February, 2009 | Mays Impacts

With the start of 2009, the United States has seen changes in leadership, economic status, and policy. One thing that remains the same is the focus on improving the education received by children in every state. Texas places education at the top of its list of priorities, setting high standards that encourage teachers to present challenging topics to their classes and ensure that learning takes place. This year, a faculty representative from Mays Business School at Texas A&M University will help set the standards for Texas education, and will impact national curriculum decisions.

Lawrence Wolken
Wolken

Lawrence Wolken, a clinical professor in the Mays finance department, was recently appointed to the State Board of Education’s Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) review committee for social studies. Wolken joined the high school economics committee in Austin earlier this month to make recommendations concerning the basic economic and personal financial literary concepts that must be covered in the economics course taken by every high school student in Texas. The committee also reviewed the economics components included in other high school social studies courses.

According to Wolken, the TEKS high school committees will meet in April with the K-8 committees to coordinate the building aspect of the learning process through the entire 12-year education experience. Wolken and other committee members will work with K-8 groups at each grade level on the economic strand of their social studies curriculum, and the recommendations that they make will be presented to the State Board of Education next fall. “The TEKS the board adopts will influence the course content of K-12 social studies textbooks used not only in Texas but also nationally,” says Wolken.

“Looking to the future, the TEKS will determine what millions of future Texas residents and leaders will learn about economics/finance/business while attending the state’s K-12 public schools,” he said. “For those who do not continue on to college, this will likely be all they learn about these important subjects. That is an important responsibility that weighs on the mind of each member of the committee.”

Wolken’s appointment to this important committee is due not only to his extensive knowledge in economics and finance, but also to his many years of work with K-12 social studies teachers and students. Wolken’s work has received national attention thanks to the development of his Scholastic Assistance for Global Education (SAGE) program, which works with the Center for International Business Studies at Mays to provide resources that enrich classroom discussions at all grade levels.

Categories: Faculty

Charles Gilliland ’83, a research economist with the Texas Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School, has been appointed to the Helen and O.N. Mitchell Fellowship in Real Estate. As a researcher with the center since 1977, Gilliland has dedicated 32 years to the study of the Texas real estate market, as well as to the teaching of related subjects in the business school.

Charles Gilliland '83
Gilliland

“The land cost is an important component of residential development and its financial feasibility,” says Cydney Donnell, executive professor of finance and director of real estate programs at Mays. “Dr. Gilliland is the leading authority on Texas land prices and is able to bring his unique knowledge about trends in land prices to the classroom.”

Wayne Etter, Mays professor emeritus of finance, also had high praise for Gilliland. “Dr. Gilliland’s well-earned reputation among real estate students and real estate professionals is built on a solid research career.  He has numerous publications, but his reputation is further enhanced because of the many presentations he makes to real estate professionals throughout the state…Certainly, his appointment as a Mitchell Fellow is a fitting recognition of his role in Texas real estate teaching and research.”

The Mitchell Fellowship supports a faculty member’s teaching, research and professional development. It is also meant to encourage cooperation with the Mitchell Master Builder Chair and the Mitchell Professorships in Construction Science, Land Development and Real Estate, both in the College of Architecture, as well as other faculty with a teaching focus on residential development, construction and design. The Mitchell family, founders and owners of History Maker Homes, funded the fellowship.

Gilliland holds degrees from Regis College and Texas A&M University. He earned a PhD from A&M in 1983, majoring in resource economics, econometrics, and real estate. He has worked for the Real Estate Center in a variety of research and teaching capacities since 1977. He has authored numerous articles for publications such as The Appraisal Journal and Tierra Grande, the quarterly magazine published by the center. He presents his research frequently to industry insiders, such as real estate investors and builders.

Categories: Centers, Faculty

For Michael Rupe ’93, becoming a person that others look up to is more than a goal; it’s a way of life. Rupe has made positively impacting the lives of future students at Mays Business School at Texas A&M University a priority. That’s why he has given $100,000 to establish the Michael D. Rupe ’93 Dean’s Endowed Scholarship.

“Mike’s most generous gift reflects his philosophy of helping others,” said Mays Dean Jerry Strawser. “He truly epitomizes Texas A&M University’s core value of selfless service. The educational opportunity his gift will provide to students fortunate enough to benefit from it will continue to ensure that Mays Business School students understand the importance of assisting others.”

