Lead Story

James Benjamin Department of Accounting at Mays Business School ranks first in the nation for underrepresented groups among Ph.D. students and faculty

Mays Business School, November 10th, 2020

James Benjamin Department of Accounting at Mays Business School ranks first in the nation for underrepresented groups among Ph.D. graduates and faculty 

Survey finds Texas A&M’s accounting program has most underrepresented Ph.D. graduates and faculty in U.S.

 ______________________________________________________________________________

An article forthcoming in the peer-reviewed American Accounting Association Journal, Issues in Accounting Education, has found that the James Benjamin Department of Accounting at Mays Business School has the most underrepresented Ph.D. graduates and the most underrepresented accounting faculty of any top business school in the country.

The essay, the first-ever report of its kind on the state of the accounting academy, “Towards a More Inclusive Accounting Academy,” details the state of underrepresented minority Ph.D. students and faculty in the top 50 accounting departments. The number of underrepresented minorities has nearly tripled in the last 24 years, largely to the credit of The Ph.D. Project. However, despite almost tripling, the proportion of underrepresented minority faculty remains less than 5% of all accounting Ph.D. faculty.

Nate Sharp, Ph.D., the Nelson D. Durst Endowed Chair in Accounting and head of the James Benjamin Department of Accounting said, “Although we would all acknowledge that these results represent only one of many ways to measure a program’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, and the overall numbers of underrepresented faculty and Ph.D. students across the academy are low, I am proud that our department is receiving recognition for its longstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion among Ph.D. students and faculty.”

…Read more

Shortly after COVID-19 brought a halt to business as usual, entrepreneur and Texas A&M alum Alfredo Costilla-Reyes read about farmers across the United States having to dump produce due to supply chain disruptions. They poured gallons of fresh milk into manure piles, dug ditches to bury millions of pounds of onions, and plowed ripe vegetables back into the ground. With restaurants, hotels, and schools closed, farmers lost half of their buyers overnight. Meanwhile, grocery stores and food banks experienced shortages because they didn’t have enough equipment like refrigerators to accommodate all the excess food.

“I was reading about farmers having big problems reaching customers. They need a marketplace, and it shouldn’t be so difficult,” Costilla-Reyes said over a Zoom call, smiling brightly in front of a virtual background of a library packed with colorful books. “But for a lot of them, to try to figure out how all this online stuff works is stressful and cumbersome.”

And so the idea for Costilla-Reyes’ newest company, DayOneAI, was born. Currently in the initial stages of invite-only beta testing, DayOneAI will help farmers create an online presence in order to reach new customers. Farmers will text information like a description of their business and products to DayOneAI, which will use machine learning and AI to automate a website, online store, and social media accounts. Farmers will also receive alerts about Google and Twitter trends, so they can write targeted social media and blog posts and keep their sites optimized for SEO.

DayOneAI is a direct extension of BitGrange, the company that Costilla-Reyes founded while pursuing his PhD in Electrical Engineering at Texas A&M. Having been raised in a family of farmers, Costilla-Reyes wanted to expand his PhD research to help improve the lives of people he grew up with. This desire propelled him to venture over from the Electrical Engineering department to the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship and the Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars. There, he realized he could combine his interests into a single company, BitGrange, which lies at the intersection of technology and agriculture and builds hydroponic devices so anyone, anywhere can grow produce indoors. BitGrange gained recognition in Mexico, when President Enrique Peña Nieto presented Costilla-Reyes with the Mexico National Youth Award at a reception in Mexico City.

Alfredo Costilla Reyes holding a BitGrange device with a newly sprouted plant. The device is a small cyliner and comes equipped with an individual LED light to help plant growth.When stay-at-home orders started, Costilla-Reyes realized it would be too difficult to continue developing and deploying hardware like hydroponics. He leaned on his learnings from Texas A&M to quickly pivot from hardware that grows produce to software that sells it: “What we learned through programs like Blackstone LaunchPad and the Techstars Entrepreneur’s Toolkit is that it’s not about you as much as the problem itself. You have to be able to evolve and transform in order to improve the life of as many people as possible.”

Despite the shift in focus, Costilla-Reyes sees DayOneAI as a direct extension of BitGrange. At the end of the day, as long as he’s using technology to make farmer’s lives easier and better, he’ll be satisfied — even if that means shifting to focus on helping farmers be in direct contact with customers, so they can sell food locally and earn more money. “I believe that AI shouldn’t be competing for jobs,” Costilla-Reyes explains. “It has its advantages, like looking for patterns. But growing plants, taking care of customers, caring for the environment, those are all things AI can’t replicate. With DayOneAI, farmers can do what they do best and leave the complexity of building an online presence to AI.”

Over the next few months, Costilla-Reyes will further develop DayOneAI as a participant in Rice University’s OwlSpark accelerator. By the end of the summer, he hopes to complete the private beta, roll out a public beta, pitch to investors in Houston, and start a capital raise ($250K for a pre-seed round, and $1M for a seed round). Rather than be frustrated by the way the pandemic affected BitGrange, Costilla-Reyes is nothing but excited about the new opportunity on hand. “I want to embrace this opportunity… It’s nice to be an entrepreneur and have a company that’s so small because you can switch from one place to another and you have that agility.”

LauraLee Hughes, Assistant Director of New Ventures for the McFerrin Center, home of Blackstone LaunchPad and other entrepreneurship programs, worked closely with Costilla-Reyes as he explored the school’s entrepreneurial offering. She’s unsurprised by Costilla-Reyes’ adaptability when faced with a crisis. “Alfredo is a bright young mind with a true passion for changing the world through technology. During his time as a PhD student, he pursued numerous startup ideas, engaging in almost every program the McFerrin Center has to offer. His entrepreneurial spirit, never-ending desire to learn, and eagerness to help others have made him a true asset to the Aggie entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

More than anything, Costilla-Reyes’ engagement with Texas A&M’s entrepreneurial ecosystem shifted the way he thinks about his work. “When you’re doing a PhD, people tell you that you have to compete, you have to do something that’s publishable. It’s all about I and ME. But if you go to [the school’s accelerator] Startup Aggieland and Blackstone LaunchPad, you begin to learn about other people, and that’s really crucial. I enjoyed grad school so much because I started to think like an entrepreneur instead of a scientist. At first, I wanted to build something to win a Nobel Prize. But now, I want to improve lives. It’s not about my skill, but how I can serve others with my work.”

For other Aggies thinking about entrepreneurship, Costilla-Reyes has a few pieces of advice. First, believe in yourself and don’t give up when you face a failure. “We see these big businesses and think they’re overnight success…. But being an entrepreneur you have so many ups and downs. When I first tried to use hydroponics, I thought maybe I’m not meant for this. But I kept going.” Second, build something that solves a problem — even if that solution isn’t what you originally set out to make. And third, serve others. “If I make a product and the end goal is nothing more than a research paper, I’ve failed. I want my work to be useful for other people. And there’s not a better way to do that than through entrepreneurship.”

