The Mickey Mouse Clubhouse theme song plays over the speakers and six-year-old Caylee wiggles and giggles and claps with the other mini dancers on the stage, her face painted with cat whiskers and her blond hair pulled back in a ponytail. Healthy and happy, she looks like all of the other girls her age.

That is a miracle.

Graduate Business Career Services assistant director Stacey Cole and her husband, Bobby, hold their daughter Caylee nine days after her birth in 2003.
Graduate Business Career Services assistant director Stacey Cole and her husband, Bobby, hold their daughter Caylee nine days after her birth in 2003.

When Caylee was born at a mere 27-weeks gestation, she weighed less than one-and-a-half pounds. More than three months too young to be out of the womb, Caylee was placed in an incubator and connected to dozens of tubes that kept her alive. Without a team of skilled doctors and nurses, and researchers who make advances in preterm neonatal care, Caylee would not be dancing today, wearing a “NICU Graduate” tee shirt.

Caylee is the daughter of Stacey Cole, assistant director of Graduate Business Career Services at Mays. When the Master’s Leadership Council (the organization of graduate business students at Mays) was looking for a service project, Cole, who advises the group, suggested a cause close to her own heart: The March of Dimes, the organization that seeks to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality. Since her daughter’s birth in 2003, Cole has helped to raise more than $10,000 for March of Dimes.

The students rallied to the cause. On May 1, Mays students arrived at Wolf Pen Creek Amphitheater in College Station at 6 a.m. to set up for the annual fundraiser March for Babies 5K Walk/Run. More than 500 supporters attended the 5K, which included entertainment by MCM Dance Studio and Kappa Pickers, and children’s activities such as bouncy houses, face painting, basketball, hula-hooping, pictures with the Disney princesses, and scads of food from pizza and hot dogs to Spoons Frozen Yogurt.

Students completed the set up and clean up, hosted event booths, handed out water, directed traffic, and kept things tightly running. “We could not have done this event without the incredible help of the students,” said Shona Quiring, community director for March of Dimes in Bryan/College Station. “They were diligent in making sure everything ran smoothly, and made sure all the kids and their families had a blast.” Students participating were: Tereso Herrera, Alek Schmidt, Lauren Bortka, Mimi Bowman, Garrett Stanley, Lauren McGinty, Jenna Janik, Amy Thompson, George Holzwarth, Annica McDermott, Nicole Kresse, Matt Wood, Steve Lionetti, Lindsay Brown, Amanda Eller, and Chelsea Sauder.

Today, Caylee (far left, in purple shirt) is a healthy and active six-year-old.
Today, Caylee (far left, in purple shirt) is a healthy and active six-year-old.

It was an eye-opening experience for the students. “I didn’t realize how many babies are born prematurely and that so many occur right here in College Station,” said Lindsay Brown, an MS accounting student. “I am glad I got to be a part of such a fantastic experience that celebrates and remembers these lives.”

According to the March of Dimes website, more than 500,000 babies are born prematurely each year. These babies face potentially severe and long-term complications.

“This event is a great opportunity for families to celebrate the lives of their little ones who were either born prematurely or remember the little ones who touched our lives so immensely and are no longer with us,” said Cole. “I am really proud of our students for representing such a worthy cause and making such a large impact on our community as well as this great organization.”

Along with Cole, Lori Donnell, associate director for employer development and services in the Graduate Business Careers Services office, helped to organize the student’s involvement in the March for Babies. Cole and Donnell both serve on the board of the local chapter of the March of Dimes. “This walk and organization stands up for the tiniest of human beings, giving them and their families hope, health and often miracles that would not be available without the education and research March of Dimes provides,” says Donnell. “Without the support and generosity of these students, March of Dimes would not be able to provide this service.”

Categories: Staff, Students

How do you encourage employees to innovate? Let them fail.

