They came to Mays Business School to hear about “Business in a Turbulent Economy,” dozens of former and future business students, and they took away some lasting lessons — foremost, the importance of relationships with their fellow attendees and the presenters.

The inaugural Mays Business School Summer Learning Seminar could not have gone more smoothly, says David W. Blackwell, associate dean for graduate programs and event coordinator. “Feedback from the participants was outstanding, and the presenters felt heard and understood. There were a lot of great questions and comments from the audience,” Blackwell recalls.

Professor Asghar Zardkoohi talks about human resources to attendees at the 2011 Mays Summer Learning Seminar.
Professor Asghar Zardkoohi talks about human resources to attendees at the 2011 Mays Summer Learning Seminar. (view more photos)

Keynote presentations included “The Economic Outlook for Investors and Business Decision Makers” by Mark Dotzour, chief economist and research director of the Real Estate Center, and “Domestic and Global Economies and the Implications for Human Resources” by Asghar Zardkoohi, the T.J. Barlow Professor of Management. Other presentations ranged from demystifying the Federal Reserve to props for PowerPoint.

Dotzour interpreted the economic outlook for consumers, business and government, and cited a federal debt of $43 trillion in unfunded liability for Social Security and Medicare. He said consumers are “cleaning up their balance sheets,” paying down debt and spending money again, and the business sector has “right-sized their balance sheet and is sitting on $2 trillion in cash.” The government sector, however, has postponed correction — at enormous expense to the American taxpayers, Dotzour explains. The 10-year U.S. Treasury is not signaling inflation, Dotzour says. Instead, he predicts, “the bigger threat to the U.S. economy is another wave of deflation.”

“This is not playing Barbies. It’s not fun or pleasant,” he said. “If you are not afraid of what’s going on in America right now, you are either not informed or you are pretending things aren’t the way they are.”

INAUGURAL EVENT A SUCCESS

The Summer Learning Seminar will help Mays attract future students, says event coordinator David Blackwell, an associate dean for graduate programs at the college.

He said the inaugural event accomplished what he wanted — to get former students more involved with the school and expose them to the ideas of some of the leading faculty members. The only changes Blackwell is considering are possibly awarding continuing education credits to participants and possibly holding the event in Dallas or Houston, since many participants came from those cities.

The event was free and open to the public, but was geared toward former and future Mays students. At least 120 former students joined approximately 30 admitted MBA students who were attending a Super Saturday event at Mays — an orientation for accepted MBA students that gave them a glimpse of their professors. At the day’s end, several from both groups went to a networking reception at the University Club. “We generated a lot of good press and potential contacts for MBA, EMBA and CED,” Blackwell says of the MBA, Executive MBA and Center for Executive Development programs. “A number of us were fielding inquiries about EMBA and CED and I understand that we picked up about six new Executive Connections mentors for the MBA program.”

Blackwell endorsed the scheduling of the seminar to coincide with Super Saturday, when accepted MBA students get to meet their professors. “I can only imagine the goodwill that was generated with the prospective MBA students from attending the lunch and early afternoon session. Also, several of them attended the networking event,” he says.

Xenophon Koufteros, an associate professor of Information & Operations Management who presented, said “a lot of goodwill” was generated through the program. Management professor Asghar Zardkoohi concurs that the program should be repeated next year.

Several people from throughout the surrounding community attended the seminar. Sallye Lucas, who makes investments for the city of Bryan, said she came mainly to hear Dotzour speak. “He always has the latest information, and he presents it in a way anyone can understand,” she said.

Jackson Lane ’13, a finance major, says the program will be “an integral part of my future success,” and solidified his desire to be part of MBA/EMBA events. “It was a great opportunity for industry professionals, undergraduate and graduate students to see the best of what Mays has to offer,” he explains.

Craig Hooker, a prospective MBA student who attended the lunch and afternoon session, says he appreciated being involved in the Summer Learning Seminar while he was on campus for the MBA program’s Super Saturday event, an orientation for accepted MBA students that allowed them to meet their prospective professors. “I was able to make several deeper connections with former, future and current students I had met during the day,” he says

Liping Chen, an engineer with the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program at Texas A&M who has helped judge the MBA technology transfer program, considers the program a “great learning opportunity – not only learning from the informative seminars by well-known professors, but also learning from participants networking.”

“The seminars covered a broad business aspects, from practical – using Power Point in business – to a global perspective of business environment, provided a vision that any successful business should possess, pointed out the challenges and chances we are all facing,” Chen says. “I also learned from my fellow participants during breaks and the reception, and it was valuable to listen to the experience from a diverse group. I especially enjoyed the brief visit with some of the distinguished alumni.”

Bob Hancock ’82, a CPA at a Houston bank who got his bachelor’s degree from the business school, said he welcomed the opportunity to stay connected and to continue his personal education. “I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to network and to hear about the current news in the business world,” he said. “It’s important to stay connected.”

Notes from the program are posted at mays.tamu.edu/sls2011 and photos from the event are available on the Mays Flickr site.