Dean’s Blog

Graduation 2016

Posted by Joseph Phillips on June 14, 2016 at 9:06 AM PDT

Seattle University’s 2016 Commencement Ceremony took place on June 12th, with 350 Albers undergraduate and 255 Albers graduate students receiving diplomas at their respective ceremonies in Key Arena.  Kristen Stoffel received the Paul A. Volpe Award for the highest academic performance among business undergraduate students and Zachary Gose received the Jerry A. Viscione Award for the highest academic performance among business graduate students. Economics major Eric Kennedy was the student speaker in the undergraduate ceremony.

Congratulations to all our graduates!  It has been a pleasure and honor for our faculty and staff to work with you.  We are proud of your accomplishments while you were with us and look forward to what you will go on to accomplish in your professional careers!  We know you will live up to the Albers mission to be “exceptional business leaders who are values-driven and committed to advancing the common good!”

Undergraduate Leadership Program Projects

Posted by Joe Phillips on June 6, 2016 at 5:06 PM PDT

Each year, students in the Albers Undergraduate Leadership Program choose something on campus that is not working and take it on as a project.  Under the guidance of Professor Sharon Lobel, these projects have been quite impressive and compelling.

The projects the students took on this year are no exception.  They include:

  • Expanded library hours -- to include more hours on the weekend and staying open later at night.  The 11:00 PM closing time does not match student schedules!
  • Umbrella Availability -- devise a system to make umbrellas available to students as they race from one location to the next -- in the rain!
  • Liberate Dining Dollars -- allow some meal card funding to be used at grocery stores and restaurants located near campus.
  • Increase Efficiency of the Bottom Line -- the cafe in the Paccar Atrium has been plagued by long lines at peak times.  Students are helping Bon App experiment with ways to reduce waiting times.
  • Student ORCA Cards -- create a program that automatically provides ORCA cards to students, avoiding the higher costs and complicated application procedure that is now required for a student to obtain an ORCA card.
  • Post information on Food Allergens -- work with Bon App to increase information on the most common food allergens found in cafeteria offerings, such as for peanuts and dairy.

All these projects are a work in progress, but if the students can continue to push these efforts forward and solutions are found, they will have done a great service to their peers and the entire campus!  They have identified who they should be working with and are doing that in a constructive and respectful way.  Keep up the good work undergrad leadership students! :}



44th Annual Accounting Awards Banquet

Posted by Joe Phillips on June 6, 2016 at 5:06 PM PDT

On June 3rd the Department of Accounting hosted its 44th annual Accounting Awards Banquet.  Twenty-three scholarships and awards were distributed to accounting students.  Michiru Tsuji received the Outstanding Senior Award and Wang Chen received the Outstanding Master of Professional Accounting student award. 

Dhorea Brown and Teresa Ling received the Department Chair's Award for outstanding service to the department.  The department also recognized Dr. Vidya Awathi, who is retiring at the end of this academic year, including with an award winning video produced by the students! 

It was a great event and after 44 years, a great tradition!


Peter Raven -- "Mr. Yes"

Posted by Joseph Phillips on May 22, 2016 at 4:05 PM PDT

Professor Peter Raven is retiring from Seattle University next month, completing a 25-year career in higher education.  Peter started as a faculty member at Eastern Washington University, after a 20-year career in the food processing industry and completing his doctoral studies at Washington State. He joined the Albers full time faculty in 1998 and moved to a tenure track position in 2001.  In 2009, he was promoted to Professor of Marketing, and now leaves the university as Professor Emeritus.

Peter taught primarily international marketing and Internet marketing courses, as well as a number of consulting classes.  He was a champion for the global education of our students, serving as director of our Global Business programs from 2005 to 2013.  He co-led a number of overseas study tours for students, to such countries as Japan, Korea, and Vietnam.  Students valued his industry experience, enjoyed his sense of humor, and found him to be available and supportive.  He has always been a very student-focused instructor.

