In Rio Oeste, Panama, the air is hot and thick even in January. A group of 18 students from Mays trek for an hour across the tropical terrain, batting away bird-sized mosquitoes. When their guides finally signal them to stop, they are in a grove of trees laden with what appear to be huge yellow pecans. They join the locals as the harvest begins, pulling the oversized nuts from the trees and breaking them open to expose their spongy white interior. They’re after a cluster of small beans incased inside the sponge—cocoa beans, the fruit of life for the villagers.

The students made this trip not only to help harvest. They bring knowledge of management, accounting, supply chain and other business concepts. Their mission is that as they improve the villagers’ business and make it more profitable, they will also improve their lives.

• • • • •

When Katheryn Hoerster ’11 started looking for an organization to join at Mays, she had a difficult time finding one she could really be passionate about. Then a friend introduced her to the Global Business Brigades, an organization focused on using its members’ educations to help small businesses around the world reach their full potential. “There wasn’t a branch at Mays, but my friend put me in touch with the national advisor for GBB and we got things rolling,” says Hoerster. She had no problem finding other students who were passionate about using their talents to serve others, and a year later, over the winter break, the Mays GBB went on its very first brigade.

Before they arrived in Panama, the brigadiers had no idea what to expect or how to prepare. “We had a very small amount of information to go on, so we focused on team building. That was pretty much the only thing we had any control over,” says Hoerster, president of Mays’ GBB. What they lacked in strategic preparation, the group made up for in enthusiasm and desire to do good.

GBB president Katheryn Hoerster '11 helps the villagers roast harvested cocoa beans.
GBB president Katheryn Hoerster ’11 helps the villagers roast harvested cocoa beans.

When their vans stopped in Rio Oeste, Panama, the students stepped into a hidden, tropical world. “It was absolutely gorgeous,” recalls Jennifer Dureel ’10. The countryside was lush, green, and largely untouched by modernity. The tranquility and the slower pace of life granted them reprieve from the break-neck speed of college, says Dureel. The rustic experience also included sleeping under mosquito netting to keep off the creepy-crawlies; finding snakes in the kitchen; and bathing in a waterfall.

The students knew their mission was to help teach the villagers about how to run a successful business operation, but they received no guidelines detailing how to do that. “We had a point A, and we had a point B, but we had no directions in between,” Hoerster says. Employing their Aggie work ethic, the brigadiers had devised a teaching strategy divided into workshops. “We let each group (management, marketing, and accounting) tackle their own areas of expertise. All of us focused on our specialties, and between the three groups we were able to give these farmers a basic education,” Hoerster says.

The brigadiers worked closely with the community of cocoa farmers while they taught basic business principles and helped the farmers set goals. Teaching the community proved to be more of a challenge than anticipated. Sure, there was the language barrier, but their translators (sponsors from the GBB national office, as well as PeaceCorps volunteers) easily surmounted that. The real hurdle in was starting from scratch. “It was definitely a challenge,” says Hoerster. “These people knew very little about business, so we had to begin by teaching them how to think about business.” The people of Rio Oeste were willing students, however, and by the end of the trip the community had a workable business plan.

The goal was sustainability: the GBB wanted to give the community the tools they needed to sustain their business long after the brigadiers headed back to College Station. “[The Global Business Brigades] don’t want to just go down and help a community for a week and then go back. They really want to make sure that there’s [continuous] economic growth,” says Dureel.

• • • • •

The local farmers also had something to teach the GBB students. “We harvested cocoa with them one day, and that was really a neat experience,” recalls Dureel. The students trekked for an hour to the farmers’ cocoa grove and helped crack open pods that resembled yellow-orange Nerf footballs. They removed the beans by hand and then hiked back to the village with the precious bounty.


“These people knew very little about business,” said Hoerster, “so we had to begin by teaching them how to think about business.”

