mba venture challenge | Mays Impacts | Mays Business School - Part 3

When it comes to finding a fulfilling and meaningful career, Marcus Buckingham, internationally renowned author and career coach, says that you don’t need any skills tests or personality assessments to understand yourself. “You are always the best judge of who you are. You know what it is you’re most drawn to,” he told MBA students at Mays Business School at Texas A&M University. “Start with your interests and take them really seriously.”  Buckingham was on the A&M campus as a guest of the Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship at Mays. He presented his workshop “The Truth About You” to an audience of 300 at A&M. Prior to that lecture, he met in a more personal setting with a group of 20 Mays MBA students. In both venues, he discussed creating job satisfaction and his unique strengths-based management focus.

Career success expert Marcus Buckingham encouraged Mays MBA students to examine an ordinary week of their lives and discover what they love doing.
Career success expert Marcus Buckingham encouraged Mays MBA students to examine an ordinary week of their lives and discover what they love doing.

Richard Scruggs, director of the center coordinated Buckingham’s visit. Scruggs says that Buckingham had an important message for students. “Marcus has pioneered the concept that people and organizations perform better when the work aligns with the individual’s strengths,” he said. “I hope students got out of this presentation the ability to better identify their strengths and then, when it comes time to join the work force or consider graduate school they will be better prepared to seek opportunities that will be more fulfilling and rewarding.”

Buckingham advised the MBA students in the smaller setting to not be as preoccupied with their qualifications as they are their interests. He recommended that students take some time to self-assess by examining an ordinary week of life and keeping a “loved it/loathed it” list, writing down their feelings about work and recreational tasks. He proposes that when we are doing what we love to do, we will be most productive. The challenge then is to find out how to use what we love doing to benefit society.

“I enjoyed the way he went through the process of discovering your strengths, by recording and analyzing random everyday activities over a period of one week. To me, it was a very practical application,” said Chuk Ejim, a second-year MBA student from Nigeria.

Buckingham is the author of four books on the topic of personal strengths, including First, Break All the Rules and The One Thing You Need to Know. He is an international public speaker and has appeared on the Today Show and Oprah.

Categories: Centers, Programs

In a world full of technological breakthroughs and innovative ideas, Texas A&M continues to make its mark. Though every invention shows promise, marketing new technology to the average person can be a difficult task, and that’s where the Mays MBA Program steps in. On February 15, 77 first-year MBA students participated in the Tech Transfer Challenge, developing real-world applications for A&M’s newest innovations.

Tech Transfer Challenge
James Lancaster (center), General Manager of The Research Valley Partnership, served as one of the judges for this year’s Tech Transfer Challenge.

Presented by Mays Business School’s Center for New Ventures in Entrepreneurship, MBA students kicked off the challenge with a week of research and analysis on an unfamiliar potential product. The teams of students then presented ideas for commercializing each item to a panel of judges, including representatives from today’s top corporations. With little preparation time and the task of creating a presentation fit for the boardroom, the students’ leadership, teamwork, and research skills were put to the test. Tech Transfer enabled the students to incorporate management principles while sizing up the potential of patents and other raw technologies. The diverse technology made the event even more challenging, as research was required on random topics such as beetle pesticide.

Kristen Robinson, a first-year MBA student and member of the first-place winning team, feels that despite the challenging time crunch, the event provided her and the other participants with a unique opportunity to synthesize their classroom experience as well as practice their networking skills. “It helps you learn how to make important contacts with big names in the business world. It’s really encouraging because this process is often very intimidating,” said Robinson.

While the Tech Transfer competition is a required activity for Mays MBA students, the $6,000 prize money split among the top three teams is plenty of motivation for students to maximize their creativity and produce a quality presentation. The students definitely succeeded in this aspect, proving their corporate capabilities through their professional presentations reflecting organized research.

Tech Transfer Challenge
This year’s first place team presented research on “Compositions, Methods, and Uses for a Novel Family of Peptides.”

