Mays Business School is a place where outstanding business faculty and outstanding business students meet to create outstanding business education. On Sept. 9, over a Friday afternoon lunch, faculty and students met with the goal of understanding each of their roles in the education process from the perspective of the other through an exercise called Mutual Expectations.

The session was hosted by the Mays Academy of Learning and Teaching (MALT), a newly formed coalition of faculty, staff and students of Mays Business School committed to excellence in the learning process. MALT was born through the collaboration of faculty across departments, specifically fellows of the Wakonse and Wakonse South conferences for college teaching.

The Wakonse Fellowship brings together faculty, teaching and learning professionals from postsecondary institutions who recognize and are devoted to the inspirational aspect of the teaching and learning process. Participants at Wakonse Conferences on College Teaching return to their campuses to share and promote the excitement of teaching — particularly in higher education.

Mutual Expectations, an exercise brought home to Wehner from Wakonse, was the centerpiece of the inaugural MALT event. The session began with students and professors talking over lunch to become acquainted (or to catch up from the summer) before being broken into groups. Small groups of faculty were asked to answer three questions: First, what are students’ expectations of their professors? Second, what are professors’ expectations of their students? And third, which of these expectations are held by both parties? The MALT team provided Venn diagrams to be filled in with the answers to these three questions. After the diagrams were full, the results were shared to establish a group consensus among the faculty.

The panel of students participating in the exercise then presented their results. As they did, the discussion began.

From the professors:

  • “What does is mean for us to be “transparent?'”
  • “What should we do about the use of cell phones or laptops in the classroom?”
  • “Feedback on student evaluations affects us personally and professionally.”

From the students:

  • “Fairness in grading is better than giving an easy “A.'”
  • “Where is the line between participating in class and monopolizing class time?”
  • “We expect teaching to be the top priority when you are in the classroom.”

The beauty of the exercise is that it happens in a safe setting where students and faculty alike can speak freely and honestly. This environment draws out issues, promotes the development of solutions, and gives each side the opportunity to understand the other.

Feedback from the session reflects this better understanding. Students’ eyes were opened to the sheer scope of responsibilities that come with being faculty at a university like Texas A&M. Faculty were able to grasp the pressures, opportunities, and challenges of being a student in the Millennial generation. Both sides were reminded of the reality that their counterparts in the classroom are humans with strengths and flaws, successes and failures, professional and personal lives, needs and expectations.

One of the transcendent themes learned in this session is that optimal teaching practices promote optimal learning, and at the same time, optimal learning practices promote optimal teaching. Governed by a cycle like this, the quality of the education that occurs in our building never stays the same; it is constantly increasing or decreasing. Through sessions like Mutual Expectations, MALT is ensuring that the quality of our learning and teaching remains on the rise.

Categories: Perspectives

I am about to start my junior year at Mays, and I could not be more excited about it. In just a few short weeks, I will get to meet the new freshmen in my small group as an FBI peer leader, and I will teach my first course in Mays. I am not sure what to expect of this year, but I am certain it will be a year to remember.

For those of you who are not familiar, FBI stands for the Freshman Business Initiative. It is a great program for incoming freshmen that allows them to have at least one class in Mays during their first semester and to meet some of their peers. The class is set up so that the freshmen go to large lecture once a week with Professor Shontarius Aikens and then go to small group once a week. Each small group is made up of about 15 freshmen and has two upper class peer leaders who serve as mentors, teachers and event planners.

Each FBI small group is made up of about 15 freshmen and has two upper class peer leaders who serve as mentors, teachers and event planners.
Each FBI small group is made up of about 15 freshmen and has two upper class peer leaders who serve as mentors, teachers and event planners.

This is my second year as a peer leader, and my small group last year had some great times together. To help the freshmen bond and get to know their peers in Mays, we had events like glow-in-the-dark capture the flag, trips to Spoons Frozen Yogurt, an Italian dinner, a Halloween party, and a Christmas party complete with cookies and hot chocolate! I was surprised by how close our small group got by the end of the year and how much our freshmen looked up to us. I was so proud when one of my freshmen texted me in January and told me he had gotten into the Business Honors program that I had encouraged all of them to apply for. I still call my peer leaders from freshmen year for advice, and I hope that my freshmen feel that they can do the same. Last semester, there was talk that FBI was going to be cut due to a smaller budget for Mays, and I could not be happier that the program was saved. Programs like FBI help to set Mays apart from other competitive business schools and instead foster a friendly environment of collaboration that Texas A&M can be proud of.

Last spring, I took a course on the environment of international business with the executive director of the Center for International Business Studies, Dr. Kerry Cooper. It was one of the best classes I have ever taken at Mays and left a lasting impression on me. It was the first class I had been in that spent hours discussing current events and how international occurrences affect us here at home. When my friend Kyle Klansek and I found out that the class would no longer be offered at Mays due to Dr. Cooper’s retirement, we decided that we had to do something about it.

Kyle and I decided to create our own one-hour seminar to fill the void that the elimination of Dr. Cooper’s class would leave. Our seminar, The International Importance of Emerging Markets, essentially concentrates on the BRIC countries and how they will affect business in our lifetime. The BRIC countries of Brazil, Russia, India and China make up the emerging markets that are in the process of rapid growth and industrialization. We will stress how to do business with these different cultures and what each country’s advancement means for Americans in business.

I was fortunate enough to go on a study abroad trip to India to experience firsthand what I was learning about in the classroom.
I was fortunate enough to go on a study abroad trip to India to experience firsthand what I was learning about in the classroom.

