Jeff Conant, department head and professor of marketing at Mays Business School at Texas A&M University, passed away unexpectedly on Tuesday, June 30.
Conant had built a career at Mays over the past 23 years, joining the faculty just prior to graduating from a PhD program at Arizona State University in 1986. He achieved the rank of professor in 2000, and later took on the leadership of the Department of Marketing in 2006.
During his lengthy tenure at Mays, Conant accumulated numerous recognitions for the quality of his teaching. In 2004, he was honored by Texas A&M as a Presidential Professor for Teaching Excellence, and the following year he was given the title of Eppright University Professor in Undergraduate Teaching Excellence. In 2007, Conant won a national Distinguished Teaching award from the Society of Marketing Advances. “I’m motivated to create good leaders who are persuasive communicators and analytical thinkers and are ethically sensitive,” said Conant after winning the award. “The exciting moment for me in the classroom is when students exceed their own expectations and I get to be a part of it.”
Conant was also the recipient of two distinguished achievement awards in teaching from the Association of Former Students at Texas A&M, the Piper Professor Award (given annually to select educators in the state of Texas by the Minnie Stevens Piper Foundation of San Antonio), and the Great Teachers in Marketing Award from the Academy of Marketing Science.
Conant’s research has appeared in respected publications such as Strategic Management Journal, Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, Journal of Marketing Education, Industrial Marketing Management, and Journal of Retailing. He was also the author of two book chapters and a number of conference papers. His research interests included marketing strategy and the scholarship of teaching and learning. He received Journal of Marketing Education‘s Outstanding Article of the Year Award three times, as well as a Best Article Award from the Marketing Education Review.
His programmatic stream of research on the distinguishing characteristics of master teachers is widely acclaimed. Other scholarship of teaching and learning topics he examined included the introduction stage of the faculty career life cycle, case teaching, and techniques for enhancing large class instruction.
To give to the scholarship which has been started in his name, go to http://givenow.tamu.edu. Choose “Mays Business School” from the first pull-down menu; then “College of Business Administration General Scholarships” in the second pull-down menu. In the “Special Instructions and Comments” box, type in “Jeffrey S. Conant Memorial Scholarship.”
Founder of Clear Channel Communications Lowry Mays ’57 and his wife Peggy have announced their continued support for the college that bears their namesake, Mays Business School at Texas A&M University. Their recent $7.5 million gift will support a number of endowed faculty chairs. Part of the fund will be matched with gifts from other donors, bringing the total impact of the gift up to $12 million.
“At a time when so many are affected by this challenging economy, we are fortunate to have generous benefactors in the Mays family,” said Jerry Strawser, dean of Mays Business School. “Their past support has enabled our school to achieve status as one of the top public business schools in the world, and this most recent gift will allow us to continue delivering outstanding programs to our students. We are proud to have one of the most influential businessmen in Texas history endorse our programs in such a meaningful way.”
This latest gift builds upon the Mays’ 1996 contribution of $15 million, which continues support of the business school’s initiatives. It was at that time the college of business at Texas A&M was formally named in the Mays’ honor.
The current gift will support one eminent scholar chair in the name of Peggy Pitman Mays and one regular chair honoring Benton Cocanougher, dean emeritus and professor emeritus of Mays Business School. Additionally, it will provide matching grants for two other eminent scholar chairs and five regular chairs.
In a recent evaluation by AMR Research, the supply chain program at Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School was ranked 8th in the nation for industry value, defined as how well they prepare students to “manage increasingly global integrated supply chain organizations.”
The program also ranks 5th for program scope and 9th for depth of programs offered.
A&M is the only school in Texas to be named in these rankings.
“The results are very encouraging and indicate our program is on the right path,” said E. Powell Robinson, head of the Department of Information and Operations Management at Mays, which houses the supply chain program. Robinson noted the rapid progress the program has made in the past several years in regards to curriculum design and impressive faculty hires. “The rankings also indicate that we are positioned to move up quickly should we maintain the course,” he said.
To arrive at these rankings, AMR surveyed 126 companies about what skills a supply chain graduate must have to be successful in the field. Their responses led to an in-depth analysis of supply chain programs at 19 top U.S. universities to distinguish which programs are producing the best prepared graduates by industry standards.
The research found that the best programs provide students with a broad understanding of supply chain concepts, rather than specializations within the field. Also, those with an emphasis on internships, applied knowledge, and teamwork ranked highly.