Costilla-Reyes’ attitude about entrepreneurship has helped him remain optimistic in the face of COVID-19. “When others see hectic times, horrific economic downturn, entrepreneurs see opportunity… That’s the best way to approach crisis.”

Categories: McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship, Uncategorized

“Creative destruction” is a phrase used by Joseph Schumpeter, an early 20th century economist and probably the “OG” scholar in the field of entrepreneurship. Schumpeter was talking about the role of entrepreneurs in our society as agents of change. Entrepreneurs recognize opportunities that others often miss and create new markets for products and services that sometimes have the potential to disrupt or even destroy established industries.[1] In a sense, change and market disruption is nothing new to entrepreneurs. For that reason, we can anticipate that their skills and unique way of looking at the world will play a critical role in our social and economic recovery from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many of us shy away from risk. We try to live our lives and achieve our desired goals while mitigating risk as much as possible. That’s one reason why we struggle with such unexpected and extreme developments as those set-in motion by the global pandemic. In fact, we may feel that our “risk-meter” is off the charts, with few options for bringing it back down. There are reasons to suggest that entrepreneurs, on the other hand, perceive risk very differently. Research shows that they tend to make an objective assessment of the level of risk in the market environment and then work to control or guide outcomes in the best way possible, given that degree of risk.[2] Under the current conditions, entrepreneurs may react by simply resetting their risk estimates at a higher level. With this updated information, they can start planning new strategies and taking actions to improve their likely outcomes, while many of the rest of us remain focused on, or even paralyzed by, the risk itself.

There are other characteristics and perspectives we associate with entrepreneurs that may help them face the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. First of all, entrepreneurs are persistent. They find ways to thrive in harsh business environments. We have observed this in emerging markets, areas of the world often lacking financial capital, legal, regulatory, and other resources and institutions we tend to take for granted in developed economies. Entrepreneurial activity still emerges in such settings, growing organically through informal economic systems outside of the traditional institutions.[3] Entrepreneurs are also resilient. They find new paths forward in the aftermath of devastating events. Research following the 2008 global financial crisis shows that many young, entrepreneurial ventures were well-positioned to weather the storm.[4] Startups are generally smaller and may be more agile than established firms, making it easier for them to quickly react and adapt even to extreme and unexpected changes.

Entrepreneurs know how to build businesses through conventional planning, but they have other tools in their toolkit that can help them react and adapt. The business planning process we frequently teach in MBA programs involves causal thinking, the careful assessment of how current conditions and possible strategies can lead to future results. This calls for upfront resource planning, the development of market and production strategies, and the analysis of which outcomes are most likely to occur after executing the business plan. Many entrepreneurs certainly have this skill – think of the carefully constructed plans they often present to investors when seeking capital investment. This process is popularized in TV and streaming shows such as Shark Tank or Elevator Pitch. The problem we have right now is that COVID-19 has thrown everyone a curve. We don’t necessarily have the context to effectively analyze and predict future outcomes. For that reason, most causal-thinking business plans probably aren’t going to work until we get further along in this extraordinary period of uncertainty.

Fortunately, many entrepreneurs can leverage other tools to successfully identify and pursue opportunities, even under difficult conditions such as those presented by the COVID-19 crisis. First, rather than wasting time in the current market environment writing up a wish-list of resources, they would like to have (and are unlikely to get), entrepreneurs are very good at bricolage; making use of what is at hand to construct something useful.[5] The closest many of us get to using bricolage is probably when we have to scrounge something for dinner – we grab some cans from the pantry, leftovers from the refrigerator, maybe pulling the odd tomato from the plant growing on the back patio. Luckily, entrepreneurs tend to be much better at this technique.

My favorite examples of bricolage during the COVID-19 pandemic showcase creative efforts to provide products that help prevent and treat the infection. Cummins Inc. has a stockpile of materials used in producing air and fuel filters for diesel engines. With the shutdown of their engine production line, this inventory would be sitting in giant rolls, collecting dust in a warehouse. Through some creative connecting of the dots, the technical managers at Cummins realized that this material could meet the standards for producing the vital N95 masks that may soon help us begin to safely return to work. We have seen a similar process of bricolage in Ford Motor Company with their use of stock auto parts in the production of medical ventilators. Numerous breweries, distilleries, and even perfume companies are using their materials and equipment to produce hand sanitizer. We can only imagine the countless other acts of entrepreneurial bricolage that are happening all throughout the economy.

Entrepreneurs have another trick up their sleeves. Many of them show skill in effectual thinking. Similar to bricolage, effectuation starts with a look at the readily available skills, tools, and resources.[6] However, the interesting difference in this type of thinking is that it doesn’t start with any particular outcome or destination in mind. Refer to our search of the kitchen pantry at dinnertime – this might involve looking through our available supplies, and instead of preparing a meal, we find spaghetti noodles and marshmallows and decide to start a quick project to build a model of the Eiffel Tower. We had no prior intention of pursuing this project – the available materials, the situation, and our own interests may have organically led us down this path.

Our social network society makes this type of effectual thinking more effective. As entrepreneurs brainstorm various uses for their available skills and resources, they need to test and refine these ideas. This requires a sounding board to communicate their thoughts to potential customers, partners, investors, or others who can help refine and advance the project. Researchers have shown that social media platforms such as Twitter can enhance this process by allowing entrepreneurs to work through their effectual thinking more quickly, getting input from followers, and directing them toward new and unexpected opportunities.[7] Crowdfunding platforms such as Kickstarter or Indiegogo provide another example of this rapid feedback process. Investors and campaign participants can preview early-stage ideas, post comments and questions, and ultimately let their money do the talking by offering financial support to worthwhile projects. These social network platforms have dramatically improved the pace and potency of effectual thinking for entrepreneurs.

As we speak, entrepreneurs are undoubtedly scanning the new environment shaped by SARS-CoV-2. They are imagining unexpected opportunities to match available resources to market needs, serving end goals that none of us (including them!) could have anticipated a few months ago. It’s hard to say what they will come up with next, but some areas of activity seem likely. As social beings, we’re all growing tired of these periods of isolation. Entrepreneurs may find new ways to balance our craving for social interaction with our need to control the risk of infection. Internet streaming and digital interaction have been the most obvious domains for these activities, but others could certainly emerge.

Through entrepreneurial thinking, we can crowdsource the restart. Businesses throughout the country face the challenge of reopening while protecting the safety of their customers. We have already seen creative solutions as restaurants and stores find new ways to provide curbside and delivery service, sometimes even offering unconventional grocery products or packaged deals. As they return to in-store dining and service, entrepreneurs will find a wide variety of ways to enable social distancing and limit the risk of contagion. The best ideas are likely to catch on, further speeding the pace of the economic recovery.