For example, while it can be argued that China has already emerged as the Chinese now hold the largest portion of the United State’s debt, there is no contesting that anyone who wants to be successful in business today needs to understand how the Chinese are artificially depressing the value of their renminbi, the official currency of the People’s Republic of China, in order to remain competitive in today’s manufacturing sectors. Likewise, while India has made huge strides in becoming a world player in the computer programming market, India needs to put an end to government corruption to be able to have the funds for the proper infrastructure that the country needs for quick transportation. I was actually fortunate enough to go on the study abroad trip with Dr. Julian Gaspar to Bangalore and Mysore, India, to experience firsthand what I was learning about in the classroom.

To make learning about emerging markets fun, Kyle and I want to set up a game type atmosphere in which the students are placed in four teams representing Brazil, Russia, India, and China. We will bring a real international event that has recently occurred to class, discuss it, and then give the teams time to decide how their country would respond. The country with the best response will earn points and the team with the most points at the end of the semester will get extra points added to their grade. We feel that this will be an interesting way to learn about the emerging markets and discuss international events at the same time.

Kyle and I hope to also utilize guest speakers and videos in the classroom to keep things exciting. I am nervous about teaching students my own age, and I keep thinking of small details that I had never thought of before. Should Kyle and I wear business casual when we teach the class to set ourselves apart from the students? How should we advertise our class to make it seem worthwhile? How much homework do we assign? I hope our class is a success, and I hope this is the best semester yet – but only time will tell!

Categories: Perspectives

Texas A&M Global Business Brigades just arrived back in the United States after an amazing week in Tortí Abajo, Panama. The mission of Global Business Brigades is to create sustainable change by empowering students and communities. Our organization provides a hands-on international business experience by taking a group of Texas A&M students on a week-long brigade to Central America to help micro-entrepreneurs realize their dream of escaping poverty and experiencing true economic development. With this organization, we traveled down to Panama and used our business knowledge to consult with various families and communities that need assistance. However, instead of simply giving them a material solution, such as money or some kind of donation, we instead impart knowledge. Our Texas A&M chapter uses the motto, “Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime.”

Our most recent brigade took place in Panama just a few weeks ago.
Our most recent brigade took place in Panama just a few weeks ago.

Our most recent brigade was during May of 2011, about a week after finals ended for the spring semester. While in Panama we learned a new dance move called “el choque.” If interested, you can learn this move on your own time. However, choque can have several meanings in Spanish, and one of the most literal translations is “shock.” This trip has definitely shocked me in many ways, both good and bad, on which I will elaborate.

I was shocked at the amazing bond 31 people were able to form. Our brigades in the past have been 18 and 11 students, respectively, and both times we had two brigade leaders from Global Brigades. This trip consisted of 25 Aggies, one professional from Apple, and 5 Global Brigades staff members! And yet, there is not a single person I did not get to know about. I truly feel I learned as much from interacting with these different individuals as I have through my college classes.

I was shocked at the success of Global Brigades newest model. It’s not often that an organization can completely reinvent itself, and do so successfully. However, Global Business Brigades has done just that. With an emphasis on the community and individual family goals/needs, GB has truly implemented a model that defines sustainable development. Instead of allowing the simple act of giving a physical object define our work, we learned to focus on the intangibles such as education on savings, budgets, loans, project planning, business organization, and co-operative assistance. In the long run, this knowledge is what can bring this community economic growth and can create an independence that will benefit its members in the long run.

I was shocked that I now see a long-term relationship for Global Brigades and myself. After my third brigade this past week, I truly thought this would end my time with Texas A&M GBB and Global Brigades at large. It was just an organization that I participated in during college, and amazing as it was, nothing more. However, this trip has opened up a truly remarkable plan for my life that I cannot wait to embark upon. I was taken aside by the GB staff members on the trip and literally told that this cannot be the end of my relationship with GB. Whether I come back on another brigade, come back as a translator for a summer, or as a member of the GB staff, I want to remain involved. I would take a job with GB in a heartbeat! Although, logistically there are some things to work out, it is amazing to know what kind of career opportunity could await for me with such a worthwhile organization.

Business knowledge can bring communities like this economic growth and create an independence that will benefit its members in the long run.
Business knowledge can bring communities like this economic growth and create an independence that will benefit its members in the long run.

I was shocked at the parallels I drew between my future internship and the work in Panama. This summer I will be interning with Bain & Company. I remember preparing for the case interviews and spending countless hours addressing business problems and strategic plans and assessing issues, etc. Case interviews I was presented with included anything from qualitative marketing issues to quantitative mergers & acquisitions. For example, I had one case that was about how to open up a car rental business. In the interview, I looked at potential revenue streams, the market available for such a venture, the various fixed and variable costs associated with this project, and came to a conclusion on the reasonableness of this idea. WE DID THE EXACT SAME THING IN PANAMA! However, instead of looking at things on a corporate level, we addressed issues on an entrepreneurial level. For example, one of our families wanted to start a chicken business, and we helped him assess all the startup costs and continuation costs, his potential sales, and devised a plan for him to take out a micro-loan with the upcoming cooperative. Truly astounding, the parallels that can be found.

I was shocked at the amount of stuff I personally learned. Ask me about chicken farming, planting yucca, or Coca-Cola distribution in Panama and I can tell you almost everything you need to know!

