From 10 to 80, NAWMBA Grows

Published on February 20, 2010

President Khator Triumphs Success Stories As UH Bauer Chapter of National
Association of Women MBAs Emulate Successful Houston Businesswomen

Successful women were celebrated at the Feb. 18 Women’s Finance Exchange luncheon with the UH Bauer chapter of the National Association of Women MBAs. From left: Janet Gurwitch, founder of Laura Mercier Cosmetics; Andrea Shiloh, vice president & relationship manager with Wachovia Bank and WFE president; Latha Ramchand, Bauer College associate dean for programs and administration; Renu Khator, UHS Chancellor and UH President; Thu Nguyen, MBA candidate and NAWMBA president; and Candace Caley, partner at SolomonEdwardsGroup and WFE member.

A group of successful women who lead Houston’s finance industry connected with those who are being primed as the next generation of female business leaders to hear University of Houston System Chancellor and UH President Renu Khator speak at the Feb. 18 meeting of the Women’s Finance Exchange (WFE).

The luncheon was a joint effort with the UH Bauer College of Business chapter of the National Association of Women MBAs (NAWMBA), a student organization dedicated to empowering female students in the graduate program and propelling more women into leadership positions in corporate America.

“This new partnership started out of the desire to mentor young women who will one day lead our city,” said Andrea Shiloh, a vice president & relationship manager with Wachovia Bank who is president of WFE.

NAWMBA members reached out to another high-powered female business leader to bring the two groups together. Janet Gurwitch, who founded Laura Mercier Cosmetics and served on a panel discussion about branding at UH Bauer, gifted a sponsorship to the organization to fund attendance to the WFE luncheon by NAWMBA members and Bauer faculty and staff.

With the support of successful businesswomen as mentors, NAWMBA has grown into a thriving group at UH Bauer, focusing its efforts in four key areas — education, professional development, networking and collaboration.

“We started out with just 10 members and now have 80 members,” said MBA candidate and NAWMBA president Thu Nguyen. “We’ve strived to become one of the leading organizations in the graduate program.”

During her time in NAWMBA, alumna Philana Kiely (’09) created the Shideezhi project, which aims to help Navajo girls realize a better future through higher education and mentoring. It is now a national project supported by NAWMBA Chapters across the nation. Gurwitch will fund a substantial portion of the expenses projected for a delegation of eight UH Bauer NAWMBA members to travel to New Mexico to the Navajo Indian Reservation in support of the project.

UH President Renu Khator, who was the guest speaker at the event, said seeing the connection between female leaders and the students was invigorating. “It’s inspiring to see women working together and networking together,” she said. “Anytime I speak to a women’s group like this, I always take back with me more than I give.”

Khator shared her story with the group, including her transition from a traditional Indian upbringing and arranged marriage to life in the United States, where she came in the 1970s with her husband, knowing little English but determined to be admitted into the master’s program at Purdue University.

“Here I am, 18 years old and having my husband translate for me, asking for admission into their master’s program,” Khator said. “Why? Because I thought I could do it. Generally, ‘no’ is not in my dictionary.”

She eventually went on to earn her master’s degree and PhD from Purdue before spending more than two decades serving in various positions at the University of South Florida. Khator came to UH in 2008 as the first foreign-born president of the university and the second woman to hold the position.

In her presentation to the group, she addressed her push for a Tier One designation for UH and what needs to be done now that state legislation has been passed to establish a national research university fund.

“We have an obligation as the fourth largest city in America to give an education on par with a Tier One education,” Khator said. “I know from the quality of the faculty and programs that our students are receiving this education, but they deserve branding on their diplomas that they’re coming from a Tier One university.”

In order to formally receive the designation, UH must overcome several hurdles, including increased alumni participation. She urged the many WFE members who graduated from the university to continue mentoring and working with UH students, as they have begun to do with NAWMBA.

“We are your university,” Khator said. “I guarantee the product here is as good as or better than anything you can find at any other university. You have a stake in what we produce.”

By Jessica Navarro