About the INFO department at Mays
The Department of Information and Operations Management at Mays Business School offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in supply chain management and management information systems. The goal of the department is to create professionals who understand the underlying theory of decision-making systems and possess the problem solving skills necessary to succeed in a highly competitive business environment.
Ricardo Lopez says that his 22 years of active duty in the U.S. Army gave him the work ethic and time management skills an entrepreneur needs to be successful.
It’s a good thing, too, since his more than two decades of service left him medically disabled to the point where traditional employment would be more than challenging.
He’s still a young man, in his early 40s, but there are days when he doesn’t feel like it, days when it’s hard to even walk. “Sometimes I’m okay. But sometimes it hinders me. My whole body hurts,” said Lopez, who suffers from arthritis and bone problems developed over his years of service.
Since his retirement from the military in 2006, Lopez wanted to launch his own business in real estate investment. He knew he had the valuation skills necessary to make the business work, but he lacked the confidence to strike out on his own and take the risks necessary.
That changed last summer when he attended the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities (EBV), a program offered at Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School.
“It energized me,” said Lopez. “The only thing I was lacking was action. Fear of losing and fear that I didn’t know what I was doing held me backâ€¦now, instead of just talking about it, action! I’m taking a chance. A calculated risk.” The risk is paying off, as Lopez has now purchased several properties and sold them for a profit. He is planning more purchases of fixer-uppers and foreclosures that he can flip, with the long-term goal of one day buying a small apartment complex and operating his own property management company.
Lopez is one of the many success stories to come out of the EBV program, which was offered at Mays for the first time in the summer of 2008. Planning and fundraising are underway for the 2009 bootcamp, to be offered August 15-23.
Last year, 16 servicemen and -women injured as a result of military service since September 11, 2001, participated in the EBV program at Mays. The program is designed to assist veterans with disabilities in becoming small business owners. It’s provided to participants for free, travel and accommodations included, thanks to the generosity of supporters. The wounded warriors selected for the program complete a three-week online business course prior to an intense eight-day residency period on the A&M campus. A year of long-distance mentoring with a Mays faculty member completes the course.
Ricardo Lopez, seen here giving his final presentation during the 2008 EBV, credits the program with giving him the confidence to launch his own business.
From budgeting to IP protection, the EBV program focuses on the elements that are important to the would-be entrepreneurs, many of whom come to the course with big ideas and a storehouse of passion, but little business experience. The course presents lessons on creating a workable business plan, securing financing, marketing, and other important areas such as taxes and legal issues.
“The other thing that we bring to this project is an everyday focus on working and living with disabilities,” says Lester. Disability experts, and veteran’s administration affairs and workforce commission representatives present to the group daily, as well as Mays faculty members and successful entrepreneurs.
Lester says there’s a great need for this kind of service. “The number of veterans with issues after they are discharged from the service is phenomenal. One-third of all the homeless folks in the United States are veterans. So, we have a really at-risk population,” he said.
As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continue, the number of U.S. veteransâ€”many of them with physical or emotional traumaâ€”grows exponentially each year. “There is an impending crisis looming for disabled veteransâ€¦as regards long-term employment opportunities,” said Lester, who hopes that Mays involvement in this program will help the student-veterans to take charge of their futures through owning businesses.
This year, Lester expects to have 20 participants in the innovative program.
Toni Williams has a heart for children, especially those who face added challenges due to disabilities. When Williams was honorably discharged from the Marine Corps in 2002 due to an injury that left her with a hearing loss and inner ear problems, she decided to serve her country in a new way. She joined Teach for Texas and earned a teaching certification with an endorsement in special education.
“The program brought me from just having an idea to where I am now,” said Toni Williams. The 2008 EBV participant aims to open a school for children with special needs next fall.
Through her experiences in the classroom working with special needs 6-8th graders in Dallas, an idea started to form in Williams’ mind: a school for just these types of kids; an environment where they could be nurtured and encouraged, and taught how to be a successful part of society; a place for kids from low-income families to get the care they need.
Her dream school might have remained nothing more than wishful thinking had it not been for the 2008 EBV program at Mays. Today, Williams is applying for her non-profit status, creating the school’s curriculum, and looking for a space to rent, with a plan to enroll her first class in fall 2010.
“The program brought me from just having an idea to where I am now,” she said. “It’s been a tremendous support system for me as I’m trying to become an entrepreneur.”
Williams is dreaming big: she’d like to open branches of the school in other parts of Dallas and other cities. “This isn’t going to go away, my idea. It’s going to be solidified, and it’s going to be successful.” Williams credits the EBV program with her progress. “I tell all of my friends from the service that if they have any spark of wanting to become an entrepreneur, it’s a wonderful program.”
