World Changers

Student in Cox Quad

MBA Student Stories

Ihsane Aziz

MBA Class of 2016

Ihsane Aziz is the first Moroccan at SMU Graduate Business School. She was born and grew up in Casablanca, Morocco. Her passion for marketing started at an early age as she was raised in a business oriented family: her dad was a captain for 20 years but decided to pursue his career in marketing and her mom is interested in running business projects. She has a Bachelor Degree in Marketing from Institut Superieur de Commerce & d’Administration des Entreprises(ISCAE), the first Business School in Morocco, where she was the president of the student body for 3years. She started as an assistant brand manager for a French company “Lesieur Cristal” and was promoted to a brand manager after a year and a half. Ihsane plans to pursue her MBA at SMU in order to get her PhD and start teaching at a university.

Ihsane’s family is back home (Morocco) and she just recently got married in Dallas. In her spare time, she likes to cook new recipes from different cultures. She also enjoys traveling to places and discover new things. The US life changed her in so many ways and has made her try all different activities that she never thought about and she is excited to learn more about the American culture and make new friends in this country.

Her favorite sport is soccer and she is a big supporter of Barcelona. However, she is still trying to learn more and get used to the American football world.

Finally, she is a very sociable person and enjoy sharing time with family, friends and can’t wait to be a part of Cox MBA program so she can be a part of different associations and be an efficient member in the community.

John Ban

PMBA Class of 2017

Brand Management, Richards Group

Concentrations: Marketing and Business Analytics

John Ban, born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, was raised in the DFW area for the majority of his life. John attended the University of North Texas in Denton where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music. He has performed with a number of professional groups in the DFW area (Fort Worth Opera, Orchestra of New Spain, and Orpheus Chamber Singers to name a few) and continues to pursue his passion for music performance in his free time.

After graduating from UNT, John accepted a position with Capital One Bank. In his two years at the bank, he had the opportunity to design and implement training programs for bank associates that led his branch to many consecutive months of “top branch” awards. In 2013, he transitioned into a role as a Funding Analyst with Capital One Auto Finance in their Direct and Indirect Loan Originations teams where he continued to lead team development and training across departments. In his first year in the role, he was invited into the elite, 15-person leadership program at Capital One Auto Finance. Upon completion of the program, he was promoted to Senior Quality Assurance Analyst where he led cross departmental calibration meetings and worked with department leadership teams to ensure proper quality assurance measurements.

John is pursuing his MBA at SMU Cox to further develop his leadership abilities and to redirect his career path towards Marketing. After completing his first year at Cox, John accepted a new role in Brand Management with The Richards Group in Dallas. He has also taken on a leadership role as the president of Strategic Alliance, an LGBT organization with SMU Cox, where he works to cultivate an environment of inclusiveness for all students, faculty, and friends of the Cox and LGBT communities.

Clayton Bell

MBA Class of 2016

Clayton Bell was born and raised in Dallas, TX and completed his bachelor's degree in Industrial & Systems Engineering from Texas A&M University in 2009. Following graduation, Clayton moved to Washington, DC where he worked as a consultant for Accenture Federal Services designing and implementing ERP systems for the US government. During this time, he built and deployed supply chain systems at US embassies around the world, primarily in Central America, South America, the Caribbean, and the Middle East.

In 2013, Clayton relocated to Dallas and moved to Accenture's commercial consulting practice focusing on project management and business process improvements for the Communications & Technology industry, specifically satellite imaging and telecommunication companies. While there, he managed multiple projects with responsibilities ranging from helping complete a corporate merger, to upgrading ground systems in preparation for the launch of a new satellite, to establishing a program management office in preparation for a 3-year human capital system upgrade.

At SMU Cox, Clayton plans to pursue concentrations in operations management and business analytics, and he is excited about the opportunity to interact with and learn from fellow business leaders. He wants to use his MBA to transition into an operations management role where he can focus on creating and distributing innovative products to customers. He dreams of becoming the Chief Operating Officer of a Fortune 500 company.

In his spare time, Clayton is an avid cook and mixologist, as well as an amateur photographer. He enjoys golfing in the summer and skiing in the winter. He also enjoys traveling (27 countries and growing) and looks forward to additional travel opportunities presented by the SMU Cox MBA. In Dallas, Clayton is an active member of Watermark Community Church and enjoys serving with its members.

