Dean’s Blog

41st Annual Accounting Awards Banquet

Posted by Kevin Leahy on May 23, 2013 at 11:05 AM PDT

The 41st  Annual Accounting Awards Banquet was held on May 22nd.  It is one of the longest standing traditions at SU and a strong testimony to the vitality of our accounting program.  At the banquet, 22 students received scholarships, three received academic awards, and four received awards for their work in Beta Alpha Psi, the accounting academic honorary.


Those attending the banquet included over 100 accounting students, faculty, staff, advisory board members, and representatives from the professional community.  The event is impressive in demonstrating the strength of our accounting students and the support our program receives from the professional community.  The advisory board in particular has been extremely helpful in recent initiatives such as the valuation program and the move to establish an internal audit program.


Each year the Chair's Award goes to a student, staff member, faculty member, or professional who has provided exceptional service to the accounting program.  This year's recipient was Catherine Banks, who represents Ernst and Young on the department advisory board and has chaired the board for a number of years.  This award is very well deserved as Catherine has provided exceptional support to our program.  Congratulations and thank you to Catherine!


Jani Medeiros, Administrative Assistant for the department, and Bruce Koch, chair of the department, did a great job of organizing and orchestrating the event.   Congratulations to Bruce and Jani and to the department for maintaining this SU tradition for so many years!



2013 Business Plan Competition

Posted by Joseph Phillips, Jr. on May 17, 2013 at 9:05 AM PDT

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!


2013 Albers Award Ceremony

Posted by Joseph Phillips, Jr. on May 12, 2013 at 8:05 PM PDT

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 Smith.


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 graduate students.


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!!

Red Winged Leadership Award 2013

Posted by Joseph Phillips, Jr. on May 10, 2013 at 9:05 AM PDT

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).  


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!  


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!


Spencer Rascoff

Posted by Joseph Phillips, Jr. on May 7, 2013 at 9:05 PM PDT

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 Zillow.


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 succeeded.


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 doing things!


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!

Business Ethics Week

Posted by Joseph Phillips, Jr. on April 22, 2013 at 11:04 AM PDT

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!



Lend Your Leg

Posted by Joseph Phillips, Jr. on April 5, 2013 at 11:04 AM PDT

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."  

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!




Posted by Joseph Phillips, Jr. on March 28, 2013 at 10:03 PM PDT

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! :}


March Madness

Posted by Joseph Phillips, Jr. on March 27, 2013 at 5:03 PM PDT

March Madness is upon us, and by that I mean the NCAA Division I basketball playoffs.  I travelled to Salt Lake City to watch men's second and third round action, which I try to do each year.  What can be better than watching six D1 games live over three days while spending the rest of the time watching games on TV??  Not all six games are exciting contests, but this year, four of the six were. 

That included Wichita State grinding out a win over Pitt, Southern nearly upsetting Gonzaga, Harvard upsetting New Mexico, and the Shockers of WSU bouncing Gonzaga in the third round.  Not a bad regional, and it far exceeded my expectations looking at the lineup going in.  That just shows you one more time that you never know with college hoops.

Salt Lake City was not the only place for upsets.  My alma mater, LaSalle, found a way to make it to the Sweet 16 as a play-in team, having not been to the tournament since 1992.  On the other hand, my other alma mater, Notre Dame, was upset in the first round.   And my team for 19 years, Creighton, won a close second round victory, only to fall to Duke in the third round.  Thus far, my affiliated institutions have a record of 4-2!  One of these days, maybe the SU men's team can make it to the dance.  The SU women nearly did this year, and they will be right in the thick of it next year, I am sure!

Speaking of women's hoops, they are in the middle of their tournament, as well.  Normally, it is equally exciting, but this year is there any chance that someone can beat Baylor?  It just does not seem likely, which makes it less intriguing.  That is the interesting thing about the men's side this year - it seems like so many teams have a legitimate shot at the title.

The Albers March Madness pool is back - I am so glad Madhu Rao has ramped it back up!  There is a lot of abuse unleashed every time the results are updated, and I get more than my fair share.  But that is OK, as it would be unseemly for the Dean to win.  It is important to have a respectable finish, however!  That Harvard win busted my bracket some, by the way!

I have been going to Regionals since 1998, when Creighton qualified for the Big Dance for the first time under Dana Altman, and played in Orlando.  It was there that Creighton upset Louisville in the first round.  A few changes I have noticed since then is that (1) TV coverage of games is so much more available,  (2) tickets are easier to get and there are more and more empty seats, and (3) the commemorative t-shirts are so much easier to buy - they always used to run out of  them.  (1) and (2)  are no doubt related.