Creating a corporate culture where risk taking—which can result in failure—is supported is an important element in developing new ideas, says Richard Woodman, Lawrence Fouraker Professor of Management and co-author Feirong Yuan, recent Mays PhD graduate, now of the University of Kansas.

If employees are afraid that failure will lead to firing, it’s not likely that they will go out on a limb. Managers should then treat failure lightly, if it is the result of a creative effort.

In the same vein, employers should praise innovation. Employees are more likely to try a new idea, if it will result in a personal image boost, labeling them as innovative, even if the idea doesn’t ultimately thrive.

There’s a tricky relationship between companies and innovation, says the research. While many companies claim to want innovative ideas, managers are frequently unwilling to risk failure to see them realized. Therefore employees are unwilling to take the risk to pitch an idea that might hurt their standing in the company. Image risk at the corporate and individual level is a major deterrent to innovation.

Also a deterrent is the “not my job” attitude. Employees may not be aware that innovation is expected of them. Employers wanting innovation should include it as a specific job requirement. If innovation is seen as an add-on, rather than a regular task, then companies shouldn’t be surprised employees don’t make creative thinking a top priority.

While gathering data, the researchers interviewed employees and supervisors on topics such as organizational support for innovation, employee-supervisor relationships, job requirements for innovation, and the level of workers’ dissatisfaction with the status quo. Researchers analyzed responses to form a better understanding of what factors companies might manipulate to create an environment that fosters innovation. Their findings will appear in an upcoming issue of Academy of Management Journal ((Yuan, F. & Woodman, R. W. “Innovative behavior in the workplace: The role of performance and image outcome expectations.” Academy of Management Journal, 2010, 53: 323-342.)).

Categories: Research Notes

For the third consecutive year, a Mays student has a won a Brown Foundation-Earl Rudder Memorial Outstanding Student Award. Finance major Morgan Knocke ’10 was one of the 2010 recipients.

She was described by nominators as a “young woman of exceptional honor who leads by example.”

Texas A&M President R. Bowen Loftin presents a Brown Foundation-Earl Rudder Memorial Outstanding Student Award to Morgan Knocke '10 during her graduation commencement ceremony.
Texas A&M President R. Bowen Loftin presents a Brown Foundation-Earl Rudder Memorial Outstanding Student Award to Morgan Knocke ’10 during her graduation commencement ceremony.

The Brown-Rudder award is one of the highest given at A&M, and includes a cash gift of $5,000. It is presented each spring at commencement to students who exemplify the leadership and related traits of the late General Earl Rudder, a World War II hero who served as president of Texas A&M from 1959 until his death in 1970.

While her 4.0 grade-point average had her nominators calling her academic achievements “remarkable,” Knocke was also praised for her volunteer efforts to bring educational and medical aid to Kenya. Paying her own travel and living expenses, Knocke spent the summer there working with Comfort the Children International.

Dean Jerry Strawser said he “cannot imagine a more deserving recipient of the Brown-Rudder Award. In addition to her outstanding academic credentials, Ms. Knocke has demonstrated remarkable levels of selfless service and leadership.”

At Mays, Knocke served two years as coordinator of the Fellows program. She also founded the Horizons program, which provides resources to prepare students for careers in strategy consulting and investment banking. One of Knocke’s classmates asserted that Knocke worked to connect students with former students in top positions in a variety of fields to act as mentors. As a result, the program has raised awareness about career opportunities in these areas while educating top firms across the country about the value of an Aggie graduate.

Knocke and the other recipients were presented their awards by Texas A&M President R. Bowen Loftin.

Categories: Students, Texas A&M

“Call it what you want, “paying it forward’ or “giving back,’ there comes a time when you honor those who have helped to shape you,” says Mark Ely ’83, who with his wife, Janet, has recently committed to a gift of $150,000 to create an endowed scholarship fund for business honors students at Mays. The gift will be matched by funds from the Center for Executive Development to create a $300,000 endowment. The fund will provide support for students of any major that participate in the honors program, as well as students who declare an honors major.

