Friday, May 17, 2013
The 15th Annual Harriet Stephenson Business Plan Competition took place on May 15th. The winning team was Recurrence, headed up by Albers alum Brayden Olson (BSBA, 2008) and MSF student Juan Arango. Recurrence is a game simulation designed to improve leadership skills. Interestingly enough, its initial target market is higher education - business schools! Recurrence has teamed up with professors from UW to design its first game and is looking for other schools to partner with. Maybe it will be the Albers School someday!
First runner up was Nutraberry, a supplier of raspberry seed powder and oil to be used as an anti-oxidant food supplement. The company has been developed by Albers alums David Wishnick (MBA, 2011) and Elana Lausberg (MBA, 2008), and is already shipping product to manufacturers.
The second runner-ups were Octave and Universal Charge. Octave is an app that teaches you how to sing. Universal Charge will provide a payment system to electric vehicle owners for use at charging stations. Octave was founded by five undergraduate students, headed up by senior Alex Tsway and including Brett Kennedy, Chenyu Wang, Michael Fogarty, and Thanh Huynh. Universal Charge was developed by Brett Phillips, a current MBA student. Octave took the Community Choice award at the finals, I am guessing largely on the strength of the interesting concept and Adam's authentic and congenial presentation style.
The business plan competition is a great learning experience for our students and involves many volunteers as judges and mentors. The deeper the students get into the competition, (which includes a trade show and elevator pitch competition) the more mentoring and coaching they receive, and the more powerful the experience. The many volunteer judges and mentors are an important part of that and it could not happen without them!
And let's not forget that sometimes these businesses become a reality - the students go out and start them! In the process, they will almost always get assistance from members of the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center Advisory Board and other friends of Albers. For example, we estimate that students have raised over $4.5 million in start-up funding through the competition as investors are exposed to the concepts and want to back them.
The business plan competition was a big success in its 15th year. IEC director, Sue Oliver, and program administrative assistant, Nettasha Reese, did an excellent job of organizing the process. Congratulations to them!
Sunday, May 12, 2013
The 2013 Albers Award Ceremony was held on May
10th. Some 23 students received awards for
academic excellence, service, and leadership.
Some of the top academic awards included the Paul A. Volpe Award
for the graduating senior with the highest academic performance,
awarded to Kalison Shilvock. Ha Nguyen received the Academic
Achievement Award for the Outstanding Transfer Student. Receiving
the Jerry A. Viscione Award for the highest academic performance
among our graduate students was Professional MBA student, Thomas
The top leadership award went to Christopher Clem, who received
the Spirit of Albers Award, which is presented to the student who
best embodies leadership, enthusiasm, dedication, commitment to
service, and compassion towards others. Christopher, an
economics major, was recognized for his work for social justice
both on campus and overseas. This includes working with
micro-lending organizations both in Argentina and Seattle.
Receiving the top service awards were Jonas Harris, who received
the undergraduate award, and Daniel Klein, who received the
graduate student award. Jonas received his award for his work
with ENACTUS and Redeeming Soles. Daniel received his award
for his work to organize professional and social events for our
The awards ceremony was followed by the Beta Gamma Sigma (BGS)
induction ceremony. BGS is the academic honorary for business
students at AACSB accredited business schools. Some
25undergraduate and 42 graduate students were inducted. Dr.
Fred Dekay does a great job of organizing the BGS students and
getting them to accept the invitation to join BGS. Year after
year our chapter is designated a Premier Chapter by BGS because so
many of our students accept the invitation. Only our top
performing students receive an invitation to join BGS.
Dr. Peter Brous, Professor of Finance, received this year's BGS
Teacher of the Year Award. We also had four faculty members
inducted into BGS - Dr. Bonnie Buchanan, Dr. Holly Ferraro, Dr.
Jessica Ludescher, and Dr. Rubina Mahsud.
We are very proud of the academic achievements of our
students! Congratulations to all our awardees!!
