December, 2011 | Mays Impacts

{From Spirit magazine (Fall 2011), Texas A&M Foundation}

For a good time, call … Dr. Luis Gomez-Mejia, management professor at Texas A&M University.

Drawing on 30 years of travels and research, Gomez-Mejia wraps fun around the seriousness of concepts relating to management trends and executive compensation. His equally engaging research seminars examine organizational theory, various perspectives of organizations and decision-making.

Those are research focuses for Gomez-Mejia, who has been published more than 100 times. Two of his recent studies identified subtle factors that reduce pollution: stock-option incentives (rather than cash) that encourage management to take a long view of consequences and family ownership of businesses, in which personal reputations and community status are at stake.
While theoretical information frequently dominates class discussions, the tone is conversational with real examples thrown in, he said, “just to keep it interesting.”

As part of his management-class shtick, Luis Gomez-Mejia stays on the move, uses props and shares anecdotes.
As part of his management-class shtick, Luis Gomez-Mejia stays on the move, uses props and shares anecdotes.

Students find the approach lively and refreshing.

Mark Gibson ’11, whose final semester included a class under Gomez-Mejia, said his teaching style was a surprise. “Most of what we learn was done through class discussion rather than book learning, but what set this apart was that we were tested over our peers’ opinions and conclusions that we came up with as a group,” Gibson said.

“I’ve enjoyed his class and his unique perspective. He is well-traveled and has more than enough experiences to give our class a holistic view of the world.”

Before arriving at Texas A&M in 2009, Gomez-Mejia was a professor at Arizona State University and earlier taught at the University of Colorado at Boulder, University of Florida and University of Minnesota. And after stints in Spain and 15 Latin American countries, he strings his sentences together in a melodious thread reflecting the Portuguese and Spanish he spoke there.

Bringing him to Texas A&M was the $1 million Benton Cocanougher Chair in Business created in honor of the former business dean. The Cocanougher Chair was part of a chair matching program funded by Lowry Mays ’57 and his wife Peggy, who committed $7.5 million. Gomez-Mejia, the first holder of the chair, says he appreciates the honor. “That allowed me to be here, both financially and as far as professional standing,” he explains.

Gomez-Mejia considers Mays Business School a strong research culture with excellent scholars. “There is a very eclectic faculty from a broad scope of interests and backgrounds. That keeps things interesting,” said Gomez-Mejia, whose many teaching and research honors include the Hall of Fame of the Academy of Management.

Dr. Murray Barrick, previous head of the Management Department, considers Gomez-Mejia a great resource for Texas A&M. “Besides studying executive compensation more rigorously than his peers in the field, his research on family businesses and privately held companies has been extraordinarily impactful, in large part because he has obtained access to some unique data sources that bring light to the dynamics that determine the success of such firms.”

Barrick also said Gomez-Mejia contributes substantially to the department. “He is on the forefront of understanding the impact of different reward strategies,” Barrick said. “Consequently our students at Mays Business School get the most sophisticated instruction about how to effectively utilize rewards broadly, but also how to leverage pay to motivate and engage people at work.”

Abigail Lunsford '12 smiles in reaction to a lively discussion in Gomez-Mejia's management class.
Abigail Lunsford ’12 smiles in reaction to a lively discussion in Gomez-Mejia’s management class.

Barrick said undergraduate students and some of the college’s best doctoral students value his insights on the application of incentives, particularly the use of salary coupled with the opportunity for ownership, particularly in family-run businesses.

After a semester with Gomez-Mejia, management doctoral candidate Nai Wu ’13 said she wished she had taken his classes sooner. Wu said he provides entertainment with his anecdotes and examples from around the world.

“He is not intimidating at all,” Wu said. “In class, he always likes for us to comment and have a conversation rather than sit and listen to him lecture. He has a passion for his research and that is not always the case with professors. He is well-traveled so he has a broad worldview that he brings into our discussions. He brings in a lot of new information and a new perspective.”

Gomez-Mejia also is encouraging, she said. “Sometimes I am not very confident in my ideas, and he will help me get my idea to the next step. Overall, he is one of the best research professors I have ever worked with.”

