-media campaign for the company’s small business market. The five Aggie participants dispersed into twenty competing teams, made up of students from Oklahoma State University, the University of Texas at Austin, Louisiana State University, Sam Houston State University, Stephen F. Austin State University, and other Houston area schools.

“The opportunity to work for a real client, in a high-pressure environment, with members from other schools and other disciplines is something we just cannot recreate in the classroom,” said Lisa Troy, AAF faculty advisor.

The student American Advertising Federation is a multi-disciplinary organization open to any Texas A&M University student interested in advertising or related fields. AAF helps its student members to better understand the ins and outs of the advertising profession, while emphasizing the importance of professionalism and creative problem solving. Throughout the year, AAF members participate in competitions like the one held in Houston, tours of advertising agencies, meetings with guest speakers from advertising and related industries, in addition to taking on advertising plans for various student organizations.

“The Houston American Advertising Federation conference was an amazing experience. I had so much fun working with a group in a real life situation to reach a common goal. It’s reassuring to know that advertising is definitely what I would like to pursue after college and that I’m good at it,” said Mays’ winner Kenya Madyun.

Categories: Students

A think tank comprised of faculty members from Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School recently addressed a gathering of 160 Houston-area business people on the current economic crisis. “This is the first of what I hope will be many venues we will use to bring our faculty and their expertise to touch our former students,” said Dean Jerry Strawser. The panel featured eight speakers with different areas of financial expertise addressing the causes of the crisis, its scope, and potential solutions.

The popular idea that the burst of the housing bubble was a major factor in the collapse of the U.S. financial markets is not entirely accurate, according to the panelists. The group asserted that causes for the current financial situation are many and complicated, going well beyond even the subprime mortgage debacle, to things like corporate accounting practices.

David Blackwell, Mays’ associate dean for graduate programs moderated the event. The speakers were: Mark Dotzour, chief economist for the Real Estate Center at A&M; Mary Lea McAnally, associate professor of accounting; Donald Fraser, professor of finance; Arvind Mahajan, professor of finance; Michael Gallmeyer, assistant professor of finance; Sorin Sorescu, associate professor of finance; and H. Alan Love, professor of information and operations management and of agricultural economics. Also participating was Dale A. Whitman, Fred Parks Distinguished Chair at South Texas College of Law, and professor of law and dean emeritus at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

Cause and effect

The presentation began with a recap of events in the housing market that contributed to the financial crisis. Love stated that the bubble grew between 2000 and 2006, when the average home prices in the United States rose by 90 percent. “The real estate bubble was fueled by cheap and easy money, by financial liberalization that resulted in subprime loans, the idea that housing prices wouldn’t fall…these forces put in place a situation where a small economic hiccup of any type would burst the bubble and deflate it,” he said.

A panel featuring eight Mays faculty members with differing areas of expertise discussed the current financial crisis, addressing its causes, its scope, and potential solutions.
A panel featuring eight Mays faculty members with differing areas of expertise discussed the current financial crisis, addressing its causes, its scope, and potential solutions.

Since 2006, home prices have fallen 20 percent, meaning that many banks now hold loans for far more than the homes they represent are actually worth. Love says, however, the crisis is not spread evenly across the nation,

Dotzour agreed, saying that the market in Texas remains relatively strong, despite struggles in other parts of the U.S.

The liquidity of the mortgage market between 2002-05, when interest rates were lower than at any time in history, created extreme home price inflation during that period, said Whitman. The flip side of that coin is that this year in California, Nevada, and Florida, the rate of home price decline is greater than 10 percent. In many other states, prices are declining at a slightly slower rate. No state is showing positive growth beyond five percent. This raises the question, which came first, the collapse of the housing market, or the beginnings of the overall financial crisis? Whitman says they are intertwined. Currently, the downturn in the housing market is worsened by the recession and its consequent illiquidity of finances, tighter credit standards, and high rate of defaults and foreclosures flooding the market.

Gallmeyer brought clarity to the issue of credit default swaps and the decline of insurance giant AIG, explaining that banks purchased insurance on a variety of collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) including some containing subprime mortgages. That way if the borrowers defaulted, the lender calls in the insurance policy and doesn’t lose any money. AIG’s distress was caused by credit rating downgrades of both the securities that they had insured as well as AIG itself. This triggered a large increase in required collateral that AIG had trouble meeting. Gallmeyer said that AIG, along with many other entities in the financial markets, were not giving due diligence to these issues before they exploded in the current economic morass.