EBV is offered in consortium with the business schools of Syracuse University, UCLA, Purdue University, and Florida State University. Applications are accepted on a rolling admissions basis, so there is no set deadline for applying to the program. More details are available at https://mays.tamu.edu/ebv/.
Experiences like Lopez’s and Williams are made possible through the generosity of individuals and corporate donors. If you would like to support a veteran in this program, you can give at https://maysapps.tamu.edu/maysdonate (select “Disabled Vet Bootcamp” from the drop down menu) or contact program director Richard Lester directly at (979) 862-7091 or email@example.com.
The numbers are staggering: worldwide in 2008, digital piracy cost software companies an estimated $53 billion. In China and Vietnam, the piracy rates are above 80 percent. In Georgiaâ€”the country, not the stateâ€”the rate is higher than 90 percent.
Despite those large numbers, software companies could actually benefit from unlicensed use of their products, says new research from Sanjay Jain, professor of marketing at Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School. In fact, society as a whole may benefit.
“Piracy is not necessarily all bad,” says Mays marketing professor Sanjay Jain. “It can hurt you, but there are also positives.”
The first thing to understand about these numbers is that they are somewhat deceptive, says Jain. “The retail price determines how much is lost, but that’s actually not correct. It assumes that you’d be able to sell these products to people at that retail price,” he said. The reality is many who pirate software would not purchase the software, whether from lack of economic ability or desire. Therefore, the projected loss in sales attributed to piracy represents a dollar amount the company would not have achieved even had there been no piracy.
Moreover, Jain says that the gains created by “the network effect” offset any losses experienced by a corporation. The network effect principal says that the more people have a technology, the more valuable that technology is, as it becomes the industry standard. So, for example, if everyone you know uses Microsoft Office, you’re more likely to buy Microsoft Office because of its familiarity and the ease of sharing files between your computer and others’. In this instance, piracy can flood the market with a particular product, affecting its popularity and driving out competition from other sources. However, the potential benefit of this effect is reduced when the software in question already occupies a monopoly in the market, Jain noted.
Piracy also enables companies to charge more for their products, as the most price sensitive consumers (those that are likely to pirate) are removed from the equation. “People who pirate are different from people who don’t pirate in terms of their willingness to payâ€¦What happens is that you don’t have to decrease your prices to go after them,” says Jain. “If the market is competitive, that can reduce price competition.”
Being able to charge higher prices for their software means companies can invest more in research and development. Jain posits, therefore, that piracy boosts innovation. In that way piracy can benefit society, as it stimulates new technology.
While Jain stated that he does not condone piracy and encourages others to purchase software, he says it makes sense that some organizations are arguing for weaker intellectual property policing in order to spur innovation and growth. “Piracy is not necessarily all bad. It can hurt you, but there are also positives. In fact, that’s the reason some firms may not want to be very active in completely eliminating piracy,” he said.
The road stretches on, a winding river of black asphalt. Matt Proctor ’11 is in the zone as leans over the handlebars and peddles along at about 18 miles per hour, listening to the rhythm of his breathing and the hum of his tires against the pavement. His muscles start to burn as the cluster of 27 cyclists he is a part of heads uphill. The brutal summer sun beats down and as sweat trickles down his back, he has to remind himself once again why he’s pushing himself to ride 4,000 miles in 64 days: for Betsy.
Proctor, a marketing student at Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School, is spending the summer of 2009 riding from coast to coast for the Journey of Hope, an event that brings awareness and encouragement to people with disabilities. Three teams of riders will make the trek from San Francisco and Seattle to Washington D.C., stopping in towns across the U.S. where they will put on puppet shows, organize wheelchair basketball games, meet with city and state officials and simply visit those with mental and physical disabilities. They will also present grants to support organizations and centers for people with disabilities.
Marketing student Matt Proctor ’11 is spending his summer of riding across America for the Journey of Hope, an event that brings awareness and encouragement to people with disabilities.
This is a population that is often overlooked in society, said Proctor. That’s why he’s riding: to remind people that those with disabilities are important and should be valued. His personal motivator for the ride is his Mays classmate, Betsy Helbing ’11. During the second week of her freshman year at A&M, Helbing was involved in a horrific accident that robbed her of the use of her legs. Proctor says that after a prolonged hospital stay, Betsy returned to campus with her sunny disposition intact.
