Dean’s Blog

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!

Gary Scott

Posted by Joseph Phillips, Jr. on May 15, 2012 at 11:05 AM PDT

Gary Scott was the final speaker in this year's Albers Executive Speaker Series.  Gary is a graduate of our MBA program and recently retired as President of Bombardier Commercial Aircraft after leading the development of the C series, narrow-bodied airplane.  As Gary took pains to say, Bombardier is not trying to compete in the single-aisle airplane market with Boeing and Airbus, as much as fill a gap in smaller size end of the market.


Gary joined Bombardier in 2004 as President of the New Commercial Aircraft Program and was named President of Commercial Aircraft in 2008.  He began his career with The Boeing Company in 1973, where his roles included Vice President and General Manager for the 737/757 programs and President of Flight Safety Boeing, which is the role he had when he left Boeing in 2002 to take a position with CAE, Inc., a leader in commercial aviation training.  While leading the 737/757 program, Gary oversaw Boeing's single aisle commercial airplane division through the biggest production build-up in the company's history to that point in time.


Gary's presentation was on, "Leading a Non-US Global Enterprise," and he highlighted a few advantages that US firms have when doing business in the global market.  These are things that many of us in the US take for granted, but should not!  They include a huge home based market to grow up in.  Second, we don't have to worry about exchange rate volatility in that home market, whereas companies in smaller nations are forced to expand into other currencies much earlier in their development.  When US firms do venture abroad, foreign sales are still sometimes denominated in dollars.  You can bet that Canadian firms are not pricing their exports in Canadian dollars.  Finally, export financing through an entity the size of the US Export-Import Bank is not available in most countries.  This is particularly advantageous to large scale industries such as aviation.


One advantage that US firms do not have is good people.  "They are everywhere," said Gary.  The trick is to create an organizational culture that leverages that talent.


One questioner asked how it was that someone with a business background held leadership positions that one would associate with someone from an engineering background.  Gary's response was that you should always understand your product, even if you are the finance guy!  He was not afraid to ask questions about how airplanes worked.  Additionally, he was always willing to take on a new challenge, so in the process was continually learning about the business.


Several questions were directed at doing business in China, where there are concerns about protecting intellectual property.  Gary acknowledged the challenges, but said that China is such a big market you have to be there if you are in aviation.  The key will be to find a way to establish the right partnership.  The market has confidence in Western aviation companies, and that can be a leverage point in establishing partnerships in China.


When Gary was an MBA student at SU, we required a thesis for graduation (many an MBA alum has complained to me about that over the years!).  Gary reminisced about his topic, "The Capital Crisis in the Airline Industry."  At the time, people were concerned that there would be insufficient financing for growth in the industry.  Gary argued, correctly, that there would be no capital shortage.  Things have a way of working out, he said.  What you once thought was a stretch in terms of something like production capacity, is easily exceeded a decade later. 


This perspective is what nearly four decades in the aviation industry will give you!  It was a great opportunity for our students to learn from an aviation leader!


Gary's presentation was the last chapter in this year's Albers Executive Speaker Series.  We had another good year, with some of the highlights including Howard Schultz from Starbucks, Jim Sinegal from Costco, and wireless industry legend John Stanton.  We hope to do as well in 2012-13!


2012 Red Winged Leadership Award

Posted by Joseph Phillips, Jr. on May 14, 2012 at 3:05 PM PDT

The Third Annual Red Winged Leadership Award ceremony took place on May 10th.  The award recognizes local leaders who combine leadership and business acumen to make a positive social impact on the community.  The entire process is organized by the students in our Graduate Leadership Formation Specialization (GLFS), who are guided by Professor Jennifer Marrone.  There were 24 students in the 2012 GLFS cohort.


The three finalists this year were Jocquelyn Duncan (Work it Out Seattle), Killian Noe (Recovery Café), and Dan Wall (Opportunity Knocks).  Jocquelyn is the Founder and Executive Director of Work it Out, which is a non-profit dedicated to getting high school dropouts productively re-engaged with the community.  She became increasingly alarmed at the wasted talents of young people in her community and was called to act.  In her remarks, she noted that there are 6.7 million high school dropouts in our nation, a daunting waste of talent, creativity, and energy.  She advised the audience to consider our legacy - "what will you leave behind?" she asked.