Peter fully embraced the teacher-scholar model of the Albers School, publishing over 35 journal articles in such areas as global entrepreneurship, pedagogy, and hotel industry booking practices.

As a colleague, Peter always ended up doing more than his fair share of the service work that needed to be done.  His department chair, Carl Obermiller, described him as "Mr. Yes."  He would never say no to anything he was asked to do, including teaching such things as Internet marketing when no one really knew what that was.  It should also be noted that Peter was always the person who "showed up," meaning if there was any school event that faculty members should support, Peter was always there, whether it was a school meeting, recruiting event, the Mentor Fair, new student welcoming events, graduate program recruiting open house, Profs and Pizza, etc...  He modeled for others what it means to be an engaged faculty member.

We held a dinner on May 11th to celebrate Peter's many accomplishments at and contributions to Seattle University.  Carl noted that Peter had made his life as a department chair so much easier with his willingness to pitch in, and he was sure he could never find someone else who was so accommodating.  Other colleagues spoke about being so appreciative of the assistance Peter provided to them in activities or programs they were trying to organize.  David Reid emphasized the hospitality that Peter showed to him as a new faculty member.  Matt Isaac called out the mentoring that Peter provided to him as a new marketing faculty member.

Thank you Peter Raven for your many contributions to Seattle University and our students!  You will be missed by our students and your colleagues!

Mark Mason

Posted by Joseph Phillips on May 16, 2016 at 10:05 PM PDT

Mark Mason, President and CEO of HomeStreet Bank, participated in the Albers Executive Speaker Series. Since joining HomeStreet in 2009, Mason has led the turnaround of the once troubled institution, recapitalizing the bank with an initial public offering and returning the bank to profitability and growth.

The title of Mason’s talk was, “Doing Well by Doing Good,” linking his presentation to Albers Ethics Week, which was taking place simultaneously in the school. Mason appealed to the roots of HomeStreet, and said that it had a long history as a good corporate citizen operating as a family owned and controlled business. He noted that there are three things an ethical institution needs to get right:

  1. Do the right thing for customers – for example, HomeStreet did not get involved with “liar loans” and other questionable home loan products that led to the Great Recession.
  2. Take care of employees – at one point, employees owned 20% of the bank, but that was jeopardized when the bank was on the brink of collapse, so employees had a lot at stake in saving the bank!
  3. Be a good corporate citizen – exceed Community Reinvestment Act requirements and give generously to charitable causes (HomeStreet gives two percent of pre-tax income)

Mason then told the story of how HomeStreet got caught in the Great Recession. Because the bank believed in doing the right thing by customers, it did not get involved in the exotic mortgages that lenders such as Countrywide and Washington Federal got caught up in. It took tremendous discipline to avoid the herd mentality, but to compensate for that, Homestreet made a large number of loans to homebuilders. When the residential and commercial real state markets started to head South, that is where they ran into problems and had large write-offs in their portfolio for land acquisition and improvements loans

Before taking the position, Mason went to the FDIC, the primary regulator of HomeStreet, to see if he would have enough time to turn the bank around before the agency closed the bank. The FDIC said the bank would be given sufficient time because of its record of good corporate citizenship -- another aspect of "Doing Well by Doing Good!"

Because the bank had few exotic loans, it benefitted from the large drop in mortgage rates that allowed it to take advantage of the resulting huge surge in mortgage re-financings. Once it got some traction, it was able to issue an IPO and use the resulting $100 million to re-capitalize the bank. Nevertheless, Mason later learned that for many weeks HomeStreet was Number One on the FDIC's list of banks that needed to be seized and shut down. For those of you who do not remember, throughout 2009 and 2010 every Friday afternoon the FDIC would announce a list of the banks from around the nation that it had taken over that Friday afternoon! Of course, today, the FDIC is surely glad it practiced "forbearance" in the case of Homestreet!


