Dean’s Blog

Mark Vadon

Posted by Joseph Phillips, Jr. on October 19, 2012 at 5:10 PM PDT

The Albers Executive Speaker Series kicked off the 2012-13 year with Mark Vadon, co-founder of two successful Internet startups - Blue Nile and zulily.  Mark co-founded Blue Nile in 1999 and zulily in 2009.  Blue Nile sells diamonds and fine jewelry.  Zulily offers daily deals on clothing and accessories for moms and children.  Both companies were inspired by Mark's experience as a consumer - trying to buy an engagement ring sparked the idea for Blue Nile.  Having to gear up for his first child led to applying the flash sale concept to children's clothing.


In discussing Blue Nile, Mark took us back to the Internet frenzy of the late 1990's.  Jewelry was one of the few verticals that someone was not trying to dominate, but the experts were saying that jewelry would not work on the Internet because price points were high and people needed to touch the product. Despite the Internet crash with the resulting hit to capital access and the steep drop in consumer demand after 9-11, Blue Nile was able to survive and ultimately thrive.


Zulily has been a big success and is growing rapidly.  The company just moved into the British market and has plans to expand to other global markets.   At one point, Mark did a "compare and contrast" of the two businesses.  Blue Nile is focused on male customers, zulily is focused on females.  Blue Nile does not lend itself to impulse shopping, zulily does.  Broad market advertising such as display ads do not make sense for Blue Nile - targeted advertising such as paid search works better for finding the customer about to get engaged.  Zulily can cast a wide net because there are so many more potential customers out there - moms with young children!


What are some lessons Mark has learned in founding Blue Nile and zulily?  Get something out there and up and running.  Don't take three years to plan it.  Start collecting data and see what is working and not working and respond accordingly.  Execution is critical for success, so do not underestimate that.  Surround yourself with good people, and make sure they are not like you.  They need different skills and a different perspective.


Mark recently joined the board of Home Depot and was asked how that fit with his interests and experience.  He responded that Internet sales are increasingly important to Home Depot and he brings his experience and understanding of Internet retail to the board.  He noted that both his businesses and Home Depot are customer focused, and he has spent his time competing against brick and mortar retail, so being on the board allows him to see the market from that side.  He is also amazed at the number of zeros in the financial report - he is used to seeing smaller numbers!


Mark noted that mobile devices are creating a sea change in commerce and how customers shop.  Retailers now must be ready to serve customers across multiple platforms, with desktops, tablets, and phones all requiring something different.  Mobile is a plus for impulse shopping (think zulily), but not so much for more deliberative purchases (think Blue Nile).


Mark Vadon provided a great start to the Speaker Series for 2012-13.  He spoke candidly and gave our students excellent advice, while also providing many keen insights on web-based commerce.  Thanks, Mark!



Mentor Program

Posted by Joseph Phillips, Jr. on October 1, 2012 at 11:10 AM PDT

On Friday, September 28th we kicked off the 23rd year of our Mentor Program with the Albers Mentor Fair.  Over 300 students, mentors, faculty, and staff gathered in PACCAR Atrium to start us off.  PACCAR also happens to be this year's sponsor of the Mentor Program!


The Mentor Program allows students to benefit from the insights and wisdom of professionals from the Seattle business community.  Students participating in the program often report it is one of the highlights of their time at Albers.  Groups of 2 to 3 students are paired with a mentor, who works with them throughout the academic year.  Students often stay in touch with their mentor long after the year is over. 


The Mentor Program is available to graduate students as well as undergraduate seniors.  Accounting mentors are available to accounting majors who are juniors.  This year we expect over 160 mentors to be working with 250 to 300 students.


Since the program began in 1990, we estimate that over 4100 students have benefited from the advice and council of over 1000 mentors.  That is quite a legacy!  We have one mentor who has participated every year of the program - Jesse Tam.  Another, Willie Aikens, started in 1990 and has been a mentor in every year of the program but one.  We are very grateful for their long standing support of the program!


