Meet The Texas McCombs MBA Class Of 2020

The Texas McCombs Class of 2020


What’s new at McCombs? Well, just about everything. That starts with the curriculum. Long known for its MBA+ Leadership program – an impressive mix of coaching, events, and hands-on projects to strengthen students’ communication and collaborative skills – McCombs will be rolling out some enhancements next fall. Namely, says Tina Mabley, the school is launching the program with a “Leading For Impact” core course, which provides a personalized platform for students to develop their leadership abilities.

“This course will organize a variety of essential elements of our program into a strategic two-year sequence designed to help our MBAs understand, assess, and strengthen their leadership skills, including credibility, character, communication, emotional intelligence, how to have difficult conversations, and give and receive critical feedback,” Mabley tells P&Q. “Students will meet with our leadership coaches to develop their personalized leadership development plans that are connected with the concepts introduced in the classroom. Through this experience, students will demonstrate greater self-awareness and mastery of their leadership skills, better understand contextual demands, and grasp how different leadership styles and behaviors best meet those demands. Ultimately, the course will provide students with a unifying capstone experience for students to integrate learning across the curriculum.”

This curriculum is unanimously considered one of McCombs’ strengths. A well-rounded MBA program, McCombs ranks as the nation’s graduate accounting program according to U.S. News. The school also places among the Top 20 MBA programs in eight other specializations, including marketing, management, entrepreneurship, and supply chain. At the same time, McCombs finishes in the Top 10 in eight categories at the undergraduate level, including areas not measured at the graduate level like real estate and insurance. Such academic excellence, coupled with the school’s trademark chumminess, is one reason why McCombs alumni ranked among the Top 10 in Forbes’ bi-annual “Most Satisfied MBA Graduates” survey. It is also what drove Mary Li, a media manager and Northwestern grad, to enroll at McCombs.

“Outside of the people and the culture, which are extremely important when I picked McCombs, it was the academic opportunities that really excited me,” she says. “I can get a world-class business education in becoming a general manager and at the same time have such insightful experiential learning through projects and cases that will allow me to bring concepts and ideas to life.”

Terraces overlooking Rowling Hall in downtown Austin.


What’s behind McCombs’ academic success? It helps to look at accounting, which has nabbed the top spot with U.S. News for a dozen years running. In a 2018 interview with P&Q, Stephen Smith, senior director of the McCombs Master of Professional Accounting program at McCombs, credits the school’s ability to reward stellar teaching as much as research prowess – meaning students are always placed front-and-center and research is tool for teaching as much as tenure.

“Texas-Austin is world-renowned for that research, especially on the accounting side. That means we stay current and up-to-date, and we push the envelope. And we have teachers that are able to translate that to the classroom. You hear a lot about, ‘That person is a great researcher, but they are terrible in the classroom.’ That is not the case for our accounting faculty.”

At the same time, Smith notes that the school’s reputation and scope, coupled with intensive outreach to employers, gives students a distinct advantage in landing high-paying jobs after graduation. “We have long-term, firm relationships with a lot of employers. Our students have many options to start their career, whether it’s industry, public accounting, financial services, consulting. And this also brings in a lot of students, because anything they want to do, we have an employer that wants resumes.”


The big news on campus, however, has been the opening of Rowling Hall in March. The new home for the McCombs School, Rowling Hall spans 497,500 square feet. This five story masterpiece is laid out to facilitate community interaction and classroom innovation, with spaces devoted to an auditorium, ballroom, outdoor terraces, and business labs. The building also connects to the adjoining AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center that offers additional meeting space, hotel accommodations, and restaurants for students.

“Rowling Hall is designed to convene and inspire bright minds and enterprising leaders from around the university and beyond,” says Tina Mabley. “Every corner of the building, from the expansive entry hall to the Moontower Café, has been created to promote conversation, camaraderie and idea-sharing among students, faculty members, staff members, alumni, recruiters, executives and other business school visitors and guests. That’s what drove this building’s design. It is purposefully crafted as a space that would invite learning, debate, dialogue and the freedom to experiment — both in terms of teaching and in forming the ideas that will shape our future.”

Beyond embodying the McCombs philosophy, Rowling Hall also offers greater utility to meet the ever-changing needs of business students. “It will expand classroom, conference, and convention spaces, all of which have been engineered for ultimate flexibility to match the teaching and learning approaches of modern higher education,” Mabley adds. “The facility also includes a state-of-the-art studio for video and sound production, which improves the school’s video networking capabilities as well…It even includes a variety of classroom styles that allow faculty and students to employ new ways of teaching and learning.”


McCombs’ Tina Mabley

Such resources make McCombs an even big player in Austin. Think of Austin – or “Silicon Hills” as some call it – as the next great city. Boasting 18.4% job growth over the past five years with a 2.9% employment rate, Austin is a mix of Fortune 500 might and startup pluck. The area’s Top 25 employers reads like a who’s who of American business lore: Dell, IBM, Amazon, Apple, AT&T, Accenture, and 3M. Beyond that, firms like Cisco, eBay, Facebook, and Oracle maintain a substantive presence in the area. In 2017, Google entered the Austin fray for real, opening up a regional hub downtown, leasing 10 floors covering 300,000 square feet to accommodate growth beyond its 450 employees already there. Just last month, Resideo, a Honeywell spinoff with $40.5 million dollars in 2017 revenue, announced that it was re-locating from Minneapolis to Austin. Add to that, Austin is startup central. Home to 85 incubators and accelerators, investors poured $773 million dollars into area startups in 2017 alone. Let’s not forget culture, with Austin serving as the de facto “Live Music Capital of the World,” headlined by famed festivals like South by Southwest (SXSW) and Austin City Limits.

