High school senior James Darden III didn’t expect to find an internship with a marketing and advertising company by participating in Mays Business School’s Transformational Leadership Academy (MTLA). But the Cypress Woods High School student built an instant connection with one of MTLA’s presenters, Peruvian entrepreneur Aquiles Chulluncuy, that has the potential to grow into a long-lasting business mentorship.

Building relationships is what MTLA strives to do. The Academy, which has been in existence for four years, offers high school students from underrepresented groups a chance to learn more about Texas A&M University, Mays Business School, and the business world. “This program is specifically designed to build community, enhance a sense of belonging, and attract top diverse talent to Mays. Research on the benefits of diverse learning environments is undeniable,” said Nancy Hutchins, the director of Mays Business School’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

The 2021 event, held over six days in July, hosted 43 rising seniors from across Texas. The program’s sessions, which featured businesses from around the globe, underscore Mays’ focus on developing transformational leaders and included virtual cultural experiences that have a business component. Students participated in a case competition and attended informational sessions highlighting the Aggie student experience. Additionally, the academy awarded a total of $28,600 in scholarships to 27 MTLA participants

Making Connections

Because the Academy was virtual due to the pandemic, organizers worked with WorldStrides Educational Student Travel to arrange Zoom presentations led by international business leaders such as Chulluncuy. These sessions underscored Mays’ commitment to advancing a global and inclusive mindset.

The South American businessman presented a session at MTLA on his group of digital businesses: La Naranja Media (an advertising company), Interacción Móvil (a mobile marketing unit), PRODIGI (an educational platform unit), and Combativa (a software unit). “He started talking about his business, what he did and how it operated,” said Darden, 17, who already runs a small advertising and marketing business and is a published author. “I thought, ‘Oh my goodness! This is picture-perfect! His entire business plan is actually the one I want to build. All of the things he talked about I’ve been trying to do so I can perfect my craft.’”

Chulluncuy came away impressed with the enthusiasm of the MTLA participants. “The group was quite committed to the speakers, asking the really important and big questions in life,” the business leader said. “With shining eyes, every one of them was very happy with what they were receiving. They seemed to be older and more mature than their years, to be honest.”

Inspiring Future Business Leaders

MTLA, which was sponsored by Phillips 66, PwC, and OMS Strategic Advisors this year, relies on the assistance of current Mays students, including MTLA alumni, in organizing the event. Their experiences help inform the MTLA experience, and these students appreciate the opportunity to give back to a program that has meant so much to them. For example, Anthony Carroll ’23, who served as the 2021 MTLA student director, was considering other colleges and universities when he attended MTLA as a

high school student. “It genuinely was a transformational experience,” said Carroll, who is majoring in management information systems. “I was able to see what the Texas A&M spirit was. I got to take a little step inside Mays Business School for a minute and see real briefly what that connection is and why Texas A&M is so different from everywhere else.”

MTLA also offers high school students and Mays student organizers an opportunity to hone their leadership skills and explore new ideas. “MTLA is really just about stepping out of your comfort zone,” said Emori Reece ’23, a management major who served as the 2021 MTLA assistant student director. “I was extremely introverted when I came into MTLA and then entered college. During MTLA, I learned how to step out of my comfort zone because I had to present and do well with my group. If you go into it with the open mindset that you’re going to do new things and take it as a learning opportunity, it will turn out to be an amazing experience.”