Over the past year, the McCombs School of Business has undergone a transition. Actually, that’s an understatement. “Transformation” may be a better description. Between a new home and a revamped MBA curriculum, McCombs is positioning itself as the south’s answer to Michigan Ross. Like Big Blue, UT boasts across-the-board academic excellence that can draw expertise and resources from a world-renowned research institution and a Top 10 undergraduate business program.
Great pitch? Just wait until you hear it delivered by Tina Mabley, assistant dean for the McCombs MBA program. A 1998 McCombs grad who has devoted the past 17 years to the program, Mabley personifies the confidence and cheer of a dynamic business school on the rise. For her, the most underappreciated parts of the McCombs experience is the program’s size. Not just the 289 take-charge MBA candidates in the Class of 2020 – but the scope of everything surrounding them.
McCOMBS’ RESOURCES ARE TEXAS BIG
“We have incredible graduate programs that our MBA students can access across the university, including law, public policy, communications, architecture, energy and earth resources, and the new medical school, among others,” Mabley tells Poets&Quants. In fact, 49 of the university’s graduate programs are ranked among the nation’s top 10 in U.S. News & World Report. This depth at the university allows us to create innovative programs that connect collaborative teams across campus, whether that’s public policy students, med students, and MBAs finding solutions for child poverty; architecture students and MBAs working on sustainable design ideas; or law students, computer science students, and MBAs teaming up to work with early stage start-ups to help raise series one financing.”
Sound enticing? Fasten your seatbelts – Mabley is just getting warmed up! “Outside of the classroom, students enjoy of a wide range of activities and resources across campus, afforded to a university of this size. This includes renowned speakers, live music, art and history museums, health resources, recreational sports, libraries, football games, and more. And upon graduation, our students join a supportive and passionate network of over 450,000 UT alumni worldwide. This means that no matter where you go, you can always find a fellow Longhorn.”
Those are persuasive points…to the left-brained. What really hooks McCombs MBAs is the school’s “famously friendly” culture. A catchy, alliterative tag line? Maybe, but it illustrates a point: There is a palpable energy surrounding the program, one infused with a sense of possibility and community that borrows from the Indie spirit of its Austin homestead. That was the impression made by the school on Joseph Martin, a 2018 grad and P&Q Best & Brightest MBA, who stayed in Austin to work for Deloitte Consulting.
AN OPEN AND WELCOMING CLASS
“McCombs has the same atmosphere as all of my favorite units that I served with in the Marine Corps,” he explains. “When you walk in the building, there is just a buzz of excitement because everyone enjoys being here. The first thing I noticed when I visited as a prospective student was the overwhelming mutual respect that existed between the staff, the faculty, and the students. I knew in the first 10 seconds of walking in the door that this was the place for me.”
Martin wasn’t alone in experiencing this distinctly good-natured culture. This summer, Jascity Hutchison was struck by how quickly her McCombs peers “meshed” together during the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management’s orientation program. The dynamic continued to play out with the larger class when she arrived on campus. “Everyone I have met since coming to Austin has been equally welcoming,” she observes. “No one is afraid to sit next to you and strike up a conversation for an hour. People say your MBA classmates become your family by the time you graduate. I can believe that because it already feels like we are one.”
The Class of 2020 may be one, but it is composed of some unique individual personalities. Take Bryant Buraruk, who calls himself as a “Native Texan, 50% Thai, 50% Mexican, 100% American. That said, he brings a passion that’s more common in frigid Minnesota than ‘Friday Night Lights’ Texas. “Growing up, I played ice hockey. I also participated in sports typical for your average student growing up in Texas, but ice hockey was my primary focus,” he says. “Showing up to tournaments in Canada or the Northern U.S. was a shocker to a lot of local teams. Most people were surprised that Texas even had ice.”
FALLING 250 FEET SHORT OF A 20,310 FOOT SUMMIT
Buraruk wasn’t alone in bucking the system. As an undergrad at the University of Texas, Aydin Zahedivash had his heart set on becoming an engineer. He ever earned a degree in biomedical engineering. Still, he was increasingly drawn to medicine after shadowing physicians at the Dell Children’s Medical Center. Eventually, it galvanized him to pursue a medical degree.