I was shocked to realize that my love of international development work and my awesome opportunity with Bain & Company at the corporate level can actually go hand in hand. With the newly implemented idea of Professional Brigades, I can actually taken my passion for Global Brigades with me to Bain and hopefully implement some kind of partnership. In the long run, I would love to have Bain become a major partner in Global Brigades work, where each time a university across the nation goes abroad on a brigade, we send any willing Bain employee with them to give more business expertise to the work being done. I was skeptical at the thought of mixing professionals with students’ brigades at first, but after having an employee of Apple from California assist us on this past brigade, I have nothing but high hopes for this idea!


Our Texas A&M chapter uses the motto, “Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime.”

This information does not even begin to cover all the small and minor details and stories that made this trip unbelievably amazing!

  • Chasing frogs around at 4 AM
  • Late night sessions crunching numbers for a community member
  • Dancing to Spanish music and learning moves I didn’t know were possible
  • Learning that every single member in the community is probably related to each other
  • Experiencing the joy of seeing the excitement of a community member when they finalized realized the benefits of the information we taught them
  • Volleyball in the rain in Panama with indigenous Embera
  • Attempting to learn the nasally indigenous Embera language
  • Eating a freshly killed and cooked deer at the urging of one of our families
  • Softball game with the community
  • Late night conversations about life, our future, and our pasts
  • Haircuts from the future community salon owner
  • and much, Much, MUCH more!

To learn more, please visit globalbrigades.org or gbb.tamu.edu.

Categories: Perspectives

Studying for finals is always a bummer, but when you just found out you won a coveted fashion scholarship and are going to New York on an all expense paid trip, studying is impossible. When I started the case study for my marketing elective class, little did I know that I would win one of the YMA FSF scholarships. The non-profit organization founded by fashion designer Geoffery Beene to grant scholarships and mentorships to students. It was such a surprise when Professor Sandi Lampo called me and told me the news; studying was so off the menu.

The trip gave us an incredible opportunity to meet CEOs, designers, and presidents of huge fashion corporations. Here our group is with Kenneth Cole CMO Doug Jakubowski.
The trip gave us an incredible opportunity to meet CEOs, designers, and presidents of huge fashion corporations.

Landing at La Guardia sent a shiver of excitement over my body, I was actually in New York and the next day I would be attending the awards dinner and meeting CEOs, designers, and presidents of huge fashion corporations. The taxi ride to the Waldorf Astoria was actually a great experience, I felt like a real New Yorker. After about a 20-minute ride, I arrived at my hotel and stood in awe of the Waldorf. This hotel was once home to Frank Sinatra, Cole Porter, and a million other famous and successful people; everything about the hotel dazzled me.

That night the group of Texas A&M girls gathered in the lobby and decided on a big dinner to celebrate our accomplishments. We took a taxi, yet again, and arrived at a posh restaurant in the meatpacking district. When we walked up to the restaurant we were informed that it was closed for a private party, but we didn’t care about the inconvenience because we were in New York and everything, no matter how annoying, it felt new and fresh. So we walked half a block and found an adorable little French restaurant and ate a wonderful meal that was much needed after hours of walking earlier that day in the city.

The whole next day was devoted to practicing for the awards dinner. We had to make sure that we were on cue with the music, our pace was right on time, and we were in the right groups according to school. Even though we were all college students, this took a substantially long time because we were in awe of the grand ballroom and all the festivities that were taking place to prepare for the dinner.

After practicing ended, we had a little time to primp our hair and fix our makeup before the VIP reception with the board of executives. As we walked into the cocktail reception, the executives and our mentor, Sherri Rosenfeld, greeted us. She had been helping us with our cases throughout the semester and being our advocate to the board who were deciding which cases were worthy of winning. I was mingling with the executives, when a man walked up to our group. I recognized him because, being the overachiever I am, I had made a dossier of the executives and memorized their faces and positions. The man was Tom Hutton, the CEO of Geoffrey Beene, and he was coming up to talk to us because he said our papers impressed him. This was a surreal moment for me, the CEO of a major company thought that my ideas were impressive and was congratulating me for my accomplishments. The reception lasted for about an hour and we met the CEO of Macy’s, the CEO of Phillips-Van Huessen, and the presidents of both of these companies — along with many, many more people of the same stature, and all of them seemed impressed with us.

The awards dinner was an amazing experience; the master of ceremonies, Mary Alice Stevenson who is a celebrity stylist, honored us. All of the scholars sat at a long elegant table in the center of the ballroom because we were the highlight of the dinner. I felt so honored to be congratulated for my achievements among a group of such highly esteemed and successful individuals. It was an event that I will never forget, and I am so blessed to have been chosen to receive the scholarship.

Thanks to my mother and father for helping me with this amazing achievement and to Dr. Lampo for pushing us through all the obstacles of this case study. I think she probably spent more time on our projects than we did, editing them and sending them to us to revise and keeping us motivated to work hard. And thanks to God because without Him, none of this would be possible.

Categories: Perspectives

There are not many experiences that I’ve had in life that compare with taking the calloused and dirty foot of a 5-year-old girl in Argentina, and seeing her joy as I placed a new pair of bright red shoes on her feet. This moment, and over a million more like it, have all been made possible because of a for-profit business that built social good into their bottom line from day one.

TOMS Shoes is a company that gives away one pair of shoes to kids in need for every pair that they sell: “One for One.” It was founded by Blake Mycoskie on a trip to Argentina in 2006 when he made the simple promise to 250 barefoot kids that he would find a way to get them shoes. Now, four years and over one million pairs of shoes later, TOMS Shoes is just getting started.