Killian Noe moved to Seattle in 1999 and surveyed the community to find an unmet need.  She concluded that there was not enough support for those recovering from addiction and mental health challenges.  The result was Recovery Café.  She advised the audience to be ready to take a risk and don't wait until you are 100% sure to launch a new initiative.


As a top executive at Expeditors International, Dan Wall was when he enrolled in our Leadership EMBA program.  The program requires students to develop a legacy project in the workplace.  Dan developed Opportunity Knocks based on his personal experience with Expeditors, where he started working at the age of 18.  Opportunity Knocks identifies high school students who are not planning to continue their education beyond high school and offers them a part-time job with the opportunity for a full-time job if they meet Expeditors' expectations.  The program began at the Seattle headquarters but has now branched out to offices around the country and, soon, around the world.


For her work in founding Recovery Café, Killian Noe was selected as the 2012 Red Winged Leadership Award recipient.  Of course, all three finalists are winners and doing wonderful things to advance the Common Good!


The keynote speaker for the evening was Jim Sinegal, our new Senior Executive in Residence and co-founder and retired CEO of Costco Wholesale.  It was Jim's second event of the day, as earlier he spoke to students in the Marketing Club at their end of the year event.


In his remarks, Jim chose to focus on the legacy of Sol Price, founder of Price Club, who Jim considers to be his mentor.  Jim learned many things from Price, including that a business has a responsibility to the society it operates in.  The creation of jobs with good working conditions is the highest service that a business can provide to society.  Jim mentioned that the 30th anniversary of the founding of Costco would take place this fall, and that their original business plan called for 12 warehouse locations.  Today, Costco has over 600 locations in eight countries.


We're very proud of the Red Winged Leadership Award and its effort to recognize an unheralded leader in our community!  Our students in the GLFS do an amazing amount of work to organize this event, and they are to be congratulated for their successful execution of what is becoming a Seattle University tradition!


For more information on the Red Winged Leadership Award, including videos on the honorees, check out the website:




Dan Nordstrom

Posted by Joseph Phillips, Jr. on April 27, 2012 at 5:04 PM PDT

Dan Nordstrom, CEO and owner of Outdoor Research, was the featured speaker on April 26th for the Albers Executive Speaker Series.  His topic was "Anatomy of a Turnaround."  Nordstrom bought OR in 2003 when it was close to bankruptcy and revised the company so that today it is one of the strongest brands for high end outdoor apparel and accessories.


In 2002 he had left Nordstrom, Inc. where he had been President of, and was looking for a smaller, more entrepreneurial challenge.  He said that a mentor gave him some great advice, "Don't buy a great company, buy a company that is successful in spite of itself."  Otherwise, you will pay a lot of money and it will be difficult to make it better.  Buy something you can fix and add value to.


After acquiring OR, the first thing he did was to come and ask a lot of questions to employees and customers.  After all, there is a need to know what the business is about.


He also noted the importance of sizing up the workforce.  You need to identify who the high performers are and who are the people that will need to move on.  Or, as he quoted Jim Collins, "First who, then what."  People come first, then everything flows from that, according to Nordstrom. It is critical to identify your best people and treat them well, and at the same time to identify your lowest performers and have them move along.


An exciting point is when you get to hire new talent.  To get the people you really want, you have to have a good story and credible vision for the future.  The new employees can reinforce the need for higher levels of performance with the existing high performers, and that becomes a virtuous circle.


Culture and brand are both very important to the success of a business.  One of the problems with the existing culture at OR was that it was not customer centric and thought it knew what was best for customers.  There was not enough listening to the customer.


In the question and answer period, the following points were made:


  • Weather trumps the business cycle when it comes to OR's sales.  Bad winter weather means stronger sales.


  • When it comes to social responsibility and the OR supply chain, the factories of their suppliers offer excellent working conditions.  It is sub-contracting by their 20 main suppliers that they must be vigilant about.


  • OR does not want to spread itself too thin.  It prefers to focus on accessories and apparel.  It is not going to do tents and sleeping bags.  They don't need new categories, there is plenty of opportunity for growth in their current categories.  So what is their next challenge??  Staying focused!


