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.”

Categories: MTLA

As most other programming has done this year, the Mays Transformational Leadership Academy kicked-off virtually on July 20, 2020. The Mays Transformational Leadership Academy is a program designed for rising high school seniors from underrepresented groups who have an interest in pursuing a business degree.

The objectives of this program are to:

  • Cultivate the leadership and academic potential of rising high school seniors
  • Allow students to experience on a first-hand basis a microcosm of the collegiate and professional lives of business students
  • Introduce talented students to career opportunities in business disciplines
  • Provide information about admission, scholarship funding, and high-impact programs available at Mays

Two participants and one student-leader at the 2020 Mays Transformational Leadership Academy shared their thoughts and feelings about the virtual experience. Read on below to see their #aMAYSing reflections.

Sofia Rojas, Participant

I heard about MTLA through an email sent to my mother, and she thought I would be interested. I didn’t have any hesitations about signing up because it was within my passion for business. Another benefit of why I signed up was the fact that it was supposed to be in person, and I was looking forward to staying there for four days. However, with COVID and just like any other situation life could have thrown at us, you guys found the solution and still made the program very special and valuable to young leaders in the business community, which I was very impressed by.

I didn’t know you could learn so much from just a zoom call. It was very interactive. I thought the small groups were a fantastic idea because it gives you an opportunity to be heard and get comfortable with talking to others little by little; that way, when you’re in the main room talking to everyone would become easier. There were also so many little things that just shows the effort put into this program:

  • the ice breaker activities and packages with a T-shirt;
  • Padlets to communicate with others and share our creativity;
  • connection with the professors and the ability to speak to all of them;
  • critical thinking and reflection.

After coming out of MTLA, I felt very stimulated/knowledgeable and already a part of the Mays Business school family, even if I hadn’t already applied to their school (which I definitely am). I am also 10000x blown away and super grateful for the scholarship I won. It was definitely something that wasn’t in my conscious state of mind. I was simply myself, and I was gifted with this opportunity. MTLA is definitely a program I would recommend to anyone going into the business field. I am beyond impressed and thankful for the opportunity I took throughout those four days!

P.S. These 4 days will prepare me for wanting years at this school!


Pablo De La Garza, Participant

I heard about MTLA by looking for opportunities to participate in a summer program with the Mays School of Business.

Entering the program I was hesitant because I was worried that it would be difficult to connect with fellow participants and get an understanding of the environment of the Mays School of Business because of the program’s transition to a virtual platform. However, all of these fears were quickly alleviated after MTLA began.

The highlights of MTLA included connecting with current and former Mays students in order to learn more about the school. Another highlight was when we did activities that helped us identify our core values and the type of leaders that we are. MTLA taught me how to have an inclusive mindset as a person and how to use the inclusive mindset in leadership positions in order to become the best leader I can be.

Coming out of MTLA I feel confident in my decision to apply to the Mays Business School as my number 1 choice for higher education. I also feel confident in myself as a person, student, and leader.


Veronica Holsem ’22, Small group leader

I heard about MTLA from Dr. Nancy Hutchins in the middle of the summer. I was a part of MABS (Multicultural Association of Business Students) last year where I worked with Dr. Hutchins on various events and affairs that concerned the organization. Dr. Hutchins and I maintained communication because we connected during our time together. It was through her outreach that I became involved and in MTLA.

I was originally recruited to be a panelist during the Majors and the Organizations sessions, but as the start date of MTLA approached, Dr. Hutchins requested me to serve as a small group leader as well. Both of these roles were fulfilling in different ways. One of the most interesting things about MTLA was seeing the week through a different set of eyes as I switched roles multiple times. It was through these different experiences that I found MTLA to be an incredible opportunity for growth in myself in different ways.

I was immensely hesitant about participating in MTLA. I was added to the team only a few days before the start date and I was concerned about my ability to effectively serve in the roles that were being asked of me. I felt as if I had to “play catch up” the week before the start date so that I would not disappoint anybody. However, as the first day of MTLA approached, I asked questions, created a plan for speaking parts, and dug through the team drive to ensure that I knew what was expected of me. After the first day passed, I was fully confident in my ability to be a successful small group leader and panelist.

The experience I had was one of growth. While the experience was partially one of personal growth, the more important one was growth through the students that I worked with during the MTLA program. At the start of the week, the students were apprehensive to participate in the activities and discussion but by the end of the week, they were direct messaging each other and asking speakers in-depth questions about Mays and using the information to make an informed decision about their future.

Now, after MTLA, I feel valuable as a representative of Mays and influential as a peer advisor coming out of MTLA. Serving as a small group leader gave me the opportunity to represent Mays Business School and communicate with potential students all the various ways that Mays can add value to their college experience. For example, in the mornings we had break-out time with our small group where I had several minutes to speak on my personal experience at Mays. After these sessions, my small group told me that it was those particular moments where they found the most value when it came to learning about Mays because hearing about an actual student’s stories are influential to their decision to come to Mays.



Categories: Mays Business, MTLA, Students