The Texas Business Hall of Fame Foundation will award scholarships to three UT Dallas undergraduate students for demonstrating leadership and entrepreneurial spirit. All three have zeroed in on an entrepreneurial business idea and plan to use the funds to get them launched. They will pick up their awards Nov. 1 in Houston at the annual Scholarship Luncheon.
Konan Mirza, Tina Dimitrova and Brian Hoang each have won $15,000, with funds for their awards donated by the Mitchell Family Foundation.
“For me, it’s never been about the awards,” Mirza said. “It’s more about solving problems. It just so happens that, when it’s presented in the form of a competition, you’re in a situation where you can come up with ideas that are meaningful and can help people.”
Mirza, a finance and economics junior, started AltaAir, a company that manufactures modular drones with interchangeable parts for detecting air pollution. The company began when he and teammates entered a high school competition. Even though it was supposed to be just a simulation, he and his teammates soon realized that they had a viable idea. Mirza, a member of the Davidson Management Honors Program at the Naveen Jindal School of Management, enrolled at UT Dallas with the express purpose of realizing his vision.
“We started implementing it,” he said. “We started assembling a team, a marketing plan, a business plan, getting mentors, talking to people with connections and trying to get a little recognition.”
Hoang, a software engineering senior in the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science, co-founded Immosis LLC, a tech agency that creates immersive software experiences across multiple industries using virtual and augmented reality. As someone who has always been interested in technology, he sees his path as one in which he can make a difference — but at a large scale.
“Scale is the key,” he said. “Making a difference person-by-person is great and all, but I want to put my efforts into one thing that that can, in turn, improve many lives.”
Hoang said that emerging technologies such as virtual reality and artificial intelligence have the potential to change fundamentally the way that humans live, engage with content and become productive.
“Technology provides more opportunities for us to better our own lives,” he said. “Use cases are popping up everywhere — healthcare, transportation, everything. We’re living in a revolution of innovation, and it’s absolutely beautiful.”
Dimitrova, a finance senior, plans to start her own private equity fund. For that, she said, she needs to cultivate a network of potential advisers and investors, and applying for the Texas Business Hall of Fame Scholarship is one good way to do that.
“I’m excited about getting a chance to meet businesspeople who are in the Texas Business Hall of Fame and speaking with them,” she said. “I will be able to find out how they got to where they are and get snippets of advice from them.”
Dimitrova has been proactive in seeking advice from mentors and counts JSOM faculty members Madison Pedigo, director of the MS in Innovation and Entrepreneurship program, and Dr. Monica Powell, senior associate dean and dean of graduate programs, as two of hers.
Dimitrova offers this advice for fellow students who are seeking the laser focus she has: Try to learn as much as possible about a potential career path and get as much relevant experience as soon as you can. Even getting some experience in a job that you do not like will help you succeed in the job you eventually do want, she said.
Candidates for the scholarship must submit nomination letters when they submit their applications. Dr. Diane McNulty, associate dean for external affairs and corporate development at the Jindal School, wrote one for Mirza, Hoang and Dimitrova. In her position as co-vice president of the scholarship committee at the Texas Business Hall of Fame, McNulty interviewed a number of candidates from outside the Dallas-Fort Worth area and was impressed by the sheer number of students whot had entrepreneurial ideas — not only from UT Dallas but throughout the state.
“We have worked really hard to build a great entrepreneurial program at UT Dallas.More and more students are opting in to entrepreneurship and innovation than ever before — with all the associated creativity and risk,” she said. “That’s great news for the future of the State of Texas. Every one of these scholars has staked his or her future on making sure our state’s economy continues to thrive.”
— Jimmie R. Markham