EBR Energy founder and managing partner Mark Ely '83 (seen here speaking to students last fall), along with his wife, Janet, has committed to a gift of $150,000 to create an endowed scholarship fund for business honors students at Mays.
EBR Energy founder and managing partner Mark Ely ’83 (seen here speaking to students last fall), along with his wife, Janet, has committed to a gift of $150,000 to create an endowed scholarship fund for business honors students at Mays.

Through this gift, Ely hopes to honor those that have impacted his career, including Mays benefactor Jerry Cox ’72. Ely calls Cox an outstanding individual who unselfishly provided mentoring at critical junctures in his career. Cox is someone Ely tries to emulate, as he is “a model citizen and business leader.” Cox has given generously to Mays in previous years, most notably providing the lead gift for Jerry and Kay Cox Hall, the home of Mays’ graduate programs, which is adjacent to the Wehner Building.

“A few years ago, Jerry sent [development officer] David Hicks and Dean Strawser to visit with me about getting involved in financially supporting the dean’s efforts at Mays. It took a couple of years to see the light, but there was never any doubt about what I needed to do,” said Ely. “When I met Dean Strawser and had an opportunity to experience his vision for the business school, it was quickly apparent why individuals like Jerry Cox were so committed to supporting the effort. I remain duly impressed.”

The Ely gift will support Strawser’s strategic vision for Mays, which includes greater emphasis on scholarships for business honors students.

“Mark and Janet’s most generous gift helps Mays compete for the very best undergraduate students in our business honors program,” said Strawser. “They will touch the lives of these students, while also providing them with role models for a lifetime. I just can’t think of how more impactful any gift could be than this.”

Mark and Janet—whom he calls “the center of [his] universe,”—will celebrate 20 years of marriage this June. They have two children, Avery and Emily, and live and work in Sugar Land, Texas. Ely is the founder and managing partner of EBR Energy, LP, an oil and gas exploration company. Prior work includes financial restructuring consulting, a CFO position with The Synder Company, and banking. He holds a bachelor’s degree in finance from Texas A&M University, and pursued graduate studies at A&M Corpus Christi.

Categories: Donors Corner, Former Students

It’s May, and another semester is over. It’s time to turn my attention to the important things of life, like sports. Unfortunately, my two favorite baseball teams, the Orioles and the Astros, are each firmly ensconced in last place, and likely will be for the duration of the season. The NBA just had its powerball lottery to find out who gets to draft John Wall, the Kentucky point guard who is leaving after one year and may have to race to beat his coach out the door. The winner of the lottery was the Washington Wizards, who used to be the Bullets, before that unfortunate moniker became symbolic of the plight of our nation’s capital. The NBA playoffs drone on to the inevitable Lakers-Celtics final.

But the real attention is being paid to two NFL players, Houston wide receiver Andre Johnson and Tennessee running back Chris Johnson, who want to have their contracts renegotiated. Both are arguably among the best players at their positions, and it is understandable that they are interested in being paid more. They are not actually holding out, since this is the season of voluntary workouts. But these types of posturings often end up with players being late reporting to training camp, and generally violating explicit parts of their contracts. Theoretically, fines result, but often negotiations will end up minimizing or eliminating those fines, perhaps in the context of a restructured contract.

So is it ethical for players to do this? It is legal, as long as they are willing to live with the terms of the contract, or retire, and they do not play for another team. It is certainly self-interested behavior, and it is rational for people to act in their self-interest. It is really the only leverage these athletes have. But is it ethical?

Well, technically, yes—this is what we call ethical egoism. In other words, what is ethical is what is best for me. But in the sense of what most people think of as ethical, the answer is no. Yet these players will have many apologists in the press who will excuse the behavior because NFL players have a short window of opportunity, and their careers can end at any time, and NFL owners will ruthlessly cut them if they are hurt. All of these claims are true. But it is still unethical for NFL players to hold out when they are under contract.