Rupe’s relationship with Texas A&M University was born the day he met B.P. Huddleston, a former student and executive that knew A&M in the days of Bear Bryant. During an accounting internship in Houston, Huddleston often shared with Rupe stories of his days as a Junction Boy, quickly convincing Rupe to become an Aggie. Huddleston’s wife, F.M., also helped to sell Rupe on A&M. He graduated from Mays with degrees in accounting and finance and immediately began his career with Arthur Andersen. In 1995, he took a position at Basis Petroleum, soon realizing his desire to run a company. One year later, Rupe became a founding member of CIMA ENERGY, LTD, where he continues to serve as the chief financial officer. The firm, based in Houston, was recognized in 2006 as a member of the Aggie 100.

Outside the corporate world, Rupe is known for his involvement in the lives of Houston youth. He is active in the Spring Branch Memorial Sports Association, where he serves as assistant program director for football and treasurer, a position he has held for the past ten years. “I feel very strongly about the necessity of giving a child a strong role model,” said Rupe. “That is the direction in which Texas A&M University takes you as a person; the emphasis on moral character builds strong leaders that others want to look up to. That is what makes supporting the school with major gifts so critical, to continue that tradition.”

Rupe is also involved with the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, where he serves on the barbeque committee. Though free time is something he sees little of, the former student knows the importance of recognizing and giving back to those that have contributed to his success. “When you’re a college student, you don’t typically imagine yourself giving a substantial amount of money to the school,” said Rupe. “But when you’ve been out for a while and you reflect on your own success, you realize that without that school, you wouldn’t be where you are. My success comes from the background I received at Texas A&M, and I want to help guarantee that success to others.”

Categories: Donors Corner, Former Students

Of all the things that Tony Weber ’84 remembers about his undergraduate experience, he says that it was the out-of-the-classroom activities that had the most impact on him. That’s why he and his wife, Cindy (Green) ’84, have recently given $200,000 to Mays Business School at Texas A&M University to establish the Cindy ’84 and Tony ’84 Weber Excellence Fund supporting special programs and executive speakers in Mays’ undergraduate programs.

“We are so thankful for the Weber’s gift,” said Mays Dean Jerry Strawser. “I am always encouraged when I see young alumni giving back and making a positive impact on Texas A&M University. The funds the Webers have provided will truly make a difference in the our ability to provide our students with fantastic opportunities both in and outside of the classroom.”

“We wanted to reach as many students as possible through our gift,” said Cindy. As a former college professor (she taught at Texas Christian University for eight years), Cindy believes that giving students the opportunity to interact with successful people in their field is invaluable. “Getting other business people’s opinions broadens their perspectives. It enhances their education. It opens up doors for them,” she said.

Her husband agreed. “I had the benefit of being in the Fellows program,” said Tony, who credited his participation in that program, as well as the internships it led to, with his business success after graduating. “We are focused on giving students exposure to successful people…that is what I enjoyed and what really helped me.”

Previously, the Webers funded a presidential endowed scholarship at Mays.

Tony is a partner and owner of Natural Gas Partners, a $9.5 billion private equity fund that manages oil and gas ventures. Cindy, who holds an undergraduate degree in scientific nutrition from A&M, as well as a PhD from Texas Women’s University, teaches continuing education courses for healthcare providers. Together, they enjoy cycling, travel, and teaching youth Bible classes at their church.

Tony is on the board of several energy companies, the Independent Producers Association of America and is also active with the Dallas Athletic Club and the Dallas Petroleum Club. Cindy is studying for her private pilot’s license and is on the board of the Park Cities Republican Women, Council for Life, and the local rotary club.

The Webers have one daughter, Alexandra, who is a freshman at Mays. Her involvement with the Business Honors program stimulated the Webers’ interest in giving to the school, says Cindy. “We thought it would be great to enhance the program while she’s there…being able to make the school better for her is an added benefit.”

Categories: Donors Corner, Former Students

“I have what can only be described as a bizarre career path,” says Brian Cruver, whose professional pursuits over the last 20 years have included day trader, architect, chef, lawyer, carpenter, pizza deliverer, investment banker, entrepreneur, and most notably, author.

Cruver, author of The Anatomy of Greed: the unshredded truth from an Enron insider, recently spoke to students at Mays Business School at Texas A&M University about his unusual combination of experiences and the lessons he’s learned from them.

Brian Cruver, author of The Anatomy of Greed, recently spoke to students at Mays about his unusual combination of experiences and the lessons he's learned from them.
Brian Cruver, author of The Anatomy of Greed, recently spoke to students at Mays about his unusual combination of experiences and the lessons he’s learned from them.

