UT Tyler Soules College of Business
Tell us a little about you.
I am a resident of Whitehouse, TX, where I am currently serving my third and final term as mayor. I have served my community for almost 15 years between the city council and mayor. I have also served as a Scoutmaster, band booster fundraising chairman, and several other things to help make my community a better place to live. My undergraduate degree in Business Finance was completed at the other ASU, Angelo State University. I have worked in the insurance business for more than 20 years. My wife is a UT graduate and works for the Innovation Academy, and both my children graduated from UT Tyler. My daughter was the first student to complete her undergraduate degree via study abroad while at UT Tyler and through the University of Hiroshima in Japan. She recently graduated with a degree in International Business at a University in Taipei, and speaks Mandarin, Japanese, Spanish, and English. My son used UT Tyler as a jump start to law school and is an attorney in Tulsa, Oklahoma. My family and I have completely embraced UT Tyler and our entire community.
What did you do right after graduating?
When I finished my last exam, I celebrated with a nap that lasted 4 or 5 hours. Studying is exhausting and I was incredibly happy to finish. However, on Monday morning I was in my office ready to work.
Tell us about your current job and what you do.
Currently, I am employed by Hibbs Hallmark and Company, and work in the employee benefits arena. I install and advise business owners, and their employees regarding the rules and pitfalls surrounding the health insurance world. It is a minefield of regulation involving numerous alphabet government agencies such as the DOL, IRS, CMS, and others. Benefits can be difficult, but they do not have to be with competent advice.
How did your Soules College of Business Degree help you with your current position?
The insurance world involving employee benefits has evolved for both the employer and the employee since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, aka, Obamacare. As the need changed so did the necessity for me to increase my personal skillset. In the course of my normal day I deal with business owners and noticed that most small businesses under 100 employees do not have access to Human Resource professionals to help guide them through a myriad of employment and compliance related issues. Adding a master's degree in Human Resource Development, provides me with the credentials to be able to assist employers at a higher level than my competition can offer. With the help of the professors and classes through UT Tyler, this has allowed me to expand my business from traditional insurance sales into a consultancy business model, which enables me to provide more value to my clients. Because learning never stops, my next goal is to gain some professional designations within the Human Resource area.
What was your favorite Soules College of business class and why?
Every one of the courses were extremely valuable, but there were two classes that stood out. Organizational Development through Dr. Andrea Ellinger in combination with Performance Consulting through Dr. Judy Sun were the most challenging and fun. Using the tools learned in these classes I was able as mayor to recommend to the City of Whitehouse the production of a Strategic Management Plan for the city. This plan developed through those classes helped solve numerous internal issues and helped us attract and hire a new police chief and city manager for the city, while providing new leadership with a specific road map that facilitates better communication and engagement with employees and citizens. The professors help, knowledge, and feedback has been integral in moving the city forward.
Any Soules College of Business / UT Tyler memories you would like to share?
Working in teams can be challenging especially via online/distance learning classes. I learned so much about my teammates during the exercises and genuinely enjoyed gaining the different prospective they had to share. One semester a classmate had a baby while writing a group paper, she still had the dedication to finish and keep up with the group. That was impressive!
What advice would you give current Soules College of Business students?
Make the most of every class and look to truly learn the material and not work for a grade or just to pass the class. Be sure that you engage the professors as they will help you even if you mess up or misunderstand something. By engaging in learning, the material will stick, and the grades will take care of themselves if you put in the effort. My final advice is to work toward a goal of knowing what you want to do with the degree to help you with future employment. From observation many of my classmates did not really have a plan or direction except to obtain the degree. A degree is only as good as what you use it for in life, but it is hard to accomplish goals without it. My last advice is to develop a plan, and follow it, plans can change, but making the most of the opportunity in front of you is key.
What insight do you have for Soules College of Business students that are about to graduate on how to land their first job?
Find something that you are at least somewhat passionate about in life. For me it has always been about helping others, my business plan is about providing value to clients and helping make sure that they stay out of trouble legally and in compliance with regulations, while providing needed products to make sure their employees stay healthy and productive in life. I like helping people and found a way to make a living doing that. Find a passion and match that up with a profession then become an expert by finding your niche.