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Student Bragging Rights: Distinguished Doctoral Students, Competition Winners, and Supportive Veterans


Students at the McCombs School of Business are renowned for being bright and hardworking, and in recent months many are helping to prove just that. From winning real estate challenges to helping veterans find jobs, McCombs students make an impact at the University of Texas and far beyond.

Dissertation Done Right

Zhuping LiuZhuping Liu, Ph.D. candidate in marketing, won the 2016 Alden G. Clayton Dissertation Proposal Competition. Liu is examining how firms can utilize social media and mobile technologies to engage consumers and increase sales.

The competition recognizes the best marketing doctoral dissertation proposals. Liu was one of three winners out of 75 submissions worldwide. "I value this award because it recognizes not only my work in mobile marketing but also my research philosophy, which is to pursue topics that are both academically interesting and practically relevant," Liu said in a press release announcing his win. "I'm even more motivated now and will continue collaborating with companies to produce useful work."

Helping the Nation's Heroes

Michael Sarraille, MBA '17, creator of the Vetted Foundation, a transition program that identifies and prepares top military talent for industry placement, is partnering with Texas Executive Education in an effort to aid veterans.

Michael Sarraille

"Seventy percent of career military veterans struggle to find work in the private sector and over 70 percent of hiring managers admit having a hard time making business sense of military experience," Sarraille said in a press release.

Through the foundation, veterans will receive five months of long-distance learning and two months of residential graduate-level classes at either The University of Texas at Austin or Texas A&M University.  They will also be provided with career services from McCombs including resume development, mock interviews, and networking techniques. And, unlike other transition programs, the foundation's Veteran Accelerated Management Program does not end until participants have been successfully placed with an employer.

Ryan Ballestero

A Distinguished Fellow

Ryan Ballestero, a Ph.D. candidate in accounting, was named a 2016-17 Harrington Fellow, a distinguished university program that supports both faculty and graduate students. "The Donald D. Harrington Fellows Program is the most prestigious and competitive fellowship offered by the Graduate School," says Marvin Hackert, interim dean of graduate studies. Ballestero was selected based on his potential for research success. "In his application, Ryan clearly articulated a love for accounting, a desire to research areas related to financial reporting and audit quality, and an interest in understanding the ways that market participants utilize and react to accounting information in allocating capital," Hackert says.


Real Estate Prize

Left to Right: Corbin Eckel, C.J. Euler, Kim Nettles, Kenny Cahill, Jon Mendoza,

A McCombs team composed of Corbin Eckel, MBA '17, Jon Mendoza, MBA '18, C.J. Euler, MBA '17, Kim Nettles, MBA '18, Sam Mysock, MBA '17, and Kenny Cahill, MBA '17, claimed top honors and a prize of $10,000 last fall at the school-sponsored National Real Estate Challenge. Competing teams from top-ranked business schools acted as portfolio managers weighing investment opportunities.

"From day one, McCombs has pushed us to share our unique strengths in group settings, and the competition was the ideal proving ground," says Eckel. "Presentation skills and the ability to articulate complex financial data were the biggest factors in our success."

Connor WIlliams

AP Big 12 Team

Connor Williams, BBA '19, left tackle on the UT football team, was named this fall to the Associated Press All Big 12 Team. Last year, he earned freshman All-America honors, started all 12 games, and transferred into McCombs with a 3.65 GPA. "I've always tried to lead by example," Williams says. 


Stock Picks 

Yamel Cotero, Ian Ricks and Jonathan Evans A group of MBA students won the UNC Alpha Challenge last fall. Yamel Cotero, MBA '17, Ian Ricks, MBA '18, and Jonathan Evans, MBA '18, faced off against three-person teams from other top MBA programs and successfully presented stock picks to a panel of judges. "The Alpha Challenge is known as a highly competitive investment competition with strong set of peer schools," says Tina Mabley, assistant dean and director of the Texas MBA program. "We are proud of our team for bringing home the win this year."

Smart and Fast

Zach HamstraZach Hamstra, BBA '18, was among five UT athletes who won the Dr. Gerald Lage Academic Achievement Award, the Big 12 Conference's highest academic honor. The award requires the nominee to have lettered at least once in their athletic career, completed 100 in-residence hours, and have a GPA of at least a 3.80 at the time of nomination. Hamstra, who is on the track and field team, is one of 59 students selected out of the entire Big 12 student-athlete population. 


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