McAnally agreed with Gallmeyer, saying the credit default swaps, “took the monitoring away from the loan.” Formerly, one bank would be involved in a loan transaction. Today, different entities arrange the loan, make the loan, and buy and manage the loan. This fracturing of the process causes confusion about the value of the asset. McAnally reminded the audience that reliable, verifiable, and relevant accounting is important for evaluation of performance and valuation. The way these loans were recorded on the balance sheet was sometimes misleading, said McAnally, adding there needs to be better regulation in the way those items are categorized. “Accounting rules are not strong enough to understand the full risk of some of these financial instruments.”

This problem goes far beyond the borders of the United States, said Mahajan and Sorescu, who touched on the international impact of the financial crisis. The International Monetary Fund predicts that next year’s growth is going to be negative, reports Mahajan, adding there has been a uniform reduction in interest rates globally. Moreover, developing countries that rely on exports for a majority of their economy have been hit especially hard as American and European markets have declined. “Things are going to get worse before they get better,” said Sorescu.

Where we go from here

Moving forward is tricky agree the panelists, and fully understanding the causes of the crisis is imperative to solving the problem and preventing future ones. Gallmeyer reminded the audience that the government’s rescue plan is still in its infancy. “Basically we’ve taken the financial system and walked it into the emergency room and we’ve stabilized it,” he said. “We haven’t done anything else to the financial system yet. We haven’t addressed the deeper problems that are in the financial system. And there’s a long list. And until we sort out some of these issues, we’re going to face a great deal of volatility.”

Over 150 business leaders from the Houston area attended the panel discussion.
Over 150 business leaders from the Houston area attended the panel discussion.

Though Americans are familiar with the price tag on the U.S. financial bailout, McAnally says in truth it could get a lot more expensive than $700 billion. However, “with some clever planning, the government could actually even come out not so far behind,” she said, if things are handled well. She suggested that standardization must occur in the credit default swap market to defer future risk.

Sorescu recommended that in the future more regulation is needed for investors to understand their complex commodities and to punish those who manipulate securities. “I fully anticipate that there will be significant effort on the part of the government to try to bring some sort of clarification to these marketplaces, not just here but worldwide,” he said. Mahajan added that better risk assessment tools must be created so that future crises can be averted.

There is culpability at a federal level, said Love, who reminded the audience that many of the problems we’re now facing aren’t new. “We’ve learned these lessons already,” he said. The panel discussed the mistake the government made in repealing the Glass-Steagall Act, enacted after the Great Depression to regulate risk by preventing investment and commercial banks from mingling. The act was modified in 1999.

Some still question whether or not the bailout was the best way to approach the crisis. Fraser commented on the illogic of the bailout, which he says incentivizes taking on more risk that you can handle. Essentially, if you protect people from their risk, they take more risk, he said. In the long run, it can be a problem. However, in the short run, it’s necessary. Mahajan agreed, saying that at this junction the bailout is necessary to stop the bleeding.

The response from the audience was positive. “The faculty…presented an understandable, comprehensive, and unbiased look at the structural underpinnings of the current economic crisis,” said Jason Armenta, a vice president with the Calpine Corporation and a current A&M EMBA student. “As a finance professional, it was one of the best I’ve seen.”

“I felt the presentation was very timely, as most Americans do not understand the gravity of this worldwide financial crisis,” said Jay Wendell, chairman and founder of J.M. Wendell, LLC and Southern Mark Homes, LLC. Wendell is an ’08 graduate of the A&M EMBA program. “The more we discuss and disseminate this information, the closer we are to formulating an exit strategy out of this dilemma. My take-away is that this crisis will not be resolved by the U.S. alone, but the world leaders must come together in a united front.”

About the Texas A&M Executive MBA Program

The Texas A&M Executive MBA Program, delivered by Mays Business School faculty, equips today’s working leaders with the skills and knowledge they need to excel in a rapidly changing organizational environment. Based in The Woodlands just north of Houston, the unique program is built around an ongoing study of how value is created in all aspects of an organization’s operations. Peer discussion and real-world case studies replace the typical lecture-driven classroom format. The result is a highly interactive learning environment that provides each participant with knowledge they can put to work immediately. The 18-month program begins a new class each August. For more information, please contact the Texas A&M Executive MBA office at emba@tamu.edu.