Howdy, my name is Andy Ellwood, the proudest member of the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Class of 2004 and a finance graduate of Mays Business School. I live in New York City and I am the director of business development for Gowalla, a company that inspires people to go out and discover the world, share it with their friends, and record the experiences they have around the places that go. (To join, go to www.gowalla.com or download the app for your smart phone.)

My trip to Argentina was the culmination of a fantastic business campaign that I helped pull together between AT&T, TOMS Shoes, and Gowalla. AT&T, who has been a part of the TOMS Shoes story for years, wanted to help celebrate the huge milestone that TOMS Shoes reached in the fall of 2010: one million pairs of shoes given away. We crafted a two-week campaign that highlighted both TOMS Shoes and AT&T creatively within Gowalla with tremendous results, some of the best that we’d ever seen. The grand prize for one lucky winner was a trip for two to Argentina to be a part of the one millionth Shoe Drop.

So, in addition to our winners, the team from AT&T, and TOMS Shoes, I and the CEO of Gowalla, Josh Williams, headed down to Argentina to help out and see the positive impact of our work up close.

I wish I had the words to describe what it is like to get down on your knees in front of a an eight-year-old girl named Clarissa and take off her hand-me-down hole-filled shoes and place a pair of TOMS Shoes on her feet. I wish there were words for her smile as she admired her new shoes for the next hour knowing that they were hers only and that they were beautiful.

I wish I could show the highlight reel from a soccer game that I organized with 20 boys and a new soccer ball. I would love to show the pride that I felt when I, in broken Spanish, and with the help of a great kid named Andoline, convinced them to all line up, shoulder to shoulder, from “grande” to “pequeno,” and then split them into two teams, “unos” and “doses.” The pure raw talent that came out on the field, the joy that something as simple as a new soccer ball brought, the images of all these boys running faster because of new shoes on their feet: how can I show that?

I wish I had the words to capture the pride in Juan Carlos senior’s eyes as I placed a brand new pair of TOMS on 5-year-old Juan Carlos junior’s feet. I wish I could capture the pure joy on Juan Carlos junior’s feet as he took his first steps EVER with shoes on. There aren’t words for that kind of joy or the feeling I had when he started to run like he’d probably never run before, feet protected from the rough earth below.

As I talked with family and friends about the trip in the weeks and months since returning back to New York, I have resorted to words like “amazing,” “awesome,” and “incredible” to capture the sentiments of my memories and in place of the ability to truly convey the life-changing experience that took place. It is a strange place for me to be, without words. It is a humbling place to be, to know that I experienced something that, naively, I had hoped I’d be able to capture in 140 characters or a succinct summary for a blog post. And it is a refreshing feeling to know that the story we began in Argentina has only begun.

I struggle to recount the images, stories, and people who impacted me in Argentina. I am fighting even more with the responsibility to live up to the knowledge that I now carry with me. The knowledge that one simple idea can change the world. That one passionate attempt to help 250 kids years ago has led to an adventure that has now helped over a million. To see firsthand a model of sustainable giving in action, and have an ever-evolving belief that business can and should be a force for change validated. To know that the bar for potential impact on this world has been set that much higher.

To know that I am now a part of that story has forever changed my perspective.

Categories: Perspectives

As I walk into the classroom, the children’s eyes light up. The room fills with every English greeting word they knew: “hello, good morning, how are you, hello teacher!” All of us Peace Corps trainees are overwhelmed. The kids in Chernigov, Ukraine are so excited to meet us!

We are teaching English in the local school systems. My class consists of sixteen 12- and 13-year-olds. They are all very attentive and respectful. As I walk through the hallways, kids stare at me and recite any English words they know. A local teacher recently told me that one of the students said her dream has always been to meet a real American and hear how we speak. It is comments like this that get me excited about the work we are doing here.

My Ukranian host mom and me.
My Ukranian host mom and me.

Howdy! My name is Jeramie Heflin. I am a 2010 management major from Mission, Texas, and I am currently serving in the Peace Corps in Ukraine. There are 80 volunteers in my group. Ukraine currently has the greatest amount of Peace Corps volunteers in one country, with over 300 Americans serving.

These first three months in Ukraine I am in training—Russian language training, technical training on teaching, and cross-cultural training—all in the city of Chernigov.

The city has a population of 350,000, so there is good transportation, an Internet café, a university, nice parks, and as my host family likes to tell me almost daily, McDonalds!

My host family consists of a woman named Sveta and her 16-year-old daughter, Nadia. When I first met them, I was greeted with a warm, Ukrainian welcome, including a large meal: salad, fresh cut vegetables, meat and noodles. Then the main course: Ukrainian borsch—beets, onions, tomatoes and carrots, fresh from the family’s summerhouse. It was delicious.

It is common for families here in Ukraine to have a small summerhouse outside of the city where they grow their own produce. Sveta and Nadia have been so nice to me these first few weeks. I am amazed by their hospitality and their patience as they help me to learn Russian.

Every day I ride the bus to my language teacher’s house for a four- to five-hour Russian lesson. Learning Russian is very difficult; every noun is either feminine or masculine, so every other word in the sentence must change to match the gender of the noun. This is a hard concept for me to wrap my mind around, but I am determined to learn the language so that I can be effective in my service.