“She’s such an incredible girl,” Proctor said of Helbing. “She’s exactly the same as she was before the accident, but she’s in a wheelchairâ€¦She didn’t let it change her at all.” Proctor says that he’s inspired by her courage, enthusiasm for life, and her contagious happiness. He is dedicating his Journey of Hope ride to her.
The Journey of Hope is organized by the nonprofit Push America, the philanthropic arm of the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity. Proctor, a “pi kapp” himself, first became interested in the ride when he heard their national consultant at a fraternity meeting in spring of 2008. The mission of the organization appealed to him, as did the activity: a broken leg suffered the year before left him unable to run or participate in any high-impact sport, and cycling was one exercise he could still do. It had been years since anyone in the A&M Pi Kappa Phi chapter had participated in Journey of Hope. Proctor decided it was time to change that. He started to train in the fall of 2008, building up to 20 mile rides per day with one 50 mile ride per week by the following spring.
The selection process for the ride was skill and merit based, including an examination of his training and fundraising plans, a values assessment, and an essay about why he wanted to participate in the ride. At first, it seemed all Proctor’s dedication was in vain: his application was received after the roster had already been filled. When he got the call saying someone else had dropped out and there was a space for him, Proctor says he was ecstatic. “I went nuts. I was freaking out. I was so excited,” he said.
Each rider raises at least $5,000 directly for the Journey of Hope, and must also raise or fund themselves for personal expenses, such as equipment and airfare. All funds raised by the participants, when paired with corporate sponsorships, brings in about $500,000 per year to support the organization’s programs.
While on the ride, Proctor will log between 50 and 110 miles per day, spending his nights in a sleeping bag on the floor of any donated space available, such as YMCAs, school gyms, community centers, and churches. “It’s roughing it with a roof over your head,” he joked. You can follow his blog throughout the summer at http://www.letsride2009.com.
Journey for Hope riders from across the U.S. will converge in Seattle and San Francisco on June 11 to have a few days of training before hitting the open road on June 15. Proctor will ride with the southern team, which will trek through Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, North and South Carolina, and Virginia before ending in D.C.
Next year, Proctor will serve the A&M Pi Kappa Phi chapter as Push chair, responsible for planning events and fundraising for people with disabilities. He also plans to get involved with the Aggie cycling team. Proctor lives in Dallas, Texas.
A great education can only get a young person so far, thought Lashanta Green ’09 after talking with her classmates at Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School. For an education to be valuable, coupled with all that knowledge must be direction, some plan for the facts to be applied. “A lot of college seniors don’t know what they want to do after graduation, and that’s disturbing to me,” Green said.
Lashanta Green ’09 (left) and her concept for an afterschool career exploration program received second place at this year’s Ideas Challenge.
Green wondered about the wasted potential of talented college students with only vague future ambitions: how much time, money, and confusion could be saved if those students had been exposed to a variety of careers before starting college? They would change majors less often, finish college sooner, and find more fulfillment in the workplace if they only knew when they enrolled what career outcome they were aiming for.
That thought train led to Green’s Big Idea: a career exploration clubâ€”an afterschool program for high school students that would give them insights into different jobs, pairing them with industry professionals to shadow in the workplace. Green refined the idea into a workable business plan and submitted it to the Ideas Challenge, an annual competition hosted by the Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship (CNVE) at Mays.
The competition, open to all A&M students ranging from freshman to doctoral level, began with an essay requiring participants to describe their big idea. Out of 81 entries, 40 finalist idea applications involving 155 students were chosen to present to judges.
Green presented her career club concept during the May 6 event, which gave Ideas Challenge finalists the chance to pitch their ideas for new products and services to successful members of the business and academic world. Participating would-be entrepreneurs were given five minutes to present, followed by a rigorous question and answer session with judges, which covered the marketability and feasibility of each proposal. Each student or group presented their idea to two judging panels.
Green says hearing the feedback from judges was a highly educational experience. The first set of judges was enthusiastic about her presentation. Some of them even offered to help her get the business going when she was ready to pursue it seriously.
The second set of judges was not so kind.
“They weren’t so sure about the idea and how viable it was,” said Green. “I had to really show more determination. It took a lot more persuasion.”
The Ideas Challenge is open to all A&M students ranging from freshman to doctoral level. After submitting their ideas in an essay, 40 finalists were selected to present their proposals to a panel of judges.
But she recognized the value of both the good and bad opinions of her business concept. “I learned more from the first judges than I would have from making an A in a class, and I learned more from the second judges than I would have from making an F,” she said. In the end, Green was awarded the second place prize in the competition, taking home a check for $2,000, as well as valuable contacts and insights into making her entrepreneurial vision a reality.