There is one thing that sometimes becomes a problem, and that is fans (and announcers) sometimes forget how YOUNG these players are.  That goes a long way in explaining a missed layup or free throw at a critical point, losing one's temper and drawing a technical foul, or making a bad decision on an impossible angle shot or pass.  Then, sometimes an occasional fan will think it is humorous to get on a player like one would witness at a pro game - not very funny at all.  That is the advantage of working in higher education every day - you know how young the players are!

I know that there are many critics of March Madness, saying that it exploits the students and makes millions of dollars for others.  On the first point, a scholarship athlete is getting over $50k in benefits assuming he or she is making progress toward a degree, and that does not factor in what a degree will do for lifetime earnings (on average).  Plus, you know those students just love the experience of being in the tournament! 

On the second point, that is no doubt true, but schools are negotiating more favorable contracts with networks and more of that can be used to pay the costs of athletics (including the other sports for men and women!).  Plus, schools reap intangible benefits from the exposure in terms of alumni relations and boosting the brand of the school - just check with Florida Gulf Coast on that!


Gail Yates

Posted by Joseph Phillips, Jr. on February 26, 2013 at 8:02 AM PST

Gail Yates served as Senior Development Officer for the Albers School from 2004 until she retired in January.  To recognize Gail's excellent service to Albers and the university, we recently held a dinner in her honor.  Those in attendance spoke in glowing terms about Gail's work at SU.  In addition to being a consummate professional, Gail was a great teammate, always willing to pitch in and help out where needed, even when the activity did not relate to her role.  She never said, "That is not my problem."


During her time here, Gail probably had to deal with me more than she had to work with anyone else on campus.  That means she is a survivor - she put up with me all those years! :}   One thing that probably helped was our common enthusiasm for athletics, particularly college basketball.  Naturally, we were very supportive of Seattle U. returning to Division I athletics, and I don't have to ask her to know that she is VERY excited about the women's basketball team leading the WAC!


An important thing to be able to say when you leave is, "I left the place a much better place than I found it."  That is definitely the case for Gail.  One example would be our alumni relations and the Albers Alumni Board.  Under Gail's watch, the alumni relations of the school have definitely improved and the Alumni Board has strengthened.  Alumni events such as the Crab Feed and the Golf Tournament are much stronger today than they were.  In recent years, Gail has been working with Rob Bourke to make that happen, but she has definitely had an impact.


One of Gail's most important contributions was her work on the SU Capital Campaign - "For the Difference We Make" - which went from 2003 to 2009.  While the campaign was underway when Gail arrived, she definitely was instrumental in the success of the Albers School.  Our key projects were to create an endowment for graduate student scholarships, the Tinius Professorship in Accounting, and endowments for our entrepreneurship and business ethics centers.  The success of those projects is definitely paying off today, and is part of the legacy that Gail is leaving at SU.  The graduate scholarships have proven to be critical in the last few years as our graduate students have faced increasing financial pressure and declining employer support.  The Tinius Professorship has been instrumental in attracting and retaining outstanding faculty to our highly ranked accounting program.  The endowments for entrepreneurship and business ethics are providing significant levels of support to our widely admired Center for Business Ethics and Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center.


Of course, Gail's success in garnering resources for the Albers School goes well beyond the capital campaign.  Other notable achievements include the PMI China Engagement Initiative, scholarships to fund student study abroad, and corporate support for the Summer Business Institute, not to mention my favorite, the Dean's Fund! :}


Attendees at the dinner remarked on Gail's passion - her passion for fund raising and her passion for the university (you can add women's basketball to that).  They also pointed to her generosity with her time, talent, and her own giving.  When people experienced an illness or some other setback, Gail was always there to support them.  One person remarked that Gail did it without giving it much thought, that it was simply the thing to do, not realizing what a positive impact it had and that it was not the way everyone responded.


Although Gail was in fundraising, which does not usually have much direct contact with students, Gail had a profound impact on a number of students during her time here.  She hired them as administrative assistants and trained and mentored them to do their work at the highest level.  This ended up being an important part of their education at SU, making Gail a professor with impact!


While Gail has retired, she really hasn't.  It comes as no surprise to anyone who knows her that she is continuing to work part-time on special projects for Mary Kay McFadden, VP for University Advancement.  This includes leading the search process to find a new development officer for the College of Science and Engineering and helping to orient new University Advancement staff.


Gail Yates is leaving, but she will not be forgotten.  She will be remembered for her professionalism, for her willingness to pitch in and support her colleagues in Albers as well as University Advancement, and for her enthusiastic support of the mission of Albers and SU.  She will have the satisfaction of knowing she has left an impressive legacy at the Albers School.