Texas Tech University

Excellence in Banking Program Graduates Find Special Meaning in Working for Founding Partners

Jacob Gordon

April 11, 2022

Rawls College

The list of founding partners includes 56 members.

The Excellence in Banking (EiB) program in the Jerry S. Rawls College of Business began fall 2019 and helps prepare finance students for a career in commercial banking. While EiB graduates could conceivably start their careers at any financial institution, there can be a little more meaning when those careers start with one of the founding partners of the EiB program.

Take Mia Oliver and Jake Johnson. Both students were part of the EiB's first graduating class in fall 2020. While they may have two very different roles at different financial institutions, they both sense the extra significance of working for a founding partner.

Mia Oliver
Mia Oliver

“I am proud to say that I work for one of the founding firms of the EiB program,” said Oliver, who currently works as a Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) analyst for Veritex Community Bank in Dallas, Texas. “Veritex, and the other founding firms, have provided precious opportunities to me and so many others. The work that they have put forth to make their visions come to fruition is so exciting!”

“I'm honored to be a part of an organization that truly wants to make a difference in the communities they serve,” said Johnson, who currently is completing the Professional Lending Development Program at First Financial Bank in Abilene, Texas. “It's been a blessing to witness First Financial pour into the Texas Tech Excellence in Banking Program.”

As Oliver and Johnson worked through their initial finance courses, the idea of working in the banking industry was not on either of their radars. However, that all changed with the development of the EiB program.

“As I learned more about the [EiB] program and what [banking] had to offer, it met all the criteria that I was looking for in a career,” said Oliver. “As a young woman whose goals were to be financially independent, have job security, and have a family someday, banking was a career that could afford all of these things for me.”

For Johnson, banking never really was a consideration until a chance meeting with Scott Dueser, CEO of First Financial Bank and a driving force behind the establishment of the EiB program, during a Rawls Distinguished Alumni Banquet.

Jake Johnson
Jake Johnson

“Scott talked with me about the urgent need for young professionals within the banking industry and the incredible opportunities the [EiB] program offered,” said Johnson. “I had the unique opportunity of keeping in touch with Scott, who eventually led me to a career at First Financial.”

Though Oliver and Johnson come to the EiB program in different ways, they still had to navigate  completely uncharted waters in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. They recognized that they were essentially setting the bar for future EiB classes to be measured by.

“Many of us experienced the adverse effects of the pandemic on very personal levels,” said Oliver, who lost her grandfather to COVID-19 one month before graduating. “But I knew, as did my classmates, that this program was bigger than us. That's what kept me going. We developed a resiliency that solidified our gratitude and passion for the program and our career choice.”

Johnson echoed that similar gratitude and passion for the EiB program and has even had the opportunity to give back to the program as an alumnus. First Financial Bank selected Johnson to represent the EiB program at the annual Texas Banking Association conference in 2021.

In both Oliver and Johnson, it is clear to see that the EiB program has had a lasting impact on their academic and professional careers, and they would encourage any finance student to strongly consider the EiB program and a career in banking.

“Consider the need for young professionals in the industry,” said Johnson. “There is no doubt that I would not be where I am today if not for the [EiB] program. I felt as if I came into the banking industry with a leg up on my peers.”

Updated Count of Founding Partners of the Excellence in Banking Program

The Excellence in Banking Program recently updated the number of founding partners to 56. The complete list of founding partners can be seen below.

Anyone interested in giving to the Excellence in Banking program can contact Maggie Baker, director of development, at 806.834.6808 or maggie.baker@ttu.edu