May, 2005 | Mays Impacts - Part 2

Marketing Professor Jeffrey Conant added a second university-wide professorship to his name in March with the Eppright Professorship in Undergraduate Teaching Excellence.

Conant, who last year was appointed a Presidential Professor for Teaching Excellence, is one of five Texas A&M faculty members named to the three-year university professorships. Conant is well known for research that delves into the elements of effective teaching, work he first started with colleagues in 1988 to provide insights into how marketing’s top teachers practice their craft.

His teaching philosophy is based on five key areas of importance: Course structure and organization, class atmospherics, student involvement, experiential projects and instructor availability.

Conant joined Mays as an assistant professor in 1986 and has received numerous awards for teaching at both the undergraduate and master’s levels. He is also a distinguished scholar, receiving the Journal of Marketing Education‘s Outstanding Article of the Year Award three times.

Categories: Departments, Faculty, Texas A&M

The Mays MBA program tied for 32nd overall — sharing the spot with Notre Dame, Michigan State, Georgia Institute of Technology and Washington University — in the U.S. News & World Report graduate school rankings released in April. That puts Mays’ MBA program 15th among public institutions and second in Texas.

Though the ranking is down from last year’s position at 23, Mays maintained the top spot for placement of MBAs at graduation: 90.6 percent of MBAs had jobs at graduation and 95.3 were working within 90 days of graduation. MBA Director Carroll Scherer noted that the job-placement rank is the best measure of success, because students and employers alike get what they need from the quality of Mays’ MBA program.

Rankings for the magazine are determined based on a number of factors including placement, acceptance rates and peer and recruiter assessments.

“This ranking is the result of tremendous effort and performance by our entire MBA team,” Dean Strawser said, pointing to students, faculty, staff and alumni in their work in support of Mays’ goals. “The recognition that the U.S. News ranking brings to our school will help us continue to attract the best students and build relationships with top employers.”

The accounting graduate program moved up in U.S. News rankings for 2006, from 30th overall in 2005 to 24th in the 2006 rankings. That brought accounting from No. 16 to No. 11 among public institutions.

The magazine ranks special disciplines such as accounting based solely on ratings by business school deans and directors of accredited master’s programs. They nominate up to 10 programs for excellence in each area.

Accounting Department Head James Benjamin said the growth and success of the Professional Program since its establishment in 1992 has helped drive consistent improvement in accounting’s rankings. The Professional Program has seen more than 1,400 students graduate with a BBA in accounting and a master’s degree in finance, accounting, information systems or marketing.

“The U.S. News ranking coupled with our position as a top ten graduate accounting program in the CPA Personnel Report clearly establishes us as one of the leading programs in the United States,” Benjamin said. “It is particularly gratifying to me that both rankings are based upon peer evaluations from our competitor schools.”

Categories: Departments, Faculty, Programs

Cheryl Holland Bridges was appointed the new director of the Center for Retailing Studies in April.

She has been associate director since 2003, and brings with her 25 years of retailing experience — as senior VP for merchandising for and in senior management with Federated Department Stores, BATUS corporate office and Halls Merchandising. Bridges established the retail buying class, which she teaches each semester. It is the only such course in the nation taught in a business school.

Past director David Szymanski stepped down after nine years in the center’s administration (six as director), and will continue as a full-time faculty member.

Categories: Centers, Faculty

Nearly 100 MBA students crowded in to the Cocanougher Center in March for an early breakfast and enlightenment from Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences winner Daniel Kahneman. Israeli native Kahneman began a dialogue with students about psychological impacts on rationality in the financial marketplace — for which research he was awarded a Nobel in 2002 — saying that hope typically leads to risk.

The Princeton University psychology and public affairs professor outlined his theory that optimism is a bias that makes us expect to do better than others, neglect competitors and gives the illusion of control. He says that in the financial marketplace, individual investors tend to think they’re doing better in a transaction even though most others have the same information and expertise they have.

