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Month: October 2014

A World Away: Kaylee Gund in Guinea

A World Away: Kaylee Gund in Guinea

After living for fourteen months in a hut three meters in diameter with no electricity or running water, Kaylee Gund (Biochemistry ’13) realized she could handle just about anything. A volunteer for the Peace Corps in Guinea, Gund taught middle and high school students in a rural village until she was evacuated as a result of the West-African country’s Ebola outbreak. I spoke with her in October 2014 about her experience there.

Before beginning the Peace Corps application process her senior year, Gund considered several graduate schools but none seemed a good fit. “The ideas of service, travel and cultural exchange that are part of the Peace Corps experience really appealed to me,” she said. “And I felt I had been given so much that I wanted to give back where it was most needed.”

Her major in Biochemistry and concentration in French made Gund an ideal candidate for her post as a chemistry teacher in French-speaking Guinea. She lived with a host family during her three-month training but had her own hut among a circle of others within the village during her teaching assignment. Gund said she “adopted” a family living within the circle, sharing meals with them and going to them for advice. “Some aid organizations come in and out of the country without making a connection,” Gund said, “but the Peace Corps is different. By having an extended stay, I became part of the community. They were very generous and happy I was there.” A poignant story on Gund’s blog illustrates her point. Seeing her grief over the death of her great-uncle, the local villagers presented her with a small sum of money, a Guinean tradition for the family of the deceased. She writes: “The sum would have been nothing in US dollars, but it was more than money–it was a gift of tradition, a gift of their love and appreciation of me.”

Gund is quick to point out that the experience was hard, and that it was a culture shock. But she credits her Rome semester as helping to prepare her for this international experience. “Rome can help you adjust to life in another country if you can take the time to explore,” she said. She also turned to her faith to help her through difficult times. “Guinea is primarily a Muslim country. There was no Church in my village so I had to take a bush taxi to the city to attend mass. My faith gave me something to hold on to in the midst of everything new and strange and different,” she said.

Gund’s time in Guinea was cut short because of the much-publicized Ebola outbreak affecting the country. Although no cases were reported in her village, the Peace Corps determined that the Guinean health infrastructure was too hard-pressed to provide adequate support for volunteers in case of any other type of medical emergency. Hoping to continue her international travels, Gund now plans to attend graduate school in Europe. After her Peace Corps experience, she should have no problem handling that. “I’m more flexible now,” she said. “I can adjust to any environment.”

Kaylee Gund graduated from the University of Dallas in 2013 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Biohemistry and a concentration in French.

Jake Thompson: Compete Every Day

Jake Thompson: Compete Every Day

Jake Thompson (MBA ’08) calls himself the President and Chief Encouragement Officer of Compete Every Day. He spoke on October 14, 2014 to Dr. Greg Bell’s Entrepreneurship class. The idea for the lifestyle apparel company Thompson started in 2010 came when he asked himself: “What would it look like to compete for every day of your life?” Finding inspiration in the question, he used money saved for a trip to New Zealand to buy t-shirts emblazoned with the new company name, selling them out of his trunk. Active in the CrossFit community, Thompson knew that this group of avid exercisers had not only a commitment to an active lifestyle, but also sufficient disposable income to be a viable target audience for his product. After success with this group, he has since expanded the reach of the company to include anyone that finds inspiration from competing every day to achieve his or her best life. “I wanted Compete Every Day to be about more than a catchy phrase on a t-shirt,” Thompson said. To that end, the company’s website contains inspirational videos, quotes, and stories about everyday people achieving great things.

Thompson turned to a grass-roots style of funding to grow his business, using his own savings and a line of credit from his hometown bank to finance operations. This has allowed Thompson to maintain 100% control of the company and its direction. He uses a grassroots approach to marketing as well by relying on social media to generate excitement and word-of-mouth about the Compete Every Day brand. “We post three to four days per week on our blog, two to three times per week on Facebook, and nearly every day on Twitter and Instagram,” said Thompson. The company also has an app which gives users updates on new products, access to exclusive offers and even inspirational quotes. “This kind of social media presence makes the community your microphone and megaphone,” he said. Thompson added that grass-roots marketing isn’t a quick fix. “This is a powerful way to grow a business, but it takes time.” Part of this approach includes establishing a physical presence at lifestyle events like marathons and CrossFit competitions in order to increase brand awareness among the company’s target groups.