Andre Johnson is burdened by an eight-year, already renegotiated contract under which he received a guaranteed $15 million. I am not mocking the amount that he has received, and my opinion does not depend on the details of the numbers. Assuming it was an arm’s length transaction, whether or not he used an agent, he signed the deal weighing his risk and return. This risk included his potentially short career and the aforementioned heartlessness of management if he is hurt. If he was deliberately misinformed by the Texans, then my opinion would change.

Ethical egoism, of course, does not value the keeping of promises. Ethical egoists will ignore promises unless they believe the cost of violating the promise will exceed the benefits. For a football player, there are at least two costs to consider—the legal costs of violating the promise and the reputation costs of being a proven liar. Any rational person who is negotiating with a known liar will demand a bigger return, which means that future football teams’ negotiations with the player will not yield the player top dollar. But if a football player sees his career as limited to a few years, he calculates the reputation costs as being near zero. He may never get to negotiate another contract. So all he has to calculate is the legal costs, and that’s why he has an attorney. And if he feels no duty to keep promises, then what he does is hold out.

Team management does cost-benefit analyses as well, and their calculations may cause them to choose to renegotiate or, in the case of Denver’s Brandon Marshall, trade the player to get value. I may personally prefer not to negotiate with liars, but they are looking to maximize their self-interest as well. But once you renegotiate one player’s contract, watch out for his teammates to come calling, particularly those the team can least afford to lose. I think those costs are routinely underestimated by NFL teams when they deal with the Johnsons of the world.

Andre Johnson could have insured that he would get full market value by signing one-year contracts, or at least short-term contracts. But he would have had to live with the risk that the full market value for his services in a given year (and forever), likely because of injury, was zero. Professors complain for similar reasons, particularly when people are hired in at higher salaries. We want to receive market value, but the market is determined for those who are willing to leave their universities, not for those who want to stay where they are. You have to be willing to assume the risks that go with moving to a new place, with all its uncertainty, if you want to make top dollar. And, in some cases, you have to be willing to give up tenure. The return is linked to the risk.

What professors want is what Andre Johnson wants—return without risk. It’s great if you can get it, but it takes a fool being on the other side of the transaction. Andre Johnson is not holding out, and he has the right to posture all he wants during voluntary workouts. He is just being selfish. But if he holds out this summer, he is violating a promise, and he is being unethical.

Categories: Bottom Line Ethics

The airline industry is a volatile marketplace, where bankruptcies and mergers are costly and common. In that environment, a businessperson must have an understanding of many areas of the industry—from management issues involving pilots, to financial considerations involving oil prices and political unrest in oil-rich nations—to make informed decisions about the future of a company.

That breadth of information is the same dynamic that is involved in the business honors major at Mays, where top performing students are exposed to the most experienced faculty in each of the five departments to generate a broad-based, superior business education.

Michael Cox '77, seen here visiting with Business Honors students last fall, has committed to a gift of $100,000 to fund scholarships for the program's students.
Michael Cox ’77, seen here visiting with Business Honors students last fall, has committed to a gift of $100,000 to fund scholarships for the program’s students.

Michael Cox ’77, senior managing director of aviation consulting firm Seabury Group, graduated magna cum laude from A&M with a degree in management before the Business Honors program was launched. However, he understands the value of the program and the well-rounded students it graduates. Cox recently committed to a gift of $100,000 for scholarships for business honors students at Mays. The endowed fund will provide support for students of any major that participate in the honors program, as well as students who declare an honors major.

“Our Business Honors program is attracting the very best young people,” said Mays Dean Jerry Strawser. “These students have opportunities at some of the best universities in the United States. Donors like Michael Cox are allowing us to compete for these students and provide them with support to recognize their hard work in high school. Scholarships for this program are one of our very highest priorities.”