The Mentor Fair is a very high energy event.  It is a bit like speed dating.  Mentors are scattered throughout the classrooms in the Pigott Building.  Students scan the list of mentors and then go interview mentors in order to help form their preferences.  Students submit their list of preferred mentors and staff attempt to match students and mentors.


Our staff members do a terrific job of organizing this event and the entire program.  As one mentor told me on Friday night, "They have this on complete lockdown!"  Hats off to Mary Lou Moffat, Megan Spaulding, Hannah Garcia, and Paula Boos Fitzgerald for their excellent work on the program!


For more information on the Mentor Program, go to:



School Begins

Posted by Joseph Phillips, Jr. on September 18, 2012 at 12:09 PM PDT

Wow, it has been almost two months since I have posted something to the blog.  For whatever reason, I have not had anything to say, but that does not mean we have not been busy at the end of summer.  It simply means it has not been blogging material! :}

Classes begin tomorrow for the academic year.  Well, not really, since the EMBA students started classes in late August, but for most students, the academic year begins on September 19th! 

We had our new student orientation for undergraduate students this morning.  It was a high energy event in the Paccar Atrium, where freshmen and transfer students were milling around meeting faculty and staff and learning about opportunities such as study abroad and student clubs that can be joined.

The dean made a few welcoming remarks -- here are most of them:

At convocation yesterday, Nicole Gaddy, the ASSU president, gave you three pieces of advice.  I have my own four that I am going to give you - just a little overlap with Nicole.

First, don't procrastinate in getting your work done.  The quarter system is only ten weeks and goes by quickly.  Your friends in the semester system have more time to play catch up.  You don't.  You need to get things done - soon.

Second, communicate - with staff and faculty about any issues you are having.  If you are missing class for a week because you are sick or there is a family emergency, let people know that.  Don't let them jump to the conclusion that you are blowing off their class.

Third, participate - get involved. There are lots of clubs, lots of organized activities, lots of community service opportunities.  Take advantage of them, they will expand your educational experience, and equally important, you will be contributing to the experience of others.

Fourth, work hard!  We have a rigorous academic program.  This should not be easy, and over two or three or four years the more you put into it, the more you will get out of it.  We need to do something about this weather - it threatens to interfere with your hard work!

What were the four? [editor's note: the crowd was able to repeat them, to my relief.]

Real quickly, I want to talk very briefly about being a business student at this Jesuit business school. Don't let anyone fool you into thinking that "business" is bad and couldn't possibly be used as a channel to serve the community and society.  It is a mechanism for doing good, but it is a human institution, and therefore can be a mechanism for not doing good.  But that can be said about any institution, including government or religion.… 

When you reflect on yesterday's topic at the convocation, the future of our planet, it becomes very easy to see that no real solution to the problem of global warming is going to happen without business providing much of the solution.  There is already a great deal that business is doing to contribute, which you will be learning about in your classes, but there is no denying the record is spotty and not all business is pursuing a positive track.  That means there will be plenty of opportunity for you to contribute after you graduate!

I want to take advantage of the opportunity to visit the recent "We Built it" campaign.  Now, who knows what I am referring to here?

[Editor's note: one student in the audience gave an excellent summary of the issue.  Congratulations, young man!  You should do well here!]

I do not want to get involved with the Presidential campaign and who is the best candidate.  But I do want to take advantage of this opportunity to remind everyone that, despite all the negativity about the US economy, we really are blessed to be able to participate in one of the most successful economies in human history.  We have achieved a very high standard of living (albeit there are growing problems with the distribution of wealth and income, but I don't have time for that today).  We have one of the most supportive environments for business to operate in here in the US.

The point the President was attempting to make (and maybe not with his usual eloquence) was that successful businesses in the US benefit from the supportive eco-system that exists here.  There are certain things that we take for granted that the rest of the world cannot - property rights that are respected, a legal system that works, infrastructure, education, relatively low taxes, etc…  This system supports the success of individual entrepreneurs and if they had tried to do what they do somewhere else, it probably would not have worked.  It is hard to imagine how that can be a controversial point!

