Texas A&M University students presented their original solutions for judges to some of the world’s most pressing social and economic challenges in early November, when Mays Business School hosted its first Sustainable Solutions to Social Problems Case Competition.

Team_PicShannon Deer, senior lecturer in the Department of Accounting, who was coordinator for the competition, called the first year a success.

“Our teams demonstrated an aptitude for critical thinking skills and problem-solving applied to some of the world’s biggest challenges, such as waste, hunger, malnutrition, inhibited food distribution, childhood poverty, inaccessibility to electricity, the refugee crisis, unfair labor practices and unproductive agriculture practices,” she said.

The competition was the culmination of the newest Applied Business competencies course Business Solutions to Social Problems (BUSN 302). In this discussion-oriented course, students explored social problems of their choice and developed appropriate sustainable solutions.

Each team comprised students from different disciplines from around Texas A&M, including at least one student from Mays. The students spent the semester preparing presentations for a panel of judges that included Kyle Gammenthaler of Mays, and Chris Field and Gretchen Nickson of Mercy Project, a non-profit organization.  

First place was awarded to Team Entomon, which included Mays marketing major Garrett Hayslip ’17, Landry Tucker ’16 of Allied Health and Sloane Ansell ’16, a bioenvironmental sciences major. The team won $5,000 to fund their solution, “Entomon,” a stackable insect farm made from a 55-gallon food barrel.

The purpose of Entomon is to feed people and their livestock,” said Hayslip, who managed the team’s digital media. He and his team members hope to help people around the world efficiently and inexpensively raise insects, especially where insects are an integral part of the local diets – which encompasses 116 countries.

He explained the reason the team chose the 55-gallon food-grade barrel: You can find them ubiquitously throughout the world; they’re cheap (some companies even donate their surplus); they are tough and practically weather-proof; and last but definitely not least, they make for a great stackable insect farm.”

Since the case competition concluded, Team Entomon has been working to improve their product and eventually put it in the hands of people that need it most. “Right now, we are using our friends as beta users to uncover potential problems that others may face.”  He added, “Yes, that’s right, other Texas A&M students are farming bugs, too.”

The runner-up team was Tengo, which included finance major Philip Wang ’16, economics major Rosalyn Kamp ’16, computer science major Kaveet Laxmidas ’18 and Allen McDonald ’15, who is studying public administration at the The Bush School of Government and Public Service. Tengo is a texting service for Costa Rican farmers that directly connects buyers and sellers at market prices, avoiding the exploitation common among distributors there.

Other presentations included a solar light for areas lacking electricity; a mobile phone app to allow consumers to search products for an ethical supply chain before purchase; improved recycling on West Campus; wider distribution of fresh produce across A&M campus; an app to improve childhood literacy in America; and methods to increase agricultural productivity in Costa Rica through the distribution of coffee and use of innovative greenhouse technology to control rainfall.

“The case competition was incredibly inspiring, and I am so proud of what our students are doing,” Deer said.

Several teams plan to pilot their solutions internationally this winter or summer in several countries, including Costa Rica and Uganda.


Categories: Faculty, Mays Business, News, Students, Texas A&M, Uncategorized

With more than 25 years of experience in the energy industry, Philip Choyce ’89 has he22629283294_dd347a8002_kld a variety of different positions as his career progressed. While speaking with a group of Business Honors students at Mays Business School, he encouraged them to learn how to adapt as
their goals and careers evolve. Choyce is the senior vice president and chief financial officer of Independence Contract Drilling, an integrated onshore drilling services provider, which he cofounded in 2011.

Before joining Independence Contract Drilling, he held positions at Grant
Prideco, Fulbright & Jaworski and Ernst & Young.  He holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Texas A&M University and a law degree from the University of Texas School of Law.

He said the connections he made at his first places of employment,are still benefitting him today. “Maintaining professionalism throughout the duration of your employment and afterwards is a very important skill,” he said. “Your network of connections is everything.”

Ryan Patrick ’16, a Business Honors and finance major, said Choyce recommended to the students that they select a job right out of college where they can learn the most under the right mentors. “He told us that the first five years of our career lay building blocks for the next 20,” Patrick said.

Choyce shared personal stories with the students that explained the importance of hard work. “The first 10 years of your career will be the hardest, but they will also be the most important,” he said.

He encouraged students to honestly evaluate their skill sets. “It’s okay not to be the best at something,” he said. “If that is the case, find someone else who is—and learn from them.”

Chris Weisberg ’18, a Business Honors major, said he appreciated how Choyce spoke of his experiences. “He said even when one isn’t sure of what they particularly want to do in life, doors of opportunity will open and it is important to take these opportunities in order to gain experience and wisdom,” he said. “Eventually, that experience and wisdom will open up even more opportunities.”

In closing, Choyce referenced sports to explain how he has used his skill set to fill a variety of different roles throughout his career. “A company’s success is based off of team work,” he said. “You can’t always play quarterback. Sometimes you need to sit back, because the team needs a wide receiver.”

Categories: Alumni, Business Honors, Mays Business, News, Texas A&M

On Dec. 2, faculty and staff members gathered for the first Signing Day for Mays Business School MBA and master’s students who accepted job and internship offers. The 70 signees celebrated in the Cocanougher Center with refreshments and photo sessions, just as athletes do when they commit to teams.
“This was a really fun celebration,” said Tripti Rai ’17, who has secured an internship with Dell next summer. “I would love for this to turn into a full-time job after I graduate. It was a stressful time, looking for an internship, and Dell was always my top choice. Now I can focus on finishing school.”

