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Business alumni return to UHV to give guidance to students

Donald Jirkovsky, a University of Houston-Victoria alumnus and regional equipment supervisor for the Texas Department of Transportation, shares a story with students during a UHV leadership class March 28. Jirkovsky was one of 12 UHV business graduates to speak to classes during Alumni Week.

Every time Donald Jirkovsky learned a new concept in a University of Houston-Victoria business class, he attempted to apply it right away to his job with the Texas Department of Transportation.  

During a presentation to Olga Chapa’s UHV leadership class on March 28, Jirkovsky told students that what they are learning today will come up in various job situations tomorrow.  

“You may not see it right away, but these theories are applicable,” he said. “That’s why a UHV education is valuable.”  

Jirkovsky was one of a dozen UHV graduates who returned to the university to make presentations during the School of Business Administration’s Alumni Week March 25 to 28 in Victoria, Sugar Land and Katy. This marked the second time the school made a collective effort to bring back alumni at the same time to share their stories and give advice to current students.  

“We are grateful to have so many successful alumni take the time to come back to campus to share their experiences with our students,” said Farhang Niroomand, dean of the School of Business Administration. “I think the students benefited considerably hearing from business leaders who were in their shoes at one time.”  

Jirkovsky, a UHV alumnus who is a regional equipment supervisor for TxDOT, said the department recently has gone through a great deal of leadership change. He explained to the class how the changes impacted operations. He also talked about how the department used to spend little on technology so that more resources could be put into roads.  

“We had a new information technology leader from outside the department come in and tell us about how companies were investing in technology,” Jirkovsky said. “The savings gained from being more efficient could then be spent on roads. The new management and leadership team had a different paradigm than the prior leaders.”  

Jirkovsky also shared his own educational journey, taking a class or two at a time before graduating in 2010 with a Bachelor of Business Administration from UHV.  

“By the time I received my education, I could see right away how the concepts and theories came into play,” Jirkovsky said. “Now I want to share what I learned to help others succeed. I welcomed the chance to share my story and let students know that what they are studying is applicable to real-world scenarios.”  

Chapa, a UHV assistant professor of management, said Alumni Week helps the students connect what they are being taught with real-life work outcomes.  

“Mr. Jirkovosky showed the students the end product of what UHV School of Business Administration has helped produce,” she said. “He did an outstanding job, leaving my students anxious to apply what they are learning in a future work setting.”  

While not accustomed to public speaking, Valerie Gilliam, a UHV alumna and director of business development and economic analysis for Country Watch, could not refuse an invitation to return to the university.  

Gilliam obtained her Global Master of Business Administration with a concentration in finance in 2012 from UHV. County Watch is a Houston-based information provider for corporations, government agencies, schools and individuals needing up-to-date news and information on recognized countries of the world.  

During her classroom visit, Gilliam provided tips on what to do and what not to do when starting a career. She also talked about the importance of specialization.  

“When you’re getting an MBA, it’s possible to move in a thousand directions,” she said. “I told the students to learn everything they can about a couple of things and become experts in those areas. If managers know you are a professional expert in a certain area, they will come to you.”  

Other speakers during UHV Alumni Week were:  

  • Nafis Bhuiyan, marketing manager for Eutex International, a global oil and gas company specializing in electrical cables for oil rigs. In 2010, he earned a Strategic MBA with a concentration in marketing.
  • Robin Cadle, executive director of the Food Bank of the Golden Crescent and an adjunct professor in the UHV School of Business Administration. She graduated in 2006 with an MBA and also has two other master’s degrees from UHV.
  • Nicole Conda, proposal manager for ABS Consulting, where she manages risk and safety management projects in the oil and gas industry. In 2011, she earned a Strategic MBA with a concentration in entrepreneurship.
  • Pouyan Layegh, director of campus services at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. He earned an MBA in 2009.
  • Shaneel Mitha, project manager for Discover Financials. She graduated in 2012 with a Strategic MBA and concentration in international business.
  • Chris Pemberton, director of information technology infrastructure for Situs Holdings, a provider of commercial real estate loan advisory services and integrated process solutions. In 2008, he earned a Strategic MBA with a concentration in management.
  • Jason Reece, business analyst for Argus Software. He obtained an MBA in 2011. His concentration was finance.
  • Michael Sample, director of global operations and quality for Sigma Aldrich. In 2010, he earned a Strategic MBA with a concentration in marketing.
  • Nyma Shah, director of development research for the UT MD Anderson Cancer Center. She earned a Strategic MBA with a concentration in management in 2012.
  • Kim Smallwood, manager of grease products at CITGO Petroleum Corp. He has 38 years of industry experience. In 2011, he earned an MBA with a concentration in general business.

The University of Houston-Victoria, located in the heart of the Coastal Bend region, offers courses leading to more than 65 bachelor’s and master’s degree programs and concentrations in the schools of Arts & Sciences, Business Administration, Education & Human Development, and Nursing. UHV provides face-to-face classes at its Victoria campus as well as teaching sites in Fort Bend and Harris counties, and online classes that students can take from anywhere. Since its founding in 1973, UHV has provided students with a quality university education from excellent faculty at an affordable price.