Mays Business School produces a fresh batch of capable, confident, and courageous young people at each commencement ceremony. This year is no different, when 1,310 students graduated with bachelor’s and master’s degrees Thursday, May 10. Here are some of their stories:
Amanda “Mandy” Miller
For management major Amanda “Mandy” Miller, selfless service is not only a core value through Texas A&M, it’s also a part of her everyday life. In June 2013, Miller got involved with the Adera Foundation, a nonprofit based in Ethiopia designed to use business as a solution to lead people toward self-sustainability. While working with Adera, she traveled and interned within Ethiopia on five separate occasions. During her time with the Adera Foundation, she created inventory systems and order forms through Microsoft Excel, developed and designed the website for Adera Designs, and connected Adera with two major accounts to carry jewelry from the program. It was involvement in this organization that led her to start her own social enterprise, “Buna: Grounded in Love,” in January 2016.
This initiative stemmed from a passion for two things: building social enterprises and combatting poverty. Buna: Grounded in Love is devoted to delivering an excellent product and providing employment opportunities for underprivileged women. Their hand-roasted coffee is available for purchase online, at pop-up markets, and at four local retailers, including Aggieland Outfitters. Mandy’s post-graduation plans include expanding her work with Buna: Grounded in Love by moving to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to take on a more hands-on role in using business to better people’s lives.
Cynthia “Cyndie” Meersman
Cynthia “Cyndie” Meersman completed her bachelor’s degree in management with a focus in Entrepreneurial Leadership. Like many students, she began taking classes in her major based on interests she held at the time, which for her included human resources and marketing–fields that generally involve high interaction and ingenuity. To refine her career plans and gain a more worldly perspective, Meersman studied in Norway for a summer. Not only did that experience allow her to gain cultural insights and friends from across the globe, her coursework provided a perspective that she always knew was there, but that she hadn’t fully explored.
Through a course exercise, Meersman learned that she prefers a job that is both autonomous and creative, much like she experiences with her love of painting. That course exercise sparked an idea: she could pursue her love of the arts within the realm of business. Drawing upon early course lessons in interaction and ingenuity, Meersman founded The Business of the Arts, a student organization designed to enlighten students about careers in art and how to make those careers a reality.
It is no surprise that along the way, Meersman’s entrepreneurial spirit led her to the Entrepreneurial Leadership track for her degree. Her integration of the arts in business will serve her well as she continues both passions after graduation, initially continuing to paint while she finalizes plans to pursue a graduate degree in art leadership on her path to museum and gallery management.
Mays management graduate Niyonsaba “Magnifique” grew up in a refugee camp in Tanzania. Arriving in Houston to a completely different life at the age of 12 provided her with a unique perspective, which translated to a passion helping those less fortunate than herself.
Magnifique was told at an early age by her parents that education is the key to success in life and the way to break the poverty cycle she had seen so much of in Tanzania. She graduated as the salutatorian of Lee High School in Houston and was awarded a full ride to Texas A&M University through the Posse Foundation.
She is quick to credit her success to mentors who have helped her succeed in both high school and college.
Magnifique has held leadership roles in a number of Texas A&M organizations, including Aggies Creating Sustainable Solutions, Maroon and White Leadership Fellows, and the Southwestern Black Student Leadership Conference. In addition, she completed an internship with BakerRipley, where she researched new curriculum for elementary ESL teachers to help foreign, illiterate students learn English. However, her desire to help others get the education they seek didn’t stop there.
Her goal after graduation is to run her own non-profit in Burundi and Rwanda with goals to raise scholarship funds to help underprivileged students complete their education and empower them to succeed. The oldest of three children, and a first-generation high school and now college graduate, Magnifique wants to continue to model the core values she has embraced while at Texas A&M.
- by Amy Pakes and Liesl Wesson
Accounting major Heather Berry faced several unique challenges throughout her three years at Mays after being admitted as a transfer student. First, as a non-traditional student, it took some time to settle in with the other younger undergraduate students around her. Heather says that “I liked to think that I blended in well” and it is true. Her peers would have never assumed this. She arrived in class dressed the same way, unpacked her backpack with her notes, and occasionally spent the few minutes before class catching up on her phone… she fit right in.
What her classmates probably did notice, however, was an interpreter who assisted Heather each class by interpreting the instructor’s lecture in sign language. As a deaf student at a hearing university, Heather had to navigate how to properly obtain accommodations to help her succeed as well as adapt to the classroom environment at Mays. This didn’t cause her to give up, however. Her interpreters consistently mentioned to her professors that it was a pleasure to work with someone as friendly as Heather and how she had a great sense of humor.
Just as Heather was finally in her groove her second year of classes, Heather got what many consider the greatest news of their lives: she was pregnant. Heather gave birth to her precious daughter in the winter of 2016. While many take time off after a newborn, she continued to take classes (notably her most difficult upper-level accounting coursework) in the next spring semester and each semester after that until graduation.
She balanced a newborn and her coursework, and still found some time to get some sleep.
She is proud of herself, and says she couldn’t have done it without the support of her boyfriend, nterpreters, and professors.
After graduation, Heather is excited to take a short break to relax and then start applying what she learned in her accounting coursework as an Accountant for Communication Service for the Deaf (a non-profit serving the deaf community).