Kimberley Berkebile

MBA Class of 2016

Kimberley received a degree in petroleum engineering from Texas A&M University. After graduation, she went to work for EOG Resources as a petroleum engineer. The job offered a wide range of experiences from budgeting and modeling decline curves to even living on a drilling rig for weeks at a time. Her favorite part of the job was designing well operations, and then going to the field to see their execution. The colorful experiences gave her a great perspective on the workings of the oil industry.

Kimberley is looking forward to pursuing a concentration in finance while at SMU. Outside of classes, she has already enjoyed being a Forte Fellow and gained insight at the annual Forte MBA conference. Kimberley plans on joining the Finance club in the fall and after receiving her MBA, she would like to have a career in energy finance.

This summer Kimberley is making her third trip to Rwanda to do mission work, a passion she shares with her fiancé. Kimberley stays involved with her mission group year-round by keeping track of the organization's expenses. She appreciates learning about different cultures and being immersed in them. In her free time, she enjoys running, and has recently taken up fly-fishing and photography.

Baxter Billingsley

MBA Class of 2016

Baxter Billingsley, a Mississippi native, graduated from Mississippi State University with a Bachelor of Accountancy and a Bachelor of Business Administration in Finance. Upon graduation, Baxter spent time backpacking throughout Europe and Central America and sailing in the Bahamas.

After his travels, Baxter began his career at PricewaterhouseCoopers in New York, New York, where he advised clients in the alternative asset management industry on the structuring of cross-border investments. Leveraging his experience with alternative investments, Baxter plans to pursue a concentration in finance at SMU Cox and hopes to transition into an investment management role post-MBA.

In his spare time, Baxter enjoys traveling with his wife, Emily, staying active by running with their Vizsla puppy and playing golf, tennis and racquetball. He is thrilled to be back in the South and is looking forward to the challenges and opportunities that SMU Cox and Dallas provide.

Christopher Chambers

MBA Class of 2016

Christopher Chambers grew up in Cheshire, Connecticut, and completed his bachelor's degrees in Mathematical Decision Sciences (a combination of Statistics and Operations Research) and Economics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2009. Upon graduation, he moved to Dallas, Texas, where he began working at American Airlines, Inc. For the past five years, he has had a variety of roles at American, including preparing and managing operational budgets for multiple AA airports, leading a team of analysts in their duties, compiling departmental reports and presentations for CEO/CFO review, and strategizing costs savings initiatives through the recent merger with US Airways. Christopher plans to pursue concentrations in finance and business analytics at SMU Cox and hopes one day to hold a high-level management or executive position.

In his spare time, Christopher enjoys playing a variety of recreational sports, including volleyball, softball, rock climbing, and kickball, where he is the captain of his team. He also enjoys traveling, having been to France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Ireland, Argentina, the Caribbean, and a multitude of areas in the United States. Christopher hopes to participate in a Global Leadership Program trip to Asia, an area he is interested in but has never traveled to before. Besides playing sports, Christopher is an avid sports fan, and you will see him on the Boulevard in the fall cheering loudly for SMU football!

Yashasvi Diptivilasa

MBA Class of 2016

Yashasvi was born in New Delhi, India but has traveled to and lived across all parts of the country. He completed his Bachelors of Technology from Gautam Buddh Technical University in Electronics and Communication. In the summer of 2009, he studied abroad at Manchester Metropolitan University, England where he focused on medical applications of technology. After graduating, Yashasvi joined Calance Corporation, a small sized but rapidly growing technology consultancy. At Calance, Yashasvi has worked with several big name clients in India and the United States over the past three years.

At SMU Cox, Yashasvi plans to build his business skills and transition from a technology role to business and management consulting role. He also plans to be an entrepreneur in the long run and looks forward to engaging with the Strategy and Entrepreneurship club as well as the Consulting and Corporate Strategy Club.