Clinching the first place spot, Alayne Bomba, Jesse Jones, Elliot Battles, Kristen Robinson, and Amy Heintz presented research on “Compositions, Methods, and Uses for a Novel Family of Peptides.” In second place, Kyle Klein, Vickram Gopaal, Lisa Sun, Scott Bradford, and Josephine Hodge displayed their newfound knowledge of an “Improved Vaccine Against Brucella Abortus,” and third place went to Taylor Robertson, Brian Wiggins, David Ball, Hemanth Babu Shakar, and Robin Hawkins’ presentation, “Attractant for Monitoring the Control of Adult Scarabs.”

Lenae Huebner, assistant director for the Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship, feels that the challenge benefits everyone involved. “For the corporate representatives, participation in the event is more than just an opportunity to give back to the community and support our educational efforts. Judges over the last few years have hired students, licensed technologies and expanded their personal networks as a direct result of the challenge. Serving as a judge can be as rewarding to the judges as it is for the students,” said Huebner.

Judges agree. John Andersen, representative of Merrill Lynch feels that the Tech Transfer is a fantastic opportunity for venture capitalists seeking new business endeavors. “They love this sort of thing. And when you interact with young minds like this, it’s reassuring to know that these young people are in our society, they are the future of business. This is an outstanding network opportunity,” said Andersen.

About the Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship

The Texas A&M Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship provides encouragement, education, networking and assistance to entrepreneurially-minded students, faculty and Texas businesses. Founded in 1999, the center is part of Mays Business School’s Department of Management. The center enhances student education through campus speakers, competitions, work experiences and financial support. The Texas A&M faculty and Office of Technology Commercialization benefit from the center’s educational programs, extensive business community network and the entrepreneurial services.

The center also reaches out to the state’s business community offering educational programs, business assistance and access to university resources. The center is supported by corporate and individual members and sponsors who believe in the value of an entrepreneurial education program and the value of Texas businesses working with Texas A&M University.

About the Mays MBA program

Mays Business School currently enrolls more than 4,000 undergraduate students and 875 graduate students. The MBA program is highly selective, with an acceptance rate of 29.8 percent to its intensive 16-month program and a placement rate of 100 percent within three months of graduation.

Categories: Centers, Programs

A chemical technique that could ease targeting of diseased cells in pharmaceutical drug delivery isn’t quite ready yet for the market, but still holds promise if research continues. That’s the judgment of a team of MBAs and their informal technology commercialization board—the 135 industry representatives judging the Ford MBA Technology Transfer Challenge.

First-year MBA candidates Matt Hancock, Samuel Kerns, Janet Marcantonio, Brock Roark and Scott Schun took first prize, winning $3,000, in the 5th annual challenge, sponsored by Mays’ Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship.

The challenge is a required part of the curriculum for all first-year MBAs. Students have a week to assess a new technology, identify markets for it and determine its potential commercial viability. They must then make a “go” or “no go” decision on the technology and defend their decision to potential business and venture capital investors.

The challenge is underwritten by Ford Motor Company. CRA International provided the $3,000 grand prize; Ozona Grill & Bar-Ford Restaurant Group sponsored the second-place, $2,000 award; and Hewlett Packard sponsored the third-place prize of $1,000.

Other winning teams include:
Second place: Design of a Portable Buoyancy Driven PCR Thermocycler, presented by Tanya Arora, Olubanke “Banke” Awofeso, Aritada “Pam” Changchit, Rachana Chidanand and Jennifer Hoffpauir

Third place: Radio-Frequency Encoding (RFE) Probes for Magnetic Resonance Imaging, presented by Todd Johnson, Jesse Durden, Sean Green, Samuel Kirk and Leandro Salgado.


Categories: Programs, Students

A technique for the treatment of macular degeneration got the green light for commercialization from a team of MBAs and their informal technology commercialization board — the 130 industry representatives judging the MBA Technology Transfer Challenge.