In the Question and Answer, Mason was asked what is the best way to be using consultants, a frequent practice of the banking industry. Mason replied that consultants were useful in accelerating the pace of change (and speed is important!) and for filling knowledge gaps in the organization, but they were less useful in bridging a staffing shortage and in decision-making roles.

Mason was also asked about how to build an ethical culture within an organization. He mentioned the need to communicate the theme, especially highlighting employees who had "done the right thing" when faced with an ethical dilemma. Secondly, he emphasized the need to have leaders who instinctively "did the right thing." Tone at the top is very important in setting the culture. If you find that you have a leader who does not measure up, that person needs to be managed out.

He was also asked how to establish a common culture in an organization spread out across nine states, he mentioned has to travel a lot to see employees and customers. The centralized systems used by Homestreet across many processes also help to keep the culture more consistent.

When asked how students can differentiate themselves in the job market, Mason replied that you need to demonstrate that you know something about the company and industry you are interviewing for. You also need to demonstrate enthusiasm, energy, and a willingness to work hard!

Mason noted that Homestreet is optimistic about its opportunities for growth. Initially, there was opportunity in the Seattle market as result of the vacuum created by the demise of Wamu. That has gradually disappeared to the point where the local market no longer presents the growth opportunities that HomeStreet is looking for. As a result, they have looked to acquisitions in other markets to fuel growth, such as the recent acquisition of Bank of Oswego in Oregon.

Asked about Seattle as headquarters for the bank, he said there were advantages over smaller cities in recruiting, but Seattle is not a national banking center, so the bigger the job, the harder it is recruit the right person. At the same time, the economy is strong, which attracts out of market competitors and increases competition for talent. The cost of living in Seattle has also been rising, which also makes recruiting more difficult.

In closing, Mason made a pitch to the largely student audience that there were many career opportunities in the banking industry. These opportunities were not just in accounting and finance, but also in marketing, sales, and management functions. He noted he has been working with the Washington Banking Association to raise awareness on college campuses of the many opportunities in the banking industry.

That was a great way to end the talk -- giving our students insight on career opportunities! Between that and reinforcing the themes of Albers Ethics Week, this was a great opportunity for our students to hear from a turnaround expect in the banking industry!

Zhuhai and Guangzhou

Posted by Joseph M. Phillips on May 10, 2016 at 3:05 PM PDT

On May 7th we left Hong Kong early in the morning on the ferry for Zhuhai, China.  Upon arrival, a driver picked us up and took us to the Ocean Kingdom theme park.  We were given a VIP tour, taking in such sights as the world's largest aquarium, the beluga whale show, the penguin exhibit, and the 5D movie, which is more like a 7D movie!  That was my favorite part,  with the 3D glasses, moving chair, spraying water, surround sound and wind in your face!  I am glad I am experiencing it as an adult -- I am not sure I could have handled it as a kid! 

There are big plans for the growth of this resort.  A light rail station is being built to link the park to the train station and hotel offerings at the park are expected to quadruple over the next few years.  It is an impressive facility!  One thing that will be interesting to see is if Ocean Kingdom runs into the same animal rights issues that similar parks in the US have.

We then drove from Zhuhai to Guangzhou, a two hour ride on a relatively new freeway that was not very crowded but had an infinite number of automatic speed traps, or so it seemed.  The landscape on the ride is frequently flat, with clusters of large high rise buildings appearing periodically.  There is no lack of construction activity in Southeast China, as these clusters are added to or new ones are started.

Upon arriving in Guangzhou, we went to the Chimelong resort, a collection of theme parks including a zoo, safari, amusement park, and water park.  We had visited the park during our last trip to Guangzhou, so we did not tour the resort, but it was bustling with visitors.  Instead, we spent our time with our hosts, the Su family, including dinner and breakfast the next morning.

After breakfast, we took the ferry from Guangzhou back to Hong Kong.  Along the way, you see a tremendous number of ships and boats, reminding one that the sea and ocean shipping are very important to China.  The ferry dock was only a few blocks from our hotel in the Kowloon district, a convenient end to our trip!