“I firmly believe that people who graduate from any school should give back. It’s the right thing to do,” says Cox, as a college education “is the initial foundation for anyone’s career.” Former students have a responsibility to make giving a priority when they are successful. Cox takes that responsibility seriously.

Cox joined the Seabury Group as a partner in April 1998. He also wears the title of Global Head of Restructuring Advisory. Before joining the firm, he learned the business working for Continental Airlines, where he started as an analyst and made his way up to vice president and treasurer positions. During his time at Continental, the company went through two bankruptcies, so Cox knows whereof he speaks when he consults with airlines in financial distress.

Cox is a self-described “propeller head.” “I’ve always been fascinated by airlines and airplanes,” says the executive with over 25 years of airline and aviation-related experience. At Seabury, Cox has advised numerous airline clients on a variety of projects, including airline treasury, corporate finance, and business restructuring. Recent engagements have included leading the Seabury team in managing the aircraft debt/lease restructuring efforts for the successful reorganization of US Airways, Air Canada and Northwest Airlines. He also led the successful out-of-court restructuring of South African Airways resulting in a profitable fiscal years ending 2008 and 2009 after losing over 1 billion ZAR repeatedly over the years before. “It became my baby,” he said of that success. “The career and cultural experience working in South Africa was invaluable and we are very proud of what was accomplished.”

Earlier in his career, Cox was a director at Price Waterhouse LLP, where he led the aviation consulting/restructuring group. In addition to his degree from A&M, Cox also earned an MBA in finance and accounting from the University of Texas, Austin. He is currently a registered FINRA representative.

Categories: Donors Corner, Former Students

As Singapore is one of the major business hubs in the world, it is a fitting site for a recent event that pitted Mays students against some of the best business IT students from across the globe. Their voyage was rewarded with success as they can now be counted among those best business IT students: they returned home with the third place trophy.

Three Mays undergraduate management information systems students traveled to Singapore on April 25 to participate in the 2010 APEX Global IT Case Challenge, a business-IT case competition, hosted by Singapore Management University. Over the course of five days, team “Boa Contractors” worked out a solution to an in—depth, IT case problem as did 24 other teams from a variety of schools from Hong Kong, to Canada, to South Africa.

(Left to right) Dr. 'Jon Jasperson, Nicole Crum '10, Kevin Avila '10, and Heather Hewett '10
(Left to right) Dr. ‘Jon Jasperson, Nicole Crum ’10, Kevin Avila ’10, and Heather Hewett ’10

For the competition, teams acted as consulting firms that bridge the gap between businesses and IT departments. Students were challenged with solving IT problems in terms that business leaders could understand and implement. The competition itself was divided into three rounds of preparation, presentation, and discussion, and the top six teams were invited to compete in the final round.

While the details of the specific case for the competition were confidential prior to the event, the Boa Contractors spent the spring 2010 semester preparing for the event by researching current trends in IT industry best practices, refining their presentation skills, learning tips and tricks for using PowerPoint to its fullest, and discussing strategies for analyzing a business case on a short timeline.

As in business, APEX participants had to think fast to stay ahead of their competition. For the first round, students had 24 hours to study the case, develop an IT solution, and put together a presentation for the judges. Their coaches were not allowed to help. Students spent the majority of their time brainstorming in their hotel rooms. Teams were also prohibited from discussing the competition with other teams, and from using cell phones, social networking sites, and instant messaging.

Another important aspect of the APEX competition was the discussion element that first appeared in round two. After pitching ideas to a panel of judges in round one, advancing teams had to then discuss their proposal with the panel in round two. Students had no prior knowledge of the questions, so each member of the team had to possess a thorough understanding of their proposed technical solution. In addition to the discussion, judges provided students with valuable information for revising their proposals for the final round.

Six teams were selected at the end of round two to advance to the finals round. These teams received a case addendum with pertinent additional information regarding the case. The students then had 17 hours for presentation revision, incorporating the new information. The teams could not, however, change their technical solutions. Thus, each team had to demonstrate that their technical solution was sufficiently flexible and scalable to address the modified business situation.