  • With social media small companies can created a lot of noise.  He gave examples of that for OR.  Local events related to their product categories, in particular, are a good way to raise awareness of the brand.


  • Consumers are "tribal."  They want to belong to something, so they become OR customers as opposed to the customer of a rival brand.  They develop an emotional tie to the brand story.


  • He warned that it would be dangerous for OR to become a regional company.  Then, all their products would be about the rain and staying dry.  That would not have much relevance for customers in Colorado and Minnesota, where down jackets are important.  Down jackets are disastrous in the rainy Northwest!


Dan Nordstrom has guided OR back from the brink.  It was a brand that was losing relevance, and now is one of the most respected in the outdoor industry.  It was hunkered down doing accessories "it's way," and has now expanded successfully in to apparel.  He is a leader who understands the importance of people, culture, execution, and brand.  It was a great opportunity for everyone in the audience to hear from him.


Our next speaker is on May 14th, when Gary Scott, who recently retired as President of Bombardier Commercial Aircraft, will be visiting.  Gary earned his MBA at SU and his topic is, "Leading a Non US Global Enterprise."  It will be from 5:30 to 6:30 PM in Pigott Auditorium.



Ethics in the Business World

Posted by Joseph Phillips, Jr. on April 18, 2012 at 9:04 AM PDT

Ethics in the Business World was held on April 17th.  Throughout the day, professionals from the business community visited 55 Albers classes (undergraduate and graduate) to discuss ethical challenges they have faced in their career and how they resolved them.  The 55 classes were visited by 39 different professionals, meaning a few people visited more than one class.  Only one class was unable to participate.


We had some excellent visitors participating in the program.  Speakers included Jim Sinegal (former CEO of Costco Wholesale and Senior Executive in Residence for the Albers School), Gary Scott (former President of Bombardier Airplanes), Brian Webster (CEO of Physio-Control), and Robbie Bach (former President of Microsoft Games and Devices).  Gary gets the prize for visiting the most classes - four!!


The concept of Ethics in the Business World was proposed to us by the advisory board of the Center for Business Ethics.  Their thought was to have business leaders come to classes to expose students to some of the ethical dilemmas they are sure to face in their careers.  They thought that many classes might participate, but we challenged ourselves to have ALL classes meeting on that day to participate.  We got about as close to that as you can! 


We also envisioned complementary activities throughout the day, so from that grew an alumni event in the morning featuring Professor Marc Cohen (Assistant Professor of Business Ethics), and Stan McNaughton (CEO of PEMCO insurance, who also spoke to a class later in the morning).  We collaborated with the College of Science and Engineering so that they would schedule their Boeing panel discussion on engineering ethics to take place on the same day.  Undergraduate students starting a campus chapter of Net Impact organized a panel discussion at the end of the day on socially responsible investing.  Net Impact is a non-profit that encourages business students to see business as means for social good.  The bottom line should be about more than profits, but also people and the planet.


As you might imagine, with classes meeting throughout the day, the event was something of a logistical nightmare.  How to match all the speakers with all the classes??  No worries there.  Aaron Hayden, the graduate assistant for John Dienhart, our Frank Shrontz Chair of Business Ethics, was able to put that all together, including getting all the necessary parking passes (mid day visitor parking is something of a challenge!).  Aaron managed all the details and entertained our guests throughout the day.  It is not easy to get people to come in during the middle of the workday when some classes were meeting, but we managed to do it, thanks to the commitment of many of the volunteers.


Ethics in the Business World makes a statement to our students. It reinforces for them the importance of ethical business practice and alerts them that doing the right thing is not always easy.  Nevertheless, one must hold to one's core values and recognize the importance of ethical business practice both for long run professional success and the effective functioning of our market economy.


Many thanks to all the business leaders who participated in Ethics in the Business World!  It was a very successful event, and we plan to do it every year.  The students were the beneficiaries of the collective wisdom of our 39 volunteers.  I want to thank the faculty who surrendered some of their valuable class time to participate in this event.  It is another demonstration of their alignment with and commitment to the SU and Albers mission!




Howard Schultz

Posted by Liz Wick on April 13, 2012 at 9:04 AM PDT

Howard Schultz, Chairman and CEO of Starbucks Coffee, spoke on April 10th as part of the Albers Executive Speaker Series.  Howard has been in the news a lot lately because of both Starbucks' recent success as well as for his political commentary.


