Texas A&M University’s MS Finance program was ranked #2 in the nation in a new analysis of student debt and median earnings by The Wall Street Journal. This ranking was published July 15, 2021.
This recognition highlights the program’s track record of providing an exceptional and affordable education that prepares students for high-earning jobs. “Debt-to-median earnings combines two things that students care about – program quality and program cost. An important assessment of program quality is earnings upon graduation. If the program is expensive, a student may have to borrow a lot,” said Dr. Christa Bouwman, acting head of Mays Business School’s Department of Finance. “A program with a low debt-to-earnings ratio is one that is inexpensive relative to what the student will earn upon graduation.”
To develop these rankings, The Wall Street Journal used 2015-16 data about student debt and graduate median earnings from 40 universities that offer master’s degree programs in finance and financial management.
Texas A&M’s MS-Finance program had a debt-to-median earnings ratio of 0.28, which was lower than every institution except for the University of Pennsylvania (0.2). “Graduate programs are costly in terms of both money and foregone earnings,” said Professor Kevin Moore, director of Mays’ MS Finance program. “The debt-to-median earnings gives a quick way for students to assess which programs are delivering on their optimum investment of time and money.”
The median debt for Texas A&M’s MS-Finance graduates was $20,500, which tied with Goldey-Beacom College as the third lowest. Only two institutions had lower debt: Florida State University ($19,250) and the Universidad Ana G. Mendez-Cupey Campus ($19,086). In comparison,
Texas A&M’s MS-Finance graduates have median earnings of $72,448.
The Wall Street Journal ranking underscores the sound investment that students make by enrolling in Texas A&M’s MS-Finance program. Moore noted, “Our focus on return on investment permeates everything from the curriculum to the culture of the program. We only admit the best and brightest students, who are also committed to getting their money’s worth from the program.”
#9 U.S. Public program ranking highlights Mays Business School’s former student’s success
Texas A&M’s Full-Time MBA (FTMBA) program has been named the #25 program in the nation and #9 U.S. public program, according to the inaugural 2022 rankings released by Fortune. The methodology used includes a heavily weighted outcome score (65%; including median base salary, mean base salary, and job placement rate), brand score (25%; based on Fortune/Ipsos brand survey to hiring managers, March ’21), and Fortune 1000 score (10%; number of MBA alumni in C-suite and MBA graduates in Fortune 1000 organizations).
“Our whole team is extremely excited about this ranking outcome because our main focus is getting the right faculty and the right students engaged in the MBA program at Texas A&M University,” said Arvind Mahajan, Ph.D., Associate Dean for Graduate Programs for Mays Business School. “The rankings are another data point that show we are making progress to ‘Advance the World’s Prosperity,’ which is Mays Business School’s vision. We are fortunate to have the incredible Aggie Network that actively recruits our graduates, bringing them into world-class organizations, altering their careers and lives.”
Texas A&M’s FTMBA excels at providing each student with individualized experiences that emphasize effective leadership practices. Faculty and staff are committed to knowing all degree candidates personally and to understanding their previous experiences as well as their professional and personal goals. Program leaders mentor MBA students so they can confidently assume leadership roles in all areas of life.
The intensive 18-month FTMBA program offers hands-on experiences in managing challenges, time, and resources. The program’s cohort format allows MBA students to establish meaningful connections with peers, faculty, career coaches, and program leadership. Outcomes of doing so include developing cutting-edge professional knowledge and skills including critical thinking. These skills are foundational to the ability of FTMBA graduates to assume leadership roles immediately upon completing their degree.
“We at Mays Business School take pride in the ability of our students, faculty, and staff to contribute positively to companies and the broader society through their dedicated efforts. This top 10 U.S. public program ranking from Fortune provides evidence of the quality of our program and certainly the talent of our students,” shared Duane Ireland, Ph.D., Interim Dean for Mays Business School. “Important to the accomplishments of our FTMBA program is our decision to center the activities of our graduate programs’ office around student success. Our staff and faculty collaborate to identify ways to support our students in their drive to learn and grow as a means of enhancing their professional and personal lives.”
Applications for Texas A&M’s MBA programs – including Full-Time, Professional, and Executive – are being accepted now for the class of 2024. For more information, visit: mba.tamu.edu
Brent Smith ’97 ’98 learned to appreciate family, integrity, and a strong work ethic growing up in rural Central Texas. His understanding of these values deepened during his undergraduate and graduate experience at Texas A&M University, creating a strong foundation for Smith’s successful professional success and personal life.