Categories: Faculty, Featured Stories, Programs

A team of three students from Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School competed against students from other top schools in the nation at the third annual Nationwide Fisher Biz Quiz, placing fifth among the 24 teams.

Mays students (left to right) Travis Cocke '09, Austin Carlson '09, and Aaron Wechter '10 placed fifth at the third annual Nationwide Fisher Biz Quiz hosted by The Ohio State University's Fisher College of Business.
Mays students (left to right) Travis Cocke ’09, Austin Carlson ’09, and Aaron Wechter ’10 placed fifth at the third annual Nationwide Fisher Biz Quiz hosted by The Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business.

The Biz Quiz, hosted by The Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business, tested students on their knowledge of current events as covered by The Wall Street Journal. Each participant was responsible for the information in that publication during a six-week period in October and November. The competition was game show style: before a live audience, students buzzed in when they knew the answers, moving through progressive elimination rounds.

The top spots in the event went to students from Michigan State University, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and University of Minnesota. Teammates Travis Cocke “09, Austin Carlson “09, and Aaron Wechter “10 represented Mays at the school’s first appearance at this competition. The Mays team came in ahead of the top three teams from the 2007 competition, as well as the University of Texas, Cornell University, Carnegie Mellon University, University of Notre Dame and others. Kris Morley, director of the Mays Business Honors program, Risa Holland, academic advisor, and Kelli Hollinger, assistant director of the Mays Center for Retailing Studies, coached the team.

The three-day event was not only a time to test themselves against their business school peers, the Mays team say they also learned a lot from the experience. “October was an historic month in the markets. That made it even more interesting and educational,” said Cocke. Beyond the facts, they learned that in a national pool, their Mays education had well prepared them to be competitive.

“The three of us were somewhat nervous to see how we would fair against our opponents,” said Wechter. “However, after our first round…we knew that we could hold our ground.” Wechter said the event was also an opportunity for him to represent A&M in a positive light. “Many people had heard of Texas A&M, but did not know who we were and we were about. I feel that we helped establish an identity for a university that the three of us greatly value. More specifically, we displayed the Aggie values of education, camaraderie, and the pursuit of excellence,” he said.

“The most significant take-away from this event has been my increased desire to stay up-to-date with financial markets,” said Carlson. “Even though the competition is over I have still found myself intensely reading The Journal, though now I don’t have to worry quite as much about specific statistics.”

The Biz Quiz was sponsored by Nationwide’s Financial Leadership Rotation Program and The Wall Street Journal.

About the students

Aaron Wechter is a junior accounting major from The Woodlands, Texas. Even when not participating in news competitions, he is an avid reader of The Wall Street Journal and The Economist, and listens to NPR daily.

Wechter is involved in several organizations on campus including Texas A&M Gents, which promotes global service and education. Wechter has served as a peer leader in the Business Honors Program and as the vice president of communication for the Prisoner Entrepreneurship Program chapter at Texas A&M. He plans to go through the Professional Program at Mays (pending acceptance), to earn a master’s of science in finance. After graduation, Wechter hopes to join Teach for America before pursuing a career in business.

Travis Cocke is a senior finance major from The Woodlands, Texas. He teaches a securities analysis workshop for the A&M Investment Club and is actively involved in managing assets for several private partnerships including Vaston Capital Group LLC, a real estate partnership, and Golden Circle Partners, a value equity fund.

This self-described news junkie says he is “very passionate about the stock market, finance, and business in general.” His future plans include hedge fund management.

Austin Carlson is a senior accounting major from Houston, Texas. Carlson has been heavily involved in the A&M Student Senate, where he is the rules and regulations chair and former business caucus leader. He has served as an associate director of REPLANT, an organization that gathers over 1,000 students each year to plant trees in the Bryan/College Station area. Carlson is one of Texas A&M’s University Scholars, a peer leader for Business Honors, and served as president of the Mitte Society at Mays.

Carlson recently interned with the U.S. Department of Justice and volunteers his time at his church, tutoring at a local elementary school, and with Habitat for Humanity in New Zealand.