Accounting senior Ramani Balijepally ’12 said she particularly enjoyed simulations in which students learned about a new country and the advantages, disadvantages, and economic and political factors of doing business there.

Doctoral candidate David Boss ’13 said Gomez-Mejia came to each session of his doctoral seminar — an informal, discussion-based environment — with more than enough material to facilitate discussion for 2½ hours.

As each class began, Gomez-Mejia asked students how current and past materials related. “Not only did this create great discussion,” Boss said, “but it also reiterated and solidified the material that we had covered up to six weeks earlier.”

Boss added that Gomez-Mejia’s casual manner facilitated free thinking without the fear of having to impress him or the other students. “He was open to any and all comments, which encouraged all students to participate and led to new ideas for future research.”

Sal Mistry ’14, another management doctoral candidate, said he is impressed with Gomez-Mejia’s ability to get to the heart of what students say. He once interrupted Mistry’s description of what he calls his “significant research idea” by saying, “The punch line about what you are talking about is …?”

“At that moment, I realized Dr. Gomez-Mejia doesn’t necessarily need all of the “background information’ as he is, one, extremely knowledgeable about many streams of research; two, extremely practical in the way he approaches a research question; and three, is able to take a complex idea and make it simple to understand,” Mistry said.

Barrick said Gomez-Mejia provides Aggies with management knowledge “that other scholars will only become aware of in a couple of years. He is one of a handful of truly top scholars in the field of management.”

More significantly, Barrick added, is Gomez-Mejia’s humble demeanor and willingness to volunteer within the college. In response to requests from Mays Dean Jerry Strawser, Gomez-Mejia agreed to serve on the college promotion and tenure committee and to lead a search for a key hire.

“He does all of this while engaging our faculty and doctoral students in discussions about the practice of management,” Barrick said. “We are lucky to have him as a colleague.”

To learn how you can support faculty in Mays Business School, contact:

David Hicks ’75
Assistant Vice President for Development
Texas A&M Foundation
(800) 392-3310 or (979) 845-2904
david-hicks@tamu.edu

Categories: Faculty

Senior accounting major Laura Beer, a student worker at the Texas Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (TVMDL), has received the 2011 TVMDL Director’s Excellence Award in the student category.

Beer has worked in the finance section at TVMDL’s College Station location since May 2010.

Laura Beer
Laura Beer

“Laura brings a tremendous work ethic to TVMDL as well as an outstanding knowledge of our billing operation,” said TVMDL Director Tammy Beckham. “Her willingness to assist with a multitude of tasks while keeping her cheerful disposition has greatly enhanced our finance office. She really has exceeded every expectation of her job and has become a vital part of TVMDL.”

Beer has worked in a veterinary clinic since age 16, giving her an appreciation for both the business side of a clinic and the role of diagnostic testing in serving clients.

She maintains a full-time academic schedule while handling advanced office duties during part-time hours. She works daily with accounts receivables and accounts payable. Her responsibilities include processing client payments, which can total as many as 300 checks each day.

Beer also is responsible for routing disbursement paperwork to the Texas AgriLife fiscal office and for keeping track of consumable inventory. In addition, she is instrumental in implementing new procedures, such as matching invoices to payments for clients at universities or agencies.

The award also recognizes Beer’s role in TVMDL’s recent switch to electronic delivery of client statements. Beer made hundreds of phone calls and exchanged hundreds of emails with TVMDL clients during this process.

“Laura’s attention to detail and high level of customer service are huge assets to TVMDL,” Beckham said.

Categories: Students

David C. Baggett ’81 uses one phrase to sum up his rich life, loving family and rewarding career: “It’s good being me.”

James Benjamin says it’s good being Baggett’s friend. In fact, Baggett and Benjamin, accounting department head at Mays Business School, have an ongoing debate about who has had the greatest influence on the other.

David C. Baggett '81
Baggett ’81

Benjamin calls Baggett “one of the brightest but most unique students I have encountered in my 37 years at Texas A&M (as evidenced by graduating in accounting in two years and being the two-time intramural ping pong champion).”

Baggett’s fast track to graduation with honors at age 20 quickly led to his first job, with Deloitte & Touche. He was the youngest partner in the history of that firm when he was promoted to partner at the age of 29.

