May, 2008 | Mays Impacts

Jerry Strawser, interim executive vice president for academic affairs and provost for Texas A&M University, gave the address at one of the university’s commencement ceremonies on May 10. His audience was comprised of graduates in business, veterinary medicine, and biomedical sciences. He encouraged students to practice gratitude, not fear failure, and to set goals in all areas of their lives.

“Keep the Aggie code of honor in mind,” Strawser admonished graduates. “An Aggie does not lie, cheat, or steal, or tolerate those that do. I beg you, never let your goals come at the expense of those 13 words. I would argue, as much as I respect your academic areas today, if you did not learn those 13 words, your education at Texas A&M simply isn’t complete.”

Footage courtesy KAMU-TV

Categories: Faculty, Texas A&M

Expansión, Mexico’s leading business magazine, has included Mays Business School at Texas A&M University in their 2008 rankings of the best global MBA programs for Mexicans. Mays makes the list at 10th in the nation for U.S. public schools, and 23rd in the U.S. among public and private institutions. Mays placed 43rd globally in this ranking.

Sixty schools worldwide were listed in the current Expansión rankings, which appeared in a special business education edition of the publication on May 12. The rankings were determined by:

  • academic quality as assessed by students’ average GMAT score (Mays’ average GMAT score increased by 20 points from 2007 to 2008)
  • previous rankings by London’s Financial Times (Mays was ranked 61st globally in 2008)
  • average MBA salary after graduation
  • percent of international students in the program
  • number of countries represented

This is the first year Mays was invited to participate in these rankings. Only two other schools in the state made the list: the University of Texas and Rice University, ranked 27th and 48th in the world, respectively.

“We’re always seeking to build diversity within our pool of international MBA students,” said Wendy Flynn, director of admissions for the Mays MBA program. “The results of this survey will certainly help us build our reputation and presence in Mexico, and possibly in Central and South America.”

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 29.8%. Currently there are 148 MBA students in their intensive 16-month program.

Categories: Programs

Nicholas Taunton “07, a magna cum laude graduate and former student body president of Texas A&M University, recently received the Brown Foundation-Earl Rudder Memorial Outstanding Student Award, the institution’s highest honor bestowed upon a graduating senior. Taunton, who graduated from Mays Business School in December with a degree in finance, was active in numerous student organizations, in addition to being student body president, while maintaining a 3.71 GPR.

The award honors top students who exemplify the leadership and related traits of the late Gen. Earl Rudder, a World War II hero who served as president of Texas A&M from 1959 until his death in 1970.

The award is normally presented at commencement exercises at Texas A&M each May, but Taunton is currently out of the country and will formally receive the award during August graduation ceremonies.

Citing Taunton’s exceptional academic performance, Dean Bresciani, the university’s vice president for student affairs, said Taunton has exceptional interpersonal skills. “He is a gifted speaker capable of energizing any audience made up of peers, alumni, legislators, foreign dignitaries and even the former president and first lady of the United States,” Bresciani said.

Ben Welch, clinical professor of management and director of the Center for Executive Business Development, said he recognized Taunton as a student who cared about making a difference. “He has excelled in all areas and is truly one of the most motivated individuals I have known.”

Douglas Slack, who served on committees with Taunton while speaker of the Texas A&M Faculty Senate, noted that Taunton was well respected by students and faculty. “He is the embodiment of Texas A&M. Integrity, loyalty, excellence, leadership, selfless-service and respect are not just words to Nic Taunton.”

In addition to his duties in student government, Taunton was a recruitment leader for the Aggie Relay for Life, an organization that raises money for cancer research. He also participated in the Aggie Men’s Club, the Fall Activities Council, Student Organization Advisory Board, Parent’s Weekend, Howdy Week and Rwanda S.P.R.E.A.D., an organization dedicated to raising money for the African country.

Currently, Taunton is volunteering in Rwanda, managing and reorganizing a local coffee roasting company through his position with S.P.R.E.A.D. He will remain in Butare, Rwanda for four months.