Outside of work, Yashasvi loves playing soccer and is a supporter of Liverpool Football Club. He is an avid rock guitarist and has played many gigs across India. Yashasvi also co-founded Youth For a Cause, a voluntary organization that aims to spread awareness on environmental and social issues. He enjoys reading and writing and was part of the editorial board of his college magazine during his days as an undergraduate.

Yashasvi is especially looking forward to traveling to Latin America or Europe as part of the Global Leadership Program to understand how businesses work globally and can't wait to be joining SMU this fall for the start of two exciting years.

Andre Goulbourne

Professional MBA Class of 2016

Retirement Relationship Manager, Fidelity Investments

Concentration: Finance

Why did you decide to pursue an MBA?
I decided to pursue an MBA because I feel that the knowledge and tools that will be provided through the program will prepare me to move into a career that suits me best.

Why SMU Cox, and why the Professional MBA?
I chose SMU Cox because I feel that going into an MBA program is an investment, and I feel I have the best chance of getting a return on my investment that I would be satisfied with from this program. SMU Cox is well respected, globally and locally, so it makes sense. I chose the PMBA program due to not wanting to give up my income, and this program gives me the closest thing to a full-time program than most part-time programs. I especially like the ability to have a specific concentration.

What is the best part of the PMBA program?
As I stated earlier, I really like the ability to customize what I want to learn via the concentrations. Also, I love the network I will build at SMU and being taught by outstanding professors.

How has pursuing the PMBA impacted your career?
Going back to school has pushed me to be more organized with my time and more efficient. I recently started the program, but I already feel I have made some great connections with peers in the program.

Anything else prospective students should know?
Prospective students should be very organized from the beginning. Be organized with time especially.

Tell us about your future plans.
My future plans are to possibly get employment in a Financial Planning and Analysis department through my current employer or another. My time at SMU is meant to reassure my path and also to open new possibilities that I have not yet considered.

Annette Gore

Fast Track MBA Class of 2016

Annette Gore was born in Schenectady, New York and raised in Athens, Georgia. Annette earned her bachelor’s degree in international business with emphasis in marketing and Spanish from the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia. Upon graduation, Annette joined a division of Schneider Electric as a sales representative in Atlanta, Georgia and held this position for over three years. After her departure from Schneider Electric, Annette briefly took a role as a meeting consultant at InterCall, the world’s largest conferencing services provider. Next, Annette moved to Madison, Wisconsin and worked as an implementation coordinator for Epic, an electronic health record software company which serves more US patients than any other electronic health record software vendor. Most recently, Annette worked for Deloitte Consulting for over 4.5 years as a Manager in the healthcare provider practice. She served some of the country’s largest provider organizations, providing transformation advisory services to pediatric, community, and academic organizations across the United States. Annette’s skillset includes program management skills, people and performance management experience, and leading cross-functional teams through large, full-cycle technology implementations. Outside of work, Annette enjoys traveling, exploring new restaurants, wine tasting, and working out. She is looking forward to expanding her network in the Dallas business community as a part of the Fast Track MBA program beginning this summer. Annette will pursue a concentration in strategy and entrepreneurship over the next year and upon completion, would like to join a corporate strategy team with one of the many Fortune 500 companies here in Dallas.

Tim Harris

PMBA Class of 2017

Financial Analyst, StreetLights

Concentrations: Finance and Real Estate

Tim Harris was born and raised in Dallas, TX and graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in Construction Science from Texas A&M University in 2011. Following graduation, Tim moved to Austin, Texas where he worked as a project engineer for Austin Commercial on the Circuit of the Americas Formula 1 racetrack. During this time, he worked alongside various project managers helping to manage the construction of various parts of the $250M project.

In 2013, Tim transitioned to StreetLights Residential, a luxury apartment developer, to work on the construction team building prominent luxury apartment projects in Austin and Dallas. In 2015, Tim transitioned inside StreetLights to the development team as a financial analyst, where he currently works. Tim is responsible for pro forma underwriting, coordinating RFPs and due diligence processes, acquisitions and dispositions. Other responsibilities include investor reporting and assisting the asset management team.