Thompson relies on his own ideas and those of a few graphic designers to produce unique shirts available on the company’s website for only 72 hours, creating scarcity that drives customers back to the website in anticipation of new designs. Thompson’s marketing plan is working: after reaching six figures during the 2012 fiscal year, Compete Every Day’s sales have doubled two years in a row and are on track to increase another 1.5 times by the end of the company’s current fiscal year. But revenue isn’t the Thompson’s only goal. “The most important thing you can do is tell a powerful story about your company,” he said, “and Compete Every Day’s story is that you have a life worth competing for.”

Jake Thompson graduated in 2008 from the University of Dallas’ Satish and Yasmin Gupta College of Business with a Masters of Business Administration.

UD Students Attend Tour of TWU’s Nursing School

UD Students Attend Tour of TWU’s Nursing School

Interest in the University of Dallas and Texas Woman’s University Dual Degree Program in Biology and Nursing has grown steadily since its inception in 2012. Thirty-seven students are currently in various stages of admission and enrollment, likely because they understand that UD’s rigorous core curriculum and TWU’s state-of-the art facilities combine to create uniquely qualified nurses. A group of twelve UD students interested in the dual degree program toured TWU facilities in October, 2014, to learn more about the technology and highly qualified instructors that characterize the Dallas campus. Dr. Marcy Brown-Marsden and Dr. Carla Pezzia from UD accompanied the group.

“We teach our nurses more,” said tour leader Isabelle Sisiak, “because we have more room and better equipment.” Sisiak began the tour with an assessment room in which nursing students, with the aid of mannequins, learn how to assess and test various body systems.

The group then watched a demonstration of a “virtual IV”—a computer simulation in which a nursing student can practice inserting an IV. The student completes each simulated step—washing hands, cleaning the injection site, applying the tourniquet—on the computer, then inserts a needle into a small, rubber “arm” that responds to the pressure and angle used. The process results in an overall grade for the session. Sisiak said that these kind of simulations are extremely important because they help students build confidence within a safe learning environment.

Next, Sisiak led students through a simulation room in which nursing students use TWU’s most sophisticated mannequins for instruction and practice. According to Sisiak, these “high fidelity” mannequins can display whatever symptoms are appropriate to the lesson: they can breathe and sweat, their pupils can dilate, and their tongues can swell. They even respond to whatever intervention the nursing student might take, such as injecting a particular drug or adding oxygen. “We can train you better this way,” said Sisiak to the students. “By using these simulations, I can guarantee that you will see a heart attack or congestive heart failure, or any number of other ailments, before you leave nursing school. You will be much better prepared to handle a situation in the hospital if you have actually seen it and trained on it here.”

Sisiak also emphasized how well-prepared she has found the UD students she has encountered. “I love UD students,” she said. “I think they are the best prepared undergraduates in the nation.” She especially remarked on the importance of the Rome semester. “I think it is so important that nursing students have a global perspective, and Rome gives you that.”

The UD and TWU Dual Degree Nursing Program consists of three years of core and nursing prerequisites taken on the UD campus and two years of nursing courses taken on the TWU campus. Click here to learn more about the program.

Alumni Spotlight: Harshal Kulkarni

Alumni Spotlight: Harshal Kulkarni

Harshal Kulkarni lives in Irving, but convenience isn’t the only reason he chose the University of Dallas’ MBA program. “I looked at the ratings of some other programs in the area and was impressed with UD’s. And after researching the faculty profiles, I could see that the instructors at UD had vast industry experience,” Kulkarni said.

As a programmer, Kulkarni knew that he would need to hone his business leadership skills in order to advance within his company. He began his MBA studies after he was promoted to a management role, leading a team of twenty five. “I was able to apply what I learned in the MBA classes directly to my work. It was like on-the-job training,” he said. Kulkarni explained that the breadth and depth of the classes challenged him to do something different, to concentrate on the soft skills that make good leaders.

Reflecting on his experience in UD’s MBA program, Kulkarni offered this advice to incoming students: “Focus on the complex soft skills you are learning in your interactions with other students. Finance and accounting are important, of course, but the leadership skills you learn in the program have the most value and will lead to the greatest understanding of your role as a manager.”

