Texas Medical Center CFO Credit Skills to UST MBA
Mealtime conversation at the El Paso, Texas, childhood home of Denise Castillo-Rhodes was simple, loving and down to earth. It was not a place where politics and international current events were discussed, analyzed and interpreted—not the sort of environment, in other words, that might naturally stimulate and develop critical thinking skills. Texas Medical Center’s EVP and CFO said those essential skills were fostered in the MBA degree program at University of St. Thomas, where she graduated in 1992.
The first in her family to go to college, Castillo-Rhodes said, “It stands out for me—how my MBA professors continually emphasized critical thinking and helped us to develop that skill. In today’s complex and fast-paced business environment, that skill is crucial and I use it all the time.”
A leader with a knack for numbers, she was controller for Nabisco Biscuit Company when she began to look for the right MBA program in Houston. She was a single mom at the time and needed a solid, respected program that offered schedule flexibility.
“I looked at Rice and University of Houston,” she said, “but the minute I walked onto the UST campus, I knew that it was my home—where I wanted to be. I felt a sense of security that comes from the Basilians’ (Fathers) focus on the three pillars: spiritual development, community and professional development. That was important to me.”
Several Nabisco colleagues who had pursued their MBAs at UST told her positive things about how much they had learned in that program.
“When I got there, I learned in small classes in which professors took the time to really work with us,” Castillo-Rhodes said. “The caliber of professors was excellent. They had real-world work experience and applied it in the classroom. As students, we were encouraged to work with one another, study together and form relationships. I got to know others who were just like me—hungry to expand their knowledge of all aspects of business while working full time and balancing busy family lives.”
Today, she says she is one of only three female CFOs in the world’s largest medical center. That fact is a reminder of the UST MBA campaign: “Shattering Glass Ceilings.”
“I can understand how they landed on that theme,” she said, “because the program has a diverse student population with students from a broad range of nationalities and backgrounds, and an MBA from UST will allow each to reach their own new heights, just as it did for me.”
From the heights she has reached already, Castillo-Rhodes chooses to offer a helping boost to young people who come from situations similar to hers.
“I’ve worked hard to get where I am, and I had great mentors who helped me along the way. I want to do the same thing by showing younger people in the business world how to get where they aim to be.”