Friday, May 10, 2013
The fourth annual Red Winged Leadership Award ceremony took place on May 9th. The award recognizes individuals who have applied exceptional leadership skills and business acumen towards socially responsible goals in our community. The event is organized by students in the Graduate Leadership Formation Specialization (GLFS). For more on that program, you can go to: http://www.seattleu.edu/albers/inner.aspx?id=90709.
This year's finalists were Lynette Johnson (Soulumination), Paul Shoemaker (Social Venture Partners), and Molly Stearns (Overlake Hospital Medical Center Foundation). Molly Stearns received the Red Winged Leadership Award for 2013. The award recognizes the great work she has done at the Seattle Foundation and Overlake Medical Center Foundation. Although Molly received the award, all the finalists are winners! For more information on the finalists and the great work they do, go to: http://www.seattleu.edu/albers/inner.aspx?id=111890.
The Red Winged Leadership Award is becoming a singular event for Seattle University. Inspired by Seattle University's experience as a host school for the Opus Award, it is taking on a life of its own because our students are doing such a great job with organizing the process. Its alignment with the mission of Seattle University and the Albers School also make it very compelling.
This year's GLFS students did a phenomenal job of managing the award process and staging the event. Each year, the students put their special stamp on the program. This year, the students introduced a scholarship named for the winner that will be awarded to a Seattle University student. That is a great idea!
Albers is very proud of the work our GLFS students do with Red Winged Leadership Award, under the guidance of Professor Jennifer Marrone. Hats off to all the students and Professor Marrone for a job well done!
Tuesday, May 07, 2013
On April 30th, Spencer Rascoff, CEO of Zillow, joined
us as part of the Albers Executive Speaker Series. Zillow is
a web-based provider of information about the residential real
estate market. Anyone buying, renting, selling, and borrowing
in this market probably knows about Zillow.
Rascoff helped found Zillow in 2005 and became CEO in
2010. Zillow is expanding rapidly at the moment, hiring new
employees not just in Seattle, but in California, as well.
Spencer noted several times that Zillow sees its role as empowering
the consumer by unlocking information. Zillow does not see
itself as making the real estate broker obsolete, as there will
always be a need for assistance with a complex and critical
transaction such as buying or selling a house. Zillow sees
the role of the agent as having changed from "information gate
keeper" to " transaction consultant."
Rascoff opened by discussing his early career in investment
banking and private equity, which proved to be valuable training
for his later exploits, but also was too transactional and not
satisfying for him in the long run. Ultimately, though, that
experience set the stage for co-founding Hotwire and then
In moving from Hotwire to Zillow, Rascoff said he grew weary of
the travel industry and looked for another sector that could be
impacted by the Internet. Real estate seemed like another
market where industry databases were locked away from the
consumer. Zillow set out to unlock that information and
While starting out in the home sale vertical, Zillow has now
moved to home lending, rentals, and, most recently, home
improvements. Rascoff said this was enough to keep them fully
occupied at the moment, and they planned to focus on the domestic
market. In entering the global market they would start from
scratch and bring little to the table. In the mean time,
strong competitors have already adopted the Zillow model and have a
head start. A rapidly growing segment of their business is on
mobile phones, and they have found it easier to monetize mobile
than the web.
In case you have not noticed, Zillow has done six acquisitions
of late. Rascoff said they have all been in "adjacent spaces"
and they have worked hard to keep the existing management teams in
place. They have sold the acquisition by telling the target
firm it can do what it does better with Zillow, where it will have
access to more resources. They have also used stock options
to align the interests of management teams with shareholders.
When asked about his leadership style, Rascoff said he was there
to serve his direct reports and help them be successful. He
sees himself as a "player coach," and noted the higher up in the
organization you are, the less you are responsible for actually
When asked what advice he would give recent college graduates,
he suggested students look at people who are 10 to 15 years into
their career and ask if you want to live like they do! Also,
keep in mind that in a high growth company you are likely to have
more opportunities for career development. If a company is
not growing, there are fewer opportunities and you tend to get
pigeon-holed in a particular role.
If he had to do it over again, what is one thing he would have
done differently at Zillow? Communicate more with
brokers. Zillow was an outsider and the industry was
suspicious of the company, giving the most negative interpretation
of the moves it saw Zillow making. Only later did Zillow
figure out how its actions were being interpreted by agents.