Pigott Auditorium was packed.  Every seat was filled.  I wish we had more seats, because there were at least another 100 people who wanted to participate.  If people left early, we ushered someone in to fill that seat.  I've heard from many of you who we were unable to accommodate, so I am going to put a little more detail into this than I otherwise might!


Howard started off with a video about the Great Recession and Starbucks' response to raise funding for loans to small businesses.  The company decided that job creation was the most important thing needed, and small business was the best opportunity for that.  With access to credit for small businesses in short supply, the company started a campaign to raise funding for small business loans.  Howard is really proud of that video, by the way.  I was hoping the video was on the company website so that those who could not attend could see it, but it is not.  They suggested that people watch the video of their recent annual meeting, which has many of the same themes. 


In his opening remarks, Howard talked about his efforts to fight back against political gridlock in Washington, DC.  If things were working well, Starbucks would not need to be launching the campaign to boost small business.  He noted that 154 CEOs had joined him in protest by holding back political campaign contributions.


Another concern he has is the fraying of the social safety net.  With rising stress on state budgets, he thinks there is little doubt we will see further deterioration as states are forced to cut back their programs (Washington state is shaping up to be a prime example of this).


He switched gears and started talking about developments at Starbucks.  He noted that a business is not going to be successful for the long term if it just focuses on maximizing profits for shareholders.  It must give highest priority to its employees, second comes customers, and shareholders are third.  


He also noted that Starbucks had an important set of values that were part of the culture and retaining those was critical to success.  For example, he told a story of a large institutional shareholder coming to him in the midst of the Great Recession and suggesting it would be a good time to dump the employee health coverage plan to boost profitability.  Howard said, "He didn't get it."  Taking away health care would destroy the trust the company had built up with employees.


He recounted his returning to the CEO role.  It was right at the beginning of the Great Recession.  The company had strayed from its roots, and its problems included it was a coffee company that actually was not making good coffee anymore!  Could something be more fundamental??  He talked about dramatic steps he took, such as shutting down for a day to retrain on coffee making, or holding a $33 million company meeting in New Orleans to get key leaders from across the company back on the same page.  While spoofed at the time, subsequent results speak for themselves.


He spoke of some of the key to success.  These included loving what you do.  You need to enjoy what you are doing to be successful at it.  Second, surround yourself with talented people who complement your skill set and share your values.  A third key is to share success.  Give plenty of credit to others for their contribution to the success of the enterprise.


He closed with an uplifting message.  He was not born into privileged circumstances.  He has come a long way from humble beginnings.  He grew up in the projects.  He did not attend Harvard, Yale, or Stanford.  One of the keys was to dream big dreams and not let others discourage you from achieving them.  His life story is the American Dream.  "Dream big dreams and then dream even bigger dreams," he said!


It was then time for the Q&A, starting with questions from our panelists, which included alum Jody Hall (owner of Cupcake Royale), undergraduate student Arielle Newcomb, and MBA student Michael Wang. 


There were interesting ties in their background that might have made one think we knew that when we put them on the panel.  Jody started working at a Starbucks in 1988 when she was still a student at SU in order to get money for Christmas presents.  At that time, there were only about 30 stores (compared to over 17,000 today).  She ended up working at Starbucks for eleven years (her last role was head of marketing for music and entertainment), and you can see the influence of Starbucks on her business (health benefits for employees, giving back to the community, etc…).  For Arielle, her first job was as a Starbucks barista in Redmond, WA in 2007!  Truth be told, we did not learn all that until after they agreed to be panelists!  Nothing on Michael and Starbucks that we could uncover, though.