Overall, the Mays team proved itself, beating out other finalist teams from the University of Hong Kong, Simon Fraser University (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada), and Mahidol University (Thailand) for the third place trophy. The first and second place trophies went to Brigham Young University and Singapore Management University, respectively.

Congratulations to the Mays Boa Contractors:

  • Kevin Avila ’10
  • Nicole Crum ’10
  • Heather Hewett ’10

Congratulations also to team coach `Jon Jasperson, assistant INFO department head and director of the Center for the Management of Information Systems at Mays.

Categories: Students

As a freshman accounting major I was required to take two science courses. Since I placed out of chemistry, I was able to choose whatever I wanted for my second course. I chose Astronomy, one of the two smart course choices I made during my undergraduate career. (The other was Sports in American Life.) I loved that Astronomy course. It had just enough physics that I could still follow what the professor meant, but not enough to make it evident that my high school physics teacher was more interested in the girls P.E. coach than in teaching physics. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I signed up for a second astronomy course simply because I had room for an elective.

The second course bore no resemblance to Astronomy as I had come to know it in the first course. The enticing title of the course, “Black Holes and Stellar Masses,” quickly devolved into the droning of an incredibly boring professor on topics indecipherable to man (or at least to accountants). For some unknown reason, if you look at my undergraduate transcript, the course is listed as “Astronomy Bizarre.” How apropos. What began as a wondrous exploration of the mysteries of deep space became an obsession about how much mass could collapse upon itself.

I used to teach at a university that had a live lion in a habitat on campus. Please note that I said “a lion”, as in only one, meaning that this lion was unhappy most of the time. (The current lion is much happier, because they expanded the habitat and gave him a female companion.) It is interesting and unique to have a lion on campus, the kind of thing that you like to tell friends about who live on less savage campuses (no offense, Reveille). I actually stayed in the President’s Home on campus during one visit before I started teaching there. I awoke at 6 a.m. to a jungle roar.

I did not understand lions, because it was not really my job. But it was possible that this creature that I did not understand could significantly affect my life. I can remember thinking to myself, what exactly is the plan if the lion gets out? If I am going to lunch, and I look up to find myself face-to-face with a lion, what is my next step? There may well be a documented plan, but I guarantee you that no faculty member on that campus knew what it was. And those who did were unlikely to carry it out in the heat of the moment.

This brings me, logically, to the 1000 point intraday drop in the Dow last week. As I write, people are still speculating as to what triggered the selling spree that caused Procter and Gamble to plunge 36% and consulting firm Accenture to temporarily trade at a penny. Watching the market the other day and listening to people describe their emotions and decisions reminded me of a bunch of professors trying to decide what to do now that Leo is out of the cage. The popular term for unexpected events in the market is “Black Swans”, after Nassim Taleb’s book, Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, which claims that these devastating “unlikely events are far more likely than most investors believe,” according to Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal. In fact, a hedge fund advised by Taleb made a $7.5 million options bet that the market would fall, and this transaction may have started a string of transactions that caused the Dow’s dramatic drop.

Things eventually turned, with some people taking advantage of the situation and some transactions being unwound after the fact. But this black swan was a “loose lion” moment for many people in the market, something they had not experienced before. The markets have chosen efficiency over accuracy, and with electronic high-frequency trading firms providing the bulk of the trades and much of the market liquidity, rapid adjustments of this sort are likely to happen again. Of course, safeguards will be put into place. Leo’s habitat will be redesigned to make escape much more difficult.

But today people are wondering—can one influential trade linked to a bunch of trading robots cause a market disaster? How do I hedge the risk of this type of event happening? The black swans of today are the black holes of my yesterday, collapsing all mass within reach on top of themselves. And as happy as Leo is on a normal day in his habitat, what do we do if he gets out?