Categories: Students

Sorin Sorescu, associate professor of finance at Mays Business School at Texas A&M University, has recently been appointed head of the Department of Finance by A&M Provost Jeffrey Vitter. Sorescu will assume this position on January 1, 2009, taking over for the interim department head, Associate Professor Ekkehart Boehmer.

Sorin Sorescu

“Dr. Sorescu is highly respected by his peers as well as students. In the five years he has been at Mays, he has developed a reputation for his scholarship and leadership capabilities,” said Mays Dean Jerry Strawser. “I am pleased that he has agreed to assume this important role.”

Prior to joining Mays in 2002, Sorescu was an assistant professor of finance at the Bauer College of Business at the University of Houston. Sorescu’s research interests focus on short sale constraints, market efficiency, stock market anomalies and active asset management. His research appears in the Journal of Finance, Review of Financial Studies, Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis, Journal of Financial Markets, Journal of International Money and Finance, and Journal of Money, Credit and Banking.

Sorescu holds the Patricia and Bookman Peters research professorship at Texas A&M. He is the recipient of such research awards as the Financial Management Association Competitive Paper Award, the Mays Faculty Fellowship at Texas A&M University, the Melcher Award for Excellence in Research at University of Houston, and the Bauer Fellowship at University of Houston.

Sorescu has taught corporate finance, financial markets, and investments analysis at the undergraduate, MS, MBA, EMBA and PhD levels. He has also served as an expert witness for the SEC and testified in federal court on a case related to stock market manipulations. He holds a bachelor’s of engineering and an MBA from McGill University, as well as a PhD in finance from the University of Florida.

Categories: Departments, Faculty

Two faculty members at Mays Business School at Texas A&M University have been recognized with the KPMG 2008 Outstanding Published Manuscript Award from the American Accounting Association Gender Issues and Worklife Balance Section. Murphy Smith, professor of accounting, and Katherine Smith, lecturer in marketing, with Mays PhD graduate Craig Keller, associate professor of accounting at Missouri State University, coauthored the award-winning article.

Mays professor of accounting Murphy Smith and marketing lecturer Katherine Smith work in different fields, but have found overlapping research interests in areas of ethics, gender and worklife balance.
Mays professor of accounting Murphy Smith and marketing lecturer Katherine Smith work in different fields, but have found overlapping research interests in areas of ethics, gender and worklife balance.

Their article, entitled “Do gender, educational level, religiosity, and work experience affect the ethical decision-making of U.S. accountants?” appeared in Volume 18 of Critical Perspectives on Accounting. The authors explored the factors that affect the ethical choices made by accountants. The findings suggest that there are differences in individual ethical standards based on gender, college level (graduate vs. undergraduate), religiosity, and years of work experience.

The authors received plaques and a $1,000 cash prize, funded by the KPMG Foundation. The KPMG Outstanding Published Manuscript Award is presented each year at the American Accounting Association Annual Meeting, held this past August in Anaheim, California.

While Katherine Smith and Murphy Smith are in different fields, they have found some overlapping research interests in areas of ethics, gender, and worklife balance. “Faculty members in all business fields must do all that they can to motivate students to do the ‘right’ thing, even in difficult circumstances. Such motivation will serve students well during their college years and in their future careers,” says Murphy, who recently presented a workshop on teaching ethics at the Texas Society of CPAs Educators Conference, held in Houston, Texas in October 2008.

“Business financial scandals keep the issue of ethics on the front page of business news,” says Katherine. “Understanding factors which shape the ethical standards of individuals will help educational institutions establish an effective ethics curriculum and help companies develop meaningful ethics training for their employees.”

About the GIWB section of the American Accounting Association

The Gender Issues and Worklife Balance (GIWB) Section of the American Accounting Association (http://aaahq.org/GIWB/gis.html) has the overall objective of facilitating interaction among Association members regarding gender issues and work-life balance as they relate to accounting practice, research, and education.

Categories: Faculty

“Howdy!” hollered Mark Jameson ’85 as he swaggered onto the stage of the lecture hall, ready to speak to the 300 students of a Management 105 class. With a strong East Texas twang and 23 years of workplace experience, Jameson addressed students at Mays Business School at Texas A&M University about what it takes to be successful in business and in life.