Harvesting is one step in a very long refining process, and the students gained a new respect for doing things the old-fashioned way. The rustic conditions in which the farmers worked surprised many of the students, who were used to assembly-line speed and robotic precision. “They had very little machinery,” notes Dureel. “They did every step of the process by hand.” Even the toasting of the beans was done without modern technology: a small pot containing a single layer of cocoa beans was placed in the center of a bed of embers; someone would stand over the pot with a stirring stick, turning the beans to make sure they toasted evenly. Experiencing the harvesting and refining process made the brigadiers appreciate and understand the village’s cocoa business more deeply, and impressed on them the importance of giving the farmers tools and vision to advance the business.

The students say they felt the trip was a success: the villagers were left with a business plan, as well as tools and goals to help turn the farmers’ hard work into greater revenue for the whole village. The organization is looking forward to a return trip to Rio Oeste this August. “[The villagers] were such gracious hosts, and so grateful for our help. It was just a very rewarding experience,” says Dureel.

For more information about the Global Business Brigades, check out their website at gbb.tamu.edu.

Categories: Featured Stories, Students

The Aggie Investment Club (AIC) at Mays was recently recognized in Bulls and Bears, an online publication of Carnegie Mellon University featuring investment news. The magazine is distributed to 66 other college investment clubs around the world, from Stanford and Harvard, to Oxford and Cambridge.

Jeremy Knop ’10, president of Mays’ AIC, had the opportunity to represent the club in a Q&A article. He introduced the Mays organization and discussed investment topics. One point that sets Mays’ AIC apart from other chapters, according to Knop, is the alumni’s dedication to the organization even after they’ve graduated. When a former student comes to a meeting, they greatly encourage the students’ involvement in the AIC: “They tell how [the AIC] opened doors through connections, as well as how it opened their minds to the various opportunities and strategies available, aside from textbook taught academic “wisdom,'” says Knop.

The AIC participates in several events throughout the year, including speakers, trips, and securities analysis workshops. To learn more about the AIC, visit their website at aic.tamu.edu.

Categories: Students

David Baggett ’81 says that when it comes to faculty awards in the accounting department at Mays, the list of fellowships available is far too short. This kind of gift rewards and encourages great teaching, says Baggett, who hopes that his recent contribution of $150,000 to a teaching excellence fund in the Department of Accounting will benefit faculty who emphasize teaching as well as research.

David Baggett '81
Baggett ’81

This gift adds to the Denise and David Baggett ’81 Teaching Excellence Fund Baggett began in 2006 with a gift of $75,000. The fund establishes an annual teaching award for an accounting faculty member who demonstrates accomplishments in teaching effectiveness, innovation, curriculum development, and student service. Associate Professor Connie Weaver is the first recipient of the award, which was announced in February 2010. The award recognized Weaver’s creation of a new corporate tax course for non-tax Professional Program in Accounting students.

“Texas A&M is a special place for Denise and me,” says David Baggett. “As a former student, I am pleased to support Mays’ emphasis on the teaching quality of its professors.”

Baggett earned an accounting degree from A&M in 1981, graduating magna cum laude in two years. He started his career with Deloitte & Touche and became a partner with Deloitte before serving in executive capacities in the energy and construction industries. In 2005, Baggett founded Opportune LLP, a Houston-based energy consulting firm focused on helping clients with technology, corporate finance, and outsourcing. He now wears the title of managing partner at Opportune. At Mays, he serves on the Accounting Advisory Council and the Dean’s Development Council.

He has served on the boards of directors of several entities, including ERCOT, and currently serves on the board of Genesis Energy, Inc. David is active in several civic and professional organizations, including the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, the Independent Petroleum Association of America, and the Turnaround Management Association.

“While our accounting faculty has always been noted for being student-centered, I am certain that this fund will help recognize and reinforce teaching excellence and meaningful interaction with students,” said Accounting Department Head James Benjamin. “I have appreciated all that David has done for our program over an extended period and I was particularly delighted with his support for our teaching mission.”

Categories: Donors Corner, Former Students

It was a moment for the underdogs as a team of Mays students shocked their competitors by placing 4th out of 43 teams participating in the Rotman International Trading Competition, coming out ahead of programs such as Chicago, Penn State and Northwestern University. The top three spots went to MIT, Babson College, and Australia’s University of Queensland.