First-year MBA candidates Jason Call, Nicholas Jones, Mike Reynolds, Travis Habhab and Ivan Cima took first prize, winning $3,000 in the 4th annual challenge, sponsored by Mays’ Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship.

The challenge is a required part of the curriculum for all first-year MBAs. Students have a week to assess a new technology, identify markets for it and determine its potential commercial viability. They must then make a “go” or “no go” decision on the technology and defend their decision to potential business and venture capital investors.

Students randomly draw from selected technologies. The inventions are developed by Texas A&M University System researchers and managed by the Texas A&M System Office of Technology Commercialization.

The week ends with a day of pitches in front of judges familiar with the industry or accustomed to investing in new ventures, giving students a real-world feel for business analysis, decision-making and entrepreneurship.

“The annual Tech Transfer Challenge brings MBA classroom lessons to life,” said Richard Scruggs, director of the Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship. “It really tests their learning as well as their research, analysis, planning and teamwork skills.”

The challenge was underwritten by Ford Motor Company. CRA International provided the $3,000 grand prize; Monika Matthews (in honor of Gordon Matthews) sponsored the second-place, $2,000 award; and Hewlett Packard sponsored the third-place prize of $1,000.

Other winning teams include:
Second place:  Low-Volume Total Suspended Particulate (TSP) Sampler Head, presented by Lauren Fincher, Kevin Venturini, Marty Allsop, Kipper Overstreet and Paul Dyson.

Third place: Fluorescently Labeled Primer Combinations to Produce a Multiplexed Assay for High Throughput Identification of Bovine Prion Protein Gene (PRNP) Mutations, prestened by Abbas Halabi, Sanjay Gokhale, Patrick Cary and Mendi Slodowitz.

Categories: Centers, Programs, Students

Biomedical engineering PhD student Saurabh Biswas won $10,000 to help further the commercialization of a colon cancer early-warning technology, taking 1st place in the Idea to Product (or “I2P”) International Competition in early November. Student teams from leading universities in three continents — including top idea-generating students from Stanford, Penn State and Purdue — competed for $25,000 in prizes in the competition, held in Austin on the University of Texas campus.

Past entries in the I2P International have stepped up university patenting efforts, led university technologies to be licensed, and even spawned new companies.

Biswas first championed the colorectal cancer early-detection technique, based on technology from the Texas A&M University System Technology Licensing Office, during the Ideas Challenge organized this spring by Mays’ Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship (CNVE). He took second place at that event in May, winning $2,000. And with CNVE’s sponsorship and continued guidance, he advanced the technology’s commercialization appeal in Austin.

The technique — with patents pending in the U.S. and Europe — has the potential to identify the altered genes associated with colorectal cancer a decade before cancer strikes.

Biswas’ first-place win at I2P earned him the first-ever A&M spot in UT’s global MOOT CORP Competition, a world-renowned business plan competition in which aspiring entrepreneurs solicit start-up funds from experienced investors. Competitors from schools around the globe come to UT each May to present their business plans to panels of investors. CNVE will help Biswas team up with Mays MBA students, who can address the key business issues in the idea for MOOT CORP.

The student’s success takes the entry from the Ideas Challenge — held every spring and open to any student on the A&M campus — to one of the highest levels in seeking new funding opportunities for a commercially viable technology.

“Saurabh is an outstanding student, a business-savvy researcher and a great presenter,” CNVE Director Richard Scruggs said. “We are happy to have sponsored him and are looking forward to helping him with the MOOT CORP competition.”

Categories: Centers, Faculty, Students

The MBA Technology Transfer Challenge at Mays Business School turned its first-year students into apprentice entrepreneurs for the third year running, rewarding successful plans with a total of $5,000.

The challenge, sponsored by Mays’ Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship, gave 70 MBA students a week to find a path to market for 15 new technologies based on Texas A&M University System research. Teams of four and five students randomly drew their technologies and had a week to prepare a pitch. More than 100 industry and expert judges gathered at Mays on Feb. 25 to evaluate student presentations in the final step of the challenge.