Today, the lines of communication are much better and brokers are
forthcoming with suggestions for improvements.
Spencer Rascoff gave a fascinating presentation on Zillow and
his career leading up to its founding. He also provided
excellent career advice to the many students in the audience.
The final speaker for this year in the Albers Executive Speaker
Series is SU alum Leo Hindery, Managing Partner of Intermedia
Partners. Hindery has a long career in the cable TV industry
and is visiting from New York City on May 28th.
See you there!
Monday, April 22, 2013
Business Ethics Week took place in Albers April 15 to 19. The purpose of Business Ethics Week is to underscore the importance of business ethics for our students. During the week, 50 business professionals visited 84 classes to discuss an ethical challenge they had faced at some point in their career. Giving students real world examples of the difficulties they will face, and letting them know that others have found themselves in that spot, will prove to be very valuable for our students.
Getting 50 people to campus to cover 84 classes is no easy task. Many more people end up being asked than are able to visit. I know that many potential speakers were out of town this week or their schedule was too busy to allow them to come to campus. Nevertheless, we had some great volunteers coming to classes, including Robbie Bach, former President of Microsoft's Games and Devices division, Phyllis Campbell, Vice Chair of JPMorgan Chase Northwest, Brian Webster, CEO of Physio-Control, and Dan Wall, Senior VP at Expeditors International.
Other events during the week included a presentation on the sustainability practices of Costco Wholesale. Nearly 200 people showed up to hear Sherry Flies, who leads Costco's sustainability efforts, explain Costco's pioneering sustainability practices.
There was also a panel discussion around ethics and entrepreneurship with about 50 students and faculty attending. If featured Albers alums Kent Johnson (MBA '71) and Meg McCarthy (BSBA '84) as well as Bryan Mistele, founder and CEO of INRIX. Kent created the Lawrence K. Johnson Endowed Chair of Entrepreneurship at SU and spent many years as a venture capitalist, forming Alexander Hutton Associates. He now does business resolutions with his new firm, Aebig and Johnson. Meg is a serial entrepreneur having successfully started businesses such as Pharmacy Automation Consulting Technologies, LLC and Bizzults.
The final event of the week was a wrap up panel discussion on business ethics from the perspective of students, faculty, and professionals. Panelists included Jeff Greenaway (CIO onDemand), Dr. Marinilka Kimbro (accounting faculty member), Eric Huang (graduate student), and Mark Pufpaff (undergraduate student).
The Center for Business Ethics organized the event, which is only right, since it is the advisory board of the Center that came up with the idea of Business Ethics Week!! Those who were instrumental in the orchestration of Business Ethics Week include the director of the center, Dr. John Dienhart, and his two graduate student assistants - JP McCarvel and Sherry Ren. It was a job well done!
This was the second year of Business Ethics Week, although last year it was actually Business Ethics Day. We intend to make this an annual event in the Albers School, continuing to make it more impactful each year!
Friday, April 05, 2013
On April 4th, Albers students organized Seattle University's participation in International Mine Action Day, which commemorated the 14th anniversary of the International Land Mine Treaty. Since its initiation, 165 nations have signed the treaty and 36 have not, including the US. The theme of the day was "Lend Your Leg for a Mine Free World."
The day included a gathering of over 150 students, faculty, and staff in the PACCAR Atrium for a picture of symbolic support for land mine victims - everyone rolling up their right pant leg to "Lend a Leg." Here is the shot:
This was followed by a showing of the film, "The Eyes of Thailand". The film focuses on two elephant land mine survivors.
Our campus participation in International Mine Action Day was inspired by the visit of Tun Channareth to our campus nearly two years ago. Channareth received the Nobel Peace Prize for his work to ban landmines, and was here to receive an honorary degree from the university.
The students did a marvelous job of organizing the event. Nine Albers student organizations collaborated with nine student organizations from other parts of campus. In doing so, they showed that collaborating with others can lead to a more successful result! Kudos to them!