Though he had many adventures in employment prior to 2001, it was in that year that Cruver landed his dream job on the trading floor at Enron. The job lasted a short nine months, but its impact on Cruver’s life has been enormous. After the company collapsed, Cruver was among the first to write a book on the subject from the inside. The book was quickly adapted into a CBS TV movie, The Crooked E: The unshredded truth about Enron, and Cruver experienced the ultimate “when life hands you lemons” scenario as he went from an out-of-work businessman to one of the most sought after commentators on the Enron scandal. He went on to do more than 300 radio and television interviews on the subject.

“Writing a book is not something I ever thought I would do. And it’s probably not something that I’ll ever do again,” said Cruver, admitting that he does not enjoy writing. “But it was a great opportunity.”

Not everyone was a fan of his book, however; Cruver told students that he may have been one of the only authors to be accompanied by off-duty police officers to book signings at Barnes and Noble. “When you tell the truth about bad things people have done, those people tend to not like you much,” he said, noting the threats he received during this period of media attention.

“Enron was the greatest thing that ever happened to me,” said Cruver, who was amazed by all of the doors the experience opened for him. One of the most important lessons he learned from it was that working for a large firm doesn’t equal job security. “I was drawn to big companies like Shell and Enron, thinking that it was less risky, but I learned there is as much risk there as there is in doing your own thing.” That decrease in his aversion to risk allowed him to pursue his own entrepreneurial dreams.

When the immediate “after-Enron” phase of his career ended, Cruver says he wanted to start the “anti-Enron,” a business that was dedicated to making money for good causes. He started Giveline soon after, which enabled online shoppers a way to divert part of their purchase dollars to the charity of their choice. At its peak, Giveline was serving 20,000 non-profits. Cruver said the company was growing but not yet profitable when they decided to fold. Not one to give up easily, he has recently gone into business with three partners to create MarketDriver, a consulting company focused on sales and marketing for new ventures.

While at Enron, Cruver traded bankruptcy risk (and yes, he appreciates the irony). MarketDriver builds on some of the concepts Cruver acquired in that position, as he and his partners evaluate new ventures to help budding entrepreneurs avoid failure. “There are just so many ways to find out if an idea is going to work before you sink a bunch of money into it,” he says. Cruver counsels entrepreneurs involved in ventures from oil and gas technology to software, lending his business savvy to these creative minds. He focuses specifically on the first 100 days of the company, helping clients go from a great idea to a successful business model.

A native Texan, Cruver holds an undergraduate degree in communications from the University of Southern California and an MBA from the University of Texas. He currently resides in Austin.

Categories: Executive Speakers

As students hurled paper planes and cardboard disks through the air outside the Wehner Building at Texas A&M University, who would have guessed that the competition in progress had less to do with aerodynamics than business?

For this unusual lesson at Mays Business School, Management Clinical Associate Professor Richard Lester tasked the students in his graduate-level foundations of entrepreneurship class with the team creation of an aircraft that met specific criteria: it must use the same number of sheets of paper as team members, and carry $1 in coins. Each team decided the weight of the paper, design of the craft, and the combination of coins to equal $1.

Once the prototypes were developed, each team delivered a three-minute pitch describing the reasons their aircraft would fly the farthest and remain aloft the longest. After the pitches, students made predictions about which aircraft would make good on its claims and soar to superiority above the others.

When it came down to the actual fly-off, teams received points toward winning the competition for not only the performance of their aircraft, but also the number of votes they received from classmates predicting their success. The lesson had several angles related to entrepreneurship, said Lester: creativity and innovation, role of presentation for an unproven design, investment decision making for new ventures, personal selling, and effective implementation.

Due to the elevated nature of the lesson, it’s sure to be one that students will remember.

Categories: Featured Stories, Students

“Law is definitely a business,” declared Mark Taylor ’83, a managing partner for law firm Baker & McKenzie, as he addressed 400 students in a freshman-level management course at Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School. The students listened intently as they received advice from a successful member of the corporate world.

Taylor provided the students with his personal top ten factors for success, emphasizing the importance of being “client-oriented.” When clients trust you enough to become their advisor, it is crucial to be responsive and completely honest with them, he explained. “There are a lot of attorneys who focus only on the fees that they receive for their work. I am in the service industry to help people, to help my client avoid writing that “big check.’ It’s about what you can do for your client,” said Taylor.

After speaking to 400 freshmen earlier that morning, Mark Taylor '83 also sat down with a smaller group of students for a discussion about his career and experiences.
After speaking to 400 freshmen earlier that morning, Mark Taylor ’83 also sat down with a smaller group of students for a discussion about his career and experiences.