That leads to a second consideration, which is if you benefitted from what the community has provided, you have a responsibility to give back to that community and to help that system to continue to thrive.  This is not unlike the adage, "from those who much has been given, much is expected."  Of course, you know that service to society and the community is something that this university emphasizes a great deal, and this is one reason for that.

A related point that the President wanted to make (and it may have clouded the message in trying to make it) was that somewhere along the way, all of us who have experienced some measure of success, including successful entrepreneurs, caught a break.   Maybe it was having an inspiring teacher at exactly the right time.  Or not trying to start a business just as a recession was commencing.  Maybe it was just being in the right place at the right time.  Maybe it was getting an unexpected check from grandma.  What ever it was, it was some kind of break that not everyone gets.  In other words, have some humility.  Realize that sometimes we are lucky.  I don't know anyone who has been successful who can go back and say they never, ever caught a break.  All of us have something to be grateful for, including a college education!

These themes of contributing to your community through community service, or staying humble, are going to be part of your education here at SU and Albers.  Please pay attention to these important lessons and many, many others.

I need to wrap this up.  There is only so much of my talking at you that you can tolerate.  Welcome to SU and Albers, and I wish you every success in your studies, but realize that is not going to happen without some serious effort on your part.

Have a great quarter!


European Junket

Posted by Joseph Phillips, Jr. on July 27, 2012 at 10:07 AM PDT

One reason my blogging has been neglected of late is because I was in Europe for several weeks.  The first stop was in London, serving as part of a team visiting Imperial College to do its AACSB accreditation.  Imperial has a strong reputation in science, medicine, and engineering, and about a decade ago acquired a business school.  They have been working on getting the business school to the same level of excellence as the rest of campus, and securing AACSB accreditation is part of their plan.


I had never been to London before, and it was interesting to be there before the Olympics and witness some of the preparations taking place.  Everyone was sure that traffic would be a disaster during the games.  As for the sights of the city, I found the British Museum, the British Library, the Courtauld Gallery, and Churchill's Underground Bunker to be the most interesting spots! 


Next I flew to Barcelona, for the 18th annual meeting of the International Association of Jesuit Business Schools (IAJBS).  But before that, my wife and I took a cruise out of Barcelona, with stops near Toulon, Nice, Florence, Rome, and Naples.  This was our first cruise, and it worked out well.  Every stop allowed for a new adventure.  At Toulon, we took a train to Cassis, a picturesque coastal town known for its white cliffs (calanques).   Near Nice, we disembarked in the town of Villefranche-sur-Mer and hiked around the high priced Cap Ferrat peninsula, including a visit to the Rothschild mansion and gardens.  At Florence, we took a bus into town and saw the Uffizi Museum and the Medici Chapel.  At Rome, we took the train into the city and retraced our March visit for a day, seeing the Pantheon and seven different churches, including the Jesú Church.  In Naples, we took the tour to Mt. Vesuvius and Pompeii.


Back in Barcelona, IQS was the host school for the conference and we started with the IAJBS board meeting on Sunday, July 22nd.  The issue that took up the most time - should we start charging annual membership dues?  The answer was - yes!!  Fr. Michael Garanzini, President of Loyola of Chicago and Secretary for Higher Education for the Jesuits worldwide, joined our meeting and updated us on the order's plans for Africa.


The conference opened with a mass in the early evening.  Formal sessions started Monday morning, the 23rd.  The most interesting for me was the update on plans to establish Jesuit business programs in Africa.  I first discussed this topic in a blog last summer (see IAJBS on 7/26/11).  Progress is being made, but not at warp speed.  There are now four initiatives in Ivory Coast, the Congo, Kenya, and Burundi.  The Ivory Coast initiative is the only one with programming up and running.  The others are hoping to begin programs in 2014.  Fr. François Kabore, SJ is heading up the West Africa Project which is located in the Ivory Coast.  While I don't see us playing a major role in this initiative (they seem to have several other Jesuit schools already supporting them), I did talk to him about the possibility of faculty teaching there (either in the summer or on sabbatical) and doing internship placement for our International Economic Development and/or International Development Internship Program.  He was very positive about both.


