2020 Best & Brightest EMBAs: Adam Tunks, Southern Methodist University (Cox)

Adam Tunks

Southern Methodist University, Cox School of Business

“An intellectual who cares deeply about the well-being and successes of others.”

Age: 39

Hometown: Dallas, Texas

Family Members: Catherine (wife), sons (6 and 2)

Fun fact about yourself: I am a licensed Coast Guard Captain

Undergraduate School and Degree: Southern Methodist University, BBA Financial Consulting, BS Economics (Minors Math and Philosophy)

Where are you currently working? Graham Mortgage Corporation, Vice President

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work, and Leadership Roles:

  • White Rock Boat Club Treasurer
  • State of Texas Boating Safety Instructor
  • Red Cross Lifeguard Instructor
  • Sea Scout Committee Chair, Ship 1899
  • Cub Scout Lion Deb Leader
  • America’s Boating Club
  • Church committees

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Taking full advantage of all academic programs. I earned a 4.0 GPA, achieved the top-level (Legacy) in the Business Leadership Center, got one-on-one presentation skills coaching, had sessions with the professional coach, and developed meaningful relationships with many of my classmates. I am proud of this because I came into the program with the goal of getting the most of the experience and achieved that goal.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am most proud of the work that I am doing in my current role. I was promoted to Vice President within 18 months of joining Graham Mortgage Corporation because I was making significant contributions to the operations. I continue that work and am better at it today because of the experiences in the EMBA program at SMU Cox.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? I went to SMU as an undergraduate. When I was looking for an MBA program, I only wanted to be in a well-respected program. In the state of Texas, that narrows to two programs. The SMU EMBA program ranks highly and is local, meaning I didn’t need to move my family to earn the degree.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? Meeting the incredible students in our cohort. I have learned a lot along the way, even though I didn’t expect a huge gain in knowledge because there is a lot of subject matter overlap with my undergraduate work. Even with that, the best part has been the relationships I have formed with my cohort that will carry through the rest of our careers.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? Data-driven decisions. I work at a small firm and we are currently getting a cost analysis underway to evaluate what activities are most profitable.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family, and education? Juggle, not balance, is the right word to use. My wife and I had to make specific arrangements for study time, Wednesday nights and Friday afternoons, and remain flexible for when the extra effort was needed, half days on Saturdays and Sundays when we weren’t in class. I also was fortunate to have a very supportive work environment that allowed me to get study time and projects done during the workday when needed.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? I’m not aware of myths about school. Some of the biggest fears that people seemed to have were around taking tests. The biggest thing people can do to confront those fears is to put in the work. Go to class, read the books, complete the assignments. The rest will come.

What was your biggest regret in business school? I have no regrets about business school.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? My best friend in the program, Jeff Liles, is my classmate I admire most. Jeff has a keen insight into people, high emotional intelligence, and the courage to speak his mind.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…my career path took me through the first couple of steps, then we had our first son. At that point, I looked for a way to spend more time with my kid. To experiment, I was a high school algebra teacher for two academic years. When I came out of that and returned to the business world, I decided that I needed to get back on the forefront of business thinking. That is when I decided to go to business school.”

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? To own the company I work for and provide financial stability for my family.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I want my peers to remember me as the one that always gave more than he took and could be depended on for support without question.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? (1) Bareboat sailing charters in the Mediterranean and Seychelles and (2) achieve financial independence to provide space to become a college professor.

What made adam (Student) such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2020? (Please include administrative or faculty member’s name and title)

What made Adam Tunks such an invaluable addition to the class of 2020?

“Everyone wanted Adam Tunks to be in their study group. Clearly this was not possible. So, Adam did the next best thing. He held weekly study sessions and invited all his classmates to attend and learn. In my twenty years of being responsible for the Cox Executive MBA Program, no one has ever given multiple hours of their time to prepare and conduct study sessions in all courses every week. Being a former high school algebra teacher provided Adam with the requisite skills. The fact that both of Adam’s parents are university professors did not hurt either.

While he was a leader in his class, Adam also exercised his skills in being a good follower, always taking time to listen and consider the perspectives of his classmates. Despite being busy with his EMBA classwork, his job, and his family life, he took time to get involved beyond the classroom, successfully participating in the EMBA class Marathon Relay teams and charitable basketball tournaments. Moreover, Adam led his Entrepreneurship course group to the “Final Four” in the business plan competition.

When Adam started the EMBA program, he was director of operations at Graham Mortgage Company. He will graduate as a vice president at the organization. Adam seems to live by the belief that if he’s in, he’s all in. That approach, in the classroom, in the workplace and in his personal life, made Adam Tunks an invaluable addition to the Class of 2020.

The one trait that I most admire about Adam and what made him so valuable to his class was that he was always working to improve. He has very good presentation skills, but quarterly, he would ask me to meet with him to help sharpen his skills. He was always very appreciative of the feedback and always incorporated it into the next visit’s session.

Oh, did I mention that Adam will graduate with a 4.0 GPA. Adam Tunks was clearly the MVP of the Cox EMBA Class of 2020.”

Tom Perkowski
Assistant Dean
SMU Cox Executive MBA Program


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