“He matches courage of conviction with antithetic humility,” said John McDermott, distinguished professor of philosophy and humanities. “He has a deep commitment to the values we hold dear here at Texas A&M. Never, however, is there in his person the slightest trace of arrogance, pomposity or self-preening. Add to these characteristics that he is a thinker, a reader, an avid listener and given to helpful rumination and you come upon a rare and treasured student leader.”

Two of the Brown-Rudder awards are presented each year at Texas A&M.

The other winner was Jonathon Edward Glueck, who graduated with a degrees in agricultural leadership development and agricultural economics. Each of the Brown-Rudder Award recipients receives a check for $5,000 and a framed certificate.

Categories: Former Students

In this tech-saturated society of iPhones and TiVo, the latest technology is the hottest commodity. That’s why students at Texas A&M University are focusing on innovation through the annual Ideas Challenge event, hosted by the Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship (CNVE) at Mays Business School.

The competition, held April 30, gave students the chance to present their ideas for new products and services to successful members of the business and academic world. The 2008 competition, open to all Aggie students ranging from freshman to doctoral level, began with an essay requiring participants to describe their “big idea.” Out of more than 400 student entries, 40 finalist individuals and teams were chosen to present their ideas to a panel of judges that included lawyers, consultants, and executives from across the state. After a five-minute presentation by the would-be entrepreneurs, the judges challenged participants to think on their feet through a tough question and answer session. Judges quizzed the students on the marketability and feasibility of each proposal, providing friendly, constructive feedback to the students.

Student giving presentation as student watches
40 finalist individuals and teams were chosen to present their ideas to a panel of judges that included lawyers, consultants, and executives from across the state.

“We’ve been there, and we know it takes a lot of guts for students to participate in a competition like this,” said event judge Karen Hornbeck, consultant for Heritage Bridge, an IT service provider for a wide range of companies from Fortune 1000 firms to small start-ups. Hornbeck and her husband Ash were winners at the first Ideas Challenge seven years ago. “It’s an honor to be welcomed back to A&M to help with the challenge,” she said.

For the students, the challenge provided a chance to better their research and presentation skills while developing the mindset of an entrepreneur and finding their products’ fit in the market. “I’ve never thought of myself as an entrepreneur, but given the right supplies and a little time, now I know that I can create a successful product—it could be the next big thing,” said participant Allison Watson, a freshman business major.

Lenae Huebner, assistant director of the CNVE, explained that the Ideas Challenge is a great resume builder and networking opportunity for the student participants. “The competition requires each team to develop an idea, categorize, and structure it, which can be very challenging,” she added. “Above all, the challenge encourages students to think innovatively and use their imagination. It’s really an invaluable experience.”

The top 10 teams split a total of $13,000, and the top two winners were also granted pro-bono provisional patent work with patent experts at Texas law firm Jackson Walker LLP. Ideas Challenge is underwritten by Lynntech, Inc., a technology company headquartered in College Station. The Research Valley Innovation Center was also a major sponsor of this year’s challenge. First prize was sponsored by Paragon Innovations; second prize was sponsored by Gulfstream Graphics; and third place was sponsored by Lockard & White, Monika Matthews-Stevens and Lynntech.

Ideas Challenge 2008 winners

1st place
Idea: InFoRMS (interactive FM radio messaging system)
Presented by: Chris Magnussen, Jamie Dixon, Jason McConnell, and Ryan Schroeder

2nd place
Idea: The Car Compass
Presented by: Dylan Dacy

3rd place (eight awarded)
Idea: Classic Comfort
Presented by: Bradley Sanders, Bradley Woodard, Taiwo Adebiyi, and Will Koonce

Idea: Aggie Aware
Presented by: Anna Gorski, Blake Cannon, Britton Clay, Casey Branach, Hannah DeGray, and Melissa Kelso

Idea: Peertutor.com
Presented by: Dustin Weghorst and Ryan Williams

Idea: Pet Protect by Bonnie Engineering
Presented by: Kyle Schumann, Michel Ramirez, and Paul Carrington

Idea: Digital Scaling Ruler
Presented by: Jenny Casmus and Michael Kim

Idea: MusicCrawler
Presented by: Cody Sanderson

Idea: Obesity Solutions Inc.
Presented by: Saurabh Biswas and Waqar Mohiuddin

Idea: Game Face
Presented by: Chris Lammert

Categories: Centers, Students

John Hetzel ’99 was looking for business contacts and tips on marketing that would help him get the word out about his year-old wealth management business, Cadence Financial Advisors, LLP.