We continue to be in touch with the organizers of the Great Lakes Region initiative, which is designed to serve students from Burundi, Rwanda, and the Congo in a bilingual (English and French) program.  The plan is to begin with an undergraduate business program in 2014.  Dean Alain Decrop from Namur University in Belgium is heading this up and is looking to Albers to be a supporting institution.  That would entail assisting with the development of the undergraduate curriculum as well as having some of our faculty teach in the program.  How much teaching still needs to be determined.  Dean Decrop is likely to visit SU in early October for further discussions.


Fr. Fidelis Udahemuka, SJ is heading up the East Africa project in Kenya.  (Interestingly, Fr. Fidelis almost ended up enrolling in our MBA program, opting at the last minute to attend Santa Clara because he knew the Jesuit community there.)  There, the plan is to start with an EMBA program in 2014.  I suggested to him that he consider using our assistance to develop the curriculum, drawing upon our highly successful and highly ranked Leadership EMBA program.  He was very open to that offer.


Late Monday afternoon Carl Obermiller and April Atwood presented their paper, "Sustainable Literacy Scale Development," which detailed their work to develop a scale to measure student knowledge about sustainability issues.  April did the presentation and did a nice job with it.  I made sure not to tell her that the head of Jesuit higher education worldwide, Fr. Garanzini, was in the audience - I did not want to make her nervous! :}


The next day, Meena Rishi was delivering her paper on sustainable development in India, but I missed it because we flew back to Seattle that morning!  I am sure it went well, though.


As for Barcelona, it is a very interesting city.  The most amazing site is the Sagrada Familia Cathedral, the Gaudi inspired basilica that has been under construction since 1882 and is only 65% completed.  There are many streets and alley ways to wonder in the downtown section near the Ramblas and a few other churches to see, but they don't compare to the churches to be seen in Rome.


There you have it - a quick summary of my junket to Europe.  Now it time to get back to work!





Catholic Business Education

Posted by Joseph Phillips, Jr. on June 20, 2012 at 5:06 PM PDT

On June 18 to the 20th the Eighth International Conference on Catholic Social Thought and Management Education was held at the University of Dayton.  The theme of the meeting was, "Renewing Mission and Identity in Catholic Business Education."  Over 150 faculty from more than 75 Catholic universities from around the world participated in the event.  I served on the planning committee for the event.


Dayton, Ohio is hot and humid this time of year, and it is not the easiest place to get to (particularly for international participants), but once you get there, it is a pretty manageable place.  Anyone from Seattle will notice there is a lot less traffic!


The most interesting part of the meeting for me was the participation of Cardinal Peter Turkson, who is heading up the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace (PCJP).  The PCJP recently published, "Vocation of the Business Leader: A Reflection."  It is a very readable document that pulls together what Catholic Social Teaching means for business.  If you have ever read any of the encyclicals on CST, you know they are rich documents, but very difficult to plow your way through.  It is nice to have such an accessible document that does such a nice job of summarizing the positive role business should play in our society!  


The Cardinal kicked off the conference by celebrating mass, which of course is a great way to start a conference for Catholic business schools.  I believe it was the first time I have been at a concelebrated mass where most of the priests were Black, a result of the mix of attendees at the conference.  Four of the five priests (including the Cardinal), were Black.  I guess I should chalk it up as, "A Sign of the Times." :} [Vocations are strong in Africa and parts of Asia, and weak in Europe and the US.] I am also trying to recall the last time I was at a mass led by a Cardinal.  I think it might have been way back when I was eight or nine years old and Cardinal John Krol was presiding at my Confirmation at St. Cyril's Church in the Philadelphia diocese!


