Albers School of Business and Economics

Bridge MBA Blog

  • ExcelTalkers: Becoming Coders in 2015

    Posted by Barbara Hauke on 4/13/2015 03:31:09 PM

     Image: ExcelTalkers

     There are classes in the Bridge MBA that many of us are already quasi-masters of. For Patrick Popovici, after having worked in a law firm for a number of years, Legal Aspects of Business is a breeze. For myself, Ethics in Business is just a form of lighthearted argumentative jogging. For others, Accounting and Economics was a fun puzzle you solve over Sunday brunch.

    Enter Financial Modeling. Taught by Carlos De Mello-e-Souza, the class was so initially inaccessible to us that it’s probably akin to watching a baby try to pan sear a steak. That is to say, it doesn’t look pretty and the final product isn’t what anyone ordered. Essentially, it breaks us down to our core, to the fight or flight panic that courses through humanity’s veins. For classes like this, we can’t fall back on one or two cohort members.

    These moments bring about a sort of strength that harkens back to the way in which communities are formed. The hunter-gatherer societies would fly away from an Excel programming landscape, if only to find low hanging fruit in a different forest. Yet, just as humanity transitioned into agrarian societies, we transitioned into a cohort emblematic of building something we are unable and unwilling to run from.

    So, while we may not always know what to do when it comes down to coding for VBA, we do know that the collective is stronger than the individual. After all, “Chaos isn’t a pit. Chaos is a ladder.” If I was to try and climb up alone, devoid of the advice of those under me, well I’d be lacking the substance that this group represents. In the context of programming, I can Google an issue while someone else may parse out what exactly our goal is, and all the while a third can play with code commands. By the end of the day we have something tangible, and something we’ve all come to understand through each other. This is just another example of how the cohort builds upon its own self, as we have the connections and understanding surrounding the benefits of teamwork that become necessary when tackling what seems to be an unsolvable problem.

    On top of that, it may help that Carlos champions our learning. That element, often going unspoken, is another important part of our cohort’s success over these past six months. We have had a great set of teachers who are willing to engage with a group that, at times, has the energy to topple conversations and lesson plans. So, as we charge through the rest of the year, we send a thank you to all of our professors.

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    Have a question about the Bridge MBA program? Want to chat in person? Feel free to send an e-mail to any of us below!
    John Merle (Program Director):

    Ben Porter (Blog Coordinator, Bridge MBA student):
    Eric Madison (Photographer, Bridge MBA student):

    Student Interest Piece #4: Marianne Stover

    Posted by Barbara Hauke on 4/9/2015 11:04:19 AM

     Image: Marianne Stover

    Marianne is a Washington lifer. After growing up in Edmonds, she spent a brief period of time attending Gonzaga University before transferring to Seattle University to finish up a BA in International and Asian Studies. The degree itself is an inspired one, the whole of it representing Marianne’s passion for expansive empathy and connection to different cultures and places. 

    You could say Marianne is an enigma. She has a stylish and unique sense of fashion, owns one of the biggest vinyl collections you’ll ever have the pleasure of seeing, and is simultaneously quick witted but slow to divulge information. She’s a kind of intelligent lock box, one that takes time to figure out, but is well worth the treasure hunt.

    Her decision to join the Bridge MBA comes from a belief that you can take the best cultural and intellectual caveats of different civilizations and disciplines and integrate them into a holistic lifestyle that works towards a better, more informed planet. Her choices are akin to the Hebrew phrase “Tikkun olam”, that shared responsibility humanity has in repairing and connecting the world. For Marianne, this translates into focusing on interpersonal relationships and the belief that, “business is as personal as you make it.”

    So far, her two favorite classes have been Accounting and the Legal Aspects of Business. These classes have had such an impact because, “they take conventions of society and question them while constantly developing better standards.” It is here that both the program and Marianne flourish together, creating a vibrant learning environment that questions the standards of business and lead us towards discussions that invigorate and spur Socratic learning.

    Marianne’s other favorite part, unsurprisingly, is having met all of us in the program. It’s a twofold benefit as the friendships bring support and provide us with the networking that creates an entirely different support system. It even goes beyond the friendships for Marianne, as she loves the fact that Susan Weihrich knows her by face and name, and for her, “it’s a wonderful thing to have!”