Cynthia Muñoz was looking for ways to grow her small San Antonio-based PR and concert promotion firm.

Dale Newton was looking for new ideas to ramp up sales of his handcrafted executive rocking horses.

These entrepreneurs and hundreds of others found what they were looking for at Envision08, the first annual conference for entrepreneurs hosted by the Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship, part of Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School. The conference, held April 23-25 at the Marriott Rivercenter in downtown San Antonio, Texas, was devoted to connecting, encouraging, and promoting entrepreneurs and those in related fields. More than 425 participants from a wide variety of businesses were drawn to the inaugural event.

Kawasaki speaking
Guy Kawasaki, managing director of Garage Technology Ventures, was one of the keynote speakers at Envision08.

The conference boasted headliners such as Steven Covey (author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People), as well as life-coach and best-selling author Marcus Buckingham. Other keynote speakers included Flip Flippen, Peter Schutz, and Guy Kawasaki, each bringing his own advice for achieving personal and career success. Entrepreneurs sharing their real-life experiences led breakout sessions on a variety of topics, from multinational marketing to finding investors.

“There was really something for everybody,” said Carol Davis, commenting on the broad range of topics. Davis, owner of Blisswood Bed and Breakfast at Lehmann Legacy Ranch in Cat Spring, Texas, says she attended the conference because she was invited to present about ecotourism; she wasn’t expecting to be so impacted by the event herself. “It was one of the best things I’ve ever attended,” she said, noting several new business-enhancing ideas and contacts as well as new clients she collected at the conference.

Muñoz, who has owned and operated Muñoz Public Relations, LLC for 16 years was similarly impressed. She was drawn to the conference by the keynote speakers, as they were all names she was familiar with, however, “It was more than I expected,” she said, commenting on the quality of the programs. “I was able to make a lot of new contacts,” some of whom were well established owners of large companies. “That inspired me, to be around others that are highly successful. It made me want to grow my business even more,” she said.

One such successful businessperson in attendance was Lowry Mays, founder of Clear Channel Communications as well as benefactor and namesake of the Mays Business School. Mays, who lives in the San Antonio area, made a special appearance on the last day of the conference. He was honored with the a Lifetime Achievement Award from the CNVE for his amazing entrepreneurial success as well as his dedication to philanthropic giving and community service.

Convention attendees talking
The event provided a number of networking opportunities for entrepreneurs and associates in related fields.

Many in entrepreneurial-related fields also attended the event, such as Hubert Zajicek, director of NTEC, Inc, a non-profit business accelerator for medical technologies in Frisco, Texas. As someone who works with entrepreneurs everyday to develop successful businesses, Zajicek says that Envision08 was very valuable. “The speakers delivered passion,” he said, noting that it was good to be reminded by successful people of what one person can achieve with the right focus. “That’s at the core of entrepreneurship,” he said.

Vikki Dearing was at Envision08 with a unique purpose: as the director of business solutions for the Oklahoma Department of Commerce, Dearing was gathering information for a similar conference in her own state. “We need entrepreneurs to be aware of the opportunities out there for them, and to give them the chance to network with other entrepreneurs and service providers,” she said. Dearing’s ambition is to use the information she collected to draw new businesses to rural areas in Oklahoma.

The networking aspect was the most valuable part of the conference, say many attendees, including Ruben Villarreal, an independent distributor of Nikken wellness products. He describes the event as having an aura of positive energy as entrepreneurs compared business ideas and built on each other’s enthusiasm. “We were encouraged to network, which made it more comfortable to meet people. The conference was designed for that,” he said. One of Villarreal’s goals in attending the conference was to find a potential business partner, and he says that he might just have met that person through the networking event. Additionally, he says he met several potential customers and feels that the conference has opened up other doors of opportunity for his business.

To enhance the networking, Envision08 attendees spent one evening of the conference at a more relaxed setting: Knibbe Ranch in Spring Branch, Texas, about 40 miles north of San Antonio. Participants enjoyed a steak dinner at the rustic, hill country setting. A live band encouraged entrepreneurs to make connections while two-stepping around the dance floor.

