2024 Best & Brightest Business Major: Mohan Desai, Southern Methodist University (Cox)

Mohan Desai

Southern Methodist University, Cox School of Business

“Driven by a passion for uplifting peers, spreading positivity, and embracing the endless pursuit of knowledge.”

Fun fact about yourself: Currently recreating my childhood collection of the diecast toy cars you get from the grocery store

Hometown: Dallas, TX

High School: Greenhill School

Major: Finance with a Specialization in Alternative Asset Management, Philosophy

Minor: N/A

Favorite Business Course: Without a doubt, my favorite course at the Cox School has been the Alternative Asset Management Center Program course taught by Professor Bill Maxwell. In this course, we were tasked with working on a team of three students and working through a case study each week. The deliverables for these case studies were financial models and pitch decks, requiring us to apply concepts from prior courses to real-world scenarios. I not only loved the challenge of this course but also the collaboration it fostered between the students, many of whom are now close friends. The class also included a speaker series, where business professionals came to speak to our class about their experiences and share insights they’ve learned throughout their years in the industry. Both aspects of this class provided a holistic learning opportunity that honed my technical abilities and shaped the way I evaluate business issues.

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles During College:

  • EnCap Investments & LCM Group Alternative Asset Management Center, Don Jackson Fellow
  • SMU Board of Trustees, Student Representative to the Finance and Audit Committees
  • Hesiod Financial, Vice President of Investor Relations & REIT/FIG Analyst
  • SMU Collegiate Consulting Academy, Co-President
  • SMU Student Senate, Finance Committee Chair & Cox School of Business Senator
  • Cox Career Management Center, Consulting Peer Coach


  • Honor Roll with High Distinction (All Semesters)
  • Beta Gamma Sigma International Business Honors Society Member
  • Recipient of Provost Scholarship, CFP Foundation Distinguished BBA Scholarship, and Don Jackson Fellowship (All Merit-Based)
  • University Honors Program Member

Where have you interned during your college career?

  • Credera – New York, NY – Management Consulting Intern
  • Six Pillars Partners – Addison, TX – Analyst Intern
  • MAG Impact Collective – Dallas, TX – Business Operations Intern
  • ILE Homes – Dallas, TX – Research Writer

Where will you be working after graduation? I am still undecided on where I will be working next year, but I’ve largely been focused on finding an analyst role where I can apply the technical skillset I’ve developed throughout college.

Who is your favorite business professor? My favorite business professor has been Professor William Maxwell. Prof. Maxwell teaches the Alternative Asset Management Center Program course and has been responsible for the learning opportunity that this course provides for those who go through the program. In teaching this course, Prof. Maxwell always focuses on understanding the bigger picture in the professional realm of finance, thereby exposing us students to the way real world often differs from theory. I found this exposure to be incredibly valuable as I transitioned from this course into the internship that followed my junior year.

What advice would you give to a student looking to major in a business-related field?

Understand, don’t memorize: Focus on learning concepts and fundamentals rather than trying to memorize (and enjoy that process). I think this advice is relevant whether you are in the classroom, preparing for interviews, or in an internship. The business world is dynamic, and two situations are rarely entirely the same. A strong conceptual understanding will provide you with a framework that can be applied to any situation that faces you.  In particular, I would offer this advice:

Seek out constructive criticism: There’s always something you can do to improve. Ask mentors for feedback and implement it.

Turn setbacks into opportunities: Things rarely go entirely according to plan. Shift your perspective and embrace the learning opportunity. A wise man once said, “Don’t feel sorry for yourself, feel excited for the opportunity you’ve been given to improve.”

What has surprised you most about majoring in business? I’ve been most surprised by seeing how all the concepts I’ve learned tie in with one another. Since accounting, marketing, management, and finance classes are taught separately, it becomes easy to lose track of how each of these areas is interconnected. However, understanding the interactions between these disciplines is crucial to establishing a well-rounded business foundation. Developing tunnel vision can be easy, but success in this field requires maintaining sight of the bigger picture.

Which academic, extracurricular or personal achievement are you most proud of? The achievement I’m most proud of is being selected as a Don Jackson Fellow for the Alternative Asset Management Center Program here at SMU. In this role, I work with 11 other Fellows to coach the next batch of ‘Alts’ students on their interviewing, financial modeling, and deck/memo development skills. The most fulfilling part of this role is seeing the confidence that the students develop over their weeks of preparation once they start to grasp the key concepts in finance. There’s often a point where you can see something click when everything starts to make sense and come together, and it is truly a privilege to help the students reach that point.

The Don Jackson Fellows played an outsized role in helping me grow throughout this program, and I consider myself lucky to play a similar role for the current class.

Which classmate do you most admire? The classmate I admire the most is a friend named Benjamin Liu. Ben and I became close in our sophomore year through clubs and a finance class. Ben has an incredible work ethic and quickly becomes an expert in topics that interest him. And our friendly competition in classes also fueled both of our desires to excel. Two qualities about Ben really set him apart: his willingness to help others and his authenticity. Ben consistently goes above and beyond to support his peers, whether it be through explaining a complicated topic or just providing advice. He’s a humble guy, though, so you would never hear it from him. Ben’s also comfortable being himself, and that authenticity shines through in all of his interactions. Ben is a genuinely great guy, and I’m lucky to have him as a friend.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? While I’m fortunate to have a robust support network comprising friends, family, and mentors who have contributed to my success, the person I would like to thank most is undoubtedly my dad. As a professor, my dad is a natural teacher who has imparted valuable wisdom and life lessons to me. However, I’ve learned the most from his demeanor, philosophy, and approach to life. I draw my positivity from my dad; he can find the silver lining in any situation and always encourages others to achieve their full potential. Beyond his guidance, my dad has provided me with unwavering support and the autonomy to make my own choices. His belief in me gives me confidence and drives me to continuously push my boundaries and strive for excellence. Above all, my dad has shown me that true fulfillment comes not from personal achievements, but from the positive impact one can have on those around them. Success comes first from developing the right values, and second from staying true to them. I owe much of my success to my dad’s guidance, support, and belief in my potential. But more important than his role in my achievements, I’m grateful for the impact his lessons have made on my character and values.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list?

  1. Pursue my love for either sports or cars in the business realm
  2. Leverage my experiences to benefit the community around me, regardless of whether it be by teaching a class, writing a book, funding a scholarship, etc.

What made Mohan such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2024?

“The best students in every school are the ones who don’t just succeed in the classroom, but who strive to make the school better when they leave. Mohan Desai is one of the best examples of this concept I’ve ever seen. SMU has been a part of Mohan his entire life, and to see him leave his own personal mark on our school has been a delight. In addition to being one of our top students, Mohan has actively sought ways to improve the entire University. This started when he joined the SMU Student Senate, using his business skills to serve as the finance committee chair. His reputation was so respected that he was selected to represent the student body on SMU’s Board of Trustees’ standing finance and audit committees.

He has also sought to give back by serving as a peer coach in the Cox Career Management Center, where he gets to be a mentor to our younger students just starting their careers. I can’t think of anyone better to mentor our new students than Mohan. No matter where he goes after graduation, I want Mohan wearing SMU Cox gear—there can be no greater advertisement for SMU Cox’s student body than Mohan Desai. We have been proud to have him as a student, and we will be proud to call him an alumnus.”

Jim Bryan
Associate Dean, Undergraduate Programs
Cox School of Business


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