     Image: Marianne Stover, SF

    So, when our favorite enigma isn’t listening to classic vinyl, writing music, and watching Boy Meets World with her brother Bobby, she’s probably connecting and repairing the world. Marianne truly reminds us all to be grateful for the collective whole that we represent, and there is no doubt that she will bring that greatness into business culture.

    General Advice:
    Seattle: “Seek out diversity. It leads to invigorating conversation and excitement around learning.”

    To Parents: “Business is the broadest degree you can get. You can do anything with it. I mean, it’s an MBA in one year, c’mon!”

    To Prospective Students: “It’s an opportunity that may not be well advertised right now, but it’s something you won’t regret. When you’re in class, learn for the long term, because if you don’t… hah!”

    Have a question about the Bridge MBA program? Want to chat in person? Feel free to send an e-mail to any of us below!
    John Merle (Program Director):

    Ben Porter (Blog Coordinator, Bridge MBA student):
    Eric Madison (Photographer, Bridge MBA student):

    Student Interest Piece #3: Amanda Sacknitz

    Posted by Barbara Hauke on 3/30/2015 11:35:32 AM

    Image: Amanda

    Amanda Sacknitz, lovingly called Snacknitz by those who know her penchant for class snacking, has lived in Washington for her entire life. Currently, she resides in her hometown of Duvall, in which she claims to have access to the beautiful starry night skies. This is her biggest victory over the rest of us city dwellers, access to a world without the glaring light pollution that makes Seattle seem a little grayer than it should be. In fact, her access to the stars may be the mystical element that has allowed her to have more clarity than most when it comes to her life goals and future plans.

    For her, Seattle University and the Bridge MBA program provide an opportunity to stay close to home, keep graduate school cost effective, and get it done, “quick and dirty.” The one-year window has kept Amanda on track and pushed her towards her ultimate goal, to move out of low-level sales and be the decision maker. It’s a concept that was brought up, time and time again, in last quarter’s Information Systems in the Digital Enterprise (taught by Madhu Rao). It’s the idea that our breadth of knowledge in this program will allow us the opportunity to make informed decisions within the business world. The focus of this decision making process falls into the informed logic that allows us to not only grow businesses, but also provide socially just perspectives that form companies worth working for and supporting.

    For her, Rao’s IT course has been the “hands down favorite.” It was not a hard choice for her to make, as the class challenged her conceptions of technology while focusing on case studies discussed in such a format that the classroom felt more like “a boardroom than anything else.” That, combined with Rao’s ability to foster debate and play devil’s advocate, created the type of environment in which Amanda could advocate for and spread change.

    Like many of us, Amanda came in with the goal to grab the degree and grow within the professional world. However, at the halfway mark, Amanda has found that her cohort has taken on a bigger part of her MBA experience than anticipated. Most recently, she took an excursion down to San Francisco with myself and Marianne Stover. The whole trip, it should be noted, occurred for no other reason than to blow off steam and see a new city. This experience, she admits, “was not something she expected to find.” Yet there it is, and here most of us find it. It is in the close quarters of growth that it is more challenging not to become close with one another, not to see each other as an integral part of this experience.

    Image: Amanda, SF

    Amanda’s greatest strength is in her openness to the Bridge MBA journey and all of the great opportunities that will surely come her way. She hopes her decision making skills, combined with her master’s degree, will allow her to facilitate growth and change in the woefully underfunded subject of women’s health. All in all, don’t be surprised if you see Amanda Sacknitz on a non-profit board, we certainly won’t.

    General Advice:
    Seattle: “Don’t exfoliate too much in the winter time. Seattle’s a little finicky with the weather … also, the Internet is a capable tool for a lot of research!”

    To Parents: “Let your kids flourish in the program. Grad school is a time to let go and a time for us to come together and become smart and gifted adults.”

    To Prospective Students: “Don’t expect to find an internship without putting in work. Life is all about connections and being in a new program is very exciting but sometimes challenging to navigate. Always speak your mind and see if you can help build something better. This program is all about decision-making and being an informed and beneficial part of a community.”

    Have a question about the Bridge MBA program? Want to chat in person? Feel free to send an e-mail to any of us below!