After the conference was over, Blisswood owner Carol Davis says she has only one concern: “My question is, how are you going to top this one next year?” Plans are already underway for Envision09.

For more information about the conference or to see video coverage of the event, visit the website http://envision08.com.

Categories: Centers

ARGUS Software, Inc., a global company specializing in commercial real estate software, recently gave a gift-in-kind worth $200,000 to Mays Business School at Texas A&M University. The gift provided 50 copies of their ARGUS Valuation DSC software, which students will be able to use in a campus computer lab.

“We wanted to give students the exposure to this software, as it’s the industry standard,” said Lynn Clark ’84, director of global training services at ARGUS. In commercial real estate firms, the Valuation DSC program is used to determine the value of assets during acquisition and create cash flow models for property.

Interim Dean Ricky Griffin expressed appreciation for this gift. “Mays Business School is very pleased that ARGUS is willing to partner with us to educate the next generation of real estate professionals. Their gift will be very useful to our students,” he said.

Cydney Donnell, professor of finance and director of the real estate program at Mays Business School, agrees that the gift from ARGUS is of great benefit to students. “Knowing how to use this program is part of a set of skills that will make them more employable,” she said. Donnell says that real estate students will be required to use the software for two classes for project analysis work.

Donnell noted that the program has always been available to students, but at a price most could not afford (a single license costs $3,995). The fact that students will now have access to the valuable program at no cost is significant.

Clark says that ARGUS is a supporter of education through its University Endowment Program, which provides gifts of software to schools that offer accredited real estate courses. Furthermore, the company always likes to assist A&M, as “we have a lot of Aggies at ARGUS,” said Clark. “We want to give them the tools to go out and find a great job.”

About ARGUS

ARGUS Software provides universal software and service solutions that reveal, optimize and realize value for the commercial real estate industry. ARGUS Software’s products have become the industry standard and provide the complete solution for managing and growing a commercial real estate portfolio. More than 8,000 of the industry’s leading owners, managers, financial institutions, brokerages and REITs trust ARGUS Software solutions to improve the visibility and flow of information throughout their critical business processes. These processes include property management, asset valuation, portfolio management, budgeting, forecasting, reporting and lease management.

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. Mays is home to the Texas Real Estate Center, the nation’s largest publicly funded real estate research organization. The center’s mission is conducting applied real estate related research and disseminating the results and findings to real estate practitioners and consumers.

Categories: Donors Corner

Once upon a time in Aggieland, there lived a prosperous businessman named Robert Jenkins ’59. He had three sons, Bobby ’81, Raleigh ’83, and Dennis ’85, each of whom was blessed with unique business talents. After graduating from Texas A&M University with degrees in management, agricultural business, and entomology (respectively), the sons went to work in the family business, then called ABC Pest Control. Bobby was entrusted with the Austin/San Antonio/College Station area, Raleigh managed locations throughout Houston, and Dennis grew the business in Dallas/Fort Worth. Though the sons were in competition, they remained close friends and associates.

As Robert grew older and thought of retirement, he wondered how best to maintain both his family and his business, the main office of which was located in San Antonio. One day, he called his sons to him to announce his plans for succession. Each son secretly hoped that he would be chosen as the heir to the ABC throne.

The Jenkins brothers talk to students
The Jenkins brothers (left to right: Bobby ’81, Dennis ’85 and Raleigh ’83) have successfully balanced work and family while splitting their father’s business into three separate companies.

Now, Robert was a wise father as well as a wise businessman. To his sons’ surprise, he announced that he’d sold the main branch of the business and that each son would retain only the arm of the corporation that he had established himself. To further solidify the equal relationship between the brothers, a map of the state of Texas was divided with boundary lines drawn in black ink, clearly separating their different areas for business expansion.

Today, the Jenkins brothers still abide by that map and the motto: “Thou shalt not cross into thy brother’s territory.” And to this day, the business and the family are still flourishing. The brothers recently returned to the A&M campus to address a group of students at Mays Business School about their unique business model, small business operation, and the joys and hardships of working with family.