We live in unprecedented times; working to balance aggressive actions taken to limit the health impact of COVID-19 with pressures to reopen our businesses and restart the economy. This is creating risk, uncertainty, and challenges to our prior business models and ways of viewing the world. Fortunately, we have an extraordinary group of individuals in our society who often view the world through a different lens. They understand risk, thrive in conditions of uncertainty, and are uniquely equipped to handle these challenges. Fortunately, we have entrepreneurs.


[1] Schumpeter, J., 1942. Creative destruction. Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy, 825, pp.82-85.

[2] Sarasvathy, D.K., Simon, H.A. and Lave, L., 1998. Perceiving and managing business risks: Differences between entrepreneurs and bankers. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 33(2), pp.207-225.

[3] Webb, J.W., Bruton, G.D., Tihanyi, L. and Ireland, R.D., 2013. Research on entrepreneurship in the informal economy: Framing a research agenda. Journal of Business Venturing, 28(5), pp.598-614.

[4] Davidsson, P. and Gordon, S.R., 2016. Much ado about nothing? The surprising persistence of nascent entrepreneurs through macroeconomic crisis. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 40(4), pp.915-941.

[5] Baker, T. and Nelson, R.E., 2005. Creating something from nothing: Resource construction through entrepreneurial bricolage. Administrative Science Quarterly, 50(3), pp.329-366.

[6] Sarasvathy, S.D., 2001. Causation and effectuation: Toward a theoretical shift from economic inevitability to entrepreneurial contingency. Academy of management Review, 26(2), pp.243-263.

[7] Fischer, E. and Reuber, A.R., 2011. Social interaction via new social media:(How) can interactions on Twitter affect effectual thinking and behavior? Journal of Business Venturing, 26(1), pp.1-18.

 

Categories: Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship, Entrepreneurship, Faculty, McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship

On May 1, 2020, a Faculty Learning Community Showcase was held to display the Mays Transformational Leader mindsets at work, all of which add value to the teaching mission and stoke the fire of innovation at Mays. 

 

The come and go Zoom meeting hosted by Bailey Lenzen, Lecturer, and Program Coordinator, facilitated multiple breakout rooms, all of which showcased various combinations of the MTL mindsets and the innovative ways that they have been implemented. Lenzen said, “As we work to fulfill the promise of MTL development (Strategic Initiative 4.2), we continue to seek classroom opportunities for students to practice mindsets identified in the Mays Strategic Learning Framework. Creating such opportunities is best accomplished within a community of engaging, interesting, and similarly motivated peers. The MTL Faculty Learning Community invites about ten faculty members each year to develop at least one experiential learning opportunity designed to develop one or more Mays mindsets, implement and assess the learning opportunity, and present what was designed and implemented at a showcase each spring.”

 

In the Spring 2019 edition of @Mays Magazine, we focused on Academic Innovation. The magazine expressed how Academic Innovation asks the question, “what we’re doing is great, but how can we be better?” A large piece of being better is utilizing the mindsets of the Mays Transformational Leader. Taking advantage of the Analytical, Entrepreneurial, Ethical, Global, Inclusive, Social Impact, and Systems Thinking MTL mindsets, our students, faculty, and staff become innovators. 

 

The question, “How can we be better?,” is constantly being asked in the halls of Mays Business School. In the pursuit to advance the world’s prosperity, our goal is to put our future business leaders into a place to be successful. 

 

This means priming students in their undergraduate years to hit the ground running in the first few years of their career so that they, too, can be better. Akshaya Sreenivasan, Marketing Clinical Assistant Professor, learned that the students leaving Mays had a phenomenal grasp on domestic marketing markets but were struggling with international cases. Thus, the “Dunkin’ Donuts assignment” was born. Created to look at how American brands can be rebranded and positioned to fit foreign markets like India, a retail boom with high growth, this course requires students to use their Systems Thinking, Ethical, Analytical, and Global mindsets.

 

2020 has been no stranger to problems requiring Academic Innovation or the MTL Mindsets. As a pandemic threatened the world, Texas A&M was required to move an entire semester online in just one week. The extraordinary efforts of Mays Business School faculty and staff transitioned approximately 2,300 students online all while adjusting to new work schedules, new workplaces, copious Zoom meetings, and changes in home life. With the majority of the Spring semester and the entirety of Summer sessions being held virtually, the Mays Business School faculty and staff exemplified both the Aggie Core Values and the MTL Mindsets. 

 

To get a better idea of the student experience of remote/online classes, a survey was created and sent to Mays students. Nancy Simpson, a Mays Clinical Professor, Director, and Faculty Development Fellow, led the survey initiative and the showcase discussion on the feedback that was received. From appreciation for professors’ flexibility and empathy to challenges with internet and computer availability, survey respondents provided a gamut of information that will not only be beneficial in building future online courses but helpful in creating new, better, best practices for on-campus learning as well.

 

To see the presentations held at the MTL Faculty Learning Community showcase from this year and years past, please visit: https://mays.tamu.edu/strategic-plan/mtl-learning-community/

 

Categories: Faculty, News

Congrats Aggie Grads - join the celebration gradcelebration.tamu.edu

Categories: Alumni, Departments, Faculty, Former Students, Mays Business, News, Programs, Rankings, Students, Texas A&M, Uncategorized

The 6th Annual KPMG Fraud Case Competition was held on April 21-23 at Mays Business School via Zoom.

Seven teams presented case solutions culminating the semester-long fraud case competition.  Final judging of the competition was facilitated by Kelsey Wright, KPMG Advisor, with the help of several of her colleagues, representing KPMG’s US Forensic Advisory Practice.

The first-place team members are pictured below:

Sam Dawson

 

Ria Dua

 

Vincent Le

 

Darby Ramsdell

 

Candela Videtto

 

Categories: Accounting

 

Image of Young and Armstrong pitching at Aggie PITCH 2019.

Young (right) and Armstrong (left) pitching at Aggie PITCH 2019

In 2017 Stephanie Young competed at her High School science fair with SKYPaws, “spaghetti monster of wires” that would allow veterinarians to wirelessly monitor their patients post-operatively. Now, SKYPaws is led by Stephanie Young and her co-founder Brianna Armstrong. “When we started this we weren’t sure if it was something people really wanted. With each competition that we won it was another step of validation” stated Armstrong, “What is exciting, has built our confidence, and is still humbling is that the people we pitch to in the veterinary space really see this as a thing that needs to happen” she concluded. “And even people who aren’t in the vet space” added Young. “We need to make this change and shape our standard of care in this direction,” said Armstrong. 