“The delicate nature of caring for children and the way the physicians carefully and expertly explained procedures and medical conditions to parents really shone a light for me on what I wanted to do with my career,” he explains. “I loved how the best doctors were so approachable and used their knowledge to address and diffuse anxiety and concerns in patients and their families. This has inspired me to keep working hard in school so that I can someday be like them.”
It’s also a class that’s as compelling and contradictory and as the wired and ‘weird’ world of Austin itself – where different worlds collide and create new concoctions. Anson Fraser majored in Film, Television and Theatre at Notre Dame…before managing financial portfolios. Hyonwoo Yoon headed up marketing at the American Chamber of Commerce in South Korea. In his spare time, Scott Porter, an entrepreneur and U.S. Marine with two deployments to Afghanistan under his belt, makes video games. If any class members need a pick-me-up, Travis Miller is the go-to guy. How is this for a positive attitude after this crushing blow?
“I recently made an effort to summit Denali, North America’s highest peak, but was turned around 250 feet shy of the summit due to high winds and -40 degree temperatures,” Miller shares. “The journey was the real reward, though I will be back to attempt it again…if my wife approves.”
AN “ELECTRIFYING” CLASS
That’s just the start. Hyonwoo Yoon helped lead communication efforts for visits from Vice President Pence and President Obama to Korea. Not to be outdone, Rodrigo Zeno Lisboa Vieira spearheaded his company’s expansion into sub-Sahara Africa. As a wellsite supervisor, Bryant Buraruk set a well-drilling record for Halliburton.
“I had to completely breakdown and analyze a mature project and become the leader of a team that had been together for several years,” he explains. “It was an iterative process of procedural implementation and innovation that required full team buy-in. Setting the record was the culmination of the entire team’s work, but knowing that I was able to rally the team behind a common goal and be an effective leader was the real accomplishment.”
Gbenoba Idah, a Los Angeles native and law school graduate, sums up his classmates in one word: Humble – “some of the most accomplished, insightful, and intelligent individuals I’ve ever met.” That doesn’t mean the class is low key. In fact, Katherine Rowe describes the Class of 2020 as an “electrifying” group to be around.
“I’ve been energized by my classmates and their backgrounds,” writes the U.S. Army Captain. “On our pre-MBA trip to Guatemala, the group worked extremely hard, but grew together every day. We shoveled a lot of dirt and rocks while repairing and renovating a small local school, and made a huge impact on a community of coffee farmers.”
ENROLLMENT INCREASES BY 24 STUDENTS
In a down year for business schools overall, the McCombs School also followed the path of their peer schools. During the 2017-2018 cycle, the program received 2,078 applications, down from the 2,586 applications for a spot in the Class of 2019. Despite this, the school managed to boost its class size from 265 to 289 students in one year, which included a 6% increase in acceptance rate.
Despite fewer applications and higher enrollment, McCombs was able to maintain its high academic standards. The class boasts a 703 GMAT average, the same as the previous year. At the same time, undergraduate GPA average inched up from 3.48 to 3.49. For the second straight year, engineering majors accounted for the largest segment of the incoming class at 29% – up three points over the previous year. Business majors were again the runners-up at 20%, down five points. The humanities (16%) and economics also make up 16% and 10% of the class respectively, with math, science and computer composing just a combined 5% of the class.
Women again represent a substantive bloc of the class at 38%, down two points. By the same token, the percentage of international students fell two points to 25%, with this year’s class featuring students from lands as far as Argentina, France, South Africa, Taiwan, Japan, and New Zealand. Like previous years, the largest blocs of students feature backgrounds in consulting and finance. They comprise 15% and 14% of the class respectively. The class also features a boost in students who worked in energy, a number that rose from 11% to 13%.
Go to next page for 12 in-depth profiles of Texas McCombs students.