“Just learning how this occurs was pretty incredible,” said Bobby Williams, a joint MBA and veterinary medicine PhD candidate whose team took first place and split $3,000 after proving the marketability of roadway crash cushions. “I don’t think you could have done this anywhere else.”

The challenge is modeled after what a venture capitalist does daily. In the fast-paced business world, venture capitalists hear innovative pitches and must be able to decide quickly if new technologies are commercially viable.

During the challenge, teams of students work with researchers to understand possible applications of new technology and contact industry sources to decipher the need and potential market for their products.

Great companies with great technologies can fail if they don’t have the ability to translate science into business, said BASF Venture Capitalist Patrick Huebler, who flew in from Santa Barbara to judge the challenge. Exposing students to that lesson makes for a better-prepared class of Mays MBA graduates.

“This is the first step of what we do,” he said. “We appreciate very much that they’re already trained. Entrepreneurship and how to transform technology into product is of high value.”

Winning teams include:

  • First place, $3,000: Bryan Lee, Clay McCollor, Ellisa McCollor, Walter Stoerkel and Bobby Williams with “Box Cushion with Cut-outs and Pre-Bent Sections.”
  • Second place, $2,000: Stefanie Bertram, David Brodniak, Luke Friesen, Chase Paxton and Ralph Schickel with “Detection, Evaluation and Potential Treatments for Advanced Prostate Cancer.”
  • Third place, $1,000: Brad Cason, Joe Lightbody, Mohit Nilekani, Jason Sherry and Tina Zhou with “A novel Sialytransferase with Unique Enzymatic Activity from Drosophila Melanogaster.”

Categories: Centers, Programs

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

By Richard Castleberry, Director of Full-Time MBA

There are not too many individuals who, when choosing between studying for an MBA and going onto medical school, decide to do both, However, there are not many Ahad Azimuddin(s) in the world. He is an MD/MBA student in Mays Business School.

Upon completion of his MBA degree in August 2019, Azimuddin will switch gears to focus on medical school. His primary interest is in surgery and taking “healthcare” to a whole other level. His focus on the “business of medicine” is off to a great start.

Azimuddin joined Texas A&M University’s MD/MBA Program at Mays Business School after obtaining his bachelor’s degree from the University of Houston in biomedical sciences; liberal studies; and minors in chemistry, medicine and society, and economics. While studying for his bachelor’s degree, Azimuddin worked as an undergraduate researcher for the University of Houston College of Pharmacy. Since joining the MD/MBA Program in July 2018, he has already left an indelible, positive mark on his class, and continues to impress.

Earlier this year, Azimuddin took advantage of an opportunity offered at Texas A&M’s McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship and entered the Raymond Ideas Challenge. The campuswide competition encourages undergraduate and graduate students to dream up the next great product or service. Each entry must include a 45-second video pitch of your idea. So Azimuddin submitted his 45-second video pitch of his medical device “L-Clip” idea (a pressure-sensitive medical device for a laryngoscope), and won the $3,000 first-place prize. He won with the Best Idea, as well as the Video Pitch, which brought him another $1,000 prize. …Read more

Categories: Featured Stories, Mays Business, MBA, McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship, News, Programs, Research, Spotlights, Students, Texas A&M

andrew-jarrettA startup that competed in the annual MBA Venture Challenge at Mays Business School in February was recently admitted to Startup Aggieland as a client company. It joined the campus-based accelerator program’s Lifestyle group, exclusive for early-stage ventures that generate revenue.

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ResponderX is a team of technical, non-technical and emergency service providers who are dedicated to engineering safety solutions for firefighters across the nation. Volunteer firefighter Andrew Jarrett formed the company team to promote the use of TaskForceTracker, his patent-pending technology consisting of small device attaches to the top of firefighter helmets and is able to provide critical information such as location and condition of the personnel on the scene.