Thanks to Rowling Hall, McCombs can better integrate with the Austin community as a whole, Mabley asserts. “The building was designed to host our wide array of overlapping communities including the MBA program, the university, the city of Austin and beyond. Our unparalleled location places us at the intersection of The University of Texas campus and downtown Austin, which serves as a live and vibrant business laboratory right outside our doors. This allows our students to integrate easily into the business and not-for-profit communities, and for corporate partners and outside visitors to join us on campus.”

In fact, it can be difficult to discern where McCombs starts and Austin ends – and that’s a positive in Mabley’s book. “The University of Texas and the city of Austin have grown and evolved together. Austin has been the fastest-growing city in the country for three of the last five years and Rowling Hall allows us to capitalize on all the richness that growth has brought to the area. We appreciate a synergistic relationship with the city, which enhances the experiential applications and interactions we can offer our students every day. Being a major hub for tech, healthcare, energy and variety of other industries, we continue to find ways to bring these elements into our curriculum and community.”


Despite traffic gridlock and rising housing costs, Austin also ranks among the best American cities for a high quality of life, including top-notch schools and hospitals…and recreational opportunities galore.

However, Mabley considers the relationships that McCombs has forged with the Austin business community to be the most underrated part of its MBA experience.

“Many students know of Austin for quality of life, focus on tech, and for consistently being named one of the top places to live in the country (also for the live music, breakfast tacos and barbecue),” she admits. “However, sometimes students miss the value of Austin to them as an MBA student. Our students are a major source of talent in the area which means we have strong community and corporate partners in Austin who turn to our students for projects, volunteering and an array of other opportunities. The business school is located less than 10 blocks from downtown Austin, which means that our campus and classroom extend into the city in a seamless way. As the capital city, Austin provides many opportunities for students to be at the forefront of major business challenges such as transportation, healthcare, education, and affordable housing. Austin is a city known for collaboration and innovation, located in one of the best states for business, making for an enriching landscape for the MBA experience.”

The Austin advantage – along with Rowling Hall – was front-and-center for Anson Fraser when it came time to pick a business school. “The connection to the city of Austin was the key factor in my choice of McCombs,” he says. “Austin is a vibrant city where it’s never hard to get outside, even in the winter months, which was also very appealing to me. With all the companies that are deciding to headquarter – or open an additional office – in the Austin area, there is also no shortage of networking opportunities. Additionally, now that Rowling Hall is fully operational, the talks we have lined up to connect with Austin based businesses are being released. Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, Block-chain, and Crypto-currency are a few of the topics that will be covered at events this fall that I’m excited to attend.”


Networking played a key part in Travis Miller’s decision as well. “Though Austin is where I grew up, it has since transformed into an international hub of culture, innovation and unique opportunity. The combination of family roots and diverse creative energy around Austin were strong influencers for me.”

Where does the Class of 2020 see itself after graduation? Bryant Buraruk, for one, plans to return to the oil and gas industry. This time, he plans to trade in his flame-resistant clothes for a three piece suit when he’s working in acquisitions and divestitures. In contrast, Jascity Hutchison plans to take a short break; she has already booked a trip with her best friend to see the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Then again, Gbenoba Idah won’t be straying too far from the family he has found at McCombs.

“In five years, I see myself pushing for a promotion, mentoring incoming and current MBA students at Texas McCombs, volunteering in my local community, and keeping in touch with my McCombs [community] via our numerous Slack, WhatsApp, and GroupMe chats. Communication is key, and the Texas Longhorns network is expansive and responsive.  Hook ‘em Horns!”

What led these professionals to enter business schools? Which programs did they also consider? What strategies did they use to choose their MBA program? What was the major event that defined them? Find the answers to these questions and many more in the in-depth profiles of these incoming MBA candidates.

Student Hometown Alma Mater Last Employer
Bryant Buraruk Sugar Land, TX Texas A&M University Halliburton
Anson E. Fraser Summit, NJ University of Notre Dame Envestnet
Jascity Hutchison Boynton Beach, FL Howard University JPMorgan Chase & Company
Gbenoba (Benoba) Idah Los Angeles, CA Cornell University Blavity, Inc.
Mary Li Beijing, China Northwestern University SapientRazorfish
Travis Miller Round Rock, TX U.S. Naval Academy U.S. Navy
Scott Porter Denver, CO University of Colorado Synthesis Analytics
Katherine Rowe NA Clark University U.S. Army
Lindsay Sullivan Ormond Beach, FL University of Connecticut Accenture
Hyonwoo Yoon Seoul, South Korea Kyung Hee University American Chamber of Commerce in Korea
Aydin Zahedivash Austin, TX University of Texas-Austin NA
Rodrigo Zeno Lisboa Vieira Florianópolis, Brazil UDESC (Brazil) BRF SA

Meet the Class of 2020 Series

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