 Animal patients will chew through wires attached to them, which requires veterinarians and their staff to visually monitor patients in order to assess their recovery and health. If there is a problem with a patient, such as a sudden drop in blood pressure due to internal bleeding, they often aren’t aware of the issue until it’s too late. SKYPaws accurately monitors veterinary patient vitals such as heart rate and blood pressure without the need for wires. Their devices saves lives and provides the means for unprecedented levels of patient care within veterinary medicine.  

Picture of Armstrong pitching SKYPaws during the 2019 Raymond Ideas Challenge, at which they won 1st place and $3,000

Armstrong pitching SKYPaws during the 2019 Raymond Ideas Challenge, at which they won 1st place and $3,000

THE RIGHT CO-FOUNDER 

It should be noted that in addition to launching a tech startup, Young and Armstrong both have part-time jobs and are full-time students at Texas A&M University. Young is a junior Animal Sciences major and Armstrong is a fourth-year veterinary medicine student. When asked how they manage such hectic livesArmstrong resolutely stated: “We have each other.” 

Young and Armstrong met in the Fall of 2018 after being introduced by a faculty member within the College of Veterinary Medicine. The two have developed a level of trust that allows them to lean on one another when life is particularly daunting. “If I were gone, I could fully trust her with the company. She can handle this and much more. Our co-founder relationship is very much like a marriage. If you don’t have the communication and trust and overall shared values that you’re both set on then it’s not going to happen.” commented Armstrong. “We met to become founders, but we’ve grown to become friends before founders,” said Young. 

Being entrepreneurs has also taught Armstrong and Young how to prioritize the myriad of responsibilities in their lives“It all boils down to time management,” said Armstrong. “My schedule is planned to the minute every day” Young stated“Now when I study I have to be productive because it’s the only time I have to study. And, honestly, it’s made my test grades a little higher. Both founders also commented that they schedule down-time to avoid burnout and to still enjoy life as studentsYoung commented, “I have my entire life to be an adult. I’ve learned a lot about don’t wish your life away too quickly”

Image of Young and Armstrong giving a presentation on SKYPaws during Season Premiere at Startup Aggieland.

Young (right) and Armstrong (left) giving a presentation on SKYPaws during Season Premiere at Startup Aggieland

MORE THAN ENTREPRENEURSHIP 

Armstrong and Young’s experience as founders have challenged them to grow as entrepreneurs, but also as professionals and individuals. SKYPaws has made Armstrong more prepared for her career as a veterinarian and has even elevated her experience at school. “I wouldn’t have gotten the same thing out of veterinary school here without having taken these opportunities. It’s shaped how I view the profession,” she commented. Because of the positive impact that entrepreneurship has had on her life, Armstrong firmly believes more veterinary students should be involved in the world of innovation and entrepreneurship. “[When you’re a student] you’re learning medicine, learning how to be a doctor, and learning how to think critically. But you aren’t getting any exposure to what is happening in this industry that you’re going to be a part of.” From legislature to novel pharmaceuticals Armstrong explains how during vet school you’re isolated from the working field and solely focused on school. “If I hadn’t gone to the Veterinary Innovation Summit and the Veterinary Entrepreneurship Academy I would not have this new-found appreciation for the industry. I now understand how a veterinary hospital is run and the business behind it,” said Armstrong. Because vet school is so rigorous many students don’t have the time to attend conferences and trade shows where one would typically learn more about industry trends. And so, Armstrong created the executive position of Innovation Ambassador within the Veterinary Businesses Management Association at Texas A&M. The Innovation Ambassador explores and learns about new trends and technology in veterinary medicine and share them with other students. There is an issue within the profession with inflexibility. My hope is that with some of these new efforts students will see that there’s more to the DVM than they ever could have imagined. The only way we’re going to change the profession’s thought process as a whole is to impact the upcoming veterinarians. Texas A&M is one of the few schools that is implementing programs that allow for this growth mindset.” said Armstrong. 

Being an entrepreneur has taught Young to never doubt her skills or allow others to tell her she can’t achieve something. “Entrepreneurship is a lot of learning on the fly and then doing it. If you fail, fine! Do it again.” said Young. In order to succeed at competitions such as The IdeaRaymond Ideas Challenge, and Aggie PITCH Young had to streamline SKYPaw’s circuitry and programming to create a minimal viable product. As an animal science major, she had a limited background in programming and had no access to soldering equipment. So, Young did what any clever student would do. She changed her minor to computer science for a semesterShe used her access to the Fischer Engineering Design Center and her programming classes to help fill the gaps in her skill set. Her new knowledge even helped her develop facial recognition software during an internship with Mars“I’m the type of person who if you tell me I can’t do something, or won’t do something, I 100% will.” said Young, I had people tell me you can’t fix this code because you’re not an engineering major. But I did and I can fix it.” 

Image of Young and Armstrong giving a presentation on SKYPaws during Season Premiere at Startup Aggieland.

Young (right) and Armstrong (left) giving a presentation on SKYPaws during Season Premiere at Startup Aggieland

BEING A YOUNG FEMALE FOUNDER 

Recent data shows that in Q1 of 2019 15% of United States venture capital investments went to companies with at least one female founder with only 2% invested in startups with all-female founders. In addition to being female founders, Young and Armstrong are young students. Because of this, they’ve faced a lot of push-back in the investment and entrepreneurial world. “There’s nothing that anybody ever does where someone doesn’t doubt them. It’s just something where you say I’m still going to do my best to make this happen. I don’t feel it from the veterinary side as much as the investment and business side” said Armstrong. “If I were [older] and a male and doing this it would be a completely different story” commented Young. Even when the two are faced with challenges they persevere and do their best to learn from their experiences. Young attended the first-ever Mars Leap Ventures Academy in 2019exclusively for women founders. After pitching SKYPaws to a panel of mock investors she was picked apart with personal questions about her age and experience“I came out of there and I was angry. I started talking with several of the other ladies and they told me that a lot of these investors aren’t saying this just to tick you off. They want you to step back and reframe what they said, and they want you to prove them wrong so that you can move on to the next step.” stated Young. Rather than view her age as a handicap, she uses the flexibility of a student schedule to capitalize on as many opportunities available to SKYPaws as possible. She pours her youthful energy into her company and the payoff is evident. In less than two years the duo has won over $30,000 in competition prize money, participated in the Leap Ventures Academy, are members of the current LaunchPad Lift cohort, and just signed with a manufacturing firm in Houston, TX to begin production of the beta series of SKYPaws devices. The team has also attended multiple entrepreneurship academies and have been keynote speakers at veterinary conferences. 