Beginning very shortly after graduation, Benjamin says, Baggett became a “dedicated supporter for and advocate of our program … He was one of the youngest members appointed to our Accounting Advisory Council and he is now the longest-serving member of that group.”

He says Baggett has consistently been available to help with the development of the programs – advising on curriculum and program strategies, mentoring students and recruiting graduates, and assisting with fund-raising. “He began contributing financially to our program immediately after graduation, and the amount of his contributions have increased proportionally with his success in business.”

Baggett’s most recent gift to Texas A&M of $500,000 went to create the Denise and David C. Baggett ’81 Professional Development Endowment in support of the Business Honors Program.

Baggett has always seemed more interested in the impact of his support on the accounting program, Mays and Texas A&M than in recognition for his gifts, Benjamin says. “I am gratified but not surprised with his latest commitment to the Mays Honors Program,” Benjamin says. “David has also been a great personal friend and advisor, and I know that he has been a significant, positive influence in my life.”

In return, Baggett says Benjamin has had a profound impact on his professional and personal life – “and my wallet, if you count all my golf bet losses, and has led our accounting department to its current status as a nationally recognized top-tier program.” He adds, “Denise and I are blessed to be able to give something back to Mays Business School, and trust that our recent endowment will be meaningful to students in the Business Honors Program for many years to come.”

Mays dean Jerry Strawser says David and Denise Baggett have benefitted many with their generosity. “Through their most recent commitment to support our students professional development through study abroad and participation in other extracurricular opportunities, they will open many doors for our students and truly influence their lives,” he says.

Strawser adds, “In addition to his ongoing financial support and other fundraising efforts, Baggett has supported Mays in many other ways including hiring numerous Mays graduates, mentoring MBA students and using Mays Center for Executive Development for the training of his professionals.”

David and Denise are involved in several charitable endeavors, including the establishment of the David and Denise Baggett Teaching Award for Accounting Professors in Mays. Baggett serves on the Dean’s Development Council and the Accounting Department Advisory Council, and he is on the Champions Council of the 12th Man Foundation.

In 2005, Baggett founded Opportune LLP, an energy consulting firm that assists clients with corporate finance, complex financial reporting, process and technology, strategy and organization, dispute resolution, enterprise risk, tax and outsourcing. Opportune serves clients throughout North America and Europe through offices in Houston, Denver and London. The company ranked fourth in the 2011 Aggie 100, which recognizes the fastest growing Aggie-owned or Aggie-led businesses in the world.

Baggett also was a Mays Outstanding Alumni Award honoree for 2011.

Baggett lives in the Houston area and serves on the board of directors of NorthStar Energy and Marlin Midstream. He previously served on the boards of AMPAM, Genesis Energy, Encore Energy Partners and ERCOT, the independent system operator for electrical markets in Texas. He is actively involved in the several trade organizations, including the IPAA and the Turnaround Management Association.

Categories: Donors Corner, Former Students

The facts are out there—884 million people in the world lack access to clean water and a child dies every 15 seconds because of water-related disease.

Five years ago, a group of Texas A&M students personified what Aggies do best—they recognized a need and did something about it. They created The Wells Project, an organization that raises awareness and funds for the current water crisis in Africa.

Mays students have been active in The Wells Project at Texas A&M, an organization that raises awareness and funds for the current water crisis in Africa.
Mays students have been active in The Wells Project at Texas A&M, an organization that raises awareness and funds for the current water crisis in Africa.

“It’s so easy to get wrapped up in our own lives, our own luxury, our comfort—especially when the message of society is often, “It’s all about me,'” Mays student Valerie Whitt ’12 emphasizes.

“I remember being moved by the reality of the water crisis,” says Whitt, who served as the 2011 Wells Project president. “I realized how clean, safe water was something I took for granted every day.”

The Wells Project’s mission also hit home with accounting major Will Whitehill ’13, newly appointed president for 2012. “I have a passion for the thirsty,” he says. “When I saw them on campus a few years ago and found out about the cause, I knew The Wells Project was for me. The things it stood for were the same passions God had laid on my heart.”