The mass was followed by a talk by Cardinal Turkson on "Vocation of the Business Leader."  He confided that they called it a "reflection" instead of a "note" because the latter would have required it to receive various approvals from the Vatican bureaucracy, which of course means it would still be awaiting publication!  The Cardinal explained the process that was followed to develop the document, including the significant consultation with business leaders and academics.  His message was that business serves the Common Good, and he challenged Catholic business schools to bring that message to students and alumni.  He also talked about leadership, using the image of the shepherd as a figure providing leadership and sustainability to the flock.  I liked his point that the good business leader sometime goes behind when the flock knows the way, but sometimes must take the lead when new paths are being taken.


The conference featured a number of papers presented by faculty in attendance on various aspects of Catholic business education.  There were several plenary sessions, including one featuring a panel of business school deans discussing the challenges they face in their positions.  I served as moderator and had the easy role of peppering my colleagues with questions on mission, working with other units on campus, the role of Catholic Social Thought in Catholic business education, hiring for mission, and how mission should influence faculty research.  These are not easy questions, but we had three deans with collectively over five decades of dean experience - Joe DiAngelo from St. Joseph's, Ellen Harshman from St. Louis University, and Tom Bausch, Dean Emeritus from Marquette.


I had to leave the evening of the 19th, so I missed the last day of the conference.  All the flights home were significantly delayed.  It's the combination of thunder storms and no slack in the system!






2012 Departures

Posted by Joseph Phillips, Jr. on June 12, 2012 at 3:06 PM PDT

We had our end of the school year picnic on June 12th.  We had over 70 faculty and staff in attendance, including four retired faculty members.  It is always a good event, even if some faculty are still scrambling to get their grades in for the spring quarter!  It gives us a chance to close out the year and see everyone before summer begins and people scatter.


The picnic is always used to salute those who are departing.  This year that included two people who could not make the picnic, so we saluted them at a school meeting on June 7th:


Tom Kelley - Tom joined us full time in 2002 after a long and successful career at Arthur Andersen.  His last assignment was managing partner for the Moscow office, so Tom always had a lot of good advice for students with respect to their professional formation.  Tom was a rigorous teacher, and thanks to his undergraduate degree from Holy Cross, fit right in to our Jesuit institution.  Tom will be missed!


Dino Falaschetti - Dino served the last two years at the Thomas F. Gleed Endowed Chair in Business Administration, which is a two-year visiting appointment in the Albers School.  Dino was very popular with students and enlivened the intellectual climate by organizing several panel discussions on contemporary issues where law, economics, and finance intersect (like Dodd-Frank!).   Dino is headed to Bozeman, Montana where he will be Executive Director of the Property and Environmental Research Center.


At the picnic on June 12th, we said good bye to several faculty and staff:


Rex Toh - Rex is retiring after 32 years as a faculty member at SU.  You can read my blog from May 25th about Rex!


Mary Carpenter - Mary has been our Assistant Dean for Graduate Programs and a few months ago was diagnosed with cancer.  She has been out on sick leave and plans to retire in November.  Mary has been working at SU since 1988.  Mary always had a "get it done" attitude and was always willing to tell you exactly what she thought, all of which I appreciate.  Mary was a strong advocate for our graduate students, and we will miss her very much.


Steve Brilling - Steve has served as Executive Director of the Entrepreneurship Center and prior to that served as an executive in residence.  He has done a terrific job of building up the center, and in the process reaching out to the community for support.  It is not easy for a "business guy" to come to a college campus and be successful, but Steve has done that. Steve will continue to work with us in the family business arena.


Kim Eshelman - Kim has served as the administrative assistant for the Entrepreneurship Center since 2007.  She has been instrumental in the continuous improvement the center has achieved.  She is an artist and is leaving to pursue her passion full-time.


Carly Cannell - Carly joined Albers a year ago after working at SU's Center for Service and Community Engagement.  She worked as a program manager for our EMBA programs.  She just completed her MBA at SU and will be taking a position with The Boeing Company.  Carly was one of the students very involved with the project to raise $20,000 for the St. Ignatius School in Rwanda.


A big thank you to Tom, Dino, Rex, Mary, Steve, Kim, and Carly for their many contributions to the Albers School!  We will miss all of you!