Their experiences as young female founders have caused Armstrong and Young to be even more dedicated to SKYPaws success. They hope that if their efforts will help the next generation of young, female founders find their confidence to follow their passion. “We’re creating a device that’s going to impact the industry in a positive way.” said Armstrong, If we do this, all the way and are successful people will know us. They’ll know these two women created this disruption in the veterinary space. And we’re doing it at such a young age. These two ordinary people did it so I can do it.” 

Armstrong and Young holding a large check at the 2019 Raymond Ideas Challenge where they won 1st place and $3,000

Armstrong (left) and Young (right) at the 2019 Raymond Ideas Challenge where they won 1st place and $3,000

Throughout our interview, Young and Armstrong repeatedly said “if SKYPaws is successful” rather than “when SKYPaws is successful”. When asked why their answers only further illustrated the maturity and sense of responsibility that Young and Armstrong bring to their venture. There’s always a thought in the back of my head that 3 out of 4 startups fail. And it’s again, from a place of feeling humble. I’m so grateful for everything that we’ve learned thus far and how much opportunity has come from this and how far we’ve actually gone. It’s just been incredible experience after incredible experience. Now that we’re getting into the investor phase, I’m even more conscious of the fact that we could take money from people. And still not make it. That is really difficult for me. We could do everything right, take this as far as we can get it, but at the same time that’s someone else’s money that’s in our hands. We could do everything right and still not make it. It’s a reality check for myself.” said Armstrong. Young too is humbled by the immense opportunities they have been given. She refuses to allow their current success to inflate her ego. “Every startup wants to be the one that makes it. There’s is that chance we could be one of the 3 out of 4. But we’re going to take [SKYPaws] as far as we can. We’re going to do our best to bring our gifts and attention to this company and try our hardest. A lot of my “if” comes from not being too cocky.” stated Young, There’s a difference between speaking something into existence and manifesting it. Just like there’s a difference between being positive and being cocky and thinking you deserve it. All of this stuff, I still feel undeserving and humbled to be a part of it.” With such inspiring and dedicated founders at the helm of SKYPaws, it’s hard not to believe that they will beat the odds.

About The McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship

The Texas A&M McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship provides encouragement, education, networking and assistance to entrepreneurially-minded students, faculty and staff. Founded in 1999, The McFerrin Center is part of Mays Business School’s Department of Management. The McFerrin Center provides experiential learning opportunities through workshops, competitions, guest speakers, and other events and programs such as Aggie 100. Texas A&M faculty and students benefit from the center’s educational programs, extensive business community network, and entrepreneurial support services.

Categories: Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship, Entrepreneurship, McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship, Startup Aggieland, Students

Over the past few weeks, our world was upended by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and communities of every size began to grapple with a “new normal”. Businesses, governments, and families are scrambling to find creative ways to interact with their customers, constituents, and peers. Along with the health crisis, we’ve seen our retirement accounts plummet, friends lose jobs, and experienced an unprecedented level of uncertainty. While many of us are asking questions about how we can help others in our communities, there have been beacons of hope in the form of a global philanthropic response. The spectrum has ranged from billionaires stepping up with massive financial commitments to people singing from their balconies. Across this entire spectrum, the heart of generosity and philanthropy is shining through.

Philanthropy, at its core, is about the love of mankind. It’s looking out for the person next to you in times of trouble. It’s caring for the vulnerable when others disregard their wellbeing. It’s moving towards those that are on the margins. It’s loving people. As we grapple with the reality of a global pandemic, I am confident we’ll continue to see boundless and sacrificial generosity. If you are sitting there thinking that philanthropy is bound to the ultra-wealthy, you are wrong. Philanthropy right now is as simple as walking next door to check on your neighbor (standing 6 feet apart of course!). So, here are some tips for you to be philanthropic and generous with your time, treasure, and talent amidst the uncertainty of -19.

  1. Be honest about your own needs. Asking for help is one of the hardest things to do because it requires a significant level of vulnerability. There is no shame in needing help or requiring assistance though. Before looking outward, take a moment to assess your, or your family’s, situation. Do not hesitate to reach out to friends, family, or your local nonprofit sector for assistance.
  2. Be honest about your capacity for financial generosity. Maybe you are someone that has been consistently generous with what you have. Maybe you are just now getting started in your journey towards generosity. Either way, now is the time to act. Consider making a financial gift to your local community foundation or relief fund. If you can’t find anything similar to that, then giving to your local food bank or health clinic will go a long way in helping alleviate some of the immediate burden our communities are facing.
  3. Be purposeful with the “small things”. Share stories of others that are uplifting people in their communities. Write encouraging notes to nursing home residents. Call friends that work in healthcare and are risking their lives every day. Check on your neighbors. There are numerous “small acts” that make a difference.
  4. Be hopeful. There is no doubt that this is going to hurt for a period of time, but we will get through this. I am hopeful that through trial and tragedy, our relationships, families, and communities will emerge stronger.

Generosity and compassion are critical to a thriving and healthy society. Our response will resonate through generations as people look back and see that in the middle of uncertainty, we were active in how we loved the people in our communities.

Categories: Donors Corner, Entrepreneurship, Featured Stories, Mays Business, Programs, Selfless service, Spotlights, Staff, Strategic Philanthropy, Texas A&M

2021 rankings highlight Mays Business School’s Executive, Full-Time, and Professional MBA degrees as top U.S. public programs.


COLLEGE STATION, TX, March 18, 2020 – Texas A&M’s Executive, Full-Time, and Professional MBA programs have been named top programs, according to the 2021 rankings released by U.S. News & World Report. For the first time ever, all three programs are ranked top 20 at the same time.

Texas A&M’s Executive MBA (EMBA) ranks as the #9 public program in the U.S. and #22 overall.

Texas A&M’s Full-Time MBA (FTMBA) ranks as the #20 public program in the U.S. and #44 overall.

Texas A&M’s Professional MBA (PMBA) ranks as the #18 public program in the U.S. and #31 overall.

All three programs are members of Mays Business School, which serves over 5,000 undergraduate business majors, an additional 5,000 undergraduate business minors, doctoral students, professional leaders through the Center for Executive Development (CED), and graduate students in Accounting, Analytics, Business, Finance, Human Resource Management, Management Information Systems, Marketing, and Real Estate.

“I want to extend my gratitude to the faculty, staff, and students that make up the Mays MBA programs at Texas A&M,” shared Arvind Mahajan, Ph.D., Associate Dean for Graduate Programs for Mays Business School. “The results of these rankings point to the fact that every day, everyone involved in our programs puts in the work to advance the world’s prosperity. I am fortunate that I get to see it firsthand because of my involvement in administering and teaching in the programs. What excites me most about these rankings is that more people across the world will know about the work ethic and leadership of the faculty, staff, and students of all three of our MBA programs.”