Tim is pursuing his MBA at SMU Cox to further develop his leadership skills, grow his business knowledge, and network with other leaders in the real estate business. He plans to pursue concentrations in finance and real estate.  Tim is a member of The Real Estate Council’s Young Guns program, as well as SMU’s Real Estate Club. In his spare time, Tim is an avid fly fisherman, bird hunter, and jogger. He also enjoys spending time with his wife, Elizabeth, and dog, Wyatt. Tim is an active member of Watermark Community Church, and enjoys spending time with his community group and serving at the church.

Smanda Isbell

Amanda Isbell

MBA Class of 2016

Amanda Isbell grew up in Gadsden, Alabama, a small town about an hour northeast of Birmingham, Alabama. She attended the University of Alabama at Birmingham for two years, then transferred to Auburn University where she graduated with a bachelor's degree in business management.

After graduating from Auburn, Amanda moved to Fayetteville, Arkansas to pursue a law degree at the University of Arkansas School of Law. While she was in law school, she met her fiancé, who is originally from Dallas. During the summer of her second year of law school, she interned for a Dallas County court and fell in love with the city. By the end of the summer, Amanda knew that regardless of what she did, she wanted to end up in Dallas.

During the first semester of her final year of law school, Amanda interned in the Tyson Foods legal department. It was there that she realized she was more interested in business than law. Although she is thankful for her law school experience, Amanda recognizes it is not something she wants to do for the rest of her life. She is hoping to find a new career path while obtaining her Cox MBA.

In her spare time, Amanda enjoys watching SEC football, trying out new barbeque recipes on the smoker, and spending time with her and her fiancé's two mastiffs. Amanda is looking forward to being part of the Cox MBA community and is excited to meet all of her new classmates.

Kate Johnston

MBA Class of 2016

Kate Johnston grew up in the beautiful city of Austin, Texas and graduated from the University of Texas with a BBA in Marketing and minor in Management Information Systems (MIS). Kate was very involved with professional and social organizations throughout her tenure at UT, and never failed to miss a single home football game (Hook ‘em!) After graduation, she took a position at a boutique consulting firm in downtown Austin.

During her tenure in consulting, Kate had the opportunity to oversee the development of more than twenty domestic and international life sciences accounts where she began to realize her passion for healthcare. Wanting to gain more direct experience with the hospital-side of the industry, Kate moved to Dallas to partner with a small healthcare software company that specialized in delivering patient-centered technology to Dallas healthcare systems. In her spare time, Kate began volunteering in the ICU at Baylor Scott and White's (BSWH) downtown hospital. She fell in love with the BSWH culture and went on to work for the hospital in its Revenue Integrity department where she has overseen the successful charging practices for the North Texas hospitals ever since.

Kate looks forward to pursuing the strategy and entrepreneurship concentration at Cox where she hopes to develop her ideas for a healthcare software company focused on patient pricing transparency and care quality. In her spare time, Kate enjoys to read, host brunches and dinners for friends, workout, try new local restaurants, and bake treats for her husband's ice hockey team. Kate is eager to start this new chapter in her life and looks forward to meeting all of her classmates in the Fall.

Meghana Kantamaneni

MBA Class of 2016

Meghana was born and raised in Tenali, India. She earned B.Tech in Information technology engineering from Vignan's Engineering College, India in 2011. In the final year of graduation she was offered a job in TATA consultancy services.

After graduation, waiting to join TCS, Meghana opted to work as an assistant professor in a woman's engineering college for 8 months. She began working for TCS from January 2012. In the span of 2.6 years in TCS, Meghana worked for various IT profiles such as application development, manual and automation testing and application support and maintenance. Working for one of the largest banking clients of TCS helped Meghana to work with people from various countries. During her professional experience, she gained exposure to both technical and business perspective of IT industry. This is where she realized her passion for consulting.

At Cox, Meghana plans to pursue her MBA in information and operations management and hopes to transition her career. She wants to be involved in many clubs and activities especially Consulting & Corporate Strategy Club, Operations & Technology club and Women in Business. Meghana wishes to participate in the Global leadership program trip to Latin America or Europe to gain practical knowledge about the local culture and business.

Meghana loves spending time with family and friends, cooking, travelling to new places, watching movies, cycling and playing handball. This this is her first visit to US, and she is very much excited about her move to Dallas.