He said he was inspired to create TaskForce technology to save lives after two local firemen lost their lives during a Feb. 2013 rescue at the Knights of Colombus hall. “Someone got lost in the fire and we had to go search for him,” Jarrett recalled. “When the dust settled, we realized that the guy they came to rescue was very close to an external door to the back building. That’s when it came to me that there is a better way to do this.”

ResponderX founders Jarrett and Jerry Lozano participated in the annual MBA Venture Challenge through Mays Business School at Texas A&M University in February 2016. Over an intensive two-week period, they worked with two Texas A&M MBA students whose task was to complete an in-depth analysis of the business and market segment of Jarrett’s startup company, ResponderX.

“Armed with the research provided to ResponderX by the MBA team, we were able to approach serious investors for the first time with a truly accurate depiction of our business valuation and well-documented market research,” said Jarrett.

The information helped Jarrett raise almost $200,000 in funding.

“The MBA Venture Challenge may have been one of the single most important things to happen to our startup in the past year,” Jarrett explained. “The research, projections, and recommendations provided to me by the student team we were partnered with were priceless, and we continue to use the materials they created to help us in our projections to this day.”

As a client company of Startup Aggieland, ResponderX has been assigned three mentors:

  • Startup Aggieland Entrepreneur-in-Residence Nathan Day, a retired founding CTO of SoftLayer and Texas A&M former student who lives near Austin;
  • Startup Aggieland Entrepreneur-in-Residence Brian Kralyevich, a VP UX for Amazon in Seattle and a Texas A&M former student;
  • Dave Manzer, an Aggie mentor for Startup Aggieland who owns Manzer Communications in Austin;
  • Shelly Brenckman, a student co-founder and marketing coordinator as well as manager of the CNVE Mentor Network and Startup Aggieland’s Dormcubator.
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Burnt gear from the firefighters who died in February 2013 is used to demonstrate how important safety is on the fireground.

Categories: Centers, Entrepreneurship, Featured Stories, Management, Mays Business, MBA, News, Startup Aggieland, Texas A&M

Stepping up to Mays’ future

deanjones

Eli Jones calls himself an “accidental dean”–and says most deans are “accidental” because academics rarely join the profession to be administrators. Academics are teachers, researchers and authors. One typically takes an administrative role as selfless service–a way to serve those he or she leads. As Aggies know, selfless service is one of the Aggie Core Values.

Early in Jones’ career, he finished an undergraduate degree in journalism at Texas A&M and pursued broadcast journalism. Later, he and his family returned to Texas A&M for a two-year MBA degree and Jones became a sales executive and sales manager at three Fortune 500 companies. Still, becoming a dean of a business school had not entered his mind.

However, there was a time in his corporate life when he thought back to something a Mays professor said to him–pursue a Ph.D. and become a professor. Back to school Jones and his family went, and four years later, Jones began his academic career–the path that would eventually lead to the dean’s office at Mays Business School.

Through a series of intentional decisions that led him back and forth between the corporate and academic worlds in an effort to continuously enhance his knowledge, skills and capabilities, the self-professed “hybrid” finds himself today at the helm of a leading business school–one that is on an upward trajectory and positioned to break into the ranks of the nation’s elite institutions.

“One might view Mays Business School as a highly talented, well-coached football team that has marched down the field to our opponents’ 20-yard line,” Jones said. “We have gotten where we are today through hard work, smart decisions and strong leadership. And we are poised to get into the end zone…to score a touchdown. But at this point in the game, our competitors have tightened their chinstraps, the playing field has shifted a little bit and the winds of change are swirling. In order to make that last push over the goal line, we will have to leverage the considerable strengths we’ve built to date. Just as important, we need to reimagine the roles that engagement, innovation and impact will play in the future of business education.”

The changing landscape of business and business education

Jones takes the helm of Mays at a time when companies are facing formidable challenges, such as technological advances, digitization of data, increasingly diverse and dispersed workforces and changing employee attitudes and expectations.

Business schools are pipelines to the corporate and entrepreneurial world – suppliers of new knowledge, young talent, and retooled managers and leaders. Thus, business schools are uniquely positioned to help businesses successfully navigate today’s turbulent environment.

