February, 2014 | Mays Impacts

Doss Cunningham '04
Doss Cunningham ’04

Doss Cunningham ’04 lives life according to his personal mantra: grow and give back. Cunningham, a graduate of the Professional Program in Accounting at Mays Business School, personifies an entrepreneurial spirit and a willingness to take risks in order to succeed.

Formerly on the way to becoming an accountant after graduation, Cunningham shifted directions when he learned more about Woodbolt International, a nutraceutical company based in Bryan. He was immediately drawn to the company but says family and friends were skeptical of his decision to join the startup. “Other people saw the risks,” he recently told a group of Mays Business Honors students. “I saw the opportunities.” After a few years at the company, Cunningham took over as Chief Executive Officer.

Founded in 2003, Woodbolt International supplies nutritional supplements to retailers in over 40 countries, including major clients such as GNC, Vitamin Shoppe and Costco. Woodbolt is growing rapidly: from $1 million in revenue and five employees when Cunningham joined in 2004 to a revenue run rate of $225 million and 130 employees today. Texas Monthly has also recognized the company in its ranking of the top 100 workplaces in Texas. Official rankings come out in April.

Cunningham praised the Bryan/College Station area for its great startup culture. “There is a lot of intellectual capital here,” he said. Cunningham credits Mays Business School in particular for helping build the foundation for his success. “Mays really gave me the tools and the skillset to be successful as an entrepreneur,” he said.

The chief executive described Woodbolt’s core values: fun, excellence, innovation, service, quality and, perhaps most importantly, people. “Our culture is about building effective people, not just effective business professionals,” said Cunningham. “Everything we do is about people.” The company encourages collaboration and fun among its coworkers, and is involved with local charities. Woodbolt also places a high emphasis on building trust with its customers and doing the right thing for product end users.

However, Cunningham especially emphasized the importance of clarifying a sense of personal identity and happiness and using these insights to forge the right career path. “You only get one chance at life,” said Cunningham. “There’s no better time in your life than now to take a risk.”

Sarah Solcher ’15 reflected on the event as a positive learning experience. “I truly enjoyed hearing from Mr. Cunningham because he shared big picture advice encouraging entrepreneurship as well as day-to-day actions that led to his success,” she said. “I was encouraged to evaluate and confirm my life purpose to be effective in my personal and professional lives.”

Cunningham explained to the students that with the right attitude and a unique skillset, anyone could be an entrepreneur. “You don’t have to be an idea guy or an inventor to be an entrepreneur,” he said. “What a lot of people don’t have is a business background. That was something I was able to bring to the company.”

Cunningham offered five key takeaways for the students:

  1. Don’t be afraid to fail, because you grow through failure.
  2. Define your purpose and what will make you truly happy.
  3. Maintain a work-life balance; it is critical to learn how to manage both your personal and professional lives.
  4. Never stop pursuing education, whether it is through mentors, books, conferences or another outlet.
  5. Be confident enough to make tough decisions and stand by them.

“Mr. Cunningham encouraged us to find a life mantra and to have confidence in ourselves,” said Joshua Scott ’14.

Cunningham described his own life purpose as using his success and many blessings to give back to others, especially by serving as a mentor. He said his most rewarding opportunity has been hiring and developing people.

“What are you ultimately trying to do in life?” he asked the students. “The answer to this question is your compass.”

About Mays Business School

Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School educates more than 5,000 undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students in accounting, finance, management, management information systems, marketing and supply chain management. Mays consistently ranks among the top public business schools in the country for its undergraduate and MBA programs, and for faculty research. The mission of Mays Business School is creating knowledge and developing ethical leaders for a global society.

Categories: Executive Speakers, Programs, Students, Texas A&M

Sallie O. and Don H. Davis Jr. '61
Sallie O. and Don H. Davis Jr. ’61

Don Davis’ sense of Aggie pride and appreciation for the core values of Texas A&M have driven him to give back multiple times to his alma mater. Already a supporter of the Dwight Look College of Engineering and the Olsen Field renovation, Davis decided he would like to make another gift to Texas A&M — this time to Mays Business School.

