Stephen de Man
University of Texas, McCombs School of Business
“The degree to which my peers will go to help a fellow classmate still amazes me. I’ll never forget studying for my first accounting exam and having study group mates joined by students I hadn’t even met yet sitting down with me to walk me through concepts and practice problems. Everywhere I turned there was a support and someone willing to make sure I could be successful.”
Hometown: I was born in Montreal, but I grew up in Houston, Texas and Cincinnati, Ohio.
Education: Georgetown University, BA in American Studies; Stanford University Graduate School of Education, MA in Policy, Organization, Leadership Studies (POLS)
Where did you work before enrolling in business school? I was with Teach For America for eight years. First as an eighth grade US History teacher in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas and then on staff as a Recruiter and Director of Alumni Affairs.
Where did you intern during the summer of 2015? Last Spring, David Booth was a guest speaker in our corporate governance class. Inspired by his story and approach to investing, I took a chance and asked his recruiter at the event if they had any internships still available. They took a chance on me and I interned at the investment firm, Dimensional Fund Advisors in Austin, Texas.
Where will you be working after graduation? I had a terrific experience at Dimensional and I’m excited to return as a Senior Associate on the Financial Advisor Services team.
Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School While in school, I led a local educational advocacy organization, Austin Kids First. We raise awareness around school board elections, which often go unnoticed on the ballot, despite being immensely important for our community. We helped find and support community leaders who focused on improving educational outcomes for all kids in Austin. As the Executive Director, I led our fundraising, volunteer management, and strategic direction. I involved the University of Texas community, working with alumni, professors and students to successfully support five candidates for the Austin school board.
I am a member of the McCombs Admissions Committee. I serve as an ambassador to the program and conduct prospective student interviews.
As a result of my community work and leadership roles while in business school, I was inducted into the Friar Society-the oldest honor society at the University of Texas. It is a university wide organization with the purpose of recognizing students who have made a significant contribution to the University of Texas.
Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Running an advocacy organization during an election season while in business school required several hats. I would go from class to a fundraising meeting, to a community forum and then to a school board meeting. I was taking classes on marketing, accounting, and finance while simultaneously making decisions for our organization that involved our promotion, bookkeeping, and our strategic direction. On weekends I was organizing block walkers, using tools from operations to eliminate the bottlenecks by creating the most efficient ways to knock on doors as we talked to voters. Every aspect of leading Austin Kids First could be tied to a class or lesson from school. At the end of the election, five of our candidates were selected to serve as school board members. It was a team and community effort and I’m incredibly grateful for the support of the UT community and the skills I developed from our MBA program.
What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am most proud of my former students who are now teachers. I have at least four who are now teaching, including two who joined Teach For America to return to the Rio Grande Valley and one who is teaching 8th grade US history in the same community where I was his 8th grade US history teacher. This same student went on a class trip to DC and this past February he was asked back to DC, to speak before 15,000 people in the same arena we attend twelve years ago. Nothing is more rewarding than seeing I made a difference in the lives of my students. Now they are doing the same for their kids.
Favorite MBA Courses? I loved my management courses: Power & Politics with Prof. Burris, Leading People with Prof. Martens, and Advocacy with Prof. Daly. I learned the most from my Analysis of Markets class with Prof Henderson.
Why did you choose this business school? The people, the city and the community. What makes McCombs students stand out is the embodiment of the motto, “Leadership is Earned.” You don’t find a sense of entitlement amongst our student body; we work hard and support each other. Additionally, Austin as a city is the perfect place to go to school—an endless array of activities around the lake and campus, coupled with a tremendous live music scene and night life. UT has student orgs, classes and programs for whatever fits your fancy.
What did you enjoy most about business school Without a doubt, it was the people and the classes. It was the people because they pushed me to be a better version of myself and the classes because I learned valuable skills and new ways of thinking critically.
What is the biggest lesson you gained from business school? You don’t need to always know the answers, but it helps knowing who you can turn to when looking for the answer.
What was the hardest part of business school? My top 3 hardest parts:
- Advanced Financial Accounting- enough said.
- Learning a new language. Finance, operations, marketing and accounting all have their own nomenclature. Just being comfortable with the grammar of business in a variety of subjects was particularly challenging for this liberal arts major.
- FOMO- it is real. There are so many fun and interesting people that I still feel like I’m always missing out on an amazing adventure or opportunity. Learning that it is ok to say no or not go to everything is a real challenge and one that I still wrestle with.