It is a Ukrainian welcoming tradition to break off a piece of this special bread and dip it in salt. The Peace Corps did this with us when we arrived.
It is a Ukrainian welcoming tradition to break off a piece of this special bread and dip it in salt. The Peace Corps did this with us when we arrived.

I have always been told that you can learn a lot about yourself through the eyes of others. Even though it is only my fourth week here, I am amazed at the reputation we as Americans have here in Ukraine. We volunteers feel the weight of this reputation. Many of us are the first Americans the citizens have ever met. To these people, we are America. Every action, every word is automatically associated with the United States.

My host mom talks on the phone about me daily—in Russian, so I can’t understand all of what she says, but I hear my name. She discusses everything—what I ate, what I am doing, how I have a hard time pronouncing certain Russian words. I experienced some of this American novelty while I was on a study abroad trip in Denmark, but not to the extent that I am experiencing here in Ukraine. It is a huge deal to these people that we are Americans living in their country; I just hope we can live up to the reputation our great country has set before us.

In December I will swear in to service for a two-year commitment to teach English in a Ukrainian school. Every day I am reminded of how blessed I am to have been born and raised in The United States. I am looking forward to giving back to my country by serving in Ukraine. In the end, I expect that I will learn more from the people here than I could ever teach.

Categories: Perspectives

For the first 31 years of my life, I hated running. I really hated running. The notion that anyone would run on their own for recreation seemed absurd. In fact, I remember looking at the people jogging around our neighborhood and thinking that they had to be crazy. Who does that for fun? Certainly not me.

Well, now I am one of those crazy people. A few weeks ago I completed my first marathon—26.2 miles up and down the steep hills of San Francisco.

How did that happen?

It all started a little over a year ago — July 18, 2009, to be exact — when I decided it was time to start exercising regularly. I wanted to lose a few pounds (okay, maybe more than a few) so I could keep up with my two young children and generally enjoy the numerous benefits of a healthier lifestyle.

So that night I grabbed my iPod, hopped on the treadmill in our bedroom and started walking at a leisurely pace. Ten minutes and half a mile later, I had to stop. I was sweaty, tired and seemingly close to death. I could not go any further.

One of the great things about working on campus is that there's no shortage of 5Ks to run in on the weekends.
One of the great things about working on campus is that there’s no shortage of 5Ks to run in on the weekends.

It wasn’t the greatest of starts, but I decided to come back and do it again the next night. I survived that second night too, and before I knew it, I began to pick up a little bit of speed. Eventually, it stopped feeling like each step might be my last.

When the treadmill broke, I decided to invest in a membership at the Texas A&M Rec Center. That was fantastic…until 40,000 students came back into town at the beginning of the fall semester and packed the gym wall to wall. As the semester progressed, it became harder and harder to find an open treadmill or exercise bike. Frustrated and tired of waiting around, I decided to do the unthinkable—run outdoors.

I knew I was going to hate it. Those people in my neighborhood always looked miserable. There was no air conditioning outdoors. No television to watch. No towel or water fountain handy when I needed a break. I mean, really, this is Texas. We do everything indoors if we have a choice.

Once I ran outside, though, something unexpected happened. Not only did I survive my first jogging excursion, I enjoyed it. It felt I was actually doing something instead of only mindlessly moving my legs to keep up with the treadmill. It gave me the chance to explore campus and see parts of Aggieland that I hadn’t seen since my days as an undergrad. Most importantly, it gave me an hour to think clearly without interruptions from phone calls, e-mail or other people. Running outdoors wasn’t tiring. It was relaxing. It was invigorating. I LIKED it. Maybe all those joggers weren’t crazy after all.

“When I got on that treadmill last summer, I didn’t want to finish a marathon. I just wanted to do more than I done the day before. It’s amazing how far that can take you.”

Throughout that fall, I ran in a number of 5Ks and smaller races here on campus. At the end of the year, I decided I was ready to take things to a new level and I signed up for the Austin Half-Marathon in February. I had a blast doing it, so I ran in two more half-marathons that spring. It was official: I was no longer a couch potato. I was a runner.

As the summer began, I faced the prospect of several hot months without a race to train for. I wasn’t excited about waiting until October for my next half-marathon in San Antonio and I was worried that I’d lose motivation as the temperature skyrocketed. I needed something to keep me going. Something big.

After a few weeks of careful contemplation and a sudden fit of insane overconfidence, I signed up for the San Francisco Marathon. Up until that point, the farthest I had run was about 18 miles (and all of that on the flat roads of Texas). I honestly didn’t know if I was going to be able to do it, but I had my goal for the summer — figure out some way to survive 26.2 miles of those famously steep hills by the bay.

Five hours and 42 minutes after I started, I crossed the finish line. (That's me on the left in the yellow.)
Five hours and 42 minutes after I started, I crossed the finish line. (That’s me on the left in the yellow.)

As the weeks of training went by, it wasn’t always easy or fun. Some days it was downright miserable. Minor pains began to linger on and pile up, the temperature continued to climb and the question of whether I could actually run that far increasingly weighed on my mind.

In running, there’s something called “the wall” — the point at which your body screams for you stop and the only thing that keeps you going is sheer willpower. It’s the point where runners succeed or fail, where the men are separated from the boys, so to speak. It’s commonly said that most people hit their wall at around the 20-mile mark — a distance that I had yet to achieve. I was terrified of reaching my wall and not being able to get past it.