Kulkarni is a Technology Services Manager at BNSF Railway. He graduated from the University of Dallas’ MBA program in 2014.

President and CEO of OrgSync Speaks to Global Entrepreneurship Class

President and CEO of OrgSync Speaks to Global Entrepreneurship Class

As a young investment banker fresh out of college, Eric Fortenberry sat across the table from a couple of similarly young entrepreneurs who had just sold their startup company for a tidy sum. “When I saw those sizable checks being handed over, I realized I was on the wrong side of the table,” said Fortenberry, the founder and CEO of OrgSync, an online platform that connects higher education students with on-campus organizations.

Speaking to Dr. Greg Bell’s Global Entrepreneurship class at the University of Dallas on October 7, 2014, Fortenberry related his experiences as an entrepreneur, beginning with his involvement as a student at the University of Texas in Austin. “As the treasurer and then the president of the UT’s Investor Association, I learned a lot about running an organization and how to be a leader,” he said. His time with this club also made him aware of a real need on a campus as large as UT’s—organizations were using disparate and often disorderly means to connect with their members. After a friend showed him an early-stage software platform that could easily address this need, Eric realized it could be the entrepreneurship opportunity he had been looking for. “I saw that other organizations had the same problem connecting that I had. You can do all the research and surveys in the world, but sometimes you can identify the need for a product from your own experience,” said Fortenberry.

Fortenberry decided early on that he would fund OrgSync with the “bootstrap method;” that is, he would raise the initial funds to run the company from family and friends instead of from outside investors like venture capitalists. “This was a tough way to go,” he said. “I didn’t pay myself for two years, but, in the end, I was able to maintain control of the company and make decisions that allowed us to grow revenue and eventually become profitable.”

While waiting for profitability to come, Fortenberry couldn’t afford to pay high salaries to OrgSync’s sales team or developers so he turned to his father, also an entrepreneur, to help him develop a stock option plan for employees. “Giving stock options creates employees who are invested in the success of the company. You can’t pay someone enough to have a real passion about what you are doing. They have to believe in it as much as you do,” he said. Using what he called an “eat what you kill” sales approach, wherein each salesperson’s compensation was based solely on the number of contracts he or she signed, Fortenberry was able to expand OrgSync’s network of participating universities and increase revenue that he could, in turn, use to expand the company.

Fortenberry said that one key to his success is the business model he chose for OrgSync—software as service, a model in which there are no direct costs to add a new customer. “If you’re making computers, projectors, tables, whatever—there are direct costs to adding customers. But in a software as service subscription model, you not only get your money up front, you can create incremental growth that keeps piling up without any direct costs. It’s a cash cow,” he said.

Fortenberry said the most important lesson he has learned from his experience as a young entrepreneur is: “You can’t boil the ocean. Trust me, I’ve tried and I’ve yet to figure out how.” He went on to explain that entrepreneurs must find a niche and fill it really, really well. “I turned away the twelfth largest company in the world because they wanted us to do something that was outside of our core business strategy. I want to focus on what matters now.” Another thing Fortenberry does to stay focused is to write down the top three things he needs to accomplish for the day. If he finds himself drifting, he goes back to that list to make sure he is tackling only the highest priorities. “I make lots and lots of lists,” he said. “Because any project can be broken down into small steps.”

Fortenberry’s final piece of advice to students was to stay focused on execution. “Don’t be afraid to tell someone your idea, because chances are they won’t have the desire or ability to execute it properly. Good ideas are a dime a dozen, but it is in the execution of those ideas is where people usually fail,” he said.

Eric Fortenberry founded OrgSync in 2007 and serves as President and CEO. Since its inception, OrgSync has established partnerships with 400+ colleges and universities and over 3 million users around the world. Eric has been named to Inc. Magazine’s 30 Under 30 List of the World’s Coolest Young Entrepreneurs and has received awards at the White House and the United Nations for being named to the Empact 100 List, which showcases the Best Companies Started and Run by Young Entrepreneurs, for three consecutive years. OrgSync has also been recognized multiple times as a Best Place to Work and has won several other awards for its company culture, rapid growth, and innovative technology solutions.

For more information about University of Dallas events, click here.