Now, with the help of matching funds, Sallie and Don H. Davis Jr. ’61 are supporting undergraduate and graduate business students at Texas A&M. A $1 million endowment from Sallie and Don H. Davis Jr. ’61 will have double the impact, thanks to a matching gift of $1 million from the Center for Executive Development at Mays Business School.

The resulting $2 million Sallie O. and Don H. Davis Jr. ’61 Endowed Scholars Fund will provide scholarships and fellowships to Aggies enrolled in the undergraduate business honors program or full-time MBA program at Mays Business School.

Davis, who served as president, CEO and chairman of Rockwell Automation until his retirement in 2005, received a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and a master’s degree in business administration from Texas A&M. He currently serves on the board of directors for Illinois Tool Works, Inc. in Chicago.

“I think it’s a real honor to be a graduate of Texas A&M, and this was an appealing way for us to help other Aggies along with their education and careers,” said Davis. “The fact that I could double my gift and its potential with the help of Mays was a sound deal.”

“Don and Sallie’s most generous commitment to our School will allow us to recruit top students to our two signature programs,” said Mays Dean Jerry Strawser. “They understand the competition for top students and their endowed Scholars Fund will allow us to attract the next generation of business leaders to our programs.”

Davis said he is lucky to have spent his life doing what he loved and to have found success with it. His appreciation for the business degree he received at Texas A&M is what inspired him to choose Mays for this endowment.

“I want to afford other students the open-door opportunities that come with a business degree, so they too can appreciate what it can do for them,” said Davis. He also credits Dean Strawser and the other administrators for making Mays into the “well-recognized and reputable school of business” that it is today.

About Mays Business School

Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School educates more than 5,000 undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students in accounting, finance, management, management information systems, marketing and supply chain management. Mays consistently ranks among the top public business schools in the country for its undergraduate and MBA programs, and for faculty research. The mission of Mays Business School is creating knowledge and developing ethical leaders for a global society.

Categories: Donors Corner, Former Students, Texas A&M

Robert (Bob) A. Rinn '75
Robert (Bob) A. Rinn ’75

Robert (Bob) A. Rinn ’75 knew for many years that he wanted to leave part of his estate to Texas A&M through his will. After meeting with a financial consultant, Rinn decided to make a planned gift by assigning the Texas A&M Foundation as a beneficiary of one of his life insurance policies. His gift of $267,000 established the Robert A. Rinn ’75 Energy Accounting/Tax Education Endowment. Distributions from this endowment fund will be used to support teaching, student activities and/or scholarships related to energy accounting and tax education in the Mays Business School.

“I was very fortunate as a college student,” Rinn said. “The Texas A&M Accounting Department and its professors were invaluable to me, and my parents funded my education so I graduated with no student loan debt. I hope my endowment will help future Mays accounting students acquire a comparable outstanding education and graduate without student loans.”

“We appreciate Robert’s generous support of our Accounting Department,” said Mays Dean Jerry Strawser. “Planned gifts of this nature are an important manner in which to support our School and allow us to continue to provide outstanding educational opportunities to our students.”

After graduating from Texas A&M, Rinn earned his CPA certification before embarking upon a successful 36-year accounting career at Schlumberger, a leading oil field services company. “I am humbled to be able to give back to Texas A&M and Mays Business School,” Rinn said. “And I hope my story might trigger other alumni to do the same.”

About Mays Business School

Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School educates more than 5,000 undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students in accounting, finance, management, management information systems, marketing and supply chain management. Mays consistently ranks among the top public business schools in the country for its undergraduate and MBA programs, and for faculty research. The mission of Mays Business School is creating knowledge and developing ethical leaders for a global society.

Categories: Donors Corner, Former Students

MBA Venture Challenge
MBA Venture Challenge

In the 2014 MBA Venture Challenge, more than 100 business and academic leaders from around the Brazos Valley judged companies created by the MBA students at Texas A&M University. The judges ranked early-stage startup companies and provided valuable feedback.

Taking first place in the competition were Janette Barnard, Matt Johnson, Lloyd McGuire and Robyn Peters, with “MyHeroClassifieds.com.” Their prize was sponsored by AT&T.