Categories: Bottom Line Ethics

While the IT industry has long been populated predominately by men, the fairer sex is quickly making inroads in the industry. Each year a new generation adds to the number of women in IT leadership positions, further shifting the balance of power and the environment of the industry.

On March 26, the Center for the Management of Information Systems held its 10th annual Women in Information Technology (WIT) conference at A&M. The conference, designed for future female IT professionals, gave students the opportunity to interact with women from all levels within the field. Students from sister schools Texas A&M International University and Prairie View A&M University also attended.

The theme of the 2010 WIT conference was “Finding the Right Fit,” and presenters focused their lectures on how women can make a place for themselves in IT management. The WIT roundtable discussions allowed for students to ask questions related to their fields of interest, and for IT professionals to share some of their personal experiences, including the challenges they face in a male dominated industry.

Networking with professionals and presenters was another valuable component of the event for students. Corporate sponsors AMD, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Dell, ExxonMobil, and HP also provided a number of door prizes and scholarships for participating students.

Categories: Centers

Turning off lights and recycling paper for printing. These simple steps toward greater sustainability at Mays were part of the presentation that won the Students in Free Enterprise regional championship in April, propelling the Mays student chapter of SIFE to the national competition held in Minneapolis May 11-13.

Members of the Mays chapter of Students in Free Enterprise
Members of the Mays chapter of Students in Free Enterprise

The Mays chapter’s team project for the year focused on sustainability in the Wehner Building, tying neatly into SIFE’s mission “To bring together the top leaders of today and tomorrow to create a better, more sustainable world through the positive power of business.”

Echoing a Texas A&M University-wide effort to reduce energy consumption by 20 percent, the Mays chapter encouraged faculty, staff, and students to reduce, reuse, and recycle. They called the effort the Wehner Environmental Sustainability Challenge. When the team presented their “Save Wehner” project at the regional competition, the judges were impressed by the Mays students deviating from the norm and focusing their efforts on an academic building instead of a residence hall.

Step one of “Save, Wehner” involved distribution of an advocate form, which asked faculty and staff to commit to actions such as turning off equipment and lights when not in use, replacing disposable drinking containers with refillable ones, and avoiding unnecessary printing.

A week after distributing the forms, SIFE members and sponsors, working with the university office of sustainability, conducted a room-by-room energy audit of the building, noting lights and equipment left on over the weekend. They found lights on in 21 empty offices, 153 computers and 149 printers running needlessly, and a number of small appliances draining energy in standby mode. The team called attention to these areas of waste, and occasionally updated the faculty and staff on weekly energy consumption. Slowly, they did see the building energy consumption numbers decrease.

Mays SIFE officer Kaitlyn Rice ’11 says if everyone in Wehner participated in the SIFE initiative, the university could save approximately $156,000 per year. To date, the initiative in Wehner has saved $1,400 in energy costs.

Judges paid extra attention to the Mays SIFE project as it was entirely student-led. At Mays, Cindy Billington, associate director of Graduate Business Careers Services, is the team’s sponsor, but she asserts that students do all of the work and rely on her only for guidance and resources. “So much of [SIFE] is that they choose to do this,” Billington says, discussing the organization’s appeal to business. “The judges like to see that level of commitment from students.”

Judges weren’t the only ones interested in the Mays students’ project: the effort has caught the eye of the university’s office of sustainability, as well. Their program has the potential to become campus-wide in upcoming semesters.

Another important audience to take notice of the SIFE team’s effort was potential employers. “After [the competition], we had vice presidents approach our students and ask to contact them about employment opportunities,” said Billington. She notes that some companies (most noticeably Kraft) have indicated they prefer to hire SIFE students exclusively, based on their commitment to sustainability and community enhancement.

The Mays SIFE team has won the regional championship and moved on to nationals seven of the past nine years. In previous years, their projects have involved mentoring inmates with the Prison Entrepreneurship Program; encouraging children from area elementary schools to consider college through a day-long visit event; and financial counseling for college students.

Categories: Students