Alexis Kanter

Alexis Kanter

MBA Class of 2016

Alexis Kanter is a native Dallasite, and earned her bachelor's degree in History and Anthropology from The University of Texas at Austin. She studied abroad in Prague, Czech Republic, during her junior year, where she observed and wrote about architecture and art history. Post-graduation, Alexis continued living in Austin and joined the small staff of a grassroots Independent Texas gubernatorial campaign, where she organized and lead the Northeast Texas fundraising and volunteer effort. Seeking more international work experience, Alexis was sent to Botswana in 2010 to serve three years in the United States Peace Corps. Alexis lived in two developing cities during her stint in Botswana, and worked with both the US and Botswana governments as well as with private donors to create sound HIV prevention programs. She concurrently developed a fascination for the ways in which city development impacts the health and quality-of-life of a society. After service, Alexis began pursuing this interest from a real estate perspective back home in Dallas.

Alexis' focus lies with the smart growth of cities, and in particular, Dallas. She plans to pursue concentrations in Real Estate and Finance at SMU Cox and hopes to transition into real estate development of public-private and transit-oriented properties. In her spare time, Alexis volunteers for the Urban Land Institute and is currently Facilitator of the North Texas Peace Corps Association, a non-profit that brings together Returned Peace Corps volunteers and friends of Peace Corps in the DFW area.

Andrea Moran-Sendra

Fast-Track MBA Class of 2016

Andrea Moran-Sendra was born and raised in Mexico City, Mexico. She moved with her family to Houston for a couple of years before moving to Dallas to earn a bachelor degree in Business Administration and French from Southern Methodist University (SMU). Prior to graduating from SMU, Andrea worked for Merrill Lynch in Wealth Management and focused on researching, preparing investment proposals for prospects with assets up to $1 million, and presenting customized financial analysis reports. In her roles there, she worked with both the domestic and international departments. While at SMU’s marketing practicum class, she and her team won a competition with Fox Sports Southwest and had their 360 marketing campaign, designed to increase viewership of the Dallas Stars, implemented and rolled out by Fox Sports. Upon graduation, Andrea went to work for Sendero, a mid-size Management Consulting firm headquartered in Dallas. She has contributed to a variety of projects but found that she enjoys both project coordination and financial planning for system implementations (Telecom Expense Management System) and large server/application migration exit projects the most. She has also worked on enterprise contract separation efforts and enjoys leading cross-functional groups including teams in architecture, infrastructure, finance, PMO, IT operations and security.

Andrea has an entrepreneurial spirit and is always working on side projects both in the non-profit and for profit world. She has an interest in exploring new cultures and relearning new languages. Her hobbies include trying new things, architecture, traveling, and a variety of sports including water skiing, car racing, tennis, and golf. Andrea is very active in the Dallas community and serves on the Board of the French Alliance. She is looking forward to this next stage in her MBA life and meeting new friends with diverse interests.

Kat McKinley

Kat McKinley

Professional MBA Class of 2016

Assistant Marketing Manager, Database at HealthMarkets

Concentration: Marketing

Why did you decide to pursue an MBA?
Obtaining an MBA degree has always been an important part of my career plan. I pursued my MBA now because I was at a point in my career where I could benefit greatly from an MBA program, and I was at a point in my life where I could devote the time needed to be successful.

Why SMU Cox, and why the Professional MBA program?
SMU Cox was a natural addition to my prospective schools list because I worked on campus and I am an SMU alum. After researching all the programs on my list, I knew SMU Cox was the right choice because the MBA program is of such high quality that even being selected to attend SMU Cox is already seen in the business world as an accomplishment. I decided to enroll in the PMBA program because it afforded me the kind of balance necessary to continue to pursue my passions at school, at home and at work.

What is the best part of the PMBA program?
The best part of the PMBA program was my fellow cohorts and the other MBA candidates. It was great to be part of such a diverse and exceptional group of individuals striving towards a common goal. We all took it very seriously, but we still had a lot of fun.

How has pursuing the PMBA impacted your career?
Pursuing the PMBA has afforded me the opportunity to relate to my client and boss in a different way, which has helped to strengthen those relationships. I’ve also found that balancing between my priorities at work and school has helped me to be more productive and efficient in both environments.