The second-place winners were Joseph Cole, Ben Feldman, Aiden Johnson, Ankit Talwar, Sabrina Wade with “Loco Inc.” Their prize was sponsored by Aggie Angel Network.

The third-place winners were Benjamin Holler, Shaune Kolber, Eric Piskura, Eric Snowder and Rachel Turner, with “Scepter Medical Devices.” Their prize was sponsored by JBKnowledge.

New to the competition this year was an Elevator Pitch Round.

About Mays Business School

Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School educates more than 5,000 undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students in accounting, finance, management, management information systems, marketing and supply chain management. Mays consistently ranks among the top public business schools in the country for its undergraduate and MBA programs, and for faculty research. The mission of Mays Business School is creating knowledge and developing ethical leaders for a global society.

Categories: Centers, Departments, Featured Stories, Programs, Students, Texas A&M

Alan Mitchell '85
Alan Mitchell ’85

Investment banker Alan Mitchell ’85 shared with Mays Business Honors students the keys to winning in his career: expertise, confidence and competence.

He told the students they are building the resumes of their lives with every project and job they take on. “Take every position as a way to advance yourself and provide yourself with an entry into the next level of your career,” he said.

That type of progression is important to someone considering being an investment banker, Mitchell asserted. Most people first gain experience in other areas of banking. “To succeed as an investment banker depends on how popular and well-liked you are and how well you have built relationships throughout your career,” he said. “You get to sit with CEOs and CFOs — the senior management at companies — and tell them what they should be doing. You’ve got to be a likeable person who is also resourceful and thoughtful.”

Mitchell received a bachelor’s degree in accounting at Texas A&M University and an MBA with honors from Columbia Business School. Between the educational programs, he served as a senior manager in the audit division of KPMG’s Financial Institutions practice.

Mitchell began his investment banking career in 1994 in the Global Communications group at Salomon Brothers. He continued working in telecommunications at Salomon Smith Barney and Citigroup, where he became a managing director in 2001.

In 2005, he joined Wachovia (now Wells Fargo), which he described as the fastest-growing investment bank and the largest real estate investor in the country. He is currently a managing director in the Technology, Media & Telecommunications group at Wells Fargo Securities, and lives in New York. Throughout his career, he has served his clients on numerous merger and acquisition and capital raising transactions across all of the telecom sub sectors.

Mitchell said his experience as a recruiter gave him a perspective from the other side of the interview table. “From their vantage point, it’s about who they want to work with,” he said. “Think about how you package yourself to make other people interested in you and where you want go. What I always tell people is to find something you really enjoy. If you can’t get excited about your job on an internship or when you first start, you’re really going to hate it over the long run.”

About Mays Business School

Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School educates more than 5,000 undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students in accounting, finance, management, management information systems, marketing and supply chain management. Mays consistently ranks among the top public business schools in the country for its undergraduate and MBA programs, and for faculty research. The mission of Mays Business School is creating knowledge and developing ethical leaders for a global society.

Categories: Executive Speakers, Texas A&M

Stephanie Anderson '89
Stephanie Anderson ’89

Stephanie Anderson says her grandmother’s ambition for her family to be attend and graduate from college changed the trajectory of her family; and this objective has carried on in Stephanie and her husband’s charitable mission statement to help other families change their trajectories through education.  The Dallas pair donated $60,000 to Mays Business School to create the Stephanie ’89 and Todd Anderson Family Business Honors Scholarship fund.

“We do donate to a lot of organizations, and there is a special place in my heart for the business school,” Anderson said. “Dean Strawser spent a lot of time explaining to us the need the school has to give scholarships that will enable some great kids to go to Texas A&M.” Anderson noted that she and her husband appreciate the small size of the classes in the business honors program and the quality of instruction the students receive.

“We sincerely appreciate the Andersons’ generosity,” said Mays Dean Jerry Strawser. “Their scholarship will provide opportunities and change the lives of many students at Mays for years to come.”

