June, 2008 | Mays Impacts

At the start of his career Philipp Illeditsch is already getting noticed by the academic community. Illeditsch graduated from Mays Business School at Texas A&M University this spring with a PhD in finance and has accepted a tenure-track position at the prestigious Wharton School of Business for the fall. He is one of a select few that have been invited to present at the New Stars in Finance Conference in Madrid, Spain, this July. His selection is based on a survey of 25 senior scholars from the finance departments of top U.S. universities who named him one of the best five new PhD graduates in the field. Organized by the IE Business School and IMDEA Social Sciences, this conference aims to gather the five most successful rookies in the finance job market with thought-leaders in the field.

This is the first year for the conference to be held. Students, researchers, and educators in finance will be in attendance from around the world to share ideas about innovations in the field.

Illeditsch will join the international panel of speakers for the event, presenting on ambiguous information, risk aversion, and asset pricing. Others from the U.S. on the speaker panel come from the University of Chicago, Stanford University, New York University, and Duke University.

“From my perspective as PhD program coordinator, Philipp has been one of the best, if not the best, student to graduate from our program in the past six years,” said Sorin Sorescu, associate professor of finance at Mays. “His training is at par with that of students from the very top finance departments in the country.”

Illeditsch’s primary area of research is theoretical asset pricing, investments, and portfolio choice. His most recent work has focused on the pricing of assets when investors are averse to ambiguity and receive ambiguous information about the fundamentals of assets. He has also worked on equilibrium models for the nominal term structure and on optimal portfolio choice problems with inflation risk and inflation-protected bonds (TIPS).

Categories: Former Students

If a school can be judged by the success of its graduates, Mays Business School at Texas A&M University has something to brag about. While many Mays alumni have gone on to be successful business people, marketplace leaders, and academicians, a handful of top PhD graduates have achieved an exalted position that has a direct impact on the business leaders of tomorrow: dean of a business school.

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Eli Jones, newly named dean of LSU’s E.J. Ourso College of Business, has three degrees from Texas A&M.

One such graduate, Eli Jones, recently returned to the A&M campus to address a group of students. This summer Jones will take up the top position at the E.J. Ourso College of Business at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.

Jones is a three time Aggie, as he graduated from A&M with a bachelor’s degree in 1982, an MBA in 1986, and a PhD in marketing in 1997. Prior to his appointment at LSU, Jones was an associate dean and professor of marketing at the University of Houston where he worked for 11 years.

“Eli was one of our most outstanding doctoral students in the mid 90s,” said Jeff Conant, head of the marketing department at Mays. “From the first moment I met Eli, I knew he was destined for greatness and major leadership roles. He understands the multiple missions of large universities and has personally made effective teaching, conducting relevant research, and serving our discipline through professional service a high priority in his career.”

While visiting campus, Jones taught a session on marketing to high school students participating in a weeklong Business Careers Awareness Program. He engaged the young learners with his dynamic teaching style and examples from the real world his audience would understand. From Starbucks coffee to Lays potato chips, Jones drew applications from today’s marketplace to show the students the importance of marketing.

Jones is not alone in his new job title. Several other Mays PhD alumni from recent years have also attained the position of dean. Foremost among them is Jerry Strawser “85, who is the dean of Mays Business School, currently serving as interim executive vice president and provost for the university. Denise Smart “84 is the dean of the McCoy College of Business Administration at Texas State University—San Marcos. Frederick Niswander “93 is dean of the college of business at East Carolina University. James Gaertner “77 was formerly dean of the business school at the University of Texas and is now president of Sam Houston State University in Huntsville. Roberto Solano Mendez “94 served for several years as dean of the business school at the Universidad de las Américas in Puebla, Mexico.

Categories: Former Students

In Texas, people know if you want great Tex-Mex, Cajun, Greek, steak, or seafood, the best bet is to find a restaurant with the name “Pappas” in the title. Chris Pappas, co-owner and CEO of Pappas Restaurants, Inc., was recently on the Texas A&M University campus to speak to Mays Business School students about the hospitality industry, his successful career, and how to take advantage of opportunity when others see hardship.

Pappas speaking
Chris Pappas, co-owner and CEO of Pappas Restaurants, Inc., shared some of the lessons he has learned during his 40 years in the restaurant business with Mays students.

Pappas and his brother, Harris, opened their first restaurant in 1968. Called Dot Coffee Shop, it lacked the “Pappas” branding which the later restaurants would have. There, Pappas says he learned the business from the ground up, working in the kitchen as well as the office to determine the most efficient way to do things. While his mechanical engineering degree from UT Austin didn’t prepare him for the fast-paced life of a restaurateur, Pappas says that having a degree gave him a leg up on the competition because, at that time, “there were very few people with a college degree working in the restaurant business. It was largely a “mom n’ pop’ business. It wasn’t very sophisticated.”

Soon, they had two coffee shops and two barbecue restaurants, and continued to grow the business as opportunities arose. In the last 15 years, they’ve expanded beyond the borders of Texas. Pappas restaurants can now be found in Atlanta, Phoenix, Chicago, Denver, Albuquerque, and Cincinnati.