The competition took place in Toronto, Ontario, the heart of Canada’s financial district, February 18-20. Mays participant Corey Walter ’10 said that his team did not think they would place as well as they did, simply because most of their competitors were in MBA programs and had global work experience. The Mays team was comprised of undergraduates participating in the Certificate in Trading and Risk Management program (a five-year program which will yield both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in finance).

(L to R) Josh Groner '10, Corey Walter '10, Ben Huffman '10, Neil Azzam '11 and Director of Reliant Trading Programs Detlef Hallermann '89
(L to R) Josh Groner ’10, Corey Walter ’10, Ben Huffman ’10, Neil Azzam ’11 and Director of Reliant Trading Programs Detlef Hallermann ’89

The competition involved real-world market scenarios and software, challenging students to use their knowledge of the market to make quick trading decisions and predict how stocks, bonds, indices and commodities would rise and fall. Teams faced off in five training simulations including credit risk, natural gas futures, equity brokerage, algorithmic trading, and quantitative analysis and outcry. Walter says that the Mays team won only three of the more than 20 heats, but they were consistently among the leaders.

“They were very surprised,” says team member Josh Groner “10, who noted a shift in his competitors’ opinion of the A&M team as the competition wore on. “No one expected us to perform as well as we did,” he says. “We definitely were the underdogs…it was a roller coaster weekend and feels great to have done so well.”

Walter and Groner credit the team’s success to the Certificate in Trading and Risk Management program. He says the industry professionals that lecture in a semester-long seminar class, representing companies such as Deutsche Bank, ConocoPhillips, and BP, provide valuable insight that gave them an advantage. Through the program, each of the students will also have three internships on different trading desks at board member companies. “The internship experience definitely helped us consistently finish at the top,” said Walter, commenting that each of the team members had completed at least one trade desk internship.

More than half of the universities that competed were from outside the United States. A further 20 percent were from outside North America, which gave the Mays team an opportunity to engage with a diverse group of students. Walter says that the team from Italy was very friendly and invited him to visit, which he intends to do next December. He says the experience in Canada has led him to more seriously consider working outside the U.S. after graduation.

Walter’s teammates were Neil Azzam ’11, Josh Groner ’10, and Ben Huffman ’10.

Categories: Programs, Students

In new rankings released by Financial Times, the accounting program at Mays Business School at Texas A&M University is listed among the top ten programs worldwide. The list includes the top U.S. schools, including the University of Pennsylvania (Wharton), the University of Chicago, Brigham Young, and Cornell University. Overall, the A&M program ranks 10th in the world, and 2nd among U.S. public schools.

The Times based their ranking on a number of criteria, including a survey completed by former students determining the percentage of graduates who were employed within three months of graduation. Financial Times also measured the programs’ success by examining 40 lead academic and practitioner’s journals for articles written by each school’s faculty in the last three years. Universities received points for the number of published faculty members found, which contributed to their final scores. Of the top 10 universities, nine are located in the U.S. and only two are public schools.

“It is very gratifying to be listed on the same page with a number of highly recognized business schools,” said Accounting Department Head James Benjamin. “I believe that our ranking reflects a number of attributes including our faculty research productivity, innovative curricula, placements of our graduates, and CPA exam performance.”

To learn more about the accounting program at Mays, visit mays.tamu.edu/acct.

Categories: Departments

Well, there goes my political career. A statement like, “Fraud is not a bad thing,” can follow you around like Gordon Gekko’s, “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good.” But as someone who prepares auditors to prevent and detect fraud, I want to make a case for why I believe fraud is a symptom of something good.

Fraud does not happen in a vacuum. Fraud can only take place when there is trust between parties, since fraud involves the intent to deceive. You cannot readily deceive someone who does not trust you. But trust is necessary for personal relationships and business relationships.

Divorce and infidelity happen, too. Infidelity involves a kind of fraud, but it is largely able to happen because spouses trust one another. If they had detectives monitoring each other 24 hours a day, it would be expensive, but you would have a lot less infidelity. There would also be a lot fewer people getting married. Divorce is not a good thing, but it is an inevitable by-product of a good thing, the long-term commitment of a trust relationship called marriage.