In the Q&A, he made a few interesting points:


  • Regarding China, they have found that it is important that the leadership team needs to be Chinese, not ex-pats.  They know the culture and the politics.
  • Regarding India, they greatly admire Tata and what the company stands for.  They decided that they wanted to be partners with Tata and pursued that goal.
  • One question asked about all the new beverage products (juices, sports drink, etc…) that the company is planning, and whether Starbucks would remain a coffee company.  Howard responded that the core competency of the company for over four decades was coffee.  That was not going to change, BUT, it is important to retain the entrepreneurial spirit of the company, and from time to time they need to experiment with new products.
  • One question asked him to reflect on what would have happened to the company if he had not returned as CEO in 2008.  He responded that he was well positioned to return.  He understood the company and its heritage.  If someone was hired from the outside, they would not have had that understanding and by the time they did, it may have been too late.
  • He noted that there had been two important shifts in employees and customers in the last few years that all businesses have had to address.  Customers are much better informed about companies, including the company's values and culture.  Customers want to support companies with values similar to their own.  Regarding employees, many employees had a previous employer with a dysfunctional culture.  They arrive with a certain amount of cynicism and distrust.  It is critical to demonstrate to them in the first 45-60 days that they are valued and that the firm has a mission they can embrace.  A company that can do these things has a significant competitive advantage.
  • The final question brought him back to the political scene.  He illustrated the problem by recalling how President Truman sold the Marshall Plan to the nation and both political parties.  He asked if such a thing would be possible today.  The answer is no.  Our political debates are dominated by the extremes on the Right and the Left.  The much larger middle is going unheard.  We need to get back to the middle and not be held hostage by ideology and partisanship.


Regarding the turnout, I have had a number of people imply their disappointment about not getting into Pigott Auditorium.  We were hoping for a strong turnout, but it was definitely larger than we had anticipated.  Maybe we would have done a few things differently, but someone was sure to be left out. 


What I was struck by was the number of undergraduate students in the audience.  Past experience is they don't turn out for the speaker series, but they were here for Howard Schultz.  I was glad to see them, and hope they can take advantage of future speakers. This does suggest that Howard has captured the imagination of this group of students and the generation they represent.  He has "rock star" status.  He could use this to assert a positive influence over them!  It is an opportunity that very few people have, and it will not last forever.  That is something for him to think about!


Next up is Dan Nordstrom, CEO of Outdoor Research, on April 26th.  Come learn about how Dan revived this iconic outdoor equipment brand!



Wealth or Waste?

Posted by Joseph Phillips, Jr. on April 6, 2012 at 2:04 PM PDT

An article appeared in the April 5th edition of the Wall Street Journal - "Wealth or Waste?  Rethinking the Value of a Business Major."  The article claims "faculty members, school administrators, and corporate recruiters are questioning the value of a business degree at the undergraduate level."


Where are these faculty, administrators, and recruiters?? I have yet to run into them!  The article says the biggest complaint is that "undergraduate (business) degrees focus too much on the nuts and bolts of finance and accounting and don't develop enough critical thinking and problems solving skills…"


Message to Melissa Korn, the writer, and all the faculty,administrators, and recruiters that she apparently knows that I don't - not all undergraduate business programs are alike!!


Let's take the business program at Seattle University and other Jesuit schools like us.  Our business students take the same university core curriculum that other students on campus take.  That means the same history, philosophy, theology,science classes that psychology, political science, and math majors are supposed to take.  This means 60 of the 180 credit hours required for graduation, excluding the economics and statistics and business ethics courses they take that are offered in the business school.


So, to the extent you think that critical thinking and problem solving skills are only gained outside the business curriculum, Albers students are covered.  But, I am not willing to admit that the business curriculum does not contribute to these skills.  Quite to the contrary!  Our students see plenty of real world projects, case studies, and writing assignments in business courses that, among other things, develop their critical thinking and problem solving capabilities.


The author says schools are "taking the hint," and responding accordingly.  For example, George Washington University is turning to their psychology and philosophy departments to teach business ethics.  Um, excuse me, but the Albers School has three business ethics professors with PhD's in philosophy.   We love our colleagues in psychology and philosophy, but we don't need to run to them for help to teach business ethics, nor do we need to add a business ethics course to our curriculum - it's already there.


Ironically, in the April 5th edition of our student newspaper, The Spectator, there was an article about the current job market for students.  A main point of the article was that the good news about the job market is misleading, because it is business (and engineering) students who are getting all the job offers! 


This is the ultimate test!  What does the market want?  Right now the market is saying it wants to hire talented and well-prepared students from the Albers School! If you check out the Albers Placement Center, you will see that there are many companies interested in our students.  If our students lacked critical thinking and problem solving skills, the Albers Placement Center would be very quiet right now.


