Student Spotlight: Timia Bethea Connects Global Business with Social Impact
Timia Bethea knows one thing for sure: Her work will make an impact on the world.
As a senior at the McCombs School of Business who will graduate in May 2020, Bethea’s academic career exemplifies the type of cultural exposure and international engagement that the Center for Global Business strives to provide to students at the University of Texas at Austin (UT).
We spoke with Bethea to learn more about her path to McCombs, her immersive experience in a prestigious UT program, and her hopes for the future.
Business as a catalyst for social good
Originally from Dallas, Texas, Bethea selected UT specifically for its business school. She chose to study at McCombs after a realization that business aligned well with her outgoing personality and her skills in social networking and conceptualizing ideas. Her love of travel and experiencing new cultures, combined with her desire to participate in a study abroad program, inspired her choice to pursue international business.
It’s not just the business angle that appeals to her, either. “As I’ve been in school, I’ve taken on social impact work, and I’ve become really interested in how to catalyze business for social good,” Bethea says. “That was another reason why I wanted to pursue international business — it gives me more leeway to make a real impact.”
Equipped with her budding interest in both social impact and international business, Bethea recently earned an incredible opportunity to combine her education with real-world issues through a competitive UT program.
Gaining real-world experience
At UT, the President’s Award for Global Learning is a “signature program of the International Board of Advisors [that] provides funding to student teams to take on international projects.”
As a member of one of the seven teams of students participating in the program, Bethea traveled with her team and their advisors to Ghana, Africa, where they spent a total of 10 weeks. “There were advertising majors, education majors, international relations majors, and global studies majors,” she says of the various students in the program. “It was really amazing to see how our interdisciplinary skills and thought processes worked together.”
For their social impact-oriented project, Bethea and her team decided to tackle the issue of colorism, which their site, The Color Complex, describes as the systemic idea that “you have more value if you have lighter skin, straighter hair, bigger eyes, and a slimmer nose.”
While in Ghana, Bethea’s team, composed entirely of women of color, conducted qualitative research with Ghanaian women, including students at the University of Ghana. This work supplemented earlier research conducted with African-American and Asian-American undergraduate students at UT.
“We didn’t travel to Ghana just to collect information, and then use it to tell the country how to change or how to solve its problems. We went there to listen about what they are doing about the issue,” Bethea notes.
“We, as the people of Texas, deal with the same issue of colorism, so we spoke with folks in Ghana about how they’ve addressed it, then we shared how we’ve addressed it,” she adds. “That allowed us to discuss how we can collectively devise a solution that can benefit both environments in a culturally specific way.”
When she graduates in May 2020, Bethea looks forward to using her experience in collaborating with people from different cultures to create solutions for social change.
“I’m interested in how social impact intersects with the concept of business, so I want to pursue careers that climb into that niche environment,” she says. “I do want to be a part of the business world, but I want to make an impact, too.”
Bethea notes that in the future, you’ll likely see her in a role that allows her to positively impact people of color, work with international cultures, and of course, travel as much as possible.
“I’ve always known that I was going to create my own path, and I feel like that’s what I’m doing here at UT,” she says. “You have to create your own path and keep searching for what you truly want to do.”