Dennis Jenkins asked the 300+ Management 105 students in their audience for a show of hands: “How many of you are planning on going into the bug business?” A few hands went up…all belonging to young members of the Jenkins clan. (Six of the brothers’ children are currently enrolled at A&M or Blinn College.) Dennis acknowledged that it’s not the first choice for most business students, but he indicated that it is worth their consideration. “It’s a business that grows every year. It’s a business that doesn’t have layoffs,” he bragged.

The Jenkins brothers have expanded their father’s business from its original platform of pest eradication to a wide variety of services, including landscaping, lawn care, pool installation and maintenance, handyman service, outdoor kitchens and palapas, and holiday light installation. Collectively they employ about 750 people, with locations across Texas and Florida.

“We have a unique model,” said Bobby, elaborating on the variety avenues the brothers have explored independently and collaboratively with their businesses. He says their goal is to grow the business every year, but to continue to “do what you do well.”

“We’re damn passionate about our business. We’re passionate about what we do,” he told students. “And we have a lot of fun doing what we’re doing.”

A student posed the question, “What hardships did you overcome in managing your businesses?”

Raleigh was quick to quip, “working with family,” before mentioning issues of employee turnover. While the brothers all joke about the special demands of working in a family business, they acknowledge that the separate-but-shared corporate model set up by their father has served them very well.

“Lots of family businesses implode, and that’s tragic,” said Bobby. Dennis says he appreciates being able to watch his older brothers make business mistakes so that he can avoid them. But in the end, they’re all in it together.

“These guys are my best friends…the business is not as important as the relationships,” said Dennis.

“We argue a lot,” added Raleigh.

“But that the end of the day, we’re still brothers,” said Dennis.

“And that harmony is a good thing,” agrees Bobby.

Categories: Executive Speakers, Former Students

Research from Mays Business School management Professor Leonard Bierman has recently received attention in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, as those legislative bodies consider amending the pay discrimination provisions of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Congress’ actions in this regard have been in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling in May 2007 in the case of Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, which placed strict time limits on the ability of employees to file workplace pay discrimination claims with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

U.S. Capitol
Research from Mays Business School management Professor Leonard Bierman has recently received attention in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate.

The four dissenting Supreme Court justices in Ledbetter called on Congress to overturn the majority’s ruling in that case, and re-instate the EEOC’s traditional administrative discretion in affording alleged victims of pay discrimination some time flexibility in bringing forth claims. Bierman’s research, co-authored by Rafael Gely, a University of Cincinnati law professor, was cited in the decision. Their article, called “Love, Sex and Politics? Sure. Salary? No Way: Workplace Social Norms and the Law,” was published in the Berkeley Journal of Employment and Labor Law in 2004.

The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2007 was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives in June 2007, and was considered by both the U.S. House Labor Committee and the U.S. House Judiciary Committee (civil rights subcommittee). Bierman’s research was cited in testimony before both House committees. President George W. Bush has issued a two-page statement setting forth the reasons why he intends to veto the Lilly Ledbetter Act should it reach his desk for final approval. The U.S. House of Representatives, however, passed this legislation by a vote of 225-199 in July 2007.

This proposed legislation is currently before the U.S. Senate, where its most prominent co-sponsors are Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Bierman’s research was more recently discussed and cited in testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education and Labor in January 2008.

The issue is currently being hotly debated in the U.S. Senate, where opponents of the legislation have invoked Senate procedural filibuster-type rules requiring a vote of 60 senators to bring the issue to an up-or-down majority rule vote. On April 23, 2008 both Obama and Clinton returned to the Senate to vote on the issue, and joined a total of 56 senators voting in favor or bringing the Ledbetter Act to the floor for a final vote. Forty-two senators, however, voted against this measure, and two were absent.

Supporters of the Ledbetter Act are currently in the middle of negotiations seeking to either gain the procedural support of four more senators or reach a compromise with opponents of the bill on other issues so that they will permit the Ledbetter bill to reach the floor without supra-majority (60 senators) support.

Bierman is the coordinator of the Mays nationally top-ten ranked masters program in human resource management. Earlier in his career he held senior positions at both EEOC and the U.S. Department of Labor.