A growing issue

“Water is the most basic human necessity, but roughly one out of eight people do not have access to clean, safe drinking water,” Whitehill says.

Often referred as the “silent crisis” for its ability to slip out of media headlines, the global water crisis claims more lives than any wars or natural disasters. It halts progress of developing countries, forcing the impoverished to live in vulnerability and uncertainty.

“While we can conveniently walk to our sink and fill a glass of water without fear of getting sick and dying, there are hundreds of millions of people in the world that lack access to clean water,” says Whitt. “But instead of feeling guilty or overwhelmed by this reality, we can feel empowered.”

Empowered to create change

In 2007, a group of Aggies, motivated by their faith to create change, founded The Wells Project. The Wells Project is partnered with the Houston-based nonprofit Living Water International. The organization seeks to engage Aggies in the global water crisis by funding clean water wells in communities across the globe.

Whitt says the solution of drilling wells is “simple and sustainable.” “It is estimated that just one dollar can provide clean water for one person for an entire year,” she stresses.

Whitehill calls the organization “more than a social group or resume builder,” but says, “The Wells Project is a place for students to work for a common purpose and to bring an end to something that is affecting 884 million people around the world.”

The Wells Project members are divided into three teams: campus outreach, community outreach and an event team. Each member’s talents and passions are highlighted, as they “pour their energy” into campaigns around the Bryan/College Station area, says Whitt.

According to Eric Newman ’11, the 2010 president and current advisor to the organization, The Wells Project’s reach isn’t constrained to A&M. “Here’s the coolest part,” he says. “What started at A&M in 2007 is spreading to campuses across the nation. This year, more than 20 colleges and universities (from Southern Cal and Pepperdine to Virginia and Georgia Tech) participated in 10 Days, The Wells Project’s biggest campaign.”

“It’s been very cool to see the growth not only internally, but also externally as other schools develop their Wells Projects based off of Texas A&M’s model,” Whitt adds.

10 Days Campaign

The Wells Project’s largest annual campaign centers on a simple premise—spend less to give more.

This year's 10 Day Campaign earned $70,000 nationally, with nearly $20,000 coming from The Wells Project at Texas A&M.
This year’s 10 Day Campaign earned $70,000 nationally, with nearly $20,000 coming from The Wells Project at Texas A&M.

The 10 Days Campaign is a Living Water International initiative predominantly launched through The Wells Project on college campuses, and encourages students to make water their only beverage for 10 days. Students donate the money saved from not spending on coffee, soda, etc., and that money funds the drilling of wells around the world.

Whitt puts the 10 Days Campaign into perspective—”Imagine how many lives you can change if you give up a couple coffees? If you and your roommates gave up a couple coffees? If every student at Texas A&M gave up just one coffee? It’s exciting to think about. You matter, and every little bit helps.”

This year’s campaign (held Oct. 10-19) raised more than $70,000 nationally, with nearly $20,000 coming from The Wells Project Texas A&M.

The business of compassion

Although the organization boasts a wide variety of talents and majors (“from engineers, to business students, education majors and biology,” as Whitt says), Mays students have predominately led The Wells Project.

The founder, Henry Proegler ’09 (finance), 2010 president Eric Newman ’11 (business honors/management), 2011 president Valerie Whitt ’12 (business honors/supply chain) and 2012 president Will Whitehill ’13 (accounting) say the invaluable lessons they learn in class translate into their leadership of The Wells Project.

“The skills and abilities I have learned in my business classes have affected the way our community team interacts with the community and has opened my eyes to more efficient, effective and engaging ways to partner with businesses, schools and churches,” Whitehill says of his time at Mays.

Whitt agrees, saying, “Being a business student has helped in the logistics and marketing of running a large scale campaign, as well as in the general management of an organization of 50 members and learning to lead effectively. We strategize how to best engage the students at Texas A&M, how to most effectively and clearly communicate our message, and constantly evaluate to see how we can improve and continue to grow and sustain this organization.”

A promising future for The Wells Project

Taking the reigns as president, Whitehill says he’s honored and privileged to serve in the position. “The presidents before me have established a legacy of dedication and service to the Wells Project, which is something I plan to uphold and instill in future presidents.”