Now Mays Business School is honoring Main Street Capital’s CFO and treasurer with the Mays 2021 Professional Program in Accounting (PPA) Lifetime Achievement Award. “Brent Smith embodies the Aggie core values and has earned the respect of leaders across the financial industry through his personal integrity,” said Dr. Nate Sharp, head of Mays’ James Benjamin Department of Accounting. “Brent has risen to the CFO position at two different companies thus far, and his career achievements reflect positively on Texas A&M University, Mays Business School, and the PPA program in the James Benjamin Department of Accounting. We are so pleased to honor Brent with the PPA Lifetime Achievement Award in 2021.”
Committed to Hard Work
Smith spent his early life growing up and working on the family’s century-old farm in Round Top, Texas. The importance of family and community was underscored when his father died of cancer when Smith was 12. “My brother and I were raised by my mom, who was incredible—and still is an incredible woman,” he said, adding that the small community’s commitment to hard work also influenced his approach to life.
As Smith and his brother, Brad ‘91 ‘92 grew up, education remained a top priority. Both became the first generation in their family to attend college and earn a degree. “In general, most of the people in our community were Aggies,” Smith said. “Certainly, the culture of A&M—that historically supported blue collar students from a rural environment–led to having more Aggies in the area where I grew up.”
A Stable Career
As a freshman, Smith still was unclear about his career direction. Eventually, he decided to major in accounting because of his family’s financial struggles. “I was always told that if you wanted a safe and consistent job and you wanted to go into business, you couldn’t go wrong with accounting,” he said. “People are always going to need accountants.”
Soon, he realized that he had an affinity for the accounting coursework. “I had a general interest in business. I was very detail-oriented by nature and very analytical,” he said. “It seemed like a good fit.”
The university’s culture also supported the future executive’s development as a leader. “Texas A&M fosters teamwork, and a sense of community and togetherness. We can work together to figure things out,” said the member of PPA’s Group 5. “Texas A&M also offers a humble, hard-working environment and a down-to-earth mentality where, in general, Aggies don’t think they’re above you. We’re a roll-up-our-sleeves-and-get-to-work kind of people.”
That work ethic, along with the technical accounting skills that Texas A&M provided, were instrumental in Smith’s rapid success in his first job at Arthur Andersen’s Houston office. “When you go into an organization like Arthur Andersen, you try to distinguish yourself,” Smith said. “The way to do that is through hard work, a can-do attitude, and being a team player.”
After working in public accounting for a few years, Smith joined FTI Consulting to concentrate on financial investigative work. He worked with FTI for three years before deciding to switch jobs to prioritize his young family.
Smith’s reputation for hard work and willingness to learn, combined with his deep network, led to a position at Cal Dive, a multinational marine construction company serving the offshore oil and gas industry. “Like most opportunities, this one came out of something that was broken,” he said. “They were having issues with their operational accounting, which they wanted me to come in and improve.”
While he knew that he ultimately did not want to do operational accounting long-term, this position was a way to get his foot in the door at Cal Dive. “That started a 10-year run that led to a lot of opportunities for me to move through the organization very quickly,” he said.
Smith followed a circuitous professional route—including working for one of Cal Dive’s spin-off companies that ultimately went public–that broadened his experience. “I jumped at the chance because it was a way for me to pivot a little bit away from accounting and do more on the finance side, which I hadn’t done a lot of,” he explained, adding that he advanced to become the company’s vice president.
These varied experiences prepared him to become the CFO at Cal Dive at the age of 35. “This was a great experience in a very tough industry,” he said. “There were lots of ups and downs. I went from record-level financial performance to worrying about meeting payroll. There were extreme circumstances that I had to manage through. Looking back, you learn invaluable lessons about how to manage things.”
Investing in People
Eventually, the oil and gas industry’s ups and downs took a toll, causing Smith to be receptive to other opportunities. Several of his former Arthur Andersen colleagues approached Smith about the Main Street CFO position. “This was completely different from my previous experience,” he said. “It’s a publicly-traded investment firm. It was such a great opportunity that I decided to make that change.”
The Houston resident has continued to hone his leadership skills during his seven-year tenure at Main Street. “I’m a big believer in effective communication,” he said. “To be a successful leader you have to have effective communication—to be direct and have tough conversations when needed.”
Smith also has embraced mentoring to invest in the company’s employees. “When you take someone under your wing and bring them along in their career, you’re making a big investment in people,” he said. “If you can do that consistently, it’s going to pay off through less turnover.”