Graduation 2012

Posted by Joseph Phillips, Jr. on June 11, 2012 at 8:06 AM PDT

On June 10th we graduated 299 undergraduate business students and 262 master's students at Key Arena.  Graduation is always a bittersweet moment for faculty and staff.  We know these students have to move on but we hate to see them go!


The business sector has been under fire of late, but the criticism is broad and over-reaching.  Business makes a critical contribution to our society.  Our standard of living does not improve without a healthy business sector.  That said, not all businesses "get it."  They don't always understand the importance of ethics and integrity.  They don't always understand it is about meeting the needs of all stakeholders (not just stockholders) and the obligations a business has to the community it operates in. They don't always understand that the goal should be to create a sustainable, profitable enterprise.


Our students know these things, and that is why we are excited to see these business graduates entering the workforce.  We look forward to the many contributions they will make to society for decades to come.


Kudos to our students who received awards for their academic achievements.  At the graduation ceremony, Tiffany Wadel (BABA Economics) received the President's Award for the highest academic performance of a graduating senior who entered SU as a freshman.  She also received the Paul Volpe Award for the best business undergraduate academic performance.  Albers students Ted Adams (BABA ECIS) and Aran Kaweerattanaphon (BABA Finance) received the Provost's Award, which goes to the graduating transfer student with the highest GPA.  Both had the same academic performance, so there were two recipients of the award this year.  Albers has the highest concentration of transfer students on campus (about 40%), so it is not surprising that two of our students are receiving the award!



On the graduate side, August Kristoferson (MS Finance) received the Jerry A. Viscione Award for the highest academic performance of a business graduate student.  By the way, both Volpe (1947-65) and Viscione (1988-97) are legendary deans in the history of the Albers School!  Too bad it was before the concept of blogging was created - they would have had some good things to blog about!


Fiona Robertson and Madhu Rao did an admirable job of reading the names of our graduates at graduation.  Probably the best that has been done since the dean stopped doing it!


Not only did Albers dominate the President and Provost Awards this year, but we also dominated the singing.  Maddy Cary (BABA management) handled the national anthem at the undergraduate ceremony in the morning and Anna Klutho (BABA marketing) took care of the graduate ceremony in the afternoon. 


Speaking of students and reflecting back over this academic year, our students did some amazing things in 2011-12.  Some of the highlights include:


  • The Graduate Leadership Formation Specialization students organizing the third annual Redwinged Leadership Award.
  • Our graduate students who raised $20,000 to support construction of the St. Ignatius School in Rwanda (overseen by their classmate, Fr. Jean Baptiste Ganza, SJ, who graduated with his MBA).
  • Our Beta Alpha Psi students (the accounting honorary) received the Gold Chapter Award (one of seven schools nationally) and won the KPMG Northwest Case Competition.
  • Our SIFE students, who won the regional competition and completed an incredible number of hours of community service in the process (over 3600 hours that impacted an estimated 162,000+ people).
  • Three Albers students/recent alums receiving Fulbright Fellowships - Michelle de Vera (graduated on the 10th with a BA in Economics), Senay Kahsay, and Kyla Hagedorn.


Congratulations to our 2012 graduates!  There will be many opportunities for you to leave the world a better place than you found it.  We expect big things from you!



Posted by Joseph Phillips, Jr. on May 25, 2012 at 10:05 PM PDT

When the title is "Rex," everyone knows what the topic of this posting is about!!.  Professor Rex Toh is retiring from our faculty at the end of this year.  Rex has been a member of our faculty since 1980, so he has been at the university for over 30 years.  Rex has taught primarily courses in marketing research, statistics, and transportation.


Everyone is going to miss Rex.  Rex has a unique style, which everyone seems to have learned how to navigate.  Basically, Rex can be very "direct."  If it were someone else, you might worry about it.  But it is Rex, so you don't worry about it.  There is a certain charm to it all that only Rex can pull off.


Rex has been a great champion for the importance of faculty scholarship.  He has been a leader in this regard within Albers, and therefore on the SU campus.  He leads by example - he has nearly 90 journal articles to his credit!