    John Merle (Program Director):

    Ben Porter (Blog Coordinator, Bridge MBA student):
    Eric Madison (Photographer, Bridge MBA student):

    Just Be Yourself, Man

    Posted by Barbara Hauke on 3/24/2015 02:59:12 PM

    I’m currently sitting in a Starbucks near the B11 gate, located all the way at the far end of the Seatac Airport. There are four television screens in view, all of them playing news or sports programs. There’s an international payphone with a pole that contains some universal sign for phone at the very top of it. There’s even a handwritten note informing me that Starbucks is, “Now Serving Coconut Milk Made From Sumatran Coconuts.” Everywhere there’s this push for product to be moved, for a potential customer’s attention. The rather interesting part is it all feels a little grosser in an airport. You’re trapped, you’ve got no choice but to engage with the ads and notices because you need to make calls, eat food, use rented movies to stave off that tipsy guy who wants to have a heart to heart on the flight. (Sorry, it’s probably me.) Essentially, we’re being bombarded by implemented market strategies, by customer engagement attempts that pull, pick, prod, and ultimately consume the wallet share of a diverse, traveling crowd.

    The problem that companies and people have is centered not in the job itself, but the authenticity of all these decisions and interactions. Yet here some of us will find ourselves, trudging through the world we hope to engage in. We know that now we may be the ones shifting supply chain over to Sumatran Coconuts, maybe we’ll move into managing news ad sales, we could be the ones hiring the designer to create the international symbol for “payphone,” we could even create a movie rental business partnered with an airport.

    A lot of us in the program are truly creative people, inspired to grow and spread their own consciousness out into the noise that you only really notice in a place like an airport. Now, halfway through graduate school with no projects to take up our own engagement, we must question the choices we’ve made to get here. These conversations are almost always relegated to bars and late night phone conversations, the tinny voice asking or answering, “What’s the point of all this?” 

    There is no doubt that we are not the only ones asking these questions or filling that blank space with answers. The program works in an interesting way here, and it’s situated in the fact that we don’t see it. It all starts when applications come before the desks of those talented, caring, and funny human beings who select the cohort. You have Susan Weihrich, David Carrithers, John Merle, and many others who work behind the scenes with a true passion for both learning and helping others. These initial decisions, on who ends up stuck together, crammed in classes day in and day out, that’s the spark to light the match. What you then find are a group of diverse people who want more than a 9 to 5, who’ve been inspired to first swim out into the world of art and creative vision, only to find that they need the business language and skills in order to flourish. In this way, we’re put together to do much more than the average group, we’re working together to heal, to learn, and to grow into the kinds of people who can be understood and are understanding.

    In those late night conversations, I see talented individuals who recognize a certain perceived sickness or wrongness within the world. They’ve always seen it, as most of us do, but they also see ways to fix it, and this program has taken on that lens for them. It’s about creating a better world, about taking a moment like high-fiving your teammates, or celebrating achievements with a significant other and using those to fuel a consciousness that engages with the other authentically and unapologetically.

    No matter the petty differences between us, at the end of the program we will walk away with knowledge accumulated over the year that has already pushed us to question our realities, futures, and ability to spread compassion inside and outside of the classroom. I can’t tell you if the program is the main factor that has built this inside of us, but I can tell you that this class will change the world.

    As always, if you have a question about the Bridge MBA program or want to chat in person, send an e-mail to any of us below.

    John Merle (Program Director):

    Ben Porter (Blog Coordinator, Bridge MBA student):
    Eric Madison (Photographer, Bridge MBA student):


    The Real World: Internships and Business Plans

    Posted by Barbara Hauke on 3/12/2015 11:55:49 AM

    The Real World: Internships and Business Plans

    We are now almost halfway through our experience with the Bridge MBA. As this milestone approaches, the cohort is in many different modes, though all of them relate back to planning.

    Our first and foremost goal comes down to answering an initial question that’s bounced around in our collective headspace for the past few months. Do we enter the Harriet Stephenson Business Plan Competition or should we go for an internship? It was not an easy decision, as we could choose either in order to complete the requirement for the program.