Anything else prospective students should know?
Your life will change – there will be less time – but it is wildly worth it to take advantage of every opportunity that SMU Cox affords you. The networking events are priceless. The knowledge imparted by the speakers during BLC seminars is unequaled. The program is tough, as it should be, but it is worthwhile!

Tell us about your future plans.
Through the PMBA program, I was excited to transition from store management into a corporate marketing career. I want to continue to focus on product and brand management, which is a specialization SMU Cox offers within the marketing concentration that I pursued.

Beenit Patel

Professional MBA Class of 2015

Sr. Business & Operations Analyst at Fresenius Medical Care

Concentrations: Strategy, Management

Why did you decide to pursue an MBA? 

I pursued an MBA to enhance my business skill set and obtain the knowledge and resources to elevate my career.

Why SMU Cox, and why the Professional MBA program? 

SMU Cox is unparalleled in the booming DFW business market in terms of reach and prestige. SMU Cox is able to open doors that other programs in the area are unable to reach. The PMBA program allows me to continue advancing in my career while gaining supplemental knowledge and skills that can be directly applied to improve my performance and work.

What is the best part of the PMBA program?
The high caliber of professors and their ability to tie classroom lecture/discussion with real-world application.

How has pursuing the PMBA impacted your career? 
Within a year in the program, I advanced into a new role. I find myself utilizing the knowledge I have gained to improve the quality of work I deliver on a day-to-day basis.

Anything else prospective students should know?
Network! And take the time to be involved in as many opportunities as you can.

Laila Rowther

Professional MBA Class of 2017

Product Services Analyst at IHS Markit

Concentration: Marketing

Laila Rowther is Dallas born and bred, and completed her bachelor’s degree in Marketing from Texas A&M University in May 2011. She started her career at Liberty Mutual Insurance working in national insurance, handling liability property damage commercial claims before being promoted to bodily injury cases in less than a year. Laila led the Social Committee for her group, as she was passionate about employee engagement. She wanted to make a difference in the workplace and implement meaningful projects that would bring colleagues closer together.

After more than 3 years in commercial claims, Laila wanted to take a different route with her career and in March 2015, Laila joined Markit as a Products Services Analyst. The company is a leading global diversified provider of financial information services. She works in the bonds and equities indices sector, and her main role in operations is to verify stock data from providers and publish corresponding open/close prices of the stock baskets which is work she finds demanding, but rewarding. Customers such as JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley, and Goldman Sachs, use these stock indices to manage their risk.

On campus, Laila is an active member of the Marketing Club and the Women in Business club. Her hobbies include traveling, exploring new Dallas eateries, concerts/festivals, and spending time with family and friends. She loves to catch up with "The Mindy Project" whenever she can! She volunteers in her spare time at her local mosque’s health clinic with non-insured patients. She is always looking for new friends and willing to lend a helping hand. Laila plans to pursue her concentration in marketing at SMU Cox and transition her career into brand management at an airline or technology company.

Rachel Vitemb

Professional MBA Class of 2017

Digital Content Specialist at Istation

Concentrations: Marketing

A native Alabamian, Rachel currently resides in Dallas, Texas. Her love of educational media has been inspired by Jim Henson, Sesame Street, and tons of other children's programs. Holding a B.A. in Film and TV from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, she began her career as a Creative Affairs Intern for the Jim Henson Company, where she read script and book submissions to potentially be turned into films, television, or web series. Next, she started work at Mattel's Design Center assisting the creation of face designs for Barbie, Polly Pocket, and other beloved girls' brands. She later headed back to Alabama to produce videos, lesson plans, virtual field trips, and other digital K-12 educational resources for the state's PBS station.

Moving west to Dallas, she developed animations and videos for the educational software firm Archipelago Learning. Rachel then managed the sales training media strategy and production for Dell Services. In her new role at the educational software company Istation, she supports the company through the creation, implementation, and tracking of digital marketing projects and campaigns.

Rachel's reason for pursuing an MBA is to blend her media expertise with a greater understanding of analytics and business acumen, to build a company's business through digital content. When she is not going to school or working, Rachel likes to try new recipes, watch theater performances, and experience new cultures.