As we approach the end of the spring semester, thoughts turn to our students and their plans for the summer. Gone are the days when students were facing two choices: taking a break to recharge their batteries or taking some additional coursework to continue their path to graduation. Now, summer is an ideal time for students to participate in or create their own unique learning experiences, many of which occur across the globe. Here are some examples of how Mays students spend their summer “vacations”:

  • Internships: Internships (whether compensated or not) provide students with an ideal opportunity to apply the lessons learned in the Wehner Building and Cox Hall in their chosen professions. When they return to campus, they have a new perspective that enriches their classroom experience during the remainder of their studies. Like Heather Henry ’11, a business honors student who recently completed a five-month internship at Disney World.
  • Study Abroad: Traditional, semester-long study abroad programs have been expanded to include shorter immersions and more self-directed experiences. As Thomas Friedman correctly notes, the world is flat, and our students are benefiting from that. They are taking advantage of relationships and funding provided by our donors and Center for International Business Studies to embark on life-changing experiences. Read the story of Matt Harris ’10, a finance student that interned in Bangalore last summer.
  • Service Opportunities: One of Texas A&M University’s core values is that of selfless service, and no group of students embraces this value more than Mays students. In recent years, our students have traveled to great lengths to contribute humanitarian aid, like Michael Kurt ’09, an accounting student that spent the summer of 2008 serving those in need in Central and South America.

These stories merely sample the hundreds I could tell about the amazing things our students do and the way they expand their education.

There are many reasons why the fall semester is exciting. A new group of freshmen arrive at our school, bringing energy and enthusiasm. New faculty members join our school and continue to build upon the excellence of our outstanding scholars and teachers. And our current students return to campus, with new perspectives and ideas, some of them changed forever by their summer “vacation.”

As always, I hope this issue of Mays Business Online finds you well. Please stop by for a visit if your travels bring you to Aggieland.

Categories: Deanspeak

I don’t need to tell anybody reading this message that we are living in tough economic times. Many of you have asked how this is affecting Texas A&M University and Mays Business School. We are not immune to the current economic challenges and, like the entire A&M community, we have been asked to submit a formal plan that reduces our budget over the next two years.

We are already a lean and efficient operation, and making cuts is never easy or fun. Early in our planning process, we quickly determined that we must do all we can to continue investing in the outstanding members of the Mays family and adhere to the following principles to sustain our excellence:

  1. We will provide a high-quality learning experience for our students at a reasonable cost.
  2. We will attract and retain the very best faculty and provide them with the resources necessary to sustain and enhance their excellence.
  3. We will recognize and reward our staff for their outstanding work.

The recent rankings by the Financial Times of our MBA program (9th among U.S. public schools) and Accounting program (2nd among U.S. public schools) provide strong evidence of our existing excellence and emphasize the importance of continuing to enhance this excellence.

As we have considered various alternatives, one thing is clear: the important role that our friends and supporters play in the life of Mays. Your support helps us educate the next generation of business leaders and produce scholarship that impacts the academic and business worlds. Please accept my most sincere appreciation for the major role you have played and continue to play in our success.

Categories: Deanspeak

When one thinks of a business school, thoughts of applying accounting, finance, information systems, management, marketing, and supply chain to large, public corporations come to mind. However, this past fall, our sophomore students did something a little different: they applied their business skills to assist local organizations as part of a service-learning course. The numbers speak volumes: 435 students donated 8,700 hours of service to 43 different organizations. Through their work, our students impacted the lives of young children, elderly people, disadvantaged people, and neglected animals.

For the final presentation of the semester, each student group provided a five-minute summary of their experience demonstrating their ability to apply skills to a real-world setting and to effectively communicate the results of their experiences. As I judged their presentations, it was amazing to hear how this experience changed their perspective, and how impacting others had impacted them. When I asked them to summarize their greatest learning experience, it was not related to business, but to their awareness of others and the impact they can have, even now while they’re still in school. What a wonderful message for these young people to reflect upon during the holiday season.

I hope you had a wonderful holiday season and that you will have a healthy and happy 2010.

Categories: Deanspeak

Mays Business School is a large place. Because we are large (we have more than 4,200 undergraduate business students), our students have access to leading corporations, guest speakers in classes, and the Aggie network during their studies at Mays Business School.

Yet each student has an experience of one, so what do we do to bring the advantages of small to them? How can they receive individual attention and make connections that are meaningful? I’ll mention just two ways that Mays Business School is a small place.

Mays is in its ninth year of offering the Freshman Business Initiative, which places our freshman students in small cohorts that are mentored by a sophomore or junior student. The FBI (as it is known) is offered to all incoming undergraduate students. A thousand students broken into groups of 12 is a large program to run, and its impact on their experience at A&M is big, though hidden in small numbers.