    However, for most of us, the opportunities and wide range of internships were our first priority. As always we were not on our own, as the program delivers another round of resume reviews, practice interviews, and one-on-one meetings with Justin Dolce, our new Graduate Student Career Advisor. There was a lot of work to be done, and all of us have learned that rejection is a big part of the game. Despite these struggles, the appealing nature of the internship option can be found in its broad range of promised experience (and pay). There’s an opportunity to enter into a field that has interested you. Maybe it’s a job you’ve wanted since childhood, or maybe it’s an interest that’s been triggered by one of the more recent MBA classes. Either way, the internships are akin to a test drive. Try navigating part of the real world, see if you perform well, then either find a new “car” or double down and try to find those fulltime jobs later in the year. For us, it’s just one of many real reassurances that we are developing skills that will cater to our future careers.

    For some, however, the entrepreneurship opportunities are too good to pass up. Two students in particular, Ryan Claypool and Kevin Klauer, have decided to go ahead and enter the competition. The business plan competition serves two distinct purposes. The first is to allow students who may not have a solid working background to engage in work that can help build a portfolio and show fulltime employers the skills and knowledge these students can bring to the table. The second is a chance to realize the dream of every entrepreneur, potential seed money and recognition of a personal vision. Ryan and Kevin fall into the second category, both of them excited about the chance to push forth their own ideas into a competition whose previous winners have gone on to raise 4 million in initial capital.

    Outside of these goals and future plans, many of us are making use of our free time to explore Seattle and plan trips for our upcoming break. In Seattle, roaming around with veterans and newbies alike, our cohort has been able to enjoy the broad range of eateries, bars, shopping, and more. Outside of the city, many of us are taking trips together, our newfound friendships blossoming into the kind of connections that will last many years down the line. For myself this translates into hosting two of my classmates in San Francisco, sharing a part of my life most of my undergraduate friends have been unable to experience. As always, options inside and outside of the classroom abound in the Bridge MBA and we are as grateful as ever to be a part of it.

    Check out some pictures of us exploring below:
    Blog 3: Picture 1

    Blog 3: Picture 2

    Blog 3: Picture 3

    Blog 3: Picture 4

    Blog 3: Picture 5
    Have a question about the Bridge MBA program? Want to chat in person? Feel free to send an e-mail to any of us below!
    John Merle (Program Director):

    Ben Porter (Blog Coordinator, Bridge MBA student):
    Eric Madison (Photographer, Bridge MBA student):

    Student Interest Piece #2: Danielle (Dani) Hall

    Posted by Barbara Hauke on 2/27/2015 03:40:37 PM

    Image: Dani

    From Washington to Utah and back again, Danielle’s journey has been filled with a search for meaning (and sushi). This search for meaning originally manifested itself in her undergraduate studies at Utah State, where she graduated in 2010 with a BS in Anthropology. After completing her studies, Danielle and her fiancé moved into the Central District in order to be close to Seattle University’s Law School. From here, it could be said that the Bridge MBA was a program of convenience for Danielle, but it is not the case.

    For Danielle, the program offers her a chance to take her degree in anthropology and apply it to the human condition within business practices. With her interest in Human Resources, the program has become the gateway to get a job that fulfills her interests, as is the case for all of us in the program. 

    More specifically, her favorite class (so far) has been Economics, taught by Erin Vernon. The information gleaned has helped Danielle in understanding supply and demand on both a micro and macro scale but it has also pushed her to question the relationships between the consumer and the economy. It is, ultimately, these theories that remind her that she loves both the personal and analytical, thus solidifying career interests that she has long held.

    Outside of classes, the program has also worked to bring fun and excitement into her daily life. In our interview, she noted that both the supportive students and the dedication of the faculty have been distinctively beneficial. Not only are the professors working to ensure their individual classes mesh in relevant and topical ways, but they work in tandem so critical assignments never put too much pressure on the cohort. This translates to all of us having time to engage with each other, both in relation to studying and blowing off steam.

    For Danielle, the program will bring her to the next step in her life story. With a marriage in the works and new job opportunities opening up, she’s set up for a life in which hard work is paying off.

    General Advice:
    Seattle: “Seattle is full of cool stuff, especially during summer. I love going to catch a Sounders game or exploring all of the different parks. Definitely get yourself out there and see what’s going on.”

    To Parents: “This is for the younger students’ parents. Don’t think that it will be easy just because it’s a one-year program and know that the program really does set someone up for the future.”