“I am proud to see the MBA programs office and our faculty, staff, and graduate students receive more national recognition,” shared Eli Jones, Ph.D., Dean of Mays Business School. “Our MBA program leaders and faculty focus on learning outcomes and high-impact teaching in line with our strategic plan to deliver impactful courses and experiences at the graduate level. Congratulations to all of those involved in our programs – past, present, and future.”

Applications for Texas A&M’s MBA programs are being accepted now for the class of 2022. For more information, visit: mba.tamu.edu

By Blake Parrish, Mays Business School Marketing, Communications, and Public Relations

###

About Mays Business School

At Mays Business School, we strive to advance the world’s prosperity. Our mission is to be a vibrant learning organization that creates impactful knowledge and develops transformational leaders. Mays Business School educates more than 6,400 undergraduate, masters, and doctoral students in accounting, finance, management, management information systems, marketing, and supply chain management. Mays consistently ranks among the top public business schools in the country for its programs and for faculty research.

Media contact: Blake Parrish, Mays Business School Marketing, Communications, and Public Relations, bparrish@mays.tamu.edu.

Categories: Mays Business, MBA, News, Rankings, Texas A&M

Blake Petty ’98 was recently announced as the new Executive Director for the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship. He joined the McFerrin Center in 2014 but has spent over 20 years working in commercialization and entrepreneurship at Texas A&M University.

Petty grew up on his family’s farm outside of Waco, Texas. During his time as an undergraduate and master’s student at Texas A&M, Petty studied ecosystem sciences and pursued his passion for the inter-relation of all things of nature. “I always thought I would go back to the family farm and live the agricultural lifestyle. So that’s what I studied. I never really considered business as important to any of that.” he said. Petty was almost through with his Master’s research when he came to a sudden realization. He did not want a career in agriculture. “I came to a real, serious panic moment,” he said.

With graduation fast-approaching, Petty had to quickly pivot and explore new opportunities for his life and career. Fortunately, during his time as a graduate student, he’d built a strong network within the University. “Because A&M is such an amazing school, the people in my degree program actually opened doors for me. I found the licensing job at the commercialization office specific to agriculture,” said Petty.

Petty’s first job after graduating with his Master’s in 2000 was in the Texas A&M Vice President for Research office where he worked on efforts to commercialize technologies and products developed faculty at Texas A&M University. “I remember walking into that job, maybe even in the interview process, and admitting I don’t know how to commercialize these things. I love the science behind it. But you’re talking about business and transitioning from a lab to a marketplace and that is all very confusing and nebulous to me.” said Petty. Although he had only minimally explored the world of commercialization and entrepreneurship prior to his role, he ended up being the perfect fit. He entered the role with zero pre-conceived notions on what could or would succeed in the market which proved invaluable. During his decade long tenure in the position, Petty’s passion for entrepreneurship bloomed. He was enamored by the process a good idea must go through in order to transform into a viable business. He also discovered a serendipitous connection between his life-long passion for ecosystem science and his new-found love for entrepreneurship. “I unexpectedly fell in love with that entire process. I began to recognize components of the entrepreneurial ecosystem inside the University and in the broader local ecosystem” he said. Petty believes the biggest misconception when it comes to being an entrepreneur is that only business-minded individuals can be successful. “I’m living proof that’s not true. Take it from somebody who had no interest or passion in studying entrepreneurship as a student.”

While in his role at the Vice President for Research’s office, Petty received an invitation to serve as a judge at the MBA Venture Challenge, at the time called the Tech Transfer Challenge. He had never heard of the hosting organization, Center for New Venture and Entrepreneurship; which was renamed the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship in 2018 after a generous endowment by the McFerrin Family Foundation. After volunteering as a judge for that one event he knew he wanted to be more involved with CNVE in whatever way he could.  “That one program introduced me to the other things that CNVE was doing,” said Petty. Petty later became a member of the CNVE Advisory Council, assisted in the founding Startup Aggieland, and became an active volunteer at CNVE events and programs all before he was formally employed by the Center in 2013. “I wanted to do more with students, which just wasn’t part of my job. I genuinely remember thinking If I ever get the chance to do this work that CNVE is doing; work more with students, do more for the veteran entrepreneurs, I would love a job like that. I never thought that would be a possibility or a career track for me” said Petty.

Petty says that there’s something special about student entrepreneurs that makes them particularly inspiring. “There is untold potential with these students” he commented, “I don’t know if it’s their youth or their passion. They envision themselves launching, growing, and owning a business around what they love. If I can help them through the process…I can’t even begin to imagine where they’re going to go with it. It’s not just exciting. It’s inspirational, it almost makes me feel lazy”. This says a lot, considering Petty is not only the Executive Director of McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship but also serves as the Executive Director for the Aggie Angel Network, and a lead faculty for NSF I-Corps.

Now, in 2020 Petty has achieved what many people hope to find in their career. “I’m doing what I love.” he stated.


Within the past decade and a half, there has been an entrepreneurial gold-rush in the world of higher education. Where there once were few to no resources for student entrepreneurs, it seems now that nearly every campus in the nation has a center, maker-space, or opportunity for innovative students to explore entrepreneurship. When asked where he thinks this boom came from, Petty stated quite matter of fact: the students. “It’s all driven from the students themselves. It’s from the entrepreneurs on campus saying hey, I’m going to keep creating and by gosh I’ll do it on my own if you’re not going to help me.”

Students now have a variety of ways to grow their skills as entrepreneurs while they pursue their degree. Gone are the days where you had to decide between continuing your education and starting your business. When students have a plethora of options around the country, what is it that makes the McFerrin Center special? And furthermore, what makes Texas A&M an exceptional choice for young entrepreneurs? Petty commented that there are 2 reasons Texas A&M stands out for entrepreneurs: shared values and that entrepreneurship is a part of Texas A&M’s history.

“We’re drawn to entrepreneurs of our type. Which boils down to Aggie entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs who are attracted to Texas A&M because they felt an intrinsic connection with the University’s culture and core values.” said Petty. “I think we can all agree Aggies are unique. We operate differently. We think differently. We even behave differently whether that’s in business or otherwise. Entrepreneurs with a pedigree from Texas A&M don’t have to focus on maintaining the core values. If they did it right as students here, those core values are instilled in them.” Petty also commented that entrepreneurs who are involved with the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship are challenged in more ways than their counterparts at other schools. “We’re requiring that you not just be entrepreneurial but also think about how you are a leader as an entrepreneur and how you show respect as an entrepreneur. We’ve built a uniquely Aggie center for Aggie entrepreneurs.”