What has happened in the American economic marketplace has led to an environment that is exceptionally low in trust. If you want to avoid infidelity, don’t get married. If you want to avoid fraudulent loans, don’t lend money at all. The government pumped money into banks and banks would not lend it out. People were infuriated. But banks had just been excoriated for making all kinds of liar loans in a real estate bubble, and doing so had endangered their capital levels. Why start dating again so soon when you have been burned?

The market was well lubricated with trust (and had a few bad incentives mixed in), and that provided a significant opportunity for fraud. Long-term economic success will do that. But in addition to high levels of trust, people were involved in transactions they didn’t understand, like derivatives and mortgage-backed securities. When people trust and they are poorly informed about something, there is frequently someone willing to take advantage of them.

Trust is the lubricant for markets. It can only be maintained when there is a habit of truth-telling in a market, whether that market is for love or money. If everyone is lying, immense resources are consumed verifying the truth from outside sources. And when lying is revealed in the form of fraud, it takes a while to recover.

Of course, banks could do a much better job verifying income, and in some cases verifying it at all. And people could do a lot better job verifying the character of the people they marry before they marry them.

Fraud does not make me feel good, and neither does divorce. But both of them signal something positive, the existence of a trusting atmosphere based on the goodwill that derives from a habit of truth-telling. And if you don’t interfere and turn either markets or marriage into a police state, you can be pretty sure that, given freedom, people’s desire for love and money will insure healthy markets for both.

Fraud is not a good thing. But as a guy who has studied it for a long time, I have to say that, much like marriage, the risk of trusting is worth the return.

Categories: Bottom Line Ethics

What to get dad for Christmas is a question that leaves many stumped. A tie? A movie? Tools? How about a named scholarship at his alma mater?

The latter was the option chosen by Blake Pounds ’89, who recently gave $25,000 to Mays Business School to create the Herbert (“Herb”) E. Pounds, Jr. ’65 Endowed Scholarship in honor of his father, which will support a student in the finance or accounting programs.

Blake '89 and Herb Pounds '65
Blake ’89 and Herb Pounds ’65

On Christmas morning, Blake left a letter under the tree containing details of the gift. When Herb opened the letter and started reading, Blake says he was touched. “He started reading and got to about the second paragraph and couldn’t finish. He was kind of choked up. I’ve never seen him like that. It obviously meant a lot to him,” said Blake.

“I am indeed honored and humbled by the gift by Blake to Mays Business School,” said Herb. “I was taken totally by surprise, but the gift was much more meaningful than the typical Christmas gift.”

Blake, who holds a finance degree from Mays, says graduating from the business school at A&M is a common bond that he and his father, an accounting major, share. He says that the scholarship “was something I wanted to do for my father while he’s alive, something that I thought he’d be honored by.” He describes his father as his mentor, coach, and advisor.

Blake says he had planned to give a gift of this nature to Mays at some point in the future, possibly when his four children were out of college (the oldest is 14, the youngest is five). However, he decided it would be more meaningful to his father if he gave it sooner rather than later. The offer of matching funds from his company (Accenture) also made the present attractive.

Blake has been at Accenture since 1990, where he is a partner in their Houston office. In addition to his financial gifts to the university, he is also involved in the Mays Dean’s Development Council. He and his wife, Dawn, reside in Spring, Texas.

It is obvious that Blake is proud of his father’s accomplishments. Upon graduating from Texas A&M, Herb served in the United States Air Force, where he flew over 220 combat missions as a pilot in Southeast Asia. He later worked in the banking industry, eventually becoming president of a national bank. He earned a law degree from the University of Texas and started a new career as an attorney when Blake was preparing to enter A&M. Herb and wife, Melinda, live in San Antonio, where he practices law, specializing in securities fraud and broker misconduct. “The leadership opportunities which I had at Texas A&M positioned me well for the real world, and any success which I have had can be traced directly back to Aggieland,” he said.

Categories: Donors Corner, Former Students