We gathered in Hermann Park in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service. We were dressed in Cougar Red, and some of us had sweatshirts with the Bauer logo. We were honoring Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK).
When MLK led the great march to Washington, no one had a GPS, nor was there social media to publicize events. Yet people gathered in the thousands to listen to him. When he spoke, his message was simple and appealing — racial injustice goes against everything that is natural; it defies the law of nature. It was a simple truth, and people listened.
When we met at Hermann Park, our students had a simple goal — to serve. And they did.
The people at the park explained to us that we would help replant some of the trees that had been placed in the wrong spots. We separated into two groups, one to dig holes so we could lower the trees into the ground, and another to dig the tree out of its current location. I was part of the first group. I had about six students with me — they were all Bauer students as were several in the groups next to us. As always, I am struck by how smart and courteous students are. Importantly today, they focused on service. We talked about Bauer College and our challenges; we talked about recruitment and placements; we discussed the perception of Bauer College outside Houston.
As I listened to each student share their stories, I was awed. These youngsters had bold dreams and a passion to do what it takes. They have career goals, and they are focused. They were in school full-time, and they worked to make ends meet. At the same time, they want to serve and give back. They care about others and about improving lives for those around them. What shone through the sunlight that bright Saturday morning was that these students were not just smart — they were also happy. Interestingly, their happiness derived from how they help each other. The more I think about the values our students reflect, I realized that these students embody what Shawn Autor refers to – Happiness is a work ethic.
We live at a time when the news we see and hear every day, every hour on TV, in the papers, on social media, is negative and divisive. So-called leaders are unable to lead, much less inspire others to follow. Can they take a lesson from our students’ playbook? Can we teach them to be civil to each other? Can we share the message that happiness has to do with reaching out and helping others? Can we share the simple message of service that our students completely embrace? Martin Luther King Jr. showed us that we can dare to care and care about all humanity.
On that bright and sunny Saturday morning at Hermann Park, I realized that our students were not just digging dirt — they were happy to wake up early on a Saturday morning, to work with heavy shovels, to help replant trees. They were happy in the knowledge that they served others. Maybe if Shawn Autor had been with us that morning, he would have commented that to Bauer students, Service is a work ethic.
The best part of my day is time spent with students. Student success has always been our driving mission. The reason why nothing else matters is reinforced every time I speak to students, when they greet me in the elevator, courteously hold the door open at the entrance to Melcher Hall, come to talk to me, or meet me in the classes I teach.
On Friday, I met with six extraordinary Bauer students. One is getting ready to graduate, and thankfully the others will be with us a little longer (I know we want them to graduate in four years but a part of me wants to hold on to students for way, way longer). The students are all part of the Bauer Ambassadors student organization, and they interviewed me for a feature on the “Humans of Bauer” Facebook account they run.
We talked about several things — coffee and coffee shops, food and spicy food, motivation and challenges. And, we talked about fear and failure — our fear of failure. What is failure? Is it a GPA less than 4.0? Is it a missed career opportunity? Is it the lack of a full-time offer in our last semester? Is it not being invited to the Super Bowl party?
It is, as one of them shared with me, a missed opportunity to improve opportunity for others. That is a lot of repetition in one sentence, and does it even make sense? If you have the opportunity to help others, if you have the ability to engage others, and if your meetings and conversations leave everyone around you feeling more enthused when they leave compared to when they came in — if you could do this at every meeting, every conversation, every event you were part of, what would you be? You would of course be a typical Bauer student.
That is what I learnt Friday. I learnt that our students define success by their ability to empower others, and they define failure as not being able to inspire others. That big job offer, that next date, that invitation to the next party, that next win when you run for president of SGA — all these are markers, but true success is defined by your ability to leave a conversation enabling others, true success derives from doing right by others, and lasting success is not defined by how it impacts you, but how you impact others.
Any more, universities are exchanges where we gather to share what we know. On Friday, it was my turn to learn — my instructors were the six students who interviewed me. Thank you students, thank you for sharing with me the true meaning of success.
She said, “I was told that you cannot be nice if you want to succeed, and I know that is not true.”
The statement meant a lot coming from a person with her credibility. She has been described as “The Woman behind the New Brand of NFL Apparel.” She talks of a personal board of directors, of being mentored and of mentoring. She works with “at-risk” kids and brings them to her swanky office on Park Avenue so they can see what education and hard work, not to mention a supportive and loving family, can do to help you develop and grow yourself. She showed me her picture with Oprah, and she took me on a tour of her office at the NFL.
She is Bauer alumna Natara Holloway, and I had dinner with her recently on a trip to New York City.
As vice president of retail development in the NFL’s consumer products department, Natara is responsible for establishing the NFL’s retail growth strategy. She focuses on growing the NFL brand at retail events, elevating the consumer’s retail experiences and on growing sustainable retail partnerships.
Natara graduated with a BBA in accounting from Bauer College. She is a CPA who started her career at Exxon in Houston before moving to NYC. Starting at the NFL as a VP for Corporate and New Business Development, she worked to create the NFL’s event retail operations. Under her leadership, retail revenue grew significantly. She created the first retail pop-up store for women in New Orleans and won the Commissioner’s Innovation Award as part of the Consumer Products Women’s Initiative.
Refreshingly, her success has served to underscore the importance of family and relationships. She credits her parents with giving her everything she needed to succeed, she visits them often in San Antonio, she is close to her sister and nephews, and above all, she believes, as she told me, that you can be nice and be successful.
I smiled as we left The Fig and Olive restaurant where we met for dinner. I told myself that this is what it is all about — changing lives one student at a time, changing lives the right way and changing lives with the right values.
Thank you, Natara. You are special. You are successful. You are Bauer.