With a significantly increasing number of members each year, Whitehill has big plans for The Wells Project’s future, including events involving athletics, campus “water days,” and a group mission trip to an affected country.

Regardless of the plans, Whitehill says The Wells Project’s purpose remains clear— “Creating awareness about the water crisis and its effects is at the forefront of what we do, so finding a way to make the campus more informed and passionate about the water crisis is one of our biggest goals as we prepare for this next year.”

Categories: Students

Kelly Heape Parsons ’85 didn’t take her first international trip until three years after graduating from Texas A&M, and she wanted to ensure students who followed her through Mays Business School got an opportunity to do that earlier than she did.

She funded a $100,000 gift to establish the Kelly Heape Parsons ’85 Business Honors Program International Travel Endowment. Distributions from the endowment will be used for international travel support for business honors students. Business Honors is a program within Mays that provides 30 hours of honors course work, including an internship, as well as extensive professional development opportunities. Business Honors students also earn a double major with no additional course work.

Kelly Heape Parsons '85 and her husband, Philip.
Kelly Heape Parsons ’85 and her husband, Philip.

Parsons says her first trip came with a position with PepsiCo’s international audit group, three years after she received her bachelor’s in accounting. Since that time, she has spent many years in international business, including ex patriot assignments in Canada, Australia and the UK.

“The education I received at A&M was a great foundation, but international travel — experiencing different cultures, customs, ways of life and of doing business — has provided me phenomenal personal and professional growth,” she says. “It is an education one can’t get in a classroom, and I am happy to provide the means to enable a Mays student to experience what is sure to be a life-changing experience.”

“Kelly’s generous gift will have a significant impact on our ability to provide international opportunities to our students,” said Mays Dean Jerry Strawser. “This gift reinforces our commitment to providing our honors students with important learning opportunities outside of the classroom and is consistent with the global focus of our school’s activities.”

Parsons has donated to the Association of Former Students for 25 years. She says she and her husband Philip M. Parsons — a native of Australia she met while traveling — have been involved with several charitable educational organizations. She said she was happy to expand her generosity to Mays.

“I am grateful to Mays for providing me an excellent educational foundation that has enabled me to achieve many of my life and professional goals,” she says.

Categories: Donors Corner, Former Students

Investing in students is a principal priority for Al Reese ’71. In a recent discussion with Mays Business Honors students, the ATP Oil & Gas CFO advised students to “make sure you have someone there for you and make sure you’re always there for someone else.”

Reese’s business background offers an array of knowledge from which the business students can draw.


“I want to invest in students like I was invested in,” says ATP Oil & Gas CFO Al Reese ’71. (view more photos)

Equipped with a finance degree from Texas A&M University and extensive work experience in accounting and consulting, Reese joined ATP as chief financial officer in 1999. ATP is a Houston-based company that acquires, develops and produces oil and natural gas in the Mediterranean Sea, North Sea and Gulf of Mexico.

Reese is often contacted by prominent business news sources for opinions and analysis of current financial situations, and he’s now at the forefront of the oil industry’s financial leadership.

But it hasn’t been easy getting there, he tells students. A series of defining moments and hardships have propelled him to becoming the leader he is today — the most recent being the 2010 BP oil spill and subsequent drilling moratorium. He recounted handling the fiasco as “the most intense time of my business career.”

“I told my people that if we’re going to go down in a ball of fire, let’s be part of the flame instead of a spectator,” Reese says about his decision to defend his company’s best interests during the oil spill. He adds: “You get thrown into situations like that, and what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.”

Reese says as an Aggie, giving back to other Aggies is crucial. He currently funds four Mays scholarships and describes his support as “an investment, not a gift,” challenging students to never take their education and talents lightly. “I want to invest in students like I was invested in,” he says.

Reese says he calls his three granddaughters, ages 4, 7 and 11, each night and reads books such as Berenstain Bears, Treasure Island and Mary Poppins. Those girls motivate him to mentor students at Mays Business School, whom he reminds, “You are the leaders for my grandchildren.”

Categories: Executive Speakers, Former Students

Categories: Perspectives