Categories: Research Notes

“Wow! Backpacks!”

“I want a blue one!”

“Hey, look! There’s even stuff inside!”

These were some of the excited cries heard at a local elementary school on April 18 as students from Mays Business School at Texas A&M University passed out new knapsacks filled with school supplies. Each of the 601 young scholars at the K-5 facility in Bryan, Texas received donated supplies provided by the second annual Project Mays, a service organized by the Business Student Council (BSC). Mays students orchestrated the entire event, from the corporate and individual fundraising, to the collection and distribution of materials. In all, the group collected $15,815 in monetary donations and supplies.

.

“We were looking for a way for the students and faculty of Mays to come together to help the community,” said Michael Kurt ’09, BSC vice president in charge of events. Kurt says when the council was considering different organizations in the community, the needs of the Bryan Independent School District really stuck out to them. A large majority of the students in that district are on the government-funded free and reduced lunch program, indicating some level of economic hardship. Kurt says they wanted to be sure that these economically disadvantaged learners had all the supplies necessary to succeed in the classroom.

Mary Walraven, coordinator for special programs and lead social worker for Bryan ISD agreed with Kurt’s assessment. “This is a high economically disadvantaged campus,” she said. “Many times these kids go home to wonderful parents and homes but the family may not have access to a lot of extras like crayons and pens and pencils.” Walraven says she hopes the students will use their new supplies for summer learning opportunities so that they can stay excited about school while they’re on vacation.

Mays BSC partnered in this effort with corporate sponsors LyondellBasell, El Paso, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Tesoro, and UHY Certified Public Accountants. Together, these sponsors provided $11,500 in support.

“Working with the business school at A&M and being part of our community is important at LyondellBasell and so when we found out that the business school, the Business Student Council, was doing a project, we wanted to be a part of that,” said Warren Prihoda ’92, a senior manager at the company. Prihoda and several colleagues were on hand at the Project Mays event to help pass out backpacks to the elementary students.

In addition to corporate gifts, dozens of Mays students joined forces to collect supplies like glue, crayons, pencils, and pens. The supplies were sorted for distribution, and each backpack was also furnished with a special extra: a note of encouragement from an Aggie.

“It was definitely an overwhelming response from the students of Mays,” said Kurt. Though only the students of one school were given full backpacks, the remaining supplies will be distributed throughout the other schools of Bryan ISD. Kurt estimates their donations will help 2,200 elementary students in the area.

Overseeing Project Mays was Greg Kwedar’s final act as president of the BSC before graduating this spring. He says the effort on behalf of these elementary students was an important investment in the future, as so many of them are already considered “at-risk” due to family and economic indicators.

“Right now, even just through backpacks, school supplies, and just being a positive role model for these kids, we can start to make a difference there…and that was why we did this project,” said Kwedar.

Kurt agrees. “They have dreams, they have goals, they have ambitions, but a lot of times, unfortunately they don’t have the opportunities to see those dreams become reality…We’re just helping out with one backpack and supplies that will last maybe one summer, but we’re showing them that we have faith in them. We know that they can do anything they set their minds to.”

Categories: Featured Stories, Students

It’s a simple logical equation:

  • Premise A: Upper-division business courses are notoriously difficult.
  • Premise B: Studies indicate that students learn challenging concepts best when class size is small.
  • Conclusion: For the highest quality education, upper-division business courses should have a small class size.

Uniting these principals to improve the quality of education at Mays Business School at Texas A&M University is the goal of the differential tuition proposal, which will take effect in the fall 2008 semester. The plan involves a $610 increase for juniors and seniors in the business school each semester in addition to their university tuition.

While the plan has obvious benefits, not everyone is thrilled with the increase.

Why it’s necessary

Students in class
Mays’ current average of 117 students per class is more than other top-ranked business schools.

These funds will be used to hire additional faculty and offer more sections of each class, thus reducing the size of upper-level courses. Additionally, the extra money will enable the introduction of more break-out class sessions for most upper-level courses. After experimentation in several Mays courses, students have been shown to benefit from the opportunity to learn through this “lab” setting, meeting once a week for enhanced instruction led by a teaching assistant. The break-out sessions create a more personal learning environment for even the largest lecture classes.