Anderson said her grandmother was a bobbin changer in a denim factory — a literal blue-collar worker — who was divorced in the 1940s, when single mothers were a rarity. She only had a high school education, but was determined to put her two daughters through college. “This was during a time when not many women were going to college, and my mother was enrolled in the Business Honors at the University of Georgia. She was the first in her family to complete college. That really changed the trajectory for our whole family, so I am happy to help others accomplish this.”

Anderson received her MBA from Texas A&M and was a teacher’s assistant in the finance department. “I still have lots of friends there and keep up with what is going on. It is an exciting time for Mays.” She is now managing director at AlixPartners LLP.

About Mays Business School

Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School educates more than 5,000 undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students in accounting, finance, management, management information systems, marketing and supply chain management. Mays consistently ranks among the top public business schools in the country for its undergraduate and MBA programs, and for faculty research. The mission of Mays Business School is creating knowledge and developing ethical leaders for a global society.

Categories: Donors Corner, Former Students, Texas A&M

Mary Lea McAnally
Mary Lea McAnally

Women have always been capable of assuming leadership roles in public service, but they have not always been qualified to lead, sometimes lacking the training, skills and experiences necessary to lead. So said Catherine “Kiki” McLean at The Women’s Leadership Initiative event hosted by Texas A&M’s Mays Business School in Houston on Jan. 15. McLean explored this important distinction in her remarks entitled “Making It in a Man’s World — A View from Inside the Beltway.”

It seems that at least once a year — usually when the latest statistics are released reaffirming the vast discrepancy between the percent of women in the workforce and the percent of women in corporate leadership positions — the voices of an indignant few raise the topic of women’s underrepresentation in leadership positions. But just as quickly, the subject retreats underground for a prolonged period of chilly status quo, like Punxsutawney Phil after spying a glimmer of sunshine. It bears mentioning that earlier this month, Catalyst reported yet another year of essentially no growth for women in corporate leadership positions. According to the nonprofit focused on women and business, women held 16.9% of board seats and 14.3% of executive officer positions in 2013 compared to 16.6% and 14.6% in 2012, respectively. As a faculty member and senior administrator at a business school whose mission is to create knowledge and develop ethical leaders for a global society, I include myself among the indignant.

I listened intently as McLean traced the roots of her professional success back to a childhood in which she was raised by a single father who never informed her that there were dreams in life she could not pursue. Later in life, two older brothers working in Washington, D.C., helped the San Antonio native embark upon a career in national politics, where she actively participates in bringing about the dawn of a new age of women in leadership. As the counsel for Porter Novelli’s global public affairs practice and a key strategist for six U.S. Presidential campaigns, including serving as senior advisor to the 2008 “Hillary Clinton for President” campaign, McLean knows a thing or two about women in leadership. So when she pointed to the subtle but important distinction between women’s capabilities and their qualifications, I sat up and took note. I recognized McLean’s words as a clarion call to educators around the country, spurring us to redouble our efforts to close the gap between capability and qualification.

A number of business schools have already taken significant and innovative strides toward that end. These include Simmons School of Management’s 16-month MBA program designed specifically for women’s career and leadership success, Stanford’s weeklong executive education course designed to help women achieve their personal and professional goals, and a new class offered by Harvard Business School called “How star women succeed: leading effective careers and organizations.”

Mays Business School has joined the effort. Our multi-faceted approach to developing qualified women leaders incorporates what McLean referred to in her remarks as “leading out.” The traditional definition of a leader is someone in a formal position with the authority to manage and/or control a group of subordinates. More recently, leadership has come to be recognized as a dynamic process in which an individual exerts influence over others to achieve a desired goal. Leading out reflects this broader understanding of leadership. Simply put, leading out means influencing peers within or outside your organization as well as colleagues up and down your organizational chain of command. (Several years ago, the notion of “leading up,” or managing your manager, came into vogue. This is an important facet of leading out.) From my vantage point as an educator, the idea of leading out is central to preparing qualified women for leadership roles in all walks of life.