Texas A&M has a rich history in agriculture and engineering which has inadvertently attracted innovative individuals to the University. “Somebody told me once that A&M has entrepreneurship in its blood.” said Petty, “We were the agricultural school in Texas. The earliest classes of students coming here were leaving the family farm, and coming and learning more, probably farming skills, and going back and having to take over and run the family farm. Much like the path I thought I would take.” Petty went on to note that although these young farmers didn’t call themselves entrepreneurs and didn’t take traditional business courses they sought out the education of Texas A&M to make their livelihood better, more efficient, and more lucrative. These inaugural Aggies refused to be held prisoner to the constraints that their forefathers operated under. “I think you could argue that our DNA has entrepreneurship from the very first class of 1876. We had entrepreneurs on this campus, whether they called themselves that or not.”

Although the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship coaches entrepreneurs that they can’t “boil the ocean” meaning they can’t lose focus on the present and try to tackle everything at once, I asked Petty to take a moment and imagine what he hopes McFerrin Center will accomplish within the next 10-15 years. Petty imagines the McFerrin Center serving not just current students, but former students, prospective students, and even non-students who have a connection to Texas A&M. “If this is a business and they are seeking out resources, why wouldn’t we play a role in facilitating their success?” Petty stated. “The principles we teach, the skills we impart, and the network that we’ve automatically built amongst a very unique set of Aggie entrepreneurship experts. That’s something unique to us. That’s our value proposition. But that should not only be available for students, trying to launch a business, while currently enrolled at Texas A&M.”

In addition, Petty hopes that McFerrin Center can help to better educate students about what it actually means to be an entrepreneur and the value that entrepreneurship can provide them, regardless of the career path they plan to pursue. “Entrepreneur is a mysterious, confusing, even sometimes hard to spell word.” said Petty, “What it actually means is a problem solver. There are tremendous skills taught to people at this school. And if students are using those skills to solve a problem then they are being entrepreneurial. You don’t have to have the title of founder or entrepreneur. I tell the students who say “I’m not an entrepreneur”. It’s fine if you want to think that. However, if you are a problem solver, if you aren’t comfortable working under the constraints given to you, and you’d rather make things easier, better, cheaper, faster, and not live with the status quo then you have an entrepreneurial attitude and we can help you express that in whatever way you want to.”

Petty firmly believes that Aggies are sought after upon graduation because the university attracts entrepreneurial individuals. “To be honest companies, big companies, want to recruit Aggies because Aggies make great workers and I think Aggies are naturally more entrepreneurial.” Petty also comments that it’s up to you to decide if you want to act upon your skills as an entrepreneur. “If you’re sitting in a cubicle in a huge organization you can choose to be entrepreneurial or not through the way that you solve problems, through the way that you capture value, through the way that you bring value to others. Or, you can choose not to.”

More than anything, Petty hopes that the McFerrin Center can introduce entrepreneurship to more students, more individuals, and more Aggies. This is not a goal for vanity metrics or to increase the McFerrin Center’s rankings among the nation, but because he himself is a testament to how entrepreneurship can shape your life in unexpected and powerful ways. He hopes that regardless of a student’s major, background, or pre-conceived notion of entrepreneurship they find a community and common ground in the entrepreneurial ecosystem at Texas A&M. “Entrepreneurship research for decades has proven that a blend of skills, backgrounds, and interests is a critical component of a successful organization. That’s why our programs are open to the entire campus. We get so excited about the collisions that we create between students of different majors, who may have never interacted with each other. I’ve heard students tell each other I didn’t know that was a major. If they’re doing that in an environment that allows them to collide, collaborate, and even fail together and to come up with other ideas and pursue other interests. That’s entrepreneurship to me.”

Categories: Uncategorized

EDITOR’S NOTE: These reflections were completed by members of the Titans of Investing (FINC 427/669) class at Mays Business School. The Titans of Investing class is taught by Britt Harris, President, CEO, and CIO of UTIMCO. This class provides a broad perspective on both financial markets and global developments, focusing on longer-term context and current market conditions. On February 20, 2020, Tony James, Executive Vice Chairman of The Blackstone Group visited campus to talk with the 29th cohort of the Titans of Investing course to share his wisdom and experience.


Brooks Ragsdale
Industrial Engineering

Tony James is the Executive Vice Chairman of The Blackstone Group, the largest alternative asset manager in the world. As of October 2019, The Blackstone Group manages $554 billion in assets and has a hand in private equity, debt financing, hedge fund management, and real estate acquisitions across the globe.

This past Thursday, Tony James made the trip to Aggieland to interact with the current class of Titans and visit the Blackstone LaunchPad in the entrepreneurship program here at Mays Business School. Following his discussion with Dr. Eli Jones and other professionals at the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship, James conversed with Lazarus Solutions—a biocompatible ammunition startup on campus—about their incubation through entrepreneurship in Mays. After completing his time at the McFerrin Center, Tony James visited the most famous class in the nation, Britt Harris’s Titans of Investing.

During this class, Tony James presented what he believed would be the biggest headwinds the current generation of students would face in their careers. The headwinds Mr. James listed were technology disruption, inequality, deglobalization, demographic shifts, climate change, and low interest rates. Furthermore, he challenged us to make our own decisions with the guidance of facts and instincts. He also challenged us as a Titans class to be leaders who define reality and bring hope. Using the wisdom imparted to us by Tony James and Britt Harris, I will be conscientious of the headwinds as I begin my career while having a clear definition of success with altruism in mind.

Titans of Investing is a group of 19 high caliber, high character individuals who are unusually likely to be successful at an early stage of life. These interesting and fully engaged people participate in a semester-long class where they interact with successful leaders around the globe, such as Tony James and Ray Dalio. Titans of Investing is currently in the 29th session and has over 600 people in the Titans Network.

 

Hannah Link
Undergraduate in Accounting and Business Honors
Graduate – PPA — Financial Management Track

This past Titans class had the honor and privilege to hear from Tony James, one of the top 10 most successful and influential people on Wall Street. James is a brilliant leader in finance, a dedicated philanthropist, and an influential author. He currently serves as the Vice Chairman at Blackstone and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Costco Wholesale Corporation. Blackstone is a leading global investment business and financial services firm serving clients through private equity, credit, and hedge funds with hundreds of billion in assets.

Tony James gave generously in his time and energy to join us for class in College Station, TX. James’ visit to the Titans program was significant in the incredible knowledge and experience he had that he was willing to share. He was able to share his views of the world with advice for our generation in an intimate room beaming with energy. Also, I believe we were able to adequately welcome this Harvard alum to Aggieland, with Britt honoring James as an “Honorary Titan” before the night was over.

Some of my key takeaways from James stemmed from six headwinds facing our generation. The six headwinds we will be facing include technology disruption, inequality, deglobalization, demographic changes, climate change, and very low interest rates. James also shared how he was able to find success by finding a job he was passionate about and could pour into his work.