Texas A&M University began offering freshman seminars that have fewer than 15 students per class, with the intent of giving these new students the opportunity to interact closely with a faculty member. I am in my second year of leading one of these seminars using the Wall Street Journal as a textbook. Meeting once a week, we discuss current events through the business media lens. The class also develops the students’ oral and written communication skills. This class provides me with the opportunity to open students’ minds to the joy of learning while keeping me connected to the youngest of Aggies.

So, while Mays is a big school in terms of size, we are a small school in terms of attitude. The result? Our students get the best of both worlds. It’s an exciting era for us as we develop leaders for a global society.

Categories: Deanspeak

In our current economic environment, we all scrutinize costs more; weighing cost versus benefit, investment versus return. Perhaps no commodity or service has been discussed more than the the cost of a university education. While tuition at Texas A&M University has increased in the past few years, A&M is not alone. Tuition has risen across the United States. Yet, comparing the cost of an education at our university with that at similar U.S. institutions, an education at Texas A&M is still very affordable.

This only views, however, the investment side of the equation. When considering the return, you’d soon come to the same conclusion as many of our students. Their investment in time and money at Mays Business School is the best one they will ever make in their lives. A select number of our rankings help illustrate the value of the education we offer:

  • Mays’ undergraduate program is consistently ranked among the top 20 U.S. public business programs and is highly regarded by leading corporations.
  • Mays’ MBA program is consistently ranked among the top 15 U.S. public business programs, with placement of students ranked among the top two for each of the last five years.
  • Smart Money ranked Texas A&M first nationally in payback ratio—the earnings levels of graduates compared to what they paid for their undergraduate educations.

Yes, a university education is expensive. It’s expensive because we are dedicated to providing the best experience for our students and having them taught by the best faculty. We could teach larger classes, teach all classes online, choose not to hire the very best faculty, or forego the outside-of-class educational opportunities (e.g., Freshman Business Initiative, Transitions program, Honors program, study abroad opportunities, or Aggies on Wall Street) that provide our students with skills they’ll use for a lifetime. Yes, we could make those changes but the value of our students’ education would certainly decline. Given the large number of applications for the Class of ’13 and the outstanding qualifications of our incoming class of freshmen, I can safely say our students view their education as an investment with a return of great value.

Categories: Deanspeak

Dear friends,

Normally, I use this forum to provide you with uplifting news about our faculty, staff, students, and programs. However, today I cannot do so. Earlier this week, Professor Jeff Conant, a member of our faculty since 1985, died unexpectedly. Jeff was a tremendous educator, colleague, and friend, and his passing will be felt deeply by many.

I first met Jeff in 2001 when I assumed the role of dean at Mays Business School. Like all who knew him, I was impressed with Jeff’s dynamic personality, his genuine concern for others, and his passion for teaching and for students. While Jeff’s career and life highlights are many, I was pleased to see his outstanding work recognized by his being named a Texas A&M University Presidential Professor for Teaching Excellence and to watch his leadership within Mays grow as he became department head. He was well suited for the job, a natural leader. Under his guidance, the marketing department has flourished.

Jeff was loved by his students as well as his colleagues. He was an important part of our Mays family and he will be sorely missed by all of those fortunate enough to know and work with him. Please join with me in keeping his family in your thoughts and prayers.

More information: Longtime A&M marketing professor and department head remembered

Categories: Deanspeak

What an amazing network of supporters we have. I must share with you I’ve been overwhelmed by a number of large gifts that have recently been committed toward perpetuating our outstanding faculty, students, programs, and facilities. From looking at our balance sheet, you’d never know that our country’s economy is still struggling. Indeed, the future of Mays Business School looks very bright.

  • A new gift from Peggy and Lowry Mays, our school namesakes, provides $7.5 million to endow and provide matching funds for faculty chairs and eminent scholar chairs. When matching funds are realized from other donors, the total impact of this gift will reach $12 million. Great faculty are the backbone of a superior education. The Mays gift will help us recruit the best minds in business education to lead in our classrooms. They, in turn, help us recruit the best and brightest students. We are thankful to Peggy and Lowry, whose continued involvement at the school bearing their name will help us build for the future.
  • Two anonymous donors have bequeathed estate gifts that will total $12 million when realized. Three million of these funds will be unrestricted in use with $9 million designated for scholarships. It is impossible for me to state fully the impact these gifts will have for our students. The generous benefactors behind these gifts don’t want to be recognized or singled out for praise. All they want is to translate their good fortune into something meaningful for the school that they love—and they have done so resoundingly. Their generosity will be a great blessing to Mays Business School for many years to come.
  • Other significant commitments during this time include a more than $2.5 million bequest from Kathie and Scott Amann ’78, a $1.2 million bequest from Toni and Ralph Wallingford ’53, and a $1 million bequest from Julia and T. Britton Harris IV ’80. Additionally, Mrs. Elizabeth Whatley, wife of James Whatley ’47 (a long-time supporter of Mays Business School) provided a gift of $1 million for an endowed faculty chair in honor of her husband.