Michael Snowden ’16 is eager to start his job after graduating later this month. “It’s a relief to have it finalized,” he said.

Almost 96 percent of last year’s master’s students received job offers before graduating. The top companies hiring Mays graduates are HP, Dell, AT&T, Infosys and Amazon. The top industries are technology, consulting and energy. The top fields are consulting, finance/accounting, general management, sales/marketing, logistics/operations and human resources.

Snowden- EYThe event stemmed from a suggestion by Ed Segura, the Mays facilities and resources officer.

“He said—and I agreed—that it could be a great way to showcase the employment success of our students.  It would give a ‘name and face’ to the employment stats that we report each year,” said Kim Austin, director of the Career Management Center at Mays.

“Using social media, we posted photos of individual students with the hiring company logos. Most of the employers favorited and then retweeted the posts within minutes. So, not only was Signing Day a fun way to celebrate with the students, it garnered positive press for the Mays MBA brand with employers.”

Categories: Featured Stories, Mays Business, News, Students, Texas A&M

Catherine Flax ’85 has traversed many positions throughout her 20-plus years in the financial services industry. During her visit to Mays Business School at Texas A&M University, she described to Business Honors students what she called her “winding career path” and how she successfully navigated so many transitions.
“For me, I’ve never really been afraid,” said Flax, who is currently managing director, head of Commodity Derivatives & Foreign Exchange, Americas at European bank BNP Paribas.

She recalled how her early years prepared her to work hard and make the most of every opportunity, even in uncertain circumstances. “What holds people back the most is fear. People become afraid of making a mistake or a wrong decision. People imagine that there’s a path you can set out today and say,‘This is how we’re going to get to the next spot.’ It just doesn’t work like that. Thank goodness, because what actually happens is way better than you could have planned.”

Flax’s own journey started at Texas A&M, when she began as an engineering major. But she was inspired by a Texaco economist to switch her major to economics. “I decided to find something I was passionate about,” she said.

This passion led her to graduate within three years, after which she moved to Brown University for a master’s degree. She started out teaching at the University of Nebraska; began consulting projects for local businesses; worked at a local radio show, commenting on economics; and even worked as an economic advisor for a congressman.

Later, Flax was chief marketing officer at JP Morgan as well as head of the commodities business for Europe, Middle East and Africa. Before JP Morgan, she worked at Morgan Stanley for six years. Flax won the award for Most Influential Woman in European Investment Banking in 2012.

Students asked Flax how they can best use their time at Texas A&M to prepare for job opportunities and life in the professional world.

“I suggest that you find situations to put yourselves in, that are uncomfortable, where you feel a bit over your head. Seek that out regularly. It’s a muscle.” She also recommended that the students spend more time networking and “understanding what people in the business actually do.” She encouraged students to take advantage of the modern tools that make building relationships and networks easier than ever. Finally, “be open to geographical mobility,” she advised, recalling her experience working in London with JP Morgan for a year and a half.

Flax’s openness to her many experiences resonated with Alin Piranian ’16, a Business Honors and finance major. “My main takeaway from speaking with Catherine Flax was that you have to be 100 percent ‘in’ in everything you do,” she said.

Categories: Alumni, Business Honors, Executive Speakers, Former Students, Mays Business, News, Students, Texas A&M

Alan Mitchell ’85 believes that knowledge about a job in investment banking is key to scoring an entry-level position in the field, he told Business Honors students on his visit to Mays Business School at Texas A&M University.

“It’s important that you are comparable in your knowledge base with other people you are competing against,” he said. “Not just your resume, not just what you’ve done at school, but your knowledge about what the job is. If you don’t have that, that’s a disadvantage.”

Mitchell is managing director of Wells Fargo Securities in New York City with a career in investment banking that spans over two decades. Prior to joining Wells Fargo, Mitchell was a managing director at Citigroup. His career first started in the Houston office of KPMG, where he left as a senior manager in 1992. He received his bachelor’s degree in accounting from Texas A&M in 1985.
He believes there is value in understanding the investment banking field, whether students intend to go into investment banking or not.

“If you’re going to be in business, you’re going to be dealing in some way, shape or form with investment bankers. Understanding what we do as a profession is going to be helpful.”

He took the opportunity to explain to students the different types of positions such as the analyst and the associate as well as the challenges and rewards of the field.

“In his presentation he mentioned that investment banking is challenging because every bank is fighting over the same clients,” said Aniket Patel ’18, Business Honors and finance major. “Because of this, it is crucial to create innovative and creative solutions to win a client.”

Mitchell also cited several ways he sets himself apart in his job. “Creativity, personality, long-term relationships, intellect, unique thoughts – these are how we differentiate ourselves from those other 10 or 15 people trying to do exactly the same thing,” he explained.

Though he admits investment banking requires long hours and a strenuous environment, Mitchell reminded the students that someone with analyst experience could be “one of the most sought-after individuals after that period of time because employers know what that person has been through.”

Luke Wheeler ’17, Business Honors and accounting major, called the presentation “informative and inspirational” and said Mitchell “provided unique insights into the industry in a way that only someone who has achieved his position could.”

Business Honors major Hallie Skansi ’18 called Mitchell engaging and charismatic, and said he explained investment banking “in a way that made sense and opened my eyes to a world of business I had never heard much about before.” She said her biggest takeaway from the presentation was “the importance of familiarizing oneself with an industry before seeking a career in said industry. I can honestly say I learned something from this event, and have another possible career path to consider as a result.”

Categories: Alumni, Business Honors, Executive Speakers, Former Students, Mays Business, News, Students, Texas A&M