Taylor, who practices commercial litigation, educated his audience on the vast reach of Baker & McKenzie’s global firm, the largest of its kind in the world. The former student provided insight on the necessities of international business and the open-mindedness that must come with it. “International business requires someone with an appetite for everything,” Taylor said. “It requires artful communication with people who may not be familiar with your system, and you must adapt to that.” Taylor likened a meeting of Baker & McKenzie’s principals to a gathering of the United Nations, expounding on the global fluency of the company that sets it apart from others.

After receiving his BBA at Mays, Taylor attended law school at Texas Tech University and then launched his career with Baker & McKenzie’s Dallas office in 1989. Taylor’s litigation practice focuses on the defense of commercial cases, intellectual property litigation and employment-related law suits, including theft of trade secrets, trademark and patent infringement, breach of fiduciary duty, antitrust, discrimination, wage and hour, and breach of contract suits and arbitrations. He routinely defends complex class action suits in federal and state courts, and has tried jury cases to verdict in multiple states. The Aggie has represented a number of well-known corporate entities, including the nation’s largest poultry producer, Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation; video game maker Konami Corporation, creator of the popular game Dance Dance Revolution (or DDR); and CEC Entertainment, Inc., more commonly known as Chuck E. Cheese’s.

Taylor concluded by encouraging students to learn something additional outside of the typical business degree plan and use it to their advantage, especially in today’s trying economic environment. “It’s important to find something you can specialize in. If you find your niche, it makes you that much more valuable in the business world.”

Categories: Executive Speakers, Former Students

Case studies are a familiar part of the curriculum for graduate students at Mays Business School at Texas A&M University. However, for four students in an organizational change and development class, a recent assignment took on new significance when the CEO of the case company visited Mays to hear their presentation on his organization.

Bruce Williamson, CEO of Houston-based energy conglomerate Dynegy, was an honored guest as students Amy McDaniel ’09, Anthony Setboune ’08, Megan Ploch ’09, and Kylee Ziegler ’09, walked their classmates through an in-depth history of the company, including an analysis of recent challenges and management strategies. After their presentation, Williamson addressed the class about his role in restructuring Dynegy since 2001 resulting from the collapse of Enron during a proposed merger between the two companies.

“As it was Mr. Williamson’s first time to visit Texas A&M, we wanted to make a good impression,” said Ziegler. “It was important for us to get our facts straight and portray information that [he] had given us in the right way.” The project had added value, as well as added stress due to Williamson’s involvement, she said.

Group member McDaniel agreed. “It was a little nerve-racking to have to present in front of the CEO that obviously knows the company backwards and forwards, mostly because we didn’t want to say anything wrong,” she admitted. But Williamson assured the group he wouldn’t give a rebuttal after the presentation, she says. “A lot of what we presented on is not available in a book or an article. He was impressed at the amount of work we had put into it and all of the contacts we had made at Dynegy.”

The Aggie network had a role to play in Williamson’s participation in the project, said McDaniel. “We went onto the Aggie network website and sent out emails to see which [Dynegy] employees would respond. We were able to get a bulk of our research and quotes from those that experienced the changes firsthand,” she said. Through contacts they made within the company, the group eventually was granted an interview with the headman himself. “Williamson was very approachable and encouraged us to ask questions,” she said. “We worried about offending him because some of the things his company had done previously were not things you would want discussed.” Instead, Williamson welcomed their inquiries. “All of the Dynegy employees expressed interest in seeing our paper and presentation once we had completed it, but Williamson surprised us all when he took us up on our offer to attend our presentation.”

Williamson says he was pleased that the students had shown an interest in his company and that his schedule allowed him to attend the presentation. “Dynegy does a lot of recruiting at A&M and I wanted to see what this place was all about,” he said.

“This assignment taught me the value of the Aggie family,” said McDaniel. “You hear about it everyday, but seeing firsthand how a few emails can wind up getting you the CEO on the phone to answer any and all questions is huge. Williamson didn’t go to A&M, but it was because of our Aggie family that we were able to contact him.”

Categories: Executive Speakers, Students

In an era where every major purchase begins with the consumer checking prices and availability on the Internet, traditional retailers are examining the impact of the networked retail environment to create a new framework for the way they will do business in the future.

Do consumers expect consistent pricing across a retailer’s multiple channels (catalogs, in-store, online), though the cost of doing business in each of those channels is different? Do customers want Tweets or other social media contact from retailers? Can a website give a similar customer experience as a visit to a store? Is there anything that can’t be sold online? These were the kinds of questions discussed at the first Thought Leadership Conference hosted by the Center for Retailing Studies at Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School, January 29-30, 2009. The invitation-only conference gathered 40 retailers and academicians from across the country to discuss topics related to the theme “Emerging perspectives on marketing in a multichannel and multimedia retailing environment.”

