Undergraduates Win Scholarships for Bright Business Ideas for Texas
The Texas Business Hall of Fame Foundation has selected three undergraduate students at The University of Texas at Dallas for scholarships that recognize leadership and entrepreneurial spirit.
Konan Mirza, Brian Hoang and Tina Dimitrova each have won $15,000, with funds for their awards donated by the Mitchell Family Foundation. They will pick up their awards on Thursday, Nov. 1, at the Texas Business Hall of Fame Foundation’s annual gala in Houston.
The scholarships, supported by various donors throughout the state, are awarded to students at 25 Texas universities. The application requires that each student describe his or her goals and explain plans to pursue a career in Texas.
“We have worked really hard to build a great entrepreneurial program at UT Dallas,” said Dr. Diane McNulty, associate dean for external affairs and corporate development at the Naveen Jindal School of Management (JSOM). “More and more students are opting in to entrepreneurship and innovation than ever before — with all the associated creativity and risk. 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.”
“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 Alta Air, 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, they soon realized that they had a viable idea. Mirza, a member of the Davidson Management Honors Program at the Jindal School, 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.”
They soon connected with the Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and entered the Big Idea Competition in 2017. They received $5,000 for third place and won $2,500 for the best undergraduate idea.
Hoang, a software engineering senior in the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science, co-founded Immosis, a tech agency that creates immersive software experiences across multiple industries using virtual and augmented reality.
“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 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 — health care, transportation, everything. We’re living in a revolution of innovation, and it’s absolutely beautiful.”
Dimitrova, a finance senior, plans to start a private equity fund. For that, she said, she needs to cultivate a network of potential advisors and investors, and applying for the scholarship was a good start.
“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, in particular JSOM faculty members Madison Pedigo, director of the Master of Science in Innovation and Entrepreneurship program, and Dr. Monica Powell, senior associate dean.
Dimitrova offers this advice for fellow students: “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.”