The top ten teams in the competition split a total of $13,000 in prize money provided by sponsors The Research Valley Innovation Center, Gulfstream Graphics Corp, Paragon Innovations, and The Creative Space. Jackson Walker LLP provided pro bono provisional patent work for top prize winners. For the seventh consecutive year, Lynntech, Inc., underwrote the Ideas Challenge event.
Green will graduate with a degree in marketing in December 2009. Her future plans include gaining more workplace experience before entering an MBA program, and eventually, operating her own consulting and marketing firm.
Though she’s still a semester away from graduating, Green already has more job experience than most of her contemporaries, as she has worked full time for years to put herself through college. She plans to contact school districts regarding her career exploration club soon, with the hope of launching the program at the start of the 2010 school year. She says she will put her prize winnings into the program. “I don’t think it is going to cost much money to start it up. It’s more about time and getting people to helpâ€¦it’s going to take a lot of hard work,” she said. But she’s committed to seeing the program through, as she’s passionate about providing career counseling to young people, helping them to find a dream to strive toward.
About Mays Business School and the CNVE
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.
The Texas A&M Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship provides encouragement, education, networking and assistance to entrepreneurially minded students, faculty and Texas businesses. Founded in 1999, the center is part of Mays Business School’s Department of Management. The center enhances student education through campus speakers, competitions, work experiences and financial support.
As a successful businessman himself, educating the next generation of business leaders is important to T. Britton “Britt” Harris IV ’80. That’s why the CIO of the Teacher Retirement System of Texas has stayed involved at Mays Business School at Texas A&M University, investing his experience, time, and finances in supporting students there. He and his wife, Julia, have recently included Mays in their estate plan with a gift of $1 million for special programs.
“This gift is just another way that Britt and Julia have touched the lives of our students at Mays,” said Mays Dean Jerry Strawser. “From teaching a highly innovative class, to participating in our Aggies on Wall Street Program, to serving as a lifetime mentor for our students, they are always there for our students. What a wonderful example of the Aggie Network in action.”
Harris currently serves on the advisory board for the Department of Finance at Mays. He has spoken to various student audiences at Mays as a guest lecturer and was involved in developing a course at Mays in 2007 that centered on the best books from the ages for business students to read. Harris intends for his bequest to be used to further programs such as this course.
For all his contributions and professional successes, Harris was named an Outstanding Alumnus of Mays Business School in 2002, the highest honor bestowed by the school on its former students.
Harris is the former president and chief financial officer of Verizon Investment Communications. Prior to that, he was the CEO of the hedge fund Bridgewater Associates. He has served on the board of TWA retirees and the Lockheed Martin investment board, and is a member of the New York Stock Exchange advisory committee. Notably, he is also a member of the President’s Working Group on Financial Markets, a select committee of investors and asset managers tasked with fostering private sector dialogue on issues of significance in their industry and the market.
Harris is a deacon and Bible study teacher at Wilton Baptist Church and enjoys coaching youth basketball and baseball. The Harrises reside in West Lake Hills, Texas. They have four children, two of whom will be attending A&M this year.
Hunter Bollman of Katy has been appointed by Gov. Rick Perry as the newest student regent for The Texas A&M University System, effective June 1. Bollman is the fourth student to serve on the Board of Regents since the governor created the position in 2006. He replaces Anthony Cullins of Dallas.
Bollman applied for the student regent selection process last fall. Chancellor Michael D. McKinney forwarded the names of applicants to the governor, who made the final decision in announcing a total of 10 student regents to their respective positions May 29.
“Students are a vital part of the A&M System and the reason we’re here,” McKinney said. “The student regent acts as a link between the board and the students to give us valuable input and feedback. I believe Hunter has the leadership skills necessary to be a great student regent.”
Bollman is in the Mays Business School Professional Program at Texas A&M University, where he is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in accounting and a master’s degree in finance. He also is a fellow in the Fellows Program at Mays Business School and will graduate in May 2011.
He is a past member of the Texas A&M Student Government Association Executive Council, a member of Beta Upsilon Chi, Texas A&M Honor Council and Phi Eta Sigma Honor Society. He also is a volunteer Fish Camp counselor and attended the 2008 KPMG Fast Forward Leadership Conference.
“It is truly an honor and a privilege to be selected as the next student regent for the Board of Regents,” Bollman said. “I am excited about the opportunities that lie ahead and eager to get to work because the challenges we face as a system are great. I look forward to visiting and working with fellow student leaders across the system campuses to gather and articulate student opinion on important issues to members of the board.”