Thursday, March 28, 2013
The week of spring break, March 25 to 29, I made a trip to visit Shanghai International Studies University (SISU) in Shanghai. For several years, we have had a 3+2 program with SISU in which their students do an undergraduate business program for three years at SISU and come to SU for two years to complete our Master of Professional Accounting (MPAC) degree. The student ends up with an SISU undergraduate degree and SU's MPAC degree.
Each year, we go to interview and meet with the interested SISU students. Since SISU is focused on language training, we find the English language skills of the students to be very strong, but we still want to test that out by meeting with them. This year there are four SISU students in our MPAC program.
SISU was founded in 1949 as the Shanghai Russian College! It is one of the Chinese schools included in the government's Project 211, which means it is one of the more prestigious universities in China. It has about 7000 undergraduate students, 3000 graduate students, and 4000 international students! It has 37 different undergraduate programs, 33 master's programs, and 12 PhD. Programs. There are actually two business schools, the College of International Finance and Commerce and the College of International Business. We currently work with the former but would certainly be happy to collaborate with both!
For the past several years, Bruce Koch, chair of our Department of Accounting, has gone to Shanghai to do the interviews. In the process, Bruce has become a rock star at SUSI, known for his enthusiasm, sense of humor, fondness for spicy food, and love of cold temperatures. That is a tough act to follow.
SISU has two campuses, one in the city (HongKou) and one out in the suburbs (Songjiang). In 2008, David Reid and I visited the HongKou campus and our visit led to the creation of the 3+2 program. The undergraduate business program is at the Songjiang campus, so I had to travel out there to meet with the students, visiting that location for the first time. The campuses are night and day. The HongKou is small and contained like the SU campus, but the buildings are packed more tightly and generally taller. The Sonqjiang campus is spread out with stately buildings and wide grassy lawns, what you would associate with a large Midwestern university campus! The HongKou campus is in a noisy, traffic filled neighborhood. Songiang is in a quiet district of wide boulevards and manicured landscaping. It is about 60-90 minutes by car between the two campuses, depending on traffic.
First, I spoke to about 40 SISU students about the MPAC program and our new Bridge MBA program. Some SISU students may be interested in the latter. Then, I interviewed 16 students who were interested in the MPAC program to test their English skills and their interest in accounting. Of course, it was very interesting to talk to these students and learn about their lives and aspirations as well as their interest in SU! The interviews took place over two days, and in addition to our conversation I also gave them a short essay to write so we would know something about their writing skills.
After the interviews, in consultation with SISU staff, we ranked the students for purposes of awarding several partial scholarships we offer to SISU students. It was a difficult process since there were so many talented students, but we finally came up with a list we were happy with.
Throughout the process, SISU was a very gracious host. If the shoe were on the other foot, I doubt that we would do as good a job of hosting them to our campus! In particular, Ms. Xiaolin Yan, who serves as Foreign Affairs Secretary for the college, was always there to get me where I needed to go, answer questions, and do anything else needed. Thank you, Xiaolin!
During my visit to SISU, I also talked to several campus officials about strengthening the ties between SU and SISU, which they are anxious to see happen. Suggestions include a student exchange program, hosting visiting faculty at the two institutions, and creating a 3+2 program around the Bridge MBA.
During the visit I also visited with our alum, Diane Jurgens, who earned her MBA at SU and serves as Managing Director for Shanghai OnStar, a joint venture between GM and the Shanghai Automotive Industrial Company. It was fascinating to meet her and learn about her accomplishments, as it goes without saying that she is one of the few American women leading an automotive business unit in China or elsewhere, for that matter. I hope we will be able to get her to speak on campus over the next year or so!
I am now sitting in the Tokyo airport on my way back to Seattle. I did not notice much different about Shanghai in 2013 compared to what I saw in 2008. If you have been to Shanghai, you know it an impressive city with its miles and miles of high rise buildings and high rise freeways. All this has been created in just a few decades. It is interesting to see, but once you see it, it is not something you go out of your way to see again. That means that both this trip and my next trip to Shanghai will be about visiting SISU, maybe to begin collaboration with their College of International Business! :}