Owen News

From the Spring 2015 edition of Vanderbilt Business

Boomalang founders Chris Gerding and Leiya Hasan, both Class of 2015

Boomalang or bust

Two MBA students earned more than good grades in their entrepreneurship class—the language-learning app they conceptualized in class is in development. The students, Chris Gerding, MBA’15, and Leiya Hasan, MBA’15, recently earned the 2015 Sohr Grant to help create and develop their new app, Boomalang.

Boomalang matches language learners of similar interests and backgrounds, such as age, profession or hobbies, in different countries. The app then facilitates the logistics of setting up video chats that are designed to enhance language skills and protect user privacy. It answers the challenge of actually speaking a new language and practicing it.

Hasan says, “Think of it like Match.com meets Skype, coupled with a gamified language-learning app like Duolingo.”

Once the two developed the core of their idea, they turned to Nashville’s growing startup network. Last summer, they participated in JumpStart Foundry and have since tapped marketing, technology, finance, legal and strategy expertise through the Nashville Entrepreneur Center. The Sohr grant will allow them to continue the work needed to bring Boomalang to market.

Jim Sohr, BE’86, MBA’90, and his wife, Leah, endowed the grants in 2011. Sohr is the past president and co-founder of AIM Healthcare Services, which provides claims cost-management services for government and commercial payers of health care benefits.

Cherrie Clark
Cherrie Clark

New MS Finance program director named

Cherrie Clark will join the Owen School as professor for the practice of management and program director for the master of science in finance program on June 1.

Clark has taught in the College of Arts and Science’s Managerial Studies program since 2005 and has served as its director since 2011. She spent nearly 20 years as a consultant with Bain & Company and Executive Perspectives before coming to Vanderbilt.

“Cherrie is well-known to the Owen School after teaching for several years in Accelerator, Vanderbilt’s Summer Business Institute for undergraduates,” says Dean Eric Johnson. “I’m pleased that she will help us continue to strengthen the outstanding MSF program that we have built here.”

Vanderbilt’s MSF program offers a rigorous nine-month curriculum designed to prepare recent college graduates for positions in investment banking, corporate finance, investment research and private wealth management.

The MSF Program ranked No. 3 in the 2015 Financial Engineer survey; 98 percent of 2014 Vanderbilt MSF graduates received a job offer within three months after graduation.

For more information on the MS Finance program, visit www.owen.vanderbilt.edu/msf

Starting pay by the numbers

In Poets and Quants’ analysis of 2014 MBA starting pay, Vanderbilt University Owen Graduate School of Management graduates placed No. 22 with a median annual base pay of $100,000 and an additional $27,000 in bonuses. They reported that starting salaries for Vanderbilt’s MBAs are nearly as much as those at the highest ranked elite schools. “That’s just $20,000 or $25,000 lower than the $125,000 commanded by Harvard, Stanford and Wharton MBAs,” they noted, adding that adjusting those numbers to account for pay, cost of living and industry choices, “the difference in MBA starting pay would be negligible.”

Richard Willis
Richard Willis

Faculty matters

It’s easy to assume that with so much going on in Management Hall that its faculty and students don’t have much interaction with the rest of Vanderbilt—but don’t assume. Today more than ever, Owen administrators, faculty and staff serve on university committees, conduct trans-institutional research and in one case, are in leadership of the faculty body.

Richard Willis, the Anne Marie and Thomas B. Walker Jr. Associate Professor of Accounting, is currently the chair-elect in the Vanderbilt University faculty senate. In July, he will become chair of the governing body for all faculty at Vanderbilt.

The Faculty Senate is the representative and deliberative body of the faculties from all colleges and is centrally involved in the governance of the university. Elected members, deans of the colleges and schools and ex officio members, including the chancellor, are members of the senate.

As chair-elect, Willis is also a member of the faculty’s executive committee, which is charged with consulting with the chancellor, provost and vice chancellor for health affairs, as well as assisting senior university officers in matters of general university and faculty concern.

“I feel extremely privileged to serve the university in this capacity,” Willis says. “The senate offers a rich interaction with talented men and women committed to the university’s missions of research, teaching and discovery. We strive to serve a university that we feel has served us so well. It is an exciting time to be part of the senate.”

Hult PrizeCross-campus team made regionals for $1 million Hult Prize

A team of Vanderbilt students competed in the regional finals of the prestigious Hult Prize Challenge, a social enterprise project developed by the Hult Prize Foundation and the Clinton Global Initiative.

Owen students Jacob Hill, MBA’15, Ellen Page, MBA’15, and second year Matthew Inbusch, Peabody student Kathleen McKissack, MEd’15, and Peabody alumna Alyssa Van Camp, BS’10, MEd’13, made a good showing in the regional finals, although they didn’t advance to the global round. The team was chosen to compete from more than 20,000 applications from more than 500 colleges and universities in 150 countries.

Their challenge was to develop a business proposal for a social venture designed to provide early childhood education to children under the age of 6 living in urban slums worldwide. The prize is $1 million in startup funding for a social enterprise project.

“One of the great things about Vanderbilt is the opportunity students have to work with their peers across different schools and across multiple disciplines,” Dean Eric Johnson said, calling the team’s work a perfect example of the university’s spirit of collaboration.

Four of the five students were supported by graduate scholarships. Page held the Ingram Scholarship at Owen Graduate School of Management, and Inbusch received the school’s E. Bronson Ingram Scholarship. McKissack is a past recipient of the G. C. Carney Memorial Scholarship and Van Camp is a former recipient of the Jamison Foundation Scholarship, both Peabody honors.

The Hult Prize Challenge is the world’s largest student competition and startup platform for social good.

Robert Whaley
Robert Whaley

Whaley honored with industry award

Robert Whaley, the Valere Blair Potter Professor of Management, received the 2015 Joseph W. Sullivan Options Industry Achievement Award May 7 in recognition of his exceptional contributions to the U.S. options industry.

The award honors Whaley’s career and its impact in both the academic and private industry. The award comes from the Options Industry Council, an industry cooperative funded by the U.S. options exchanges and the Options Clearing Corporation. The OIC’s mission is to provide free and unbiased education to investors and financial advisers about the benefits and risks of exchange-traded equity options.

In announcing the award, the OIC said that Whaley’s research has helped the understanding and growth of the options market and pointed to his contributions to the educational development of the options industry. Whaley, who is also the director of the Financial Markets Research Center, is widely regarded as a derivatives and financial markets expert.

Japan Week included speakers, exhibits and even a Japanese movie night

Global ties

The ties between Vanderbilt and Japan were apparent during the first Owen Japan Week held in March. The event was organized by the Owen Japan Business Club, a student group of 30 members, and supported by businesses and leaders connected to Japan, the third largest economy in the world.

The week kicked off with a speech on Japan-Tennessee economic relations by Motohiko Kato, the Consul-General of Japan, who also participated in a well-attended panel discussion with Leigh Wieland, president and CEO of Japan America Society of Tennessee, and Dean Eric Johnson. It wrapped up with a presentation by Gwilym Jeans, director of manufacturing strategy and planning for Nissan North America. Other events included Japanese movie night and product and cultural displays provided by Japanese companies with Middle Tennessee facilities.

Hirokazn “Hiro” Morokuma, MBA’15, said that the club’s officers were inspired to introduce fellow students to their home country after the dean spoke at a town hall meeting and emphasized the importance of global mindsets. Companies involved in Japan Week, which Morokuma hopes will become an annual event, included Denso Manufacturing Tennessee, Nissan North America, Bridgestone Americas, Brother International Corp. and Lixil Corp.