Ambassador of the Year Andrew Vo Pays it Forward
Andrew Phong Vo, McCombs' 2013 Ambassador of the Year, has three leadership concepts to live by: understand where you come from and who helped you get where you are today, find something you’re passionate about—whether a professional goal or a cause you believe in, and position others for success.
His catchphrase is "pay it forward."
Vo, BBA '95, has worked at Accenture for 18 years. For the last five years, he has served as a managing director at Accenture's Houston office where he leads the company's North American finance processes and operations practice and global trading operations practice.
He is committed to positioning others for success. At Accenture, Vo directs The University of Texas BBA and MBA recruitment efforts. Six years ago, with some of his colleagues, he created the Accenture Leadership Series. The series holds yearly interactive group sessions with high-performing McCombs undergraduates.
"From a corporate perspective, I believe we have to invest in the future leaders because those are the people who will be running the companies and making key decisions," he says.
As a member of the Alumni Advisory Board, Vo learned of the alumni ambassador program, a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign to help increase alumni participation. An ambassador's role is to give an annual gift to McCombs and also reach out to their McCombs network and encourage annual giving to the school.
"I was shocked when I heard we had 400 ambassadors but only 28 donors," Vo says. "I made a point of it to do my fair share and show people that it isn’t that hard."
Vo started an ambitious campaign to increase alumni giving. He set a goal of finding 40 donors in ten days. He quickly reached 42 donors. "Then I decided, well, I like round numbers," he says. So, he set another goal: 100 donors in three months.
He found creative ways to reach out to his network. He used Facebook and text messaging to individually connect with people. Most of the time, his friends immediately jumped on board. But sometimes he would send out humorous follow-up messages, including a "Show Me the Money" text message with an image of Tom Cruise from the film "Jerry Maguire."
"It's natural to me as a Longhorn to say, 'Hey guys, this is important. Can I count on you to show you appreciate your degree?'" he says.
His wit and friendly-demeanor inspired 121 other alumni to give back to the school.
"This is literally 10 times the productivity of any other active ambassador—and just amazing," Keary Kinch, McCombs alumni director, says. "It didn’t happen spontaneously; Andrew worked hard."
But Vo didn't stop there. Last year, he established the Andrew Phong Vo Endowed Presidential Scholarship in Business, an award that provides a full tuition scholarship to a McCombs student each year.
His "pay it forward" mentality stems from his early life experiences and as the child of two educators.
Vo was born in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, and immigrated to the United States in 1975. He says part of why he believes in stewardship is because of the appreciation he has for the people who helped his family get established in East Texas.
At the same time, the principle of stewardship and the value of education were further instilled from his parents' careers as educators.
"I've seen my parents give back and the pride that they had from helping others grow professionally and personally," he says.
Now, he sees his role as an alumni ambassador as an opportunity to show appreciation and, from a business perspective, to improve the value of his degree.
"I want us to continue to establish McCombs as a top business school in the nation—or in the world, even," he says. "I want to make sure that we're operating on all cylinders."