The same goes for professionals on Wall Street, who have more skills and are taking a more informed risk in transactions but still, because of optimism, think they’re doing better than other professionals.

“People don’t know the odds,” Kahneman said. “People are taking risks but they don’t know that they’re taking them.”

Though the hope of the entrepreneurial spirit has driven the market and helped to increase general prosperity, Kahneman said investors are better off trading less — to avoid the risk their optimism might otherwise expose them to. “I personally don’t want my financial adviser to be an optimist,” he told students.

Born in Tel Aviv in 1934, Kahneman earned his undergraduate degree from The Hebrew University in Jerusalem in 1954 and his PhD from the University of California at Berkeley in 1961. He’s best known for his work in integrating insights from psychology into economics, which has laid the foundation for a new field of research.

During the question-and-answer session that followed his talk, Kahneman met the gaze of a first-year MBA student who posed a classic question: “Does money lead to happiness?”

Sizing up the crowd, Kahneman nodded in response to the familiar question and explained a cohort study that followed a set of college students from the 1970s into their careers 20 years later and found that those who said they wanted money typically had more of it.

But, he said, it didn’t make many of the people who aimed to be rich happier in the end because of it. “By and large wanting money leads to disappointment,” he said. “The more you wanted it, the less happy you are.”

But on a final, optimistic note for Mays students, Kahneman noted: “It’s only when you’ve made a lot of money that you’re happy with it.”

Categories: Executive Speakers, Programs

MBA candidate Lauren Fincher won first place in individual speech at the Goizueta Principled Leadership Case Competition at Emory in Atlanta in early April. Fincher was one of four MBAs entering the team competition, and she had 30 minutes to prepare a 7-minute speech on the leadership qualities that would make her the best apprentice to the Wal-Mart CEO.

Fincher and MBAs Kipper Overstreet, Nick Jones and Travis Habhab were competitively selected as one of ten teams to compete in Emory’s first ever Principled Leadership Case Competition.

The Mays team had some notable competition in the April event from such schools as Wharton, Duke, Chicago, North Carolina and Emory.

Categories: Programs, Students

Houston-based Midway Companies has seeded the newly created James A. Moran Real Estate Excellence Fund with a $100,000 endowment to Mays.

Midway’s gift will support various faculty and student activities at Mays. It is named after James A. “Bugs” Moran, the founder of Midway Development Company in 1968, for his contributions of integrity and professionalism to the real estate industry.

“Our students and programs will benefit greatly from Midway’s generous contribution and Mr. Moran’s legacy of ethics and fair dealing in real estate,” Dean Strawser said.

Midway Chairman Bradley R. Freels ’81 fondly remembers his old partner and mentor as a creative and inspiring leader and “truly one of the best at extracting value from a piece of land.”

Midway Companies began as Midway Development Co., Inc. in 1968 with the development of a 160-acre Dallas-area pasture, located at Midway Road and LBJ into Metropolitan Business Park. Over the years, Midway integrated the full scope of development services and property management. Today Midway continues this full-service approach in developing commercial and residential projects. In 1999, the company was renamed Midway Companies, which is now the parent company to a host of real estate-related companies also headquartered in Houston.

Categories: Deanspeak, Donors Corner, Former Students

The Social Science Research Network has kept track of download demand for our faculty’s research papers, and found that Mays ranks 12th among all U.S. public institutions for the number of papers downloaded over the past year. That puts us at 28th in the nation and 37th overall.

Mays will be listed as such in a forthcoming “SSRN Top Business Schools” feature at

Categories: Faculty, Research Notes

A change of the guard this April has two familiar faces at the helm of the Real Estate Center and Mays’ real estate programs. Gary W. Maler was named the fifth director of the Real Estate Center, while Cydney Donnell ’81 is the new director of real estate programs in the Department of Finance.

Maler has been with the center, the nation’s largest publicly funded real estate research entity, since 1978. He served as coordinator of development programs, senior operations officer, assistant director and, most recently, as associate director.