Finally, on July 25, 2010, the big day arrived. My wife joined me in San Francisco (she ran in the half-marathon, a first for her as well) and we ran the first seven miles of the course together. As the race wound through Fisherman’s Wharf, out over the Golden Gate Bridge and back, through Golden Gate Park and then the narrow, steep streets of San Francisco, I couldn’t help but be amazed by the beauty of the city. Soon, the pressure of finishing dissipated as I stopped stressing out and instead took the time to appreciate my surroundings.

By the time I reached mile 20, I wasn’t worried about hitting the wall any more. I was determined to make it, even if it meant crawling those last six miles on hands and knees. It didn’t come to that, though, because with each step, I felt more and more sure of crossing the finish line.

Sometimes, 5,495th place isn't all that bad.
Sometimes, 5,495th place isn’t all that bad.

As I rounded the last turn and ran down the Embarcadero towards the finish line, one of the college-aged girls that had been running with me for the last few miles turned to me and said, “You know, old man, you’re awesome.”

And you know what? She was right (although perhaps not about the “old man” part). For that day at least, I was awesome. Not because I finished the race. Not because I had finished all those other races in the past year or because of the 1,239 miles of training I had done in twelve months.

I was awesome because I did something that I didn’t know I could do. For one brief moment, I surpassed my own expectations and discovered that my limit wasn’t where I thought it was. I still have room to grow as a person and achieve new goals, as long as I’m willing to put in the work. And that is truly awesome.

Categories: Perspectives

Graduation day. I had rehearsed, but I was still a little nervous about carrying the top-heavy gonfalon in front of thousands of people. At the same time, I was full of confidence — out of all the graduates of Mays this year, I had been chosen for this task. I was humbled and honored. When I was notified of the selection, I could think of so many peers that would be more deserving. But, I would fulfill the responsibility with honor and class. As I was walking behind all of the stage party, representing Mays Business School, I thought to myself, “How did I get here?”

• • • • •

Move-in day, August of 2005. Hot is an understatement when used to describe College Station in August, but that didn’t stop thousands of young Aggies and parents from lugging mini-fridges and futons up three flights of stairs in the mid-day sun. I remember walking into my dorm, McInnis Hall, and the first words ever spoken in my room. “Looks just the same as when I lived here 35 years ago!” Thanks Dad. I chose my bed, finished unloading the car, and my parents were on their way. And so, the journey had begun.


“I certainly didn’t make it to graduation alone. None of us did.”

It took me about a semester to get acclimated to this new lifestyle, that of a college student. When the spring semester arrived, I was ready to get involved. This would be the most important decision I made in my college career. I joined The Big Event committee as a staff assistant, and I was admitted into One Army: Texas Aggie Men United.

Through One Army, my eyes were opened to the true responsibility of a leader: to serve. It didn’t take long to realize that being a leader meant making sacrifices and putting others’ needs first. One of my most vivid memories is of holding the service chair position. We created a new philanthropy event to benefit Still Creek Ranch. Coincidentally, this came at one of the busiest times in my academic career, PPA recruiting. Three days away from the event, so much was still up in the air. It was about 3:00 a.m. and I was in my room, reviewing the list of things still to be done, and I thought, “There’s no way; we are never going to make it…”

I was wrong. In the days that followed, I saw our organization work together like never before. The event was a huge success. When we delivered the check to Still Creek Ranch, we were reminded of the reason for our efforts. There are about 40 reasons—the children living at the facility. The men in One Army understand service and they helped me understand, too. Thanks guys. I’m proud to call you brothers.

• • • • •

It was senior year and I was in Accounting 407 (Auditing) with Dr. Mike Shaub. Even though I was far from one of his best students, he made an investment in my life that has changed me forever. For over a year, we have met for coffee about once a week. If you know Dr. Shaub, I need not explain his ability to impact people through his grace and wisdom, but for those that don’t know him, I will share a little of my experience. There were days that I overslept, there were days that I hardly slept and couldn’t organize my thoughts, but one thing was constant: Dr. Shaub greeted me with a smile and a welcoming handshake. We talked about so many things. Primarily, he helped me grow in my faith, not only by talking with me, but also by living every day by his faith in God. Dr. Shaub, you will never really know how much you have changed my life. Thank you, and I look forward to continuing our friendship for years to come.

I have so many experiences and stories, but these are a few that I cherish. Clearly, the most important lessons I learned in college were outside the classroom. Make no mistake, doing well in the classroom and learning how to learn is one reason we come to college. Another reason is to develop as people that embody the Aggie core values and leave here ready to live with integrity and represent our alma mater with dignity. Never forget that.

• • • • •

As I walked across the stage carrying the gonfalon, I thought about all of the people that had helped me along the way. I certainly didn’t make it to graduation alone. None of us did. I thought about the journey ahead: soon I would be leaving for New York City to work for PricewaterhouseCoopers in the audit practice. I was filled with joy, confidence, and excitement. My future was unknown. One thing I did know, I would miss Texas A&M, Mays Business School and all of the student organizations, but I would always carry with me the lessons that I have learned: Live a life of service and always invest in the lives of other people; serve God, love people, and the insignificant things in life, which is everything else, will remain as unimportant as they should.

Gig “em,
Taylor W. Bradshaw “09

A note about the Mays Business School gonfalon: The golden knot symbolizes unity and coordination of the disciplines of business administration. Surrounding the golden knot, a field of purple represents the rank of authority. The foundation of lozenges under the triangle illustrates the flow of order.

