2011: The Year in Review

December 28, 2011

With much to be thankful for, I look back at a year filled with achievements at the Bauer College that make me, along with our students, faculty, staff, alumni, partners and friends, proud. Even as the college mourns the loss of a visionary leader, Dean Arthur Warga, we move on knowing that he would be pleased to see the results we have to share.

We started 2011 with an efficiency award in January. The Rockwell Career Center at the College was named one of nine colleges and universities nationwide by University Business magazine’s “Models of Efficiency,” a program sponsored by Higher One. The company assists in college business office operations and identifies new approaches for streamlining higher education operations to deliver superior services to students in less time and at lower cost. Against the backdrop of budget cuts, the recognition reinforced the fact that at Bauer, we mean business.

This year, we were also happy to hear of the confirmation of our re-accreditation by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). AACSB announced on Jan. 5, that the Bauer College maintains its accreditation in business and accounting. With less than 5% of the world’s business schools being accredited, the AACSB accreditation is the hallmark of excellence in business education. Achieving accreditation is a process of rigorous internal review, evaluation and adjustment and can take several years to complete, during which a school develops and implements a plan to meet the 21 AACSB standards requiring a high quality teaching environment, a commitment to continuous improvement and curricula responsive to the needs of business.

UH football Coach Kevin Sumlin spoke at the February Bauer Alumni Networking Breakfast and predicted, “The stars have got to align, but if I didn’t feel like we are close to something happening, then I would have a different attitude,” Sumlin said. “It’s going to be a fun year. This is going to be a great year.” And it has been indeed.

In March, Rebekah Elliott, Taylor Herbert and team alternates Jozette Bionat and Adrian Sese, all undergraduate marketing students in the Program for Excellence in Selling (PES) competed against 60 of the top graduate and undergraduate sales programs in the nation and came away with the first place trophy at the National Collegiate Sales Competition held at Kennesaw State University. During the same month, Prof. Craig Pirrong, director of energy markets for the Global Energy Management Institute (GEMI) at the Bauer College was featured in a panel discussion hosted by the CME Group, the Commodity Markets Council and the Natural Gas Supply Association. The panel discussed developments in derivatives trading and the impact of the financial-overhaul law that was being discussed in the U.S. House of Representatives.

In April, continuing a tradition more than 10 years strong, students from the Finance Association at the Bauer College dominated the Houston round of the CME Group Commodity Trading Challenge. The open outcry competition requires students to test their ability to buy and sell oil contracts using the traditional trading terminology and fast-paced hand signals. Bauer students made up half of the top 10, with Francis Dorrego taking the first prize of $1,000, Laurentino Rangel and Kirsten Mayell taking fourth and fifth place, respectively, and Wallis Paez and Rong Yu rounding out the top 10. They then headed to NYC to participate in the NYMEX Outcry Competition in April where they placed in the top ten nationally. Also in April, two teams of graduate students from the Cougar Fund — Maria Asher, Krishna Danda, Horacio Mendez and Russell Schulze; and Anitha Ramaraj, Greg Spahr and Peter Vo — placed in the top three spots in both the Texas Investment Program Symposium (T.I.P.S.) Portfolio Competition and the CFA Institute Investment Research Challenge, hosted by Rice University.

In May, the Sales Excellence Institute (SEI) at the Bauer College celebrated its 15th anniversary with a week of “sellebration” to recognize the faculty, staff, alumni, students and partners who have built the program into the top sales program in the nation. At commencement festivities held during the same month, the college welcomed a group of 35 senior executives from one of China’s largest energy companies who traveled from Beijing to receive MBA degrees as part of the college’s Global Energy Executive MBA (GEMBA) program in Beijing.

While summer is traditionally a slow time, not so for Bauer students. What started as a conversation between Department of Finance chair Praveen Kumar and Bellaire Mayor Cindy Siegel became a project developed by MBA students to give the city a practical and usable framework to project its financial position in the medium and long run and to allow the city managers and its elected representatives to examine effects of various policy changes. At the same time, Cougar Fund graduate Jason Wangler was named one of America’s top stock pickers by The Wall Street Journal.