Engagement, innovation and impact

While his professional background working in the corporate and academic sectors gives Jones unique perspectives and experiences to lead Mays at this time, he recognizes “At the end of the day, we need to actively engage our stakeholders; continuously innovate our research and programmatic efforts, and positively impact the students, companies and business and academic communities we serve,” he said.

Elevating engagement

Jones recognizes that the school cannot redefine innovation and impact in a vacuum, solely on its own terms. Rather, it must solicit the input of various constituencies–internal and external–to understand what innovation and impact mean to them. So this summer, he embarked on a “listening tour” traveling across Texas to engage key external stakeholder groups and give them a voice in the school’s larger strategic planning and visioning efforts.

The listening tour has included town hall meetings with students, faculty and staff as well as networking events with former students. In addition, Jones is conducting a series of small-group gatherings and one-on-one meetings with academic department heads, donors, corporate partners and recruiters, business clients and development council members. In each of these interactions, he is asking for opinions on a range of topics and questions, including “When you think of Mays Business School, what is the first thing that comes to mind?” as well as “Do we have the right mission, and how can we leverage the school’s mission to continuously improve as measured by innovation and impact?”

In January, Jones and his leadership team will begin discussing the stakeholder input and integrating key insights into the school’s formal strategic planning initiative. To help guide this overall effort, he has created a new position—interim director of innovation and strategic planning—and has asked Mary Lea McAnally to serve in this role.

Already, Jones has gleaned insights in some of the early meetings with stakeholders that will help shape the school’s plan going forward.

“We are writing the next chapter in the remarkable story that is Mays Business School, and I believe our opportunity to join the ranks of the nation’s truly elite business schools is now,” he said. “We will build on the momentum here, leverage the experience I gained from my two previous deanships, combine that knowledge with that of the amazing team of faculty and staff at Mays Business School, and generate the support needed to build to world-class status by fully engaging our Aggie network.”

Increasing innovation

In addition to elevating stakeholder engagement, Mays’ world-class faculty is being enhanced by the addition of new faculty. This summer, Mays welcomed 11 new professors with degrees from other top institutions, including Duke, INSEAD, Stanford, the University of Chicago and the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.

“This group of scholars provides just the right influx of fresh perspectives, insights and experiences we need to complement our existing faculty,” Jones said. “They include seasoned professors, those in the middle of their careers and newly minted Ph.D.s who are just starting out on one of the most exciting, challenging and rewarding careers imaginable. And they will pursue diverse research interests ranging from sales leadership and behavioral economics to corporate governance and information asymmetry.”

One of the new additions is Assistant Professor of Marketing Cexun “Jeffery” Cai, who comes to Mays from Wharton. Of his decision to join Texas A&M, Cai said, “No other place promises the combination of dynamic, productive and helpful colleagues; engaged students who are eager to push their limits; a warm and friendly environment made up of people with a deep sense of values; and the opportunity to contribute to a highly reputable institution that is on the frontier of knowledge discovery and dissemination.”

In addition to recruiting new faculty, Mays plans to develop innovative educational programs to meet the evolving needs of today’s students, corporate partners and the market. The new Master of Science in Business (MS Business) is one example of the kind of innovation to which Jones is referring. Scheduled to welcome its first class of students fall 2016, the MS Business is an intensive 11-month program designed to help non-business majors compete more effectively for jobs in the global marketplace. The program will provide students with core business knowledge, solid quantitative skills and a basic understanding of best practices in leadership—with emphases on experiential learning, teamwork and career preparation. Students will apply to the MS Business during their senior year, and the program will enable undergraduate students to earn their bachelor’s and master’s degrees in five years. No prior job experience is required for admission.

‘Jon Jasperson, academic director for the program, says it will showcase some of the latest innovations in higher education. “We plan to build a challenging, innovative learning environment for the MS Business students that incorporates education best practices into the classroom,” he said. “The concentrated, block delivery schedule for the courses combined with role play, simulations and flipped classroom active learning techniques will provide better engagement for students in the learning process.”