  • Realize that life is about sales
    … and you’re the product. No matter what the situation, represent yourself well. Students need to start practicing this concept in college.
  • Hard work and perseverance are the keys to getting ahead
    “Leaders are the people who don’t give up,” said Jameson.
  • Have priorities
    Life is about much more than business. Make time for your faith, family, and community as well.
  • Set goals
    If you don’t know what you want, how can you achieve it?
  • Ethics are important
    Behave in an ethical and moral manner at all times, not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because in business, your reputation is vital to your success.
  • <liBe involved and give back
    You didn’t get where you are on your own. Others blazed the trail for you. Do your part to help the next guy along.

  • Use all of the resources available to you
    You don’t know everything. Find a mentor and other resources to fill in the gaps in your knowledge.

Rule number one, says Jameson, is that students need to be mindful of the future today. “This is going to set the course for the rest of your life, what you do here at Texas A&M,” he said, advising students to learn all they can, even in the classes they think won’t apply to their careers. “When you go into the business world, you’ll need to know all the things you’re learning now.” Jameson told students when he became an entrepreneur in 2000, he regretted not paying more attention in his accounting classes. “If you own a small business like I do, you wear a variety of hats,” he said. “You’ve got to decide today that [your classes are] important.”

Before he launched his entrepreneurial venture to became an Allstate insurance agency owner, Jameson told students he had a successful career in the malt beverage industry, working for Coors and Miller Brewing Companies, as well as Glazer’s Wholesale, the second largest distributor of wine and spirits in the nation. Starting as a sales rep for Coors on the A&M campus, Jameson worked his way through progressive management ranks, eventually to the national account manager position with that company. At Glazer, he was the national director of malt beverages.

Today, Jameson is the largest Allstate agent in Texas, with more clients than any other of the 1,300 agents in the state. Additionally, he has won every top Allstate award in Texas. Of all his accolades, he says he’s most proud of the ones he’s received for community service. Jameson encouraged students to know what their priorities are, and to make sure that giving back to their communities is one of them.

Mays students aren’t the only ones to benefit from Jameson’s wisdom; he also serves Allstate as a member of the Texas Region Advisory Council and the National Advisory Board.

Jameson and his wife, Nicole ’85, reside in Southlake, Texas, where one of his three Allstate agency offices is located. They have three children, one of whom is a business student at Mays.

Categories: Executive Speakers, Former Students

Amy Hillman, professor of management at Arizona State University was recently recognized for her achievements in the field of academia by Mays Business School at Texas A&M University with its Outstanding Doctoral Alumni award. Hillman visited campus to receive her award and to address current PhD students about the challenges and opportunities that await them at graduation.

Dr. Amy Hillman (right) receives the 2008 Outstanding Doctoral Alumni Award from Mays Distinguished Professor Michael A. Hitt.
Dr. Amy Hillman (right) receives the 2008 Outstanding Doctoral Alumni Award from Mays Distinguished Professor Michael A. Hitt.

Hillman earned her PhD in strategic management and business and public policy in 1996. While completing her degree at Mays, she received an Outstanding Graduate Assistant Teaching Award from the Association of Former Students.

Hillman began her academic career as an assistant professor at the Eli Broad School of Business at Michigan State University, followed by two years at the Ivey Business School at the University of Western Ontario. She has also spent several summers abroad as a guest professor at the Institute for International Management at Johannes Kepler University in Linz, Austria.

Hillman’s resume includes teaching strategic management and a variety of other topics at the undergraduate, MBA, PhD, and executive levels. “I absolutely love teaching,” she says. “For me it’s very invigorating. I teach all case-courses, so my classes are very discussion-oriented and interactive.” Hillman excels in the classroom, as evidenced by her nine teaching commendations, including a ranking from Business Week as one of the most popular MBA professors in the nation. Today, Hillman is a department chair and an endowed professor, teaching in the W. P. Carey School of Business full-time and executive MBA programs at Arizona State University.

Her research interests are far-reaching, though Hillman specifically focuses on corporate political strategies, corporate governance, and firm performance and resource dependence linkages. Her work can be found in leading publications such as the Academy of Management Review, Academy of Management Journal, Strategic Management Journal, Journal of Management, and Journal of Management Studies.