In August, we heard the news that the world’s best student marketing team is here at Bauer. Four MBA students, Erin Blatzer, Lauren Davis, Carolina Thomas and Jeffrei Clifton were named the first place team winners in the 2011 Google Online Marketing Challenge – a competitive event where 4,429 collegiate teams from 68 countries participate. Not only was the Bauer team #1, it was the first time in four years that a U.S. based team had won the coveted first place. Better still, their project, which they worked on for over three months using a $200 AdWord budget, helped promote concerts for the Houston Symphony.

Also in August, the college lost a bold visionary, Dean Arthur Warga who passed away after a valiant battle with cancer. It was no coincidence, and as if to honor his legacy, that the college celebrated in September its #1 ranking in entrepreneurship in the undergraduate program, an honor received for the third time in five years and for the second consecutive year. Also in September, GEMI, at the request of the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA), hosted a week-long leadership program for energy professionals.

In October, Bauer hosted Pulitzer-prize winner Daniel Yergin who spoke on energy, the environment and the economy. The college also partnered with Invesco to host a financial boot camp for women, which was well received and appreciated.

In November, the Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship presented CougarPitch in its inaugural year as the campus elevator pitch competition. Thirteen finalists competed in three categories — faculty/staff, entrepreneurship student and general student — with each giving a two-minute pitch in front of a voting audience. The first prize winner was a pre-nursing student who won a cash award of $1,000 for her idea of creating a better online study guide for the national nursing exam. The event attracted over 200 participants and will become a regular Bauer calendar event in the future.

Hours before kickoff of the Nov. 19 University of Houston-Southern Methodist University football game, former Cougar offensive tackle James Hong (’05) who runs Little Coogs, a program that gives Houston-area at-risk youth a taste of Cougar pride through tailgating excitement at every home game, arranged for over 3,000 hotdogs, chips and drinks to be delivered to the Bauer tent so the over 1,500 at-risk kids that he brought to the game could have a good time. James is a Houston native who holds dual degrees in finance and management and is president of the Bauer College Alumni Association (BCAA). We are so proud of you, James.

December graduation was special this year, as the University of Houston’s first Tier One graduate walked across the stage at the Bauer College commencement. The Tier One Scholars Program is part of UH President Renu Khator’s initiative to attract and engage high caliber students. Graduating in a year and a half with a degree in accounting, Lei “Sally” Wong, remarked, “I’m very thankful for the Tier One Scholarship. With it I was able to focus solely on my studies and not have to worry about tuition,” she said. “My class rank in high school allowed me to attend any Texas public university. I chose UH and have never regretted doing so.”

We have much to be proud of and we owe it to our faculty, and staff whose commitment to student success is inspiring. Happy New Year everyone – onward and upward.

No substitute for travel

December 12, 2011

Data on the competitiveness of the U.S.:

We are #4 or #5 in terms of ease of doing business, our infrastructure has gone from being in the top 10 to being #24, and our human capital as measured by the number of graduates has declined considerably.

It sounds too cliché-ish but it is certainly true that travelling abroad is an enlightening experience.  I was in Beijing in November and in Dubai more recently, teaching in our Global Energy EMBA (GEMBA) program.  These trips reinforce my belief that while people look, speak, dress, eat and talk differently, we are very similar in many respects.  People everywhere want to have a good time, eat well, and appreciate the opportunity to be heard and listened to.  When convinced that the listener can be trusted, most cultures are willing to critique themselves and appreciate the opportunity to learn from others.  This does not, however, equate to global integration.  In fact I am not sure what ‘integration’ means – does it mean we all buy the same bundle of goods and listen to the same music and watch the same movies?  Does it mean that chains like Walmart are able to sell to consumers in India (India is currently debating the benefits and costs of allowing companies like Walmart to sell to Indian consumers and the rhetoric has a strong political tone)? Does it mean that in a country like Dubai where the local population accounts for less than 15% of the population, immigrants are allowed the rights to citizenship? How do we preserve the ability to understand and appreciate differences without standardizing everything we do?

I visited a friend in Dubai who lives in an apartment surrounded by neighbors from Syria, Iran, Iraq, India, Australia, and the U.K.  Children of these neighbors play and work together, celebrate holidays together and trust each other in a way that is refreshing.  In a world where Facebook and Twitter have changed the way in which we cultivate relationships, there is still no substitute for physical proximity.  Travel will not go out of fashion in my life time.  What do you think?