Maler succeeds R. Malcolm Richards, who retired in December to take a position as dean of the School of Business and Management at the American University of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates.

Donnell lived and worked in New York City from 1986 to 2003, where she left her position at European Investors, Inc., as one of seven principals of the investment advisory firm with assets of $3.5 billion. She was voted one of the Association of Real Estate Women’s 100 Women Real Estate Leaders for the 21st Century.

As an executive professor of finance at Mays, Donnell has created and taught new graduate and undergraduate courses in portfolio management and real estate capital markets. She also serves on the Department of Finance Advisory Board.

Donnell will continue to transition leadership of the master’s in land economics and real estate (LERE) program from professor and longtime advisor Wayne Etter, who retires this year after three decades in education. She’ll also lead the charge on such fundraising and outreach projects as the Real Estate Roundtable Speaker Series, which puts key industry professionals in touch with student and development audiences.

Categories: Centers, Departments, Faculty

Accounting Professor Emeritus Charles W. Plum of Dallas has funded $130,000 in scholarships for students at Mays. His gift forms the Charles W. Plum Endowed Scholarship Fund, established with proceeds from two charitable trusts.

“Charles had such a major impact on students during his teaching career at Texas A&M University,” said Dean Strawser. “He is one of those professors who had a major impact in his students’ lives. We are so pleased that his generosity will continue to impact Mays Business School students in a meaningful way.”

Plum earned his bachelor’s degree from Ohio State University in 1936 and his MBA from Case Western Reserve University in 1951. He attended Harvard Business School’s advanced management program in 1954. After passing the New York CPA exam, Plum held positions in public and private accounting in New York City and St. Louis before joining The Standard Oil Company (Ohio) in 1946 as an assistant controller. He retired from Standard Oil as vice president of accounting and management systems in 1978, two years after he first lectured at Texas A&M as a business executive in residence.

In 1979, Plum joined the Mays faculty as full professor of accounting, retiring in 1989 after teaching accounting for non-business majors to more than 6,000 students. Plum, a longtime supporter of Mays and its programs, also advised business majors on their career choices. One former student, Willie Langston ’80 and his wife Marian ’82, endowed the Charles W. Plum Seminar Room in the Wehner Building, home of Mays Business School.

“I want to pay back the school for my academic career,” Plum says. “Mays gave me the opportunity to extend my professional career.”

Categories: Donors Corner, Faculty, Former Students

Biomedical engineering PhD student Saurabh Biswas and Mays MBA Ben Price took 5th place overall at the 2006 Rice Business Plan Competition for their presentation of a business plan to commercialize a non-invasive colon cancer diagnostic technology. The team, sponsored by the Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship (CNVE), had Texas A&M’s best showing ever, also taking 1st place for best written business plan and 1st place for best elevator pitch.

Texas A&M competed for top billing with some of the best business programs in the nation. Overall winners are:

  • 1st place, Dartmouth College
  • 2nd, Columbia University
  • 3rd, Stanford University
  • 4th, Carnegie Mellon University
  • 5th, Texas A&M
  • 6th, Duke University
  • 7th, Harvard University

The Mays team’s entry is based on a technology developed in Texas A&M’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences that has the potential to identify the altered genes associated with colorectal cancer a decade before cancer strikes. Biswas is the co-founder of Cologenomics, Inc., the company that licensed the technique.

Among more than 140 universities from across the globe, Texas A&M was one of only 35 invited to Rice for the oral presentations. The team was also the only Texas or southwest regional team to reach the finals. Biswas and Price took away $5,000 as well as software.

The Texas A&M team also received an invitation to the University of Texas’ exclusive MOOT CORP competition in May to present its business plan. That was something Biswas had already qualified for in other events — he continues to excel in his championing of the technology. He took 2nd place at CNVE’s Ideas Challenge last May and 1st place in the Idea to Product International Competition last fall at UT for his colon cancer-screening test. He also won the inaugural Big XII New Venture Championship in March

Categories: Centers, Programs, Students, Texas A&M