Categories: Perspectives

In August 1993, I weighed approximately 175 pounds. In February 2010, I weighed in at 302 pounds. How did I gain 127 pounds over the course of 17 years? The culprit: Poor nutrition and eating habits that I developed in college. During college, I had a very active lifestyle due to involvement in the marching band and intramural sports, but after college, the active lifestyle was replaced with a focus on career advancement. However, my poor nutrition and eating habits continued, and it would catch up with me eventually.

In the past, I’ve tried radical diet plans, food portioning strategies, exercise equipment, and home workout video programs to lose weight. After a few weeks of good results, my interest and commitment level would disappear, and I would resort to my old habits. There was a point in the past where I had decided to be content with being overweight.

My wife forwarded me information on the 2010 MaretHouse Fitness Challenge Contest. I figured that I had nothing to lose, so I submitted my application. From my understanding, there were hundreds of applications, and the committee selected approximately 30 people for interviews. Out of this, six people would be selected; I was excited to find out that I was one of them.

During orientation, David Marethouse, owner of MaretHouse Fitness, taught us the basics of nutrition and weight loss. David has the ability to make complex health and fitness terminology easy to understand. More importantly, he is really good at explaining the reasoning behind certain healthy practices. I learned more about nutrition in those two-and-a-half hours than I had learned in my entire life.

When I weighed in on my final workout day, my unofficial numbers indicated that I had lost a total of 35 pounds, and my body-fat percentage had decreased by 8.2 percent.
When I weighed in on my final workout day, my unofficial numbers indicated that I had lost a total of 35 pounds, and my body-fat percentage had decreased by 8.2 percent.

All of the contestants participated in initial fitness and strength tests to determine our weight, body-fat percentage, blood pressure, cholesterol level, and current physical conditioning. After viewing the results, I was disappointed and ashamed that I was in such poor health and conditioning. But I told myself that it was good for me to know where I started and to use that as motivation to improve.

Before we hit the gym, David took us on a tour of a grocery store to teach us how to shop. We learned how to properly read food labels as to not be misled by fancy marketing and food product packaging. During the two-hour grocery store tour, I scribbled over six pages of notes. At that point, I realized that nutrition would be my biggest obstacle in this fitness challenge—more so than the workouts.

The 2010 MaretHouse Fitness Challenge began on Monday, February 8, 2010. For the next 12 weeks, each contestant trained five days a week at the Aggieland Fitness Dome with a MaretHouse personal trainer and would be required to keep a daily food journal. At the conclusion of each week, our primary statistics (weight, body-fat percentage, blood pressure) were measured, and the results were posted on the MaretHouse website for followers to track our progress. In addition, each contestant was required to write weekly about our experiences, successes, and challenges on our individual contestant websites. I spent the first several weeks adjusting to a new routine and balancing priorities as a result of the requirements of the fitness challenge.

By the end of the first week, my trainer had me doing circuit training, which is simply a group of exercises to be performed in a sequence, or round. After each round, you were permitted to rest and recover for one to three minutes before repeating the round of exercises. For example, my workout on Friday of the first week consisted of upper body and lower body circuits. The upper body circuit of exercises included pushups (15 reps), benchpresses (15 reps), rope waves (30 seconds), and seated rows (15 reps). The lower body circuit of exercises included leg presses (15 reps), sitting squats (15 reps), side leg lunches (15 reps), and stairs (three reps — up and down counts as one). Naturally, I was extremely sore and fatigued after workouts during the first couple of weeks. That, I had anticipated.

What I hadn’t anticipated was the amount of time I was going to spend planning each week. Each weekend, I had to plan out all of my meals for the week, go to the grocery store and shop accordingly, cook all of my meals over the weekend, and pre-portion them into food containers. In order to avoid unnecessary driving back and forth from my house, I had to develop a system to pre-pack the professional and workout clothes that I would need each day. There were some days where I would workout first and then go to work, and other days would be the opposite. Probably the biggest adjustment was saying goodbye to my night-owl tendencies to ensure adequate sleep.

Over time, I got stronger and in more shape, and the soreness and fatigue went away. To ensure that my body was still being challenged, my trainer would increase the amount of weights and resistance, increase the number of repetitions, and decrease the amount of rest time between each set.

An exciting highlight during the challenge was experiencing the first tangible results of my hard work. Before the challenge, my pants size was 52 x 30. Around week six, my body had changed so much that I could fit into a 44 x 32 pair of pants. It was mind boggling to people when I stood next to my old pair of pants. I also noticed improvements in how I felt, my energy levels, and my ability to think more clearly. Because I was seeing results, there was a natural temptation to slack off during workouts, but I kept my focus on doing the things that produced those results. Even though we were permitted one cheat day per week where we could eat anything that we wanted, I was so focused on achieving results that I didn’t feel the need to cheat when my cheat day came.

At some point during the final three weeks of the challenge, I noticed that my source of motivation had changed. In the beginning, my main motivation to get healthier and more fit was because my family members wanted me to. Now, my primary driving force to get healthier and more fit was because it was important to me. I started going to the gym during my free time to do extra workouts. I started pushing myself harder during scheduled training sessions. When I weighed in on my final workout day, my unofficial numbers indicated that I had lost a total of 35 pounds, and my body-fat percentage had decreased by 8.2 percent.