He has also tried to assist colleagues with their scholarship, either making suggestions to improve their work or inviting them to join him in research projects.  He has co-authored with a number of our faculty and served as a valuable research mentor for them.  Rex has not only had an impact on campus, but he has also impacted the profession.  For example, he recently received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Cornell Hospitality Quarterly, recognizing his work as both an author and reviewer for the journal.  It is also important to acknowledge that Rex was a "research pioneer" at SU, throwing himself into his scholarship at a time when research received little support from the university. 


I discouraged Rex from retiring.  I asked him what he plans to do in retirement.  Surely, he will miss his teaching and research??  No, he says, he will keep busy with his gardening and travelling (Rex just loves a good cruise!).  I'm betting not and he will be back before long begging me to let him teach! :}


Rex is very devoted to the concept of "efficiency."  He does not like take long to get things accomplished.  My favorite memory of Rex in this regard will be how he orchestrated the elections of Marketing Club officers.  I always imagined it as the way elections worked in the USSR!


On May 25th we hosted a dinner to honor Rex and recognize his contributions to SU.   His colleagues in attendance noted his dedication to efficiency and scholarship, but also his success in the classroom.  He was very successful as an instructor of statistics, something his colleagues admire since they know what a difficult topic it is to teach.

At the dinner, Rex was presented the plaque listing him as the 1982-83 MBA Professor of the Year.  It was retrieved from the "Albers Archives" and given to Rex for safekeeping -- until someone else on the plaque retires and we need to present the plaque to her or him! 


We will miss Rex, and will always admire the legacy he has created at Seattle University.  Thanks, Rex!

40th Anniversary

Posted by Joseph Phillips, Jr. on May 24, 2012 at 10:05 AM PDT

There are many end-of-the academic year events, but one that I always look forward to is the Accounting Awards Banquet.  This year marked the 40th consecutive year for the event.  Forty years - that is an impressive run for the Department of Accounting!!


Dave Tinius was on the podium this year as co-moderator of Beta Alpha Psi (BAP -- the accounting honorary).  Since Dave was involved in organizing the first award dinner, he was able to tell us that the first dinner took place in Campion Hall (as did the fortieth) and was organized to commemorate the launch of our Beta Alpha Psi chapter.  Dave noted that Campion looks better now than it did in 1973!


Twenty-two different awards were bestowed on our accounting students.  Angela Bever, BAP president, received the BAP Leadership Award.  Michael Watson, the incoming BAP president, received the BAP Outstanding member Award.  Alex Mena received the BAP Community Service Award.


The BAP students involved in the ceremony, such as Angela and Michael, were very poised and professional.  They made their faculty very, very proud!


Our BAP chapter had a great year in 2011-12.  It was one of seven chapters in the nation to receive the prestigious Gold Chapter Award.  They also received two best practice awards at the BAP regional meeting, and one of them will now be competing for national recognition at the BAP national meeting in August (a financial literacy program done with Girl Scouts of America).


Mary Carpenter received the Chair's Award, which goes to the staff member who provides exceptional service to the Department of Accounting.  Since Mary is on sick leave, she was not present to receive the award, but the presentation was taped for her viewing pleasure!


One of the critical success factors for our Department of Accounting is the strong support it receives from the accounting professional community.  Prior to the dinner, the department advisory board had met and everyone was buzzing about what a great meeting it was.  The advisory board is pushing the department to take on a new strategic initiative, and not only that, stepping up to provide support for the project.  Advisory board members were joined by other accounting professionals at the reception and the banquet.  It was all an impressive display of support from the accounting community.


Despite being on sabbatical this quarter, Department Chair Bruce Koch was there to MC the event.  [I have to admit that we ended up asking Bruce to do a lot even though he was supposed to be on sabbatical - I guess that means we cannot really get along without him.]  With his self-deprecating sense of humor, Bruce was able to keep the audience engaged throughout the ceremony.  Fortunately, he eased up on his normal supply of puns! :}


Congratulations are in order for the Department of Accounting on the occasion of the 40th year of its awards banquet!  Talk about sustainability!!