High-impact learning

For many years, Mays faculty have challenged students to apply what they learn in class to solve problems in a variety of real-world contexts—from consulting engagements and capstone projects to internships and study-abroad programs. The school’s undergraduate Business Honors and Business Fellows programs along with the Freshman Business Initiative offer a range of active learning experiences, including visits to corporations, guest speakers on campus, community service activities, and regional and national trips. Mays’ Full-Time, Professional and Executive MBA programs all feature a consulting or capstone project in which students work with actual businesses as well as some kind of travel-study component—either overseas or through the school’s Washington, D.C. Campus.

Case competitions and other business skills challenges have provided another fertile field of high-impact leaning for students. By testing business knowledge and problem-solving skills in a range of areas—from tax, entrepreneurship and ethics to fashion and retail—these activities force teams of students to merge theory and practice while dealing with the same kind of time, resource, and knowledge constraints they will face on the job after they graduate.

In recent years, Mays departments, centers and programs have expanded the number of competitions they host. Newer events such as the Wall Street Journal Challenge for undergraduates, hosted this year by Mays, have joined longstanding activities such as the MBA Venture Challenge and the Ideas Challenge, which is open to all students. Students are also participating in more external competitions, ranging from National Retail Federation Student Challenge to Deloitte’s FanTAXtic tax case competition and the National MBA Case Competition in Ethical Leadership. In 2013, a team of Mays Full-Time MBA students (composed of Janette Barnard, Matt Johnson, Lloyd McGuire and Robyn Peters) won the case competition in ethical leadership. Peters remarked on the impact of the learning experience: “Given less than 24 hours to dissect the case, craft recommendations and develop a flawless presentation, this competition was a test of critical problem solving and prioritization. Experiences like this are what really prepare us for our roles as future professional leaders.”

Mays will continue to participate in these and other experiential learning activities to ensure that its students are ready and able to put their hard-earned knowledge into action.

Impact on business

Corporate partnerships play a vital role in many of the high-impact learning experiences enjoyed by Mays’ students, as organizations help underwrite competitions or host students for consulting engagements or capstone projects. By forging new partnerships with industry, as well as deepening relationships with existing partners, Jones is confident the school can also boost its impact on business.

Mays’ Professional Selling Initiative (PSI) is one example of a new program that provides a platform for creating innovative, mutually beneficial partnerships with industry. Its existence, in fact, is born out of the school’s ongoing dialogue with corporate partners and a careful assessment of marketplace forces and trends. In recent years, the Department of Marketing has witnessed significantly increased demand from firms looking to hire graduates for professional selling jobs—in both consumer and business-to-business settings. After examining sales initiatives at other universities across the nation and talking to a number of the school’s current recruiters, the department launched the Professional Selling Initiative to meet a range of student, faculty and employer needs.

The initiative will provide enhanced educational offerings for students, including a Certificate in Sales along with a Professional Selling and Sales Management career track. Faculty will enjoy increased research opportunities along with more role-play rooms supported by state-of-the-art technology. Corporate partners will gain greater access to Mays’ top sales students through a variety of recruiting activities, social events and guest-speaking opportunities.

Perhaps most importantly, through more frequent interaction and closer collaboration, Mays and its corporate partners will be able to explore new opportunities to develop custom programming and conduct applied research that is tailored to the unique business needs and objectives of different partners.

Looking ahead

As Jones looks to the future, he is humbled by the opportunity to lead his alma mater into a new era, mindful of the challenges that lie ahead and exhilarated by the opportunities they present.

“Moving into the ranks of the very best business schools is going to require everyone at Mays to step up their game,” he said. “We have to create new knowledge that is relevant and useful to companies. We need to offer unique education programs that prepare students to make valuable contributions to their employers from day one on the job. And we must develop leaders who are as focused on serving their organizations and transforming their communities as they are on maximizing shareholder wealth. There is no more important or rewarding work than this.”

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