After hearing from Tony James, I think he has opened my perspective on how to adapt to change. Through his six headwinds advice, I realized the imminent changes and disruptions in the economy and society that are quickly surfacing. However, James framed these ideas in an empowering way allowing our generation the opportunity to face these headwinds straight on to create a legacy of our generation. Even in the little disruptions in my life, I feel inspired and confident to face them head-on without hesitation.

 

Kyle Fenner
MIS

Tony James is an executive vice chairman of Blackstone, a multinational corporation that manages over $500 billion in assets. They operate in many aspects of global finance, the main four being private equity, real estate, hedge fund solutions, and credit. They get their money via large pension funds and other institutional, and invest that money on behalf of their clients.

The fact that Tony James came to Mays is significant for many reasons. For one, schools from the northeast have dominated top private equity, banking, and strategy consulting firms. Mays has gained substantial credibility across the world and continues to do so more and more every year. As that happens, it is vital that leaders from these firms recognize Mays and the students it is producing. Tony coming to visit shows students that Mays is a top tier program in the world, and business leaders recognize that.

There was a lot to take away from Tony’s conversations. He talked about factors that are changing for our generation that will produce significant headwinds for us going forward. These factors are significant in itself, but they also show the need for vigilant flexibility at all times. We cannot always simply examine the past to determine the future.

A tactical step that I want to take after our class is to reach out to those around me to let them know how grateful I am for them. We talked a lot about gratitude and the importance of being thankful for everything in life.

I am extremely grateful to be in the Titans program. We learn extensively about capital markets and finance, but we learn a lot more about the importance of living a meaningful life for others. My peers are amazing individuals, and we get to learn a ton from each other and everyone that visits our class.

 

 

Frances Andrews
PPA and Business Honors

Tony James is the Executive Vice Chairman of The Blackstone Group, the world’s largest alternative investment firm. Mr. James has been with Blackstone since 2002 and is largely responsible for its massive success. Mr. James was joined by Ram Jagannath, who leads Blackstone’s Global Healthcare efforts. Both men attended the Blackstone LaunchPad event, where Texas A&M students can pitch their ideas and potentially gain funding for their entrepreneurial ideas.

When asked what Mr. James looks for when considering career opportunities, he encouraged our class to find what we love and find a place where we can grow. He said there should always be a steep learning curve because growth prevents complacency and encourages gratitude.

Having heard Mr. James speak, I plan to live by my principles. As a board member of many philanthropies, Mr. James lives out his own principles by taking on leadership roles where he believes he can make the biggest difference. I hope that one day I can offer my expertise and support and live out my core values in such a tangible way.

The Titans of Investing course attempts to infuse high-achieving students with wisdom and put them on a path to success. Students in the class commit to becoming life-long friends, are especially likely to be unusually successful early in their career, are fully engaged people who have the character to do good with their success, and they love to eat!

 

Danielle Harding
PPA and Business Honors

Tony James is arguably one of the most influential finance leaders of our time. He currently serves as the Executive Vice Chairman of the Blackstone Group, which is the largest alternative asset management firm in the world. Outside of Blackstone, Tony is passionate about serving philanthropies where he believes he can make a difference and leave a legacy, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He has also co-authored a book called Rescuing Retirement about possible solutions for the retirement crisis the country is facing.

We had the privilege of hosting Tony, Ram Jagannath, Erica Lock Munsky, and Lee Cochran for Titans this week. It was a great opportunity for us to learn about Blackstone’s commitment to entrepreneurship during our visit to Startup Aggieland and hear Tony’s perspective on the issues our generation will face. Six of the issues that Tony believes will be particularly important were: technology disruption, inequality, deglobalization, demographics, climate change, and interest rates.

Looking back at Tony’s career, it is clear he has become very successful, so I asked him, “What is your definition of success.” He answered by saying that he evaluates his success by determining whether or not he was able to make a difference in the situation. He also expressed how important it was to always stick to guiding principles, which for him are integrity, respect, trust, and gratitude. At dinner, he also suggested we try to find a career that we loved because that would make the “burdens” light.

It was a truly unique experience to learn from the man Britt Harris called an “Honorary Titan.”

 

 

Matthew Galvan
Finance & Business Honors

Tony James, a modern-day titan of the business world, serves as the Executive Vice Chairman of Blackstone among many other leadership roles for impressive businesses and philanthropic organizations. To host such a prominent leader was a great honor to Texas A&M University and the Titans organization. Aside from his visit to the Titans class, Mr. James attended presentations from student-created businesses, such as Lazarus Solutions, that have been cultivated through the Startup Aggieland and Blackstone Launchpad organizations. Mr. James’s trip to Texas A&M serves as a testament to the environment created through these organizations and classes like Titans and how they have captivated the attention of the world around us.

In his time with us, Mr. James conveyed some of the most important principles that have helped him successfully navigate his career and various involvements. Some of the most impactful lessons shared included the importance of maintaining your integrity, making your own decisions, and being thankful. According to Mr. James, there is no such thing as costless integrity, and you will only find out the strength of your integrity in a moment of desperation when your back is against a wall. Furthermore, while it is necessary to be analytical and gather the opinions of trusted advisors, it is important to trust your instincts and make your own decision. Lastly, Mr. James convicted each of us that there are probably 4 billion other people in the world that would gladly trade places with any of us on any given day. Because of this, we clearly have much to be grateful for.

 

Oluwademilade Oyeniyi
Chemical Engineering, Business minor

Tony James is a revolutionary and contemporary businessman. Tony James currently serves as the Executive Vice Chairman of The Blackstone Group and the Chairman of Costco. He is an innovative businessman who achieved extensive and unprecedented success at Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette, before his appointment as President and Chief Operating Officer at The Blackstone Group. Tony’s influence extends beyond the business realm, as he serves on the board of various arts and conservation philanthropies, such as The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Wildlife Conservation Society. Tony James’s wisdom and knowledge are valued in both the business and political realm. Tony co-authored “Rescuing Retirement,” a bi-partisan solution to the retirement savings challenges in the US.

The Titans of Investing titans had the privilege to acquire wisdom from Tony James. Tony James’s address to the Titans of Investing class focused on addressing the headwinds (approaching opposition) the millennial generation should anticipate in the business world and life advice to young professionals. He discussed six headwinds: (1) technological disruption, (2) inequality of relevance to society, (3) deglobalization, (4) shifting demographics, (5) climate change, and (6) low interest rates. Under these enumerations, he explained the economic and social implications of these headwinds, commonly highlighting values that will be challenged.

Tony’s advice was pivotal because he emphasized that young professionals find opportunities for growth while trusting the power of instincts, exercising the practice of gratitude while honing on the power of luck, and prioritizing integrity at the center of business decisions. My belief in the future of our sociopolitical climate was reaffirmed due to Tony’s optimism about the capacity of students at Texas A&M University.

Categories: Uncategorized