Thank you for your interest in and support of Mays Business School. It’s former students and dedicated business people like you that enhance our ability to make a difference in the lives of our students.

Categories: Deanspeak

It is difficult to go anywhere, speak to anyone, or turn on the radio or television without hearing about the economy. These are indeed unprecedented times and will obviously have an impact on business schools across the world. I’ve heard a number of times—with an obvious trace of sarcasm—”this must be a great time to be dean of a business school.” People seem shocked to hear me say, “it sure is!” Here are three reasons why things are better than ever at Mays:

  • We have a wonderful opportunity to provide a dynamic education to our students. Our classes have shifted from relying on textbooks and published cases to reviewing the latest information in the most recent Wall Street Journal, Fortune, BusinessWeek, and other publications. Our top quality faculty members are teaching not only what is happening but also the reasons it is happening, and facilitating discussions on what outcomes may emerge.
  • Our students have an unprecedented opportunity to be part of a major shift. Our graduates will not be moving into a “business as usual” world with well-defined jobs. They have a chance to be part of something challenging, innovative, and evolving. They will witness changes in companies and industries as they begin their careers and be part of the solutions. This type of opportunity isn’t for everybody…but it is for students who are hardworking, creative, and not afraid to seek a challenge…like Mays graduates.
  • Employers will still seek talent from their best sources. Interviewing activity on campus is down this year; reading about the large number of layoffs, closures, and other corporate restructurings, that should surprise nobody. However, as employers become even more discerning about where they invest their recruiting efforts, due to our preferred status with many top organizations, Mays Business School will continue to see interest from recruiters; This was evidenced by the 112 companies who participated in our Business Student Council career fair last month.

This economy certainly presents challenges to all of us. Our goal at Mays Business School is not to prepare students for their first professional jobs, but to prepare them for their careers. This mindset, along with the top quality education our students receive, serves them well, particularly in times such as these.

Categories: Deanspeak

One of Texas A&M University’s core values is “selfless service.” Selfless service is often viewed as that which is performed without any expectation of result or award for the person performing it. From a simpler standpoint, selfless service means making one’s community, state, country, or world a better place.  At Mays, our faculty provides our students with an education and classroom experience second to none. However, in many cases, lessons our students practice outside of the classroom will remain with them longer, and make their impact on the world far greater, than anything done in our classrooms.

This month’s issue of Mays Business Online highlights the “spirit of service” that our Mays family demonstrates on a daily basis. From shipping care packages to soldiers in Iraq, to corresponding with others facing difficult circumstances, to providing toys to disadvantaged children at Christmas, our faculty, staff, and students not only illustrate Texas A&M’s core value, they epitomize it! Our recently developed sophomore-level class focusing on integrated worklife competencies challenges our students to identify a need for a local organization and develop a strategy to meet that need. The result? $48,000 worth of value provided by our students to local organizations in the fall semester.

The goal of any business school is to graduate future leaders who will make a difference in the world and influence the lives of others. Through their own actions, and their own initiatives, our students are already doing this.

I hope your holiday was restful and that 2009 is off to a great start for each of you. Please continue to stay in touch and please contact me if your travels bring you back to campus.

Jerry R. Strawser ’83
Dean, Mays Business School

Categories: Deanspeak

I don’t need to tell any of you how much the financial world has changed since the beginning of our fall semester. While many may think this to be an inopportune time to be studying business, I believe the exact opposite. In times such as this, an understanding of business, markets, and economic effects is more important than ever. A number of “market driven” events (driven by our students, faculty, and corporate partners) continue to bring today’s events into the classrooms of Mays Business School. Some examples include:

  • Representatives from Bank of America discussing current market events and their implications with our undergraduate students.
  • Mays faculty members providing an overview of the events that have culminated in the current market conditions and impact on the employment markets to our MBA Class of ’09.
  • Professor Len Bierman’s seminar class on a timely topic: the business issues addressed in the 2008 presidential election and the complicated relationship between money and politics.
  • One of the faculty-led freshman seminars at Mays in which a group of 13 students read and critiqued the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 recently passed by Congress.

These are simply a few examples. As a person walks the hallways of the Wehner Building and listens to the activities in our classrooms, these topics are replacing textbook chapters as our students’ learning materials, allowing them to significantly benefit from our faculty’s expertise and currency in their fields.

As I visit with our former students, many ask what the economic future will hold. While nobody knows with certainty, I am certain that our students will be prepared for it. This is our mission.

I hope you enjoy this issue of Mays Business Online. Please stay in touch and contact me if your travels bring you back to campus.

Jerry R. Strawser ’83
Dean, Mays Business School

Categories: Deanspeak