The conference brought together industry leaders and academicians to explore some of the challenges and opportunities of multichannel retailing in today's environment.
The conference brought together industry leaders and academicians to explore some of the challenges and opportunities of multichannel retailing in today’s environment.

“I thought it was wonderfully thought provoking,” said participant Mary Ann Wyckoff, senior vice president of strategic marketing at Macy’s. “As retailers, we’re usually so busy executing that we don’t have time to think and ideate like this. I loved it and will definitely use this information.”

Randy Reeves, a divisional vice president at Macy’s, agreed with his colleague, Wyckoff. “By far the greatest takeaway is the ability to take ourselves out of the day-to-day of budgets and planning and be able to think on a theoretical level,” he said. “We can start to push the industry on a store by store level to think about these concepts. We can be advocates for change with this information.”

Keynote speaker John Irvin kicked off the event, discussing changes in multichannel retail throughout his career. Irvin, whose retailing resume includes top management positions with companies such as Foley’s and Spiegel, moved to JCPenney in 2001 to head up their catalog and Internet sales as president of JCP Direct. Though the JCP “big book” had been around for decades and their website had been live since 1994, when Irvin joined the company, neither of those channels were profitable. Irvin streamlined both arms of the business, transforming them into multi-billion dollar operations.

“You can’t ask the customer to adapt to your model,” Irvin counseled the audience. “They have too many choices. You must adapt to the customer.”

Using Irvin’s comments as a springboard, the conference attendees were split into seven groups for the remainder of the conference and tasked with examining a specific issue related to the theme, such as consumer behavior, interactive technologies, and mobile marketing. Participants spent several hours exploring questions on what is currently known about the topic, what challenges and opportunities for retailers exist, and what research could be pursued.

Each group's findings were presented at the end of the conference and will be considered for publication in a special issue of the Journal of Interactive Marketing.
Each group’s findings were presented at the end of the conference and will be considered for publication in a special issue of the Journal of Interactive Marketing.

Each group presented their findings on the second day of the conference in a dynamic workshop format, gathering suggestions and critiques from other attendees.

After receiving feedback, groups will submit a manuscript based on their conclusions to be reviewed and potentially published in a special issue of Journal of Interactive Marketing (JIM) in spring 2010.

The Thought Leadership Conference was sponsored by JIM, the Marketing Science Institute, the Center for Retailing Studies, and Mays Business School. Mays Professors of Marketing Venkatesh Shankar and Manjit Yadav co-chaired the event and will edit the corresponding issue of JIM.

Categories: Centers, Featured Stories

“Elections do have consequences,” says Leonard Bierman, professor of management at Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School. Lilly Ledbetter would agree. After months of debate in both the House and Senate, President Obama has signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2007 into law—his first such act in his new office. Prior to his presidency, Obama co-sponsored the bill with then-Senator Hillary Clinton.

Mays management professor Leonard Bierman's research was discussed and cited in testimony last year before various congressional committees as they considered the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2007.
Mays management professor Leonard Bierman’s research was discussed and cited in testimony last year before various congressional committees as they considered the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2007.

Bierman’s research on this topic was discussed and cited in testimony last year before various committees in the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate as they considered this pending legislation.

The new law amends the pay discrimination provisions of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, changing the time frame in which employees can allege pay discrimination. Previously, the law placed strict time limits on employees’ ability to file workplace pay discrimination claims with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Now, employees are able to sue the discriminatory company up to 180 days after the last paycheck they receive that is less than other employees at their level. The amendment was signed into law on January 29, 2009.

The law was amended in response to Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., the recent Supreme Court case involving Lilly Ledbetter’s quest for justice after she discovered that for 20 years she had been paid less than her male colleagues at Goodyear. The court upheld the decision of a lower federal appeals court, stating that Ledbetter’s claim was beyond the statute of limitations for alleging pay discrimination. The federal appeals court, in turn, had earlier reversed a federal trial that had ruled in Ledbetter’s favor.

“While the Supreme Court’s decision in the case may have been technically correct, it ignored the realities of today’s workplace,” said Bierman, who coauthored the article “Love, Sex and Politics? Sure. Salary? No Way: Workplace Social Norms and the Law,” which was cited in debates regarding the Ledbetter decision. The article was published in the Berkeley Journal of Employment and Labor Law in 2004.

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

Categories: Faculty, Research Notes