Business Plan Competition

Posted by Joseph Phillips, Jr. on May 18, 2012 at 9:05 AM PDT

The finals of the 14th annual Harriet Stephenson Business Plan Competition took place on May 17th.  The winner was Populous Legal Services, a team of law students.  Unfortunately, I did not catch their presentation, so I cannot tell you about their concept, but I am sure it is good because their competition was very formidable.  The two final presentations I did see were well done and built around very compelling products.  The law students enrolled in a business plan class jointly sponsored by Albers and the law school.  I would say the class definitely paid off for them, as in receiving the award they made it clear their concept was developed through the class!


Over 200 students, judges, mentors, coaches, and sponsors participated in the competition this year.  It has become a very powerful event and a significant learning experience for the students who participate, particularly those who make it to the final round.  It is a great benefit for Albers and SU to be able to draw upon so many volunteers from the Seattle community.  These volunteers are integral to the success of the competition.


Each year the final presentations get better and better.  The students are much further along in their planning than they used to be.  I attribute this to the powerful influence of their mentors.  Each team participating in the competition is assigned a mentor (assuming they want one, which they better be smart enough to accept!).  The mentor is a business professional with an entrepreneurial background, and they advise the students in putting together the plan.  Introducing mentors into the competition was the best thing we have done to raise the quality of the competition.  Our mentors really have an impact!


For a video on the impact of the competition on student learning, go to:


The two presentations I saw were In My Grandma's Kitchen and Lockstep Shoes.  They were both strong presentations by Nick Woog and Joe Lancaster, respectively.  Nick plans to bring out a series of organic food products under the (much more manageable) brand, "Joe's," named after his father.  The first product is an organic garlic sauce.  Lockstep Shoes will license a design concept that shoe brands can incorporate to make it easier for the elderly, the injured, and the handicapped to get in and out of their shoes.  Both these products were very compelling (Nick took the runner-up prize), so that is how I know that Populous Law must have made a great presentation of a great concept!


Scott Oki, well known Seattle entrepreneur and philanthropist, was the keynote speaker for the event.  He revealed that he grew up near Seattle U., at 14th and Yesler.  He made it clear that he did not grow up in a privileged environment, and ended up serving in the military and finishing his studies at the University of Colorado.  Scott also made it clear how hard one has to work to be successful, referencing his 90 hour work weeks and going years without a vacation. 


Since leaving Microsoft 20 years ago, most of his work has been as a social entrepreneur and philanthropist.  He highlighted two of his most recent ventures.  One is the Parents Union, which is a non-profit dedicated to pursuing school reform on a state by state basis.  It is designed to bring parents together who have an interest in pushing for K-12 school reform. 


The second recent venture is See Your Impact.  This is a social networking tool for "the bottom of the philanthropic pyramid," as Scott put it.  See Your Impact allows people who are raising smaller amounts of money to leverage social networking.  An important feature is to allow the donors to actually see how their contributions benefit recipients.  See Your Impact posts images and stories of the beneficiaries that donors can view.  A group of our MBA students are currently using See Your Impact in an initiative to raise money for the soon to be built St. Ignatius School in Rwanda. 


Scott's parting words of advice for students was, "Find your passion and go for it!!"


The business plan competition is aptly named after Professor Harriet Stephenson, a member of our faculty since 1967 and receiving an award this year for 45 years of service at SU!  Harriet started our activities in entrepreneurship in 1990, and we would not be where we are today without her pioneering activity and foresight.  In 1990, it was hardly clear to academics that entrepreneurship was a worthy area of study!  Now it seems obvious.


This was the last business plan competition with Steve Brilling as Executive Director of the Entrepreneurship Center.  Steve has been leading the center since 2004 and done a great job improving the quality of the competition each year.  Steve will be missed, but he is not leaving completely.  He will continue to play a role in our Family Business programs.


Kim Eshelman has served as Steve's administrative assistant since 2007.  She is stepping down to pursue her passion as an artist full time.  We will miss Steve and Kim and thank them for all their excellent work during their time with us!