This experience has been a tremendous blessing in so many ways. Not only have I improved my health and fitness, but I have also made new friends. In addition, I’ve learned how to incorporate health and fitness into a busy lifestyle. I am now a more conscious and educated consumer who can make better food choices. So, if I go out to eat, I now know which food items would be better to eat. And, I’ve learned that comfort foods (like desserts) in moderation are fine as long as they don’t become a consistent part of my daily food intake. As I heard one of the MaretHouse trainers say, “You eat to live. You don’t live to eat!”

On Saturday, May 8, 2010, the winner of the 2010 MaretHouse Fitness Challenge Contest will be announced at our graduation ceremony. Regardless of Saturday’s results, I already feel like a winner. I sincerely hope that my story can encourage others to take an important step in improving their quality of life. Trust me…it’s worth it.

Categories: Perspectives

Overqualified and underpaid. Who would have thought that this could be the slogan of many of the employees at “the happiest place on earth”, where all your dreams come true? That’s the reality of a cast member at Walt Disney World.

I recently spent five months interning with Disney. I went in ready to challenge Bob Iger himself about who loved and knew more about the company. Along the way I learned the unique and challenging corporate culture of the infamous and renowned Walt Disney Company.

Mays Business Honors student Heather Henry '11 recently completed a five-month internship at Walt Disney World.
Mays Business Honors student Heather Henry ’11 recently completed a five-month internship at Walt Disney World.

My first weeks of training were a whirlwind: adjusting to living with five other girls from across the globe (literally—I had roommates from Japan and Korea), learning the Disney ways, and acclimating to the Florida weather.

I was excited to begin working and making the magic! Every Disney employee goes through an eight-hour training course learning a multitude of basic concepts including: There is only one Mickey, and he is real; the cord stretching out of Cinderella’s Castle is a cable line so Prince Charming can watch ESPN, not how Tinker Bell flies at night before the fireworks; and your sole purpose for living and breathing is ensuring that complete strangers have the best vacations ever.

My title was Magic Kingdom vacation planner. I thought, “This job is a dream come true! I never want to leave Disney as long as I live! I can go to the Magic Kingdom every day!”

The first day was an in-depth tour. From the secret tunnels and the ways to get on and off stage from behind rides were utterly amazing. I was then shuttled via monorail to the Ticket and Transportation Center (TTC). Away from the glamour of Main Street USA and Fantasy Land, I was surrounded by buses, shuttles, and concrete.

To my surprise, we went in one of the ticket booths. TICKET BOOTHS? At that point I started feeling deceived. This is “vacation planning”? What about resorts, character breakfasts, and guided tours?

I tried staying positive. That was easier after I talked to my roommates who didn’t fare much better on their first day in “quick service food and beverage,” “merchantainment,” and custodial. Custodial by far won the worst job contest.

It took four weeks of intense classroom training to learn the 92 different ticket packages available before returning to the TTC. I came to understand why we were considered vacation planners given the complexity of the packages, but the title was still an exaggeration.

On my first day of actually working in the booths, I was shocked to find so many college program participants like myself who had extended their program two or three times. They were taking online classes or dropping out of college altogether to stay and work for Disney doing the lowest level jobs. Some had graduated and come back to work seasonally, making minimum wage with no benefits, praying for enough hours to pay their rent. The other end of the spectrum included cast members with college degrees, who had worked for the company 20 or 30 years and were still in vacation planning. I was flabbergasted. What about corporate? Why were corporate and the theme park side so disconnected?


“Disney knows that if their cast members will do the humblest of jobs in the park, then they may be a good fit for an upper-level position.”

About halfway through my program I began the Disney Exploration Marketing Series. This program features classes taught by Disney executives. I met with people from Disney Cruise Lines, Disney Vacation Club, Global Disney, Disney Special Events, Disney’s Direct Marketing, etc. Every single person had been with the company for nearly 20 years or more and had started out like me, in the college program, in a crummy job making next to nothing. I was fascinated. Meeting the people responsible for the themes of Disney each year (“Year of a Million Dreams”, “Celebrate Today”, etc.), and learning about all aspects of marketing the park, I thought, “I want to do that!”

The next day I would go back to the ticket booth disheartened again.

One day, an executive in our classroom talked about his first job: ticket taker in Hollywood Studios. He detailed how awful it was and how discouraged he’d been. He then said something that changed my entire perspective. “Everyone wants to work for Disney and they will do anything to be a cast member. That is why 99 percent of Disney employees are overqualified and underpaid.”

That was it—my epiphany. There are very few opportunities at Disney to come in from the outside. As an intern, you start out feeling like gunk at the bottom of the barrel. You work your way up millimeter by millimeter until finally a door opens. A simple concept that was hard for me to grasp.

This is not new for most college grads. They go into the workforce, start at the bottom and work up. Disney takes this to an entirely different level. Disney knows that if their cast members will do the humblest of jobs in the park, then they may be a good fit for an upper-level position.

Working at Disney was some of the greatest experience I could have gotten: learning to deal with difficult guests, the urgency of helping lost children find their parents, the different cultures of guests and other cast members. I made friends from all over the globe and learned to be open-minded about other cultures. I have come back changed and with a less myopic view of the world.

Since returning to A&M, I’ve reflected on my experience. The “me, me, me!” perspective of guests has made me much more humble. It’s hard to step back and say, “I am really not that important,” and to get rid of the “I deserve better than this” mindset; but when you do, it changes your view of what matters. I am a better person for it even though it was one of the hardest things I’ve done. The lessons I learned and the friends I made changed my character and gave me a new perspective that made being overqualified and underpaid worthwhile. It’s almost magic.

Categories: Perspectives