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.”