While career and family have occupied much of his time, Smith has found ways to give back to Mays. Smith and his wife, Kristi, established a scholarship for PPA students. This fund already provided financial support to two Mays students during the 2020-21 academic year.
He enjoys meeting with PPA students and MBA students and has participated in roundtable discussions. The senior executive also regularly participates in Mays Alumni Forum, where he shares the critical lessons from throughout his career. “I always tell people that it is very difficult to be patient. If you have some idea of how your career path will line out, that’s great; it’s good to have long-term goals,” he said. “But don’t get too caught up in specific titles, because I can guarantee it won’t work out exactly the way you planned. The key is putting yourself in a position to be prepared to take advantage of opportunities when they come.”
A Foundation of Family
While career is important, Smith always puts his family—his wife of nearly two decades and their two children, Hunter and Jenna—first. “Nothing is more important than spending time with them,” he said. “The big buzzword that I’ve learned throughout my career is perspective. Especially early in your career, a problem or challenge might seem like it’s overwhelming and the end of the world. But at the end of the day, nothing is more important than your family. Having that balance and keeping in mind what you think is most important is critical.”
Unsurprisingly, Smith’s family and roots are at the center of his reaction to receiving the PPA Lifetime Achievement Award. “I was very humbled. This award is something my family can be proud of,” Smith said. “I came from humble beginnings, and I still consider myself very humble, but I have had some success in the corporate world. This just shows that you don’t have to be raised in a wealthy family or in a large city to achieve a very high level of success in the corporate world.”
Mays’ leaders feel that Smith personifies the type of transformational leader that the school is trying to develop. “Brent Smith is the kind of person who gives capitalism a good name. He has demonstrated excellence throughout his career while maintaining his perspective on what is important. Around Aggieland, we call it selfless service, but for Brent it has just meant being who he is, a deeply skilled professional who leverages his abilities to make others successful,” said Dr. Mike Shaub, Mays clinical professor and Deloitte Professional Program Director Professor. “He is generous in giving back in time and resources to those who are following behind him in Mays and PPA, because his legacy is not centered on accomplishments, but on changed lives. He is patiently building a legacy not just in the business world or in Mays Business School, but in life.”
College Station, TX — On June 26, 2021 members of Mays Business School attended a Bryan/College Station Habitat for Humanity Wall Raising ceremony to honor the Espinoza family – the future owners of the home.
Held at the building site of the in-progress home, Mike Alexander, Assistant Dean for Graduate Programs at Mays Business School, and member of the Mays Builds program was the emcee for the Wall Raising event.
“Watching the walls go up on a new Habitat home is one of the most rewarding and meaningful experiences for all of us who are involved in B/CS Habitat,” said Mike Alexander. “To see the family, who’ve already been through months of sweat equity and financial and homeownership education, watch the community come together to raise the walls, to give of their time, to sweat and celebrate together, is inspiring and reminds me of why I got involved in Habitat and reminds me of the positive power of a group of people, like Mays Builds, coming together to serve other and our community.”
This particular home, of which Mays Builds faculty, staff, and students donated nearly $7,000 towards, will be going to the Espinoza family. Enrique and his wife, Luz Maria, are originally from San Diego, California, before making Bryan, Texas, their home over five years ago. They are the proud parents of five beautiful children. The oldest is Kayla (12), followed by Kevin (9), Andrew (7), Anthony (4), and Kamila (2).
After a prayer, a welcome from Mike, and some words of gratitude from the Espinoza family, the ceremony closed with a call to attendees to leave messages with sharpies on the support beams of the home. Although these messages will be covered by sheetrock and paint, the sentiments will remain a part of the home for as long as it stands.
The Texas A&M Core Value of Selfless Service is what inspired Mays Business School to begin the Mays continuing contribution to Bryan/College Station Habitat for Humanity through the Mays Builds program, a collegewide project that involves undergraduate and graduate students, as well as faculty and staff in all departments and programs at Mays. Aimed at serving the greater Bryan / College Station community, Mays Builds allows students, faculty, and staff to enhance the climate of the business school specifically by sharing a goal to serve the surrounding community.
The Mays Habitat for Humanity project was started in 2017 and so far has raised over $27,000 for the local Bryan/College Station Habitat for Humanity. In 2020, Mays Builds was a partial sponsor for the first Mays Builds home for the Salas/Mendez family. The recent sponsorship of the Espinoza home continues Mays Builds impact on our community.
There are upcoming ways to get involved with Mays Builds’ Habitat for Humanity project:
On the evening of July 16 is “Bowl To Build,” a fun fundraiser for Habitat.