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Bauer College Board Chair Reflects on Journey from Student to Alumnus and Now, Supporter
By Jessica Navarro
Paul Peacock is on a mission.
The 1981 BBA alumnus and retired PwC partner leads the Bauer College Board, a group of more than 40 executives and entrepreneurs who advise Dean Latha Ramchand, providing critical input on issues including strategy, thought leadership, student engagement and curricular relevance.
As chair, Peacock has helped to grow the Bauer College Board roster and to define its mission and charge. But, he's not stopping there. This year, board members are working alongside college task forces on branding and communications, alumni engagement and student recruitment. Peacock is also looking to continue to expand the board's membership.
In addition to his service on the board, Peacock has been actively engaged with the college over the last several years, named a Distinguished Alumnus in 2009. He earned an award for Distinguished Service to the college's Department of Accountancy & Taxation Accounting Advisory Board in 2011 for his service between 2002-2011 (as a founding member and chair), and in 2013, he was named AAB's Alumni of the Year.
Paul Peacock - Enjoy the Ride (An Inside Bauer Story)
Alumnus and retired PwC partner Paul Peacock (BBA '81) leads the Bauer College Board, a growing group of executives and entrepreneurs who advise Dean Latha Ramchand and provide guidance on strategy, college curriculum and engagement.
Tell us about your history with the Bauer College Board and how you came to be chair.
It has been a wonderful ride. I came to campus about six years ago — I remember that it was a Friday — to listen to a board member speak. After listening to her speak, I approached the dean and said, 'I'd like to be part of your board,' and after some discussion, I was asked to join. About that same time the board was going through some transitions and the current chair was looking for their successor. I'd only been on the board for six months, and they looked at me.
I tell everybody that I've been on the board long enough to have been through two five-year accreditations with the AACSB (Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business) and happily watched the dean and her team manage through both reviews.
What are some of the board's priorities?
We are in a period of transition right now. One of our goals is to grow the size of the board. We're currently at 30 to 40 members with a goal of 60 to 70. The reason for that is we want to have scale. And, we also want our board to look like the city of Houston. We also want to grow in geography. We're interviewing members outside of Houston, and we're going to put technology to good use for that. Certainly, with size and scale, we're afforded much broader expertise and talent.
Currently, the dean has three primary goals — talent recruitment, branding and communication, and community and alumni involvement — that were identified by the dean and her team as part of the last AACSB accreditation process. All three of these align with her top priorities. Due to the size and scale of our board at this point, we've been able to establish three committees all chaired by board members that focus on each one of those goals.
I look for a board that works. I look for a board that's going to contribute. I think at this point, we have the talent and the energy to take us to the next level.
Tell us about your experience on campus first as a student and the transition into your role on the Bauer College Board.
My first course at the University of Houston was a fundamental accounting course. I was the second highest grade in the class with a B-plus. I thought at the time, 'I don't know what I got myself into.' But it laid a great foundation for the rest of my college career and told me I was going to have to work really hard to get the grades that I needed to graduate.
I graduated with an accounting degree and joined PwC (at the time, Coopers & Lybrand). Every firm puts staff and partners on campus to help attract talent, and I was in charge of doing that at UH. From there, I became the firm relationship coordinator in charge of all things University of Houston.
Along the way, a group of Bauer alumni started the college's Accounting Advisory Board. I was the second or third chair of that board, which serves a great purpose focusing solely on accounting and auditing. At the time, the accounting profession was going through significant change with Sarbanes-Oxley, and as chair of the curriculum committee and with help from others, we were able to suggest new curriculum around enterprise risk management and internal controls. We also had AAB board members very active in internal audit who helped Bauer become a Center of Excellence in Internal Audit. From there, it was logical that I wanted to take on more responsibilities and become a Bauer College Board member.
How did you apply what you learned as a student in your professional career with PWC?
No doubt about it, I was able to fall back on the foundation of hard work. Getting that first grade was very difficult, and all the other grades that came after that were played out by that first class. Certainly, public accounting is not known as an easy profession. We expect a lot of our folks in terms of energy, enthusiasm, and time and commitment. I look back on the University of Houston as being a great foundation for everything I achieved with PwC.
What kind of transformation have you seen at Bauer College in the last five to 10 years?
I'm certainly jealous of what we have going on these days versus what we had back then. The facilities available now to the business students are exceptional, with the Insperity Classroom & Business Building, Cemo Hall and Melcher Hall. A number of board members will sit around and talk about the old days — the days that we had our classes over in the Heyne building in the basement.
And, the faculty has grown to accommodate the facilities. Bauer College has energetic faculty supported by a good team, and everyone I work with and meet at the college is doing a wonderful job.
Everywhere I go, people know I'm associated with UH — my tennis club, family and friends, they all want to know what's going on at UH. It all started with Tier One status, and then we built a new stadium and have a football team that ends the year at No. 8. That momentum and energy carries over to the business school. People want to go to Bauer. You can get a great education here in the fourth largest city in the world. And, I can sense that enthusiasm from the folks wanting to join the Bauer College Board.
Why do you think it's important for Houston to have a leading business school with a global focus?
We are sitting in the energy capital of the world, amongst other things. The city has one of the world's largest ports. Every company needs talent. If we don't grow that talent locally, that talent's going to come from outside the city. We certainly have it in Bauer. It provides every company right here in the city the opportunity to hire from Bauer. And more importantly, as they hire from Bauer, the expectations are that they put time and effort back into the university as happy alumni or community members to help the university grow.
What do you see on the horizon for Bauer College? What goals do you have for the board?
When you look at the board, we're here to help our dean get to the next level. That's our number one goal. And as I described earlier, the three committees around alumni and community engagement, talent recruitment, and branding and communications are important. If we can develop those committees as part of the Bauer College Board, strategically aligning with our dean's top three priorities, we can be happy we have contributed to Bauer's success.
I'm very proud of Dean Ramchand and everything she has been able to accomplish in the past few years. I'm very proud of the faculty and staff for all the time and commitment they put into making Bauer College successful. I'm very proud of the Bauer College Board for everything we have been able to achieve in the past, and I'm looking at this board to take it up a notch. We're bigger; we're faster. I want to see results, and you will see the results as they transform over the next few years.
This story originally appeared in Volume 3, Number 2 of Inside Bauer magazine.
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