Mays’ four-pronged approach to developing female leaders starts with self-reflection as an essential leadership practice. Our female MBA students engage in this activity through a series of self-assessments that help them understand their strengths and develop greater emotional intelligence. We teach our women how to leverage their self-knowledge to become more effective and efficient at influencing. Second, required classes focus on leadership, teamwork, communications and problem-solving skills because these are essential to influencing others. Third, our women students apply their leadership skills and knowledge through high-impact, hands-on learning experiences outside the classroom. These include leading crisis management efforts at the renowned Disaster City® complex in College Station, Texas, analyzing the market and financial viability of early-stage ventures, or participating at national case competitions. Two of our female MBAs recently applied their skills, training and experiences to help lead a four-person team to first place in the team competition at the 7th Annual National MBA Case Competition in Ethical Leadership at Baylor University, while garnering individual prizes for the Best Presenter and the Best Q&A.

We augment these three educational components with the Women’s Leadership Initiative, a series of interactive women-only seminars that help our female students make valuable professional connections while learning firsthand from successful female leaders. In our first such event last fall, Rebecca Cooke, a strategy consultant and executive coach, discussed the importance of being “gender bilingual.” This ability does not entail learning to talk like a man but rather learning to understand and influence men in a manner that is authentic from a female perspective. Earlier this month at our second event, McLean discussed the important role that leading out can play in national politics, particularly when it comes to influencing lobbyists, regulators and other power-brokers. As one of the co-founders of the No Labels movement in Washington, D.C., she is currently working to empower partisan politicians to start talking to each other across the divides—in hopes of achieving common goals. In two more events this year, Cooke will discuss how women can exercise power and influence through one-on-one conversations, emails and meetings (April 5th in Houston) as well as explore how women define their roles both deliberately and unintentionally (September 2014). Through these events, our female students have the chance to hear amazing stories from female role models who have been in the leadership trenches and lived to tell about the experience.

While there is no simple remedy or single solution to closing the gap between women’s leadership capabilities and their qualifications to lead, there are innovative educational approaches and signs of success all around us. In her closing remarks, McLean proclaimed 2014 as an inflection point in the evolution of women in leadership. The actions we take today will ensure that our children grow up in an era when women are viewed as qualified candidates for the highest political, civic and corporate leadership positions in the land.

About Mays Business School

Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School educates more than 5,000 undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students in accounting, finance, management, management information systems, marketing and supply chain management. Mays consistently ranks among the top public business schools in the country for its undergraduate and MBA programs, and for faculty research. The mission of Mays Business School is creating knowledge and developing ethical leaders for a global society.

Categories: Programs, Texas A&M

Grant, Nathan '89, Joy '88 and Trey Moore
Grant, Nathan ’89, Joy ’88 and Trey Moore

An MBA is the most common advanced degree for business school graduates, but a Juris Doctor is a close second. Mays Business School students who are pursuing law school will receive financial assistance through a new scholarship: The Joy W. ’88 and Nathan P. Moore ’89 Endowed Award. Funded by a $100,000 gift from Joy and Nathan Moore, the award is designated for a Mays student who has been accepted into a law school and will support studies at that law school. Preference will be given to a student who was a member of the Business Honors Program during his or her undergraduate studies at Texas A&M.

Nathan, who serves as Mary Kay’s Chief Legal Officer and Secretary, received a finance degree at Texas A&M and a law degree from St. Mary’s University. Joy received an education degree from Texas A&M.

“Our main goal was to give back to the school that taught us so much and has provided such a good foundation for us both,” Nathan explains. “It was also important to know we could customize our giving to include the acceptance to law school. The flexibility to expand beyond the business programs was key. So much of what I do right now is business-related, but what initially opened the doors for me was my law degree.”

“Many times, an impediment for students pursuing advanced degrees is the additional cost of that education,” said Mays Dean Jerry Strawser. “The Moores’ most generous commitment will make a significant difference in the ability of our students to pursue studies at leading law schools across the United States.”

About Mays Business School

Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School educates more than 5,000 undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students in accounting, finance, management, management information systems, marketing and supply chain management. Mays consistently ranks among the top public business schools in the country for its undergraduate and MBA programs, and for faculty research. The mission of Mays Business School is creating knowledge and developing ethical leaders for a global society.

Categories: Donors Corner, Featured Stories, Texas A&M