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McIver Texas Trip

PHoto of students“Deep in the Heart of Texas”

Toyota, Rackspace, USAA, Dell, Whole Foods, ConocoPhillips and Statoil. Students in Dr. Derrick McIver’s summer course, The Texas Tour: A Corporate, Cultural and Service Learning Venture “Deep in the Heart of Texas,” offered through the Lee Honors College, had the rich learning experience of visiting all of these companies as well as participating in two service learning projects and learning from alumni leaders at several of the companies and organizations they visited. They also were able to squeeze in a couple of sightseeing trips along the way, visiting the Alamo and NASA. 

The trip took the students not only “Deep in the Heart of Texas” but also deep into the heart of who they are as learners.  Exploring one of the most interesting and fastest-growing urban triangles in the U.S., students visited San Antonio, Austin and Houston, developing an understanding of Texas culture as they explored communities and visited organizations working to foster economic development.  Service learning projects at Haven for Hope and the Animal Defense League gave students the chance to benefit the local community and helped them understand themselves, while being exposed to many of the challenges in urban areas in Texas.

Students also completed the Gallup StrengthsFinder 2.0 to learn about themselves, their talents and their leadership and teamwork strengths, which helped inform their service learning projects and teamwork for these projects.

Photo of students in conferene room“The trip was a tremendous success,” says McIver, assistant professor of management. “My expectations and goals of providing an opportunity to study business activity and Texas culture in one of the most interesting urban triangles in the United States were all exceeded. Between the leadership in both the Haworth College of Business and the Lee Honors College, our alumni, and, most importantly, our fantastic students, this program was very valuable. I am always amazed and pleased with the quality and professionalism of our students.”  

Alumni connections

Melissa Gray, B.S.’96, director of sustainability and strategic partnerships at Rackspace, provided students with an informative tour of the global headquarters of Rackspace and lunch with employees. She also attended an alumni dinner and spoke directly with students about San Antonio, Texas, and her career path to Rackspace.  

Craig Hopkins, MBA’97, senior vice president, global service delivery at USAA, arranged a tour of USAA's global headquarters in San Antonio and a formal presentation, given by Hopkins, about his career and an overview of USAA. He also attended the San Antonio alumni dinner to speak directly with students.

Tom Sweet, B.B.A’81, vice president of corporate finance and controller at Dell, coordinated a tour of a server manufacturing plant and a presentation about Dell from a team of employees. Sweet and a number of Dell employees attended a dinner with students to discuss Austin, Texas, and career pathways.

Clayton Whitaker, MBA’00, head of economic analysis—offshore at Statoil, provided a tour of the company's North American headquarters and an informative presentation on its operations by a team of StatOil employees, including offshore drilling projects and onshore projects. He also attended a dinner with students and talked more in depth about Statoil and living and working in Houston.

Student reflections

“The Texas Tour was an incredible networking tool. I made contacts with insightful and successful members of today's business world. The trip proved there are always people doing compelling work aligned with any interests and the trick is to simply go out and meet them.” – Kelsey Pitschel

One of the many things that I took away from the Texas Tour is that you do not necessarily have to travel out of the country to interact with different cultures.  Just by traveling to the three different cities, San Antonio, Austin and Houston, you can really see how each place is unique and different from the next.  Overall this trip was a great experience and something I totally recommend.” – Jeff Williams


Photos provided by Jennifer Townsend.


Editor: Cindy Wagner
Haworth College of Business
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Western Michigan University
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