    To Prospective Students: “Take advantage of every opportunity even if you think it’s lame. Those opportunities give you so many chances to explore, learn, and potentially connect with someone or something that can guide your life. This program is all about growing your opportunities. Just do it!”

    Have a question about the Bridge MBA program? Want to chat in person? Feel free to send an e-mail to any of us below!
    John Merle (Program Director):

    Ben Porter (Blog Coordinator, Bridge MBA Student)
    Eric Madison (Photographer, Bridge MBA Student)

    Showing and Telling: Balance in the Bridge MBA

    Posted by Barbara Hauke on 2/19/2015 02:47:01 PM

     “Show, don’t tell.” It’s a common phrase you’ll hear in creative writing seminars. You’re supposed to immerse the reader in a world, crafting dialogue and other elements that bring them straight into the story. However, the “telling” portion of any story is still an important tool. It works to create shortcuts, to move a story along and ensure your average novel doesn’t get stuck in just one place.

    Unlike most authors, universities often employ a “tell” model. It’s a sort of necessary evil, in which educational institutions need to cover a plethora of topics and cannot place students in every environment where “showing” is an option. This is where the stress of graduation comes into play, and why internships are so heavily encouraged. You may learn about supply chain management in a classroom, but you won’t know if it’s the right job until you’ve been shown how such a topic functions in the real world.

    The Bridge MBA works to employ a hybrid of the show/tell model that emphasizes an education which helps students to find the jobs they’ll flourish in. For the cohort as a whole, this intersect can be found in Seattle University’s Executive Speaker Series and Mentor Program. The Executive Speaker Series, as the name suggests, is a string of events that bring CEO’s, CIO’s, CFO’s, and the like to Seattle University. With companies like PACCAR, Holland America Line, Blucora, and Columbia Bank, the Speaker Series engages in the best kind of telling. It gets students up close and personal with those who have gone down the path many of us are currently on.

    Enter Seattle University’s Mentor Program. Every student in the Bridge MBA is assigned a mentor based on a meet and greet event where both full-time professionals and students mingle. These mentors offer guidance in potential job fields and can even set up job shadows within their own industry. The combination of a one-on-one relationship with a mentor allows students to take the lecture-esque Speaker Series and get real advice from someone dedicated to helping them succeed.

    The professors within the Bridge MBA also realize the importance of a balanced dynamic between showing and telling. In Operations and Supply Chain Management, taught by Greg Magnan (syllabus here), we are encouraged and required to visit a company in the PNW in order to understand and grasp the reality of supply chain management. Thanks to Danielle Hall’s mentor, my group was able to set up a tour of PACCAR’s Kenworth facility in Renton. That same week the CEO of PACCAR, Ron Armstrong, spoke at an Executive Speaker Series and I found the opportunity to ask him about supply chain strategy. The combination helped our group to create deliverables and provided us with the opportunity to grow in our understanding of supply chain management.

     Image: PACCAR1

    Image: PACCAR2

    Image: PACCAR3

     Image: PACCAR 4


    Jay Lambe, who teaches Marketing Strategy, goes a step further. Not only has he set up a marketing project with a local PNW company, more on that in a post coming soon, but he regularly brings in members of the community who have been engaged in various marketing ventures. In the last month alone, we have been fortunate enough to have met and heard from Todd Olsen, Product Development Lead for Golazo and Robbie Bach, the former President of Entertainment & Devices at Microsoft. Both of these speakers spent over an hour presenting, answering questions, and giving us an inside look into how data utilization and creative thinking function in the world of marketing.

    Image: Golazo1
    Todd Olsen posing with some of the cohort.
    Photo Credit: Eric Madison.

    So, there you have it. All of these experiences bring us closer to an understanding that goes much further than skimming a textbook or taking a test and the Bridge MBA provides that solid network which keeps us on task academically while allowing us to veer off into whatever field seems to be calling our name.

    In the next post we will be discussing the internship process our cohort is going through, the Harriet Stephenson Business Plan Competition, and how some of our limited free time is spent in Seattle.

    Have a question about the Bridge MBA program? Want to chat in person? Feel free to send an e-mail to any of us below!
    John Merle (Program Director):

    Ben Porter (Blog Coordinator, Bridge MBA student):
    Eric Madison (Photographer, Bridge MBA student):