I can't speak to what happens in every business school, but it is time for the Wall Street Journal, the Chronicle of Higher Education, and other "experts" to stop treating undergraduate business education as a flawed homogenous experience.


Crab Feed

Posted by Joseph Phillips, Jr. on March 31, 2012 at 11:03 AM PDT

On March 25th we held the 10th annual alumni crab feed.  The event was started by the Albers Alumni Board and has become an annual traditional.  It was the first event organized by the board, and over the years there have been more than 3,000 attendees and nearly $80,000 has been raised for scholarships for Albers students.


 Although raising money for student scholarships is the cause, the main reason for launching the event was friend-raising and getting alumni back to campus.  In 2002, our connections with our alumni were not where we wanted them to be and the alumni board came up with the idea of the crab feed.  Since the university did not have much in the way of alumni staff, in addition to coming up with the idea, the alumni board was required to EXECUTE the event, as well!  They stepped up to the plate and the rest is history!


This year's alumni board Crab Feed Committee was chaired by Heather Hutson, and the committee worked closely with Rob Bourke on our staff to put the event together.  Several staff from the University Advancement Office also helped with the event, but the work of our alums was critical to its success.


 I had a number of people comment that they thought this year's silent auction was the best so far.  Unfortunately, I did not have time to peruse the items, as I was too busy talking to people.  And my wife managed to come away with only one item!  People also said it was the best crab we have ever served, but I hear that every year, which I take to mean we serve good crab every year!


We try not to burden the crowd with long speeches from university administrators.  Fr. Sundborg was able to attend and he gave a well received and relatively short greeting to the crowd.  I, too, keep it short and just do some of the many "thank you's!" that need to be done.  

This year we had over 250 people in attendance, including women's basketball coach, Joan Bonvicini, fresh off the team's successful run through the Women's Basketball Invitation Tournament, making it to the semi-final round.  We also raised more than $10,000 for scholarships for Albers students!  That is a great cause, of course!




Posted by Joseph Phillips, Jr. on March 26, 2012 at 8:03 AM PDT

Stoking the Common Fire is an event the Center for Leadership Formation puts on for alumni and students completing the Executive Leadership Program.  It took place last week and I was asked to give a talk at the dinner.  Inspired by my recent meeting with the Jesuit Superior General, Fr. Adolfo Nicolás, I drew upon his address, "The Globalization of Superficiality," which he delivered to Jesuit university presidents from around the world in 2010.  Here it is:

When I started thinking about what to talk about tonight I looked at the schedule and I noticed that you have had at least half a dozen people speaking about leadership, so of course I realized there is no additional value I can add on that topic, so I can't talk to you about that.

Then I thought about my visit to Omaha last weekend to take in the NCAA basketball tournament action taking place there, but then realized not everyone is a basketball fan, so that is probably not an appropriate topic either.  It was sunny and 83 degrees in Omaha by the way, so it was nice not to be in Seattle.

So finally, I wondered if my visit to Rome the week before might provide some material.  I was at a board meeting of the International Association of Jesuit Business Schools, and one of the things we did was meet with Fr. Adolfo Nicolás, who as the Superior General is the head of the Jesuits worldwide.  He leads the more than 18,000 Jesuits who work worldwide and is referred to as the "Black Pope."  Jesuits have historically dressed in black, the Pope in white.

During our interaction, Father General emphasized the significant role that Jesuit Business Schools could play in today's world, especially in promoting business with conscience and business with responsibility.  In commenting on the programs offered at Jesuit Business Schools, he said that he was impressed with their energy to "change the face of business."  He noted that business without ethics leads to "disaster," and said that due to recent events the world is now more open than ever to an ethical approach to business.  He would like to see the Jesuit business schools lead the way in thinking about business in a different way, one that is more holistic and dedicated to the Common Good.

Of course, what I liked was when he emphasized the important role of business schools at Jesuit universities, noting that business "has more attraction" to students than philosophy and theology.  That may come as a surprise ot our colleagues in the College of Arts and Science, since the presumption is always made that they are the preeminent feature of a Jesuit education!