“The one thing that you’re going to find in your business life is that, if you’re positioned at the right place at the right time, and you have certain knowledge that you’ve acquired, you don’t know what opportunities are going to open up at the end of the day,” said Pappas, who stressed to students the need to prepare themselves for such opportunities. His advice? Find a good mentor and learn all you can. Look for a company with good ethics. Don’t worry about how much you’re making, worry about how much you’re learning. And don’t expect to be recognized for everything you do, but know that eventually you will get the notice you deserve.

One opportunity Pappas grasped was the chance to lead the Luby’s chain of cafeteria-style restaurants back into the black financially. In 2001, Pappas became the president and CEO of the publicly traded company. His brother and business partner, Harris, became the COO. Together, they began working to restore the family-friendly chain to the profitable business it had once been. He talked to students about the process of transforming the company financially, including the elimination of $125 million worth of debt in a few short years. Pappas says that Luby’s has now moved beyond its “debt story” and is on to the next chapter—expansion.

Continuing to expand might seem difficult, as Pappas admits his biggest challenge right now is the economy causing his customers to have less discretionary income. But it doesn’t worry him too much. “This is not the first time we’ve had something like this go on,” he says, assuring students that there will be opportunities in times of distress. His solution: diversify. Pappas has recently led Luby’s to take on hospital food, bringing both retail and patient food service to St. Joseph Hospital in Houston, TX. Pappas is steadily expanding his own restaurant chain as well. Pappas’ Restaurants can now be found in two major Houston airports: Houston Hobby and George Bush Intercontinental. Pappas Restaurants, Inc. is headquartered in Houston.

In addition to his roles with Pappas Restaurants Inc. and Luby’s, Pappas serves as the director of the National Restaurant Association. In 2001, he was inducted into the Texas Restaurant Association Hall of Honor. He also serves as a director of the Greater Houston Partnership and is an advisory board member of the Sam Houston Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America. Pappas serves as an executive committee member of the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau and an advisory board member of Amegy Bank of Texas. He is involved with the University of Houston’s Conrad Hilton School of Hotel and Restaurant Management, where he serves on the dean’s advisory board.

Categories: Executive Speakers

Athletes know the power of a motivational word given at the right moment from a well-respected coach. Whether it’s at halftime when the opponent has the lead, or on the practice field when the work is hard and the rewards seem small, the impassioned speech of a coach can inspire a group of ordinary people to give an extraordinary performance.

Jeff Conant, former college athlete and current head of the marketing department at Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School, understands a coach’s motivating power and has harnessed it for his department. Since 2006, he has invited members of the A&M athletic department coaching staff to speak at the annual kickoff event for the marketing faculty and staff. This year, men’s head basketball coach Mark Turgeon is slated to address the 35 members of the department at their event on August 21.

Coach Evans speaks to a player
Coach Guerrieri speaks to a player
Talks from A&M athletics coaches, such as softball coach Jo Evans (top, center) and soccer coach G. Guerrieri (bottom, right), are an important part of the Mays marketing department’s annual kickoff event.

Conant says that the athletic element is a “very relevant and inspiring way to begin the retreat.” The purpose of the program is to get the academic year off to a good start with a discussion of mission, vision, and goals as well as time for team building and social interaction in a non-work setting. It is also a time to acquaint the new people with the rest of the team and get faculty and staff communicating about what they do and what their needs are.

“I wanted to get my people thinking outside their usual boundaries…I thought we would benefit from some sort of unconventional dynamic, an unexpected kickoff to the day,” he said. “The speakers provided inspiration to the group…It set a very nice tone.” In the last two years, Conant says that the coaches’ dynamic presence added excitement and enthusiasm to the group, as well as pertinent advice about teaching as they discussed strategies for helping students to achieve academically.

In 2006, Head Women’s Soccer Coach G. Guerrieri was the kickoff presenter. Conant says that the talk directly applied to his department, as Guerrieri talked about the need to change as the game demands. Just as a team needs to make adjustments to their strategy as the game progresses, a department needs to be flexible to succeed in a changing environment with new players and new ideas.

Last year, women’s softball coach Jo Evans was the featured speaker. Evans talked about how she leads and motivates young people, a topic which she obviously knows something about as her team made it to the College World Series this year.

Associate Professor of Marketing Larry Gresham said he appreciated the coaches’ perspective. “The thing that most impressed me about both Coach G. and Coach Evans was that they seem to have the welfare of their students foremost in their minds,” he said.

The coaches challenged Gresham to see each of his students as individuals and to do his best to motivate them to succeed. “You push them because you love them. That was the message I took away from it. You push them really hard not because you don’t like them but because you know what they really are capable of,” he said.

Categories: Departments, Texas A&M

Mays Business School at Texas A&M University one of four schools in the nation to offer the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans, an innovative program that teaches small business ownership and operation concepts to post-9/11 veterans. The program, offered free to all participants, will kick off this summer on the A&M campus.

Recently, Mays Interim Dean Ricky Griffin spoke with a reporter from BusinessWeek about this important new program.

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To apply to the program, or for more information, visit http://whitman.syr.edu/eee/veterans or contact Richard Lester at rlester@mays.tamu.edu.

Categories: Programs