What’s your best advice to an applicant to your school? Come visit! Especially with our new building which will be completed next year, McCombs will have a fresh new look. Talk to students, staff and alumni. Grab some BBQ or queso, listen to some live music, go paddle boarding around the lake, and you’ll see few places compare to ATX.
“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I was doing financial book keeping and filings for our organization and I didn’t understand the basics of debits and credits.”
“If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…still working in the educational advocacy space, trying to pull in more MBAs and others into the arena.”
Which executive or entrepreneur do you most admire? Wendy Kopp, the founder of Teach For America and David Booth, the founder and CEO of Dimensional Fund Advisors. Both started and grew organizations from nothing that now have a profound impact on others in their respective industries. They challenged the status quo, used academic research as a foundation upon which to build their organizations, and are deeply mission driven.
What are your long-term professional goals? I’d love to be in public service. Aiming high—the State Commissioner of Education, or a member of the State Board of Education, or serving on my local school board. I’ll be applying the teaching/nonprofit/advocacy skills I used before my MBA with my quantitative/management/analytical skills developed during and post MBA.
Who would you most want to thank for your success? My 8th grade US history teacher, Mr. Taft and my high school civics teacher, Mr. Reger. They instilled in me a passion for learning, teaching, and civic participation. They inspired me to be a teacher in the hopes of making a similar impact on my students.
In academia it was Dean Cloke, Professor McKeown, Dr. Porterfield, Paul Begala and Paul Brest—they were thoughtful mentors who taught me to think critically and write clearly.
I want to thank my friends, family, and my partner Lauren for providing encouragement, support and love throughout the journey.
Fun fact about yourself: I have a pocket Constitution that I’ve carried with me since high school. I get it signed by interesting people I’ve meet—included in the mix are seven Supreme Court Justices, two US Presidents and a litany of sports and political figures. My latest was Missy Elliot during SXSW.
Favorite book: Anything written by Robert Caro, especially his books on LBJ.
Favorite movie: The Mission (Robert DeNiro, Jeremy Irons and Liam Neeson as Jesuit priests in South America tackling colonialism—powerful story and amazing sound track)
Favorite musical performer: George Strait
Favorite television show: Tie between The Wire, for its complex characters and storylines, and Friday Night Lights, even for the non-Texans out there it pulls on the heartstrings and it’s more about family than football.
Favorite vacation spot: Buenos Aires, Argentina. My father grew up there and I have the warmest Tio, Tia and primos who roll out the red carpet upon arrival.
Hobbies? In between classes I like to run over to the gym on campus and get in a game or two of Ping-Pong. I also run an international push-up challenge twice a year involving a really intense shared spreadsheet and over one hundred participants from around the globe.
What made Stephen such an invaluable addition to the class of 2016?
“Stephen de Man embodies our Texas MBA motto…”Where Leadership is Earned.” When you first meet Stephen de Man, it is likely that you will discover his passion…for history, for teaching and for civic leadership. You may also find out in that first conversation, as I did, that he carries a pocket Constitution wherever he goes and that he has had many signed by Supreme Court Justices, US presidents and members of Congress. He may tell you that he carries it because it reminds him how grateful he is to live in a country with the liberties and structure that we have here in the United States. He may tell you that one day he hopes to work as a leader in education, as the State Commissioner for Education or a member of the State Board of Education. And after that first conversation, it is likely that you will believe that it is not a matter of whether he will reach his goals, as much as when he will reach them.
Stephen’s professional career began as a dedicated eighth grade teacher in rural south Texas through Teach for America. To find out how inspirational he was as a middle school teacher and mentor, you need only here the moving journey of one of his students, who was inspired by Stephen’s dedication and support, to become a teacher himself.
Stephen is also a storyteller. At Orientation last year, he had the entire first year class in rapt attention as he told them a story about meeting Sandra Day O’Connor for the first time to kick off our Orientation “What’s Your Story” program, inspired by some of Stephen’s ideas about finding out more about individual classmates during the MBA journey.
Stephen de Man wants to continue to be a change agent in education, in Texas and beyond. While getting his MBA and preparing to work at Dimensional Fund Advisors as a Senior Associate, he also runs a non-profit called Austin Kids First, a local, non-partisan group that believes every kid in Austin deserves access to quality public schools. Stephen has used the lessons in business school to run this civic organization that works to ensure excellence and equity in education in Austin. As a result of his community work and leadership roles in the MBA program, Stephen was inducted into the Friar Society, the oldest honor society at the University of Texas. It is a university-wide organization with the purpose of recognizing students who have made a significant contribution to the University of Texas.” — Tina Mabley, Assistant Dean, Full-time MBA Program, McCombs School of Business, University of Texas at Austin