Hillman is the incoming editor of Academy of Management Review, having served previously as an associate editor for the Academy of Management Journal. She serves currently or has served on editorial review boards for the Academy of Management Journal, Strategic Management Journal, Journal of Management, and Journal of International Business Studies.

Categories: Former Students

How do you teach teamwork, creative problem solving, and leadership—those soft skills that are essential to any executive position? The Mays Business School MBA program at Texas A&M University has a unique answer to that question: send the students for a day of exercises at Disaster City, the premiere crisis training facility in the nation, located in College Station, Texas.

Mays MBA students were active participants in a day of exercises at Disaster City designed to develop problem solving, crisis management and leadership skills.
Mays MBA students were active participants in a day of exercises at Disaster City designed to develop problem solving, crisis management and leadership skills.

Through activities such as rescuing “victims” from a train wreck, a high speed GPS scavenger hunt, and a “slab drag,” moving a 1,200-pound block of concrete with team effort and pulleys, a group of 90 first-year MBA students learned how to respond during a physical crisis, with the expectation that those skills would transfer to a business setting.

“In any job, you’ll have some kind of disaster, so we can learn from this physical disaster. These leadership skills are very transferable,” said David Ricciardi, a student from Houston, Texas. “You learn group work. It makes you think outside your box. It makes everyone pull together and work as a team.”

Each team member had a specific role to play: rescuer, leader, communications relay, etc. Before each activity, the teams met to discuss their plan of attack. Who’s going in? What is our mission? A debriefing followed each exercise. Team leaders asked: What did we do well? What needs to be done differently next time?

The physical challenges were strenuous and the pressure to succeed was intense. Students were exhibiting signs of stress shared by business executives and rescue workers alike in times of crisis: perspiration, rapid heartbeat, fatigue. Through the stress, they sought creative solutions to the challenges each activity presented, working as a team to accomplish their goals.

Mays MBA students had to use brains and brawn to master the slab drag.
Mays MBA students had to use brains and brawn to master the slab drag.

One of the most symbolic lessons was the slab drag. As a team, the students were asked to create a pulley system and move a 1,200-pound concrete brick. A single team member could not move the weight, so another was added, and then another, until their force combined was equal to the task. Students were told to consider, when you are faced with a problem that seems insurmountable, what solutions can act as pulleys? Which team mates can help you get the job done?

“Doing this crisis management exercise out at Disaster City is one of the many things we do as part of the Mays MBA program to differentiate us from our competition,” said Michael Wesson, associate professor of management at Mays. Wesson was one of the coordinators for this event. “Few other MBA programs in the country do anything like this…We draw on the corporate lessons learned from this day all year long. The situations students face at Disaster City will give them a leg up on business crises they will face as their career progresses.”

About Mays

Mays Business School currently enrolls more than 4,000 undergraduate students and 875 graduate students. The MBA program is highly selective, with an acceptance rate of 26%. Currently there are 164 students in their intensive 16-month program.

More Coverage

Categories: Programs, Students

I don’t need to tell any of you how much the financial world has changed since the beginning of our fall semester. While many may think this to be an inopportune time to be studying business, I believe the exact opposite. In times such as this, an understanding of business, markets, and economic effects is more important than ever. A number of “market driven” events (driven by our students, faculty, and corporate partners) continue to bring today’s events into the classrooms of Mays Business School. Some examples include:

  • Representatives from Bank of America discussing current market events and their implications with our undergraduate students.
  • Mays faculty members providing an overview of the events that have culminated in the current market conditions and impact on the employment markets to our MBA Class of ’09.
  • Professor Len Bierman’s seminar class on a timely topic: the business issues addressed in the 2008 presidential election and the complicated relationship between money and politics.
  • One of the faculty-led freshman seminars at Mays in which a group of 13 students read and critiqued the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 recently passed by Congress.

These are simply a few examples. As a person walks the hallways of the Wehner Building and listens to the activities in our classrooms, these topics are replacing textbook chapters as our students’ learning materials, allowing them to significantly benefit from our faculty’s expertise and currency in their fields.

As I visit with our former students, many ask what the economic future will hold. While nobody knows with certainty, I am certain that our students will be prepared for it. This is our mission.

I hope you enjoy this issue of Mays Business Online. Please stay in touch and contact me if your travels bring you back to campus.

Jerry R. Strawser ’83
Dean, Mays Business School

Categories: Deanspeak