In 2010 Fr. Nicolas met with Jesuit university presidents from around the world in Mexico City, including Fr. Steve.  He delivered a talk called, "The Globalization of Superficiality."  Don't you love that title!  He could be a marketing and branding guru.  It is seen today as the most prominent articulation of his thinking on Jesuit higher education.  In celebrating our Jesuit roots, I thought it would be a good basis for my remarks tonight.

This is what he means by the globalization of superficiality: "When one can access so much informa­tion so quickly and so painlessly; when one can express and publish to the world one's reactions so immediately and so unthinkingly in one's blogs …; when … the new­est viral video can be spread so quickly to people half a world away, shaping their perceptions and feelings, then the laborious, painstaking work of serious, critical thinking often gets short-circuited."

"When one is overwhelmed with such a dizzying pluralism of choices and values and beliefs and visions of life, then one can so easily slip into the lazy superficiality of relativism or mere tolerance of others and their views, rather than engaging in the hard work of forming communities of dialogue in the search of truth and understanding. It is easier to do as one is told than to study, to pray, to risk, or to discern a choice."

He goes on to say that this poses a significant challenge to Jesuit higher education because of its reliance on depth of thought and imagination.  Regarding the graduates of Jesuit universities, he says: "How many of those who leave our institutions do so with both professional competence and the experience of having, in some way during their time with us, a depth of engagement with reality that transforms them at their deepest core? What more do we need to do to ensure that we are not simply popu­lating the world with bright and skilled superficialities?"

Now, as for the ELP, LEMBA, and HLEMBA, programs it is our intent and our hope that you gain both professional competence and when you finish you are different at the core!  From my observation, the programs that do that best in Albers are these programs.  I hope that has been your experience thus far.

One point that Father Nicolas made to the university presidents is that he would like to see the 110 Jesuit universities around the world (28 in the US) working together and collaborating.  After all, one of the positives of globalization is greater ease of communication and travel.  He would like to see consortia of Jesuit universities focused on responding to global challenges.  He suggested several.

One was "more adequate analyses and more effective and lasting solutions to the world's poverty, inequality, and other forms of injustice."  Now, that is an interesting one, and we might ask what would that mean for ELP, LEMBA, and HLEMBA.  Who has a suggestion or take on that?

Well, we are doing great work with our social justice projects in collaborating with local partners.  Someday, we might be able to say this about global partners.

As an example, a group of Albers faculty and undergraduates have been working in Africa on a project called "Africa Start Up."  The project was conceived and developed by one of our alums when she was an undergrad, and involves providing business training to low income small business owners with little formal schooling.  Originally, they were in Malawi working with the University of Malawi.  As conditions on the ground changed, they moved the project to Ghana and worked with Ashesi University.  Neither is Jesuit because the Jesuits have yet to establish business schools in Africa (but it is actually something they have identified that they wish to do and they are working on it).  It gives you an example of what could happen someday.

Another issue that Father Nicolás raised is the following: "Globalization has created new inequalities between those who enjoy the power given to them by knowledge, and those who are exclud­ed from its benefits because they have no access to that knowledge. Thus, we need to ask: who benefits from the knowledge produced in our institutions and who does not? Who needs the knowledge we can share, and how can we share it more effec­tively with those for whom that knowledge can truly make a difference, especially the poor and excluded? We also need to ask some specific questions of faculty and students: How have they become voices for the voiceless, sources of human rights for those denied such rights, resources for protection of the environment, persons of solidarity for the poor?"

So, if he were to ask this group of students to answer these questions, what would you tell him?  What would you point to about our program?  Or are we coming up short?

There you have it.  Some of the thinking of the Black Pope, Father Nicolas, which has interesting connections to our celebration this evening.

I want to take this opportunity to congratulate everyone who has completed the ELP.  We wish you the best and hope that this has been an experience of "change and transformation."  We also hope that you will stay connected with us, including participating in alumni events for the CLF and university.

To those of you continuing on in the LEMBA or HLEMBA programs, I encourage you to persevere and keep your head up.  Despite what you may think from time to time, the faculty are not out to get you and have your back at all times.  Before you know it, it will be June, 2013 and you will be going across the stage at Key Arena.

Finally, I want to thank all our faculty and staff who work in our programs.  It is evident to me that they are doing excellent work and represent the university well.  Give them a round of applause please.