The increase will also go toward recruiting the best faculty available for these new sections. As salaries of business school faculties must compete with compensation levels in the corporate world, this additional funding is highly important.

An added bonus of the reduced class size is that it will improve Mays placement in national business school rankings. Evaluations by organizations such as Business Week and U.S. News and World Report take into account student/instructor ratios when figuring their annual rankings.

Supporters say it’s worth the cost

Differential tuition has been a hot topic for the last year at Mays. As dollar signs fill students’ minds, administrators are focusing on the positives of the plan. Mays’ Interim Dean Ricky Griffin assures the undergrads that the increased amount is actually quite reasonable for a b-school education. “Our students will still be paying substantially less than students at comparable business schools across the state, including the University of Texas at Austin,” Griffin said. In the long run, Griffin feels that the enhancements provided by the extra funds will undoubtedly improve the quality of the business program, better prepare students for their future careers, and boost Mays’ position in national rankings—getting Mays one step closer to it’s goal of being recognized as one of the top ten programs in the U.S.

Conant looks at class in Ray Auditorium
“In my 22 years on the Mays faculty,” said Marketing Department Head Jeff Conant, “this is the most exciting development I have seen in our undergraduate program.”

Dean Griffin says the proposal received support from two university tuition policy committees with strong student representation. “When we first started exploring this option a couple of years ago, a majority of our own students who responded to a survey about differential tuition indicated that the benefits outweighed the costs,” said Griffin. Additionally, the Business Student Council’s direct input to the original differential tuition proposal indicates that the plan was created with the best interests of the students in mind. With that endorsement, the Texas A&M University System Board of Regents approved the measure at a meeting in March.

While the faculty understands the student concern for spending more money on their business education, they also see the correlation between increased educational quality and smaller classes, which can only be accomplished through increased funding. “Overall, I am convinced that the benefits of enhanced quality of education will exceed the increased costs to our students,” said James Benjamin, head of the Department of Accounting. “I expect there will be a significant change in the nature of many classes,” he added.

Marketing Department Head Jeff Conant also verbalized his support for the plan, citing the ability to develop a more hands-on, experimental learning environment through the reduced class sizes. “Smaller classes will allow faculty to more fully develop students’ leadership skills as communication and critical thinking is more strongly emphasized,” said Conant. “In my 22 years on the Mays faculty this is the most exciting development I have seen in our undergraduate program.”

Students sound off

Currently, Mays averages 117 students per class, making its classes much larger in size than other high-ranking business schools. The differential tuition plan will reduce core business classes from 117 to 38 students and upper-division classes from 41 to 28 students. With plans to add almost 50 new sections of regular classes to the Mays course schedule for the fall semester, the administration says upper-division students will benefit from the individual relationships they can develop with instructors in a less populated classroom setting.

Lauren Ashley, a junior marketing major, feels that this aspect of differential tuition is worth the extra $610 per semester. “I love smaller classes,” she said. “The learning environment is so much better when you aren’t just a number and the professor actually knows your name.”

Not every Mays student is this enthusiastic about the differential tuition plan. A few feel that despite the addition of smaller upper-level classes and break-out sessions designed to create a more personal education atmosphere, they would rather pay less and continue with the present class size. “I understand where they’re coming from, wanting to better our education, but a lot of my upper-level classes are really small anyway, so it’s just an extra $600 I have to pay,” said Brian Williams, a junior accounting major.

Mays administration also takes into account that fall 2008 senior business students won’t reap all the benefits of the initiative, as they will only experience smaller classes for one year. Because of this, their differential tuition will only cost $305 per semester in the 2008-2009 school year. The junior class will be the first to face the increase, paying the additional $610 for the upcoming fall and spring semesters. By Fall 2009, U3 and U4 students will see the full amount tacked on to their tuition. Differential tuition does not include business minors and is prorated for part-time students.

In every aspect of the plan, Mays administrators pledge to do what is best for students, cutting back costs where appropriate and increasing the focus on bettering the learning experience. “We will accept custodial responsibility for these funds with great seriousness of purpose. We pledge that differential tuition will directly benefit the students who will pay it,” said Griffin.

Categories: Featured Stories, Students