Hong Kong

Posted by Joseph M. Phillips on May 10, 2016 at 3:05 PM PDT

I spent May 4, 5, and 6 in Hong Kong visiting Seattle University alumni and supporters.  Along with Jim Hembree from University Advancement and Russ Powell, Associate Provost of Global Engagement, I visited with 24 people individually or in group meetings, including 15 alumni of Albers.  There was a wide range of graduates, with the oldest graduating in 1975 and the youngest In 2006!  We estimate there are about 80 Albers alums in HK.

Hong Kong looks to be a very livable city.  The subway system is convenient, though crowded at times, and we have been making a lot of use of it!  The city is fairly clean and crime does not seem to be a problem.  On the other hand, the sidewalks are teeming with people in many sections of the city.

Right now the HK economy is not doing well.  There has been a big drop in retail sales as mainland Chinese have cut back on the purchase of  luxury items, the result of both the government's crack down on corruption and feeling unwelcome by HK residents due to recent governance controversies.

We were frequently asked about the purpose of the trip.  The main purpose was to reconnect with alumni and learn how they have progressed since graduation.  They have some great stories to tell!  For example, the idea for the story on Kevin Dong that recently appeared in the Albers Brief (I hope you received your copy!) was hatched on our previous visit to HK and Guangzhou when we learned more about Kevin's success with his business, Hand Picked.

In September, Professors David Reid and Quan Le will be leading a study tour to Hong Kong and focusing on doing business in Hong Kong and near by China.  One thing we like to include in study tours are company visits.  I asked alumni if they would be able to support the tour with a company visit and discussion of how to conduct business press in Asia  The response from alumni was very positive --  they were anxious to help!

One thing we have not been doing, at least not directly, is to recruit students. In the future we should be leveraging these trip to recruit students to our programs.

Hong Kong and China

Posted by Joe Phillips on May 1, 2016 at 1:05 PM PDT

I will be travelling to Hong Kong and China May 2 to May 10.  I will be travelling with Jim Hembree from the SU Advancement team, and part of the time we will be with Russ Powell, Associate Provost for Global Engagement.  The main purpose of the trip for Jim and I is to connect with alumni in Hong Kong and Southern China.  In addition to Hong Kong, we are travelling to Macau, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen.  Most of SU's alumni in that part of the world are Albers graduates.

I am using the trip to test the university's new content management system!  I hope to post a few blogs as time permits.  We will see if I can do that with my iPad!  Theoretically, it should work!

I am packed and ready to go!  Stay tuned!

Rich Barton

Posted by Joe Phillips on April 29, 2016 at 8:04 AM PDT

Rich Barton, founder of such companies as Expedia, Zillow, and GlassDoor, spoke in the Albers Executive Speaker Series on April 19th, to an audience of more than 300 students, faculty, staff, and alumni.  The title of his talk was, "Power to the People:  How Technology Transforms Industries."

Barton has a remarkable for picking companies that use technology to successfully disrupt their industry.  In addition to Expedia, Zillow, and GlassDoor, others include Trover, Avvo, and Qliance.

Barton started his presentation by showing the Apple Super Bowl XIII ad from 1984, which he said inspired him to grasp the "power to the people" potential of technology to enable people to do what they really wanted to do.  No matter that the majority in the audience was not yet born in 1984 -- at least I was!

In his presentation, Barton explained how the genesis for Expedia, Zillow, and GlassDoor all came from his own frustration as a consumer and his desire to have more control of his destiny.  In the case of Expedia, it came about from his frustration of managing his travel itinerary while a project manager at Microsoft.  In that role, he travelled all over the country, but could not shape his travel schedule to meet his personal preferences.  He realized the travel industry guarded the information that would liberate him as a business traveler.  To overcome that problem, he convinced Bill Gates to launch Expedia as a business internal to Microsoft, one that was successful and ultimately sold to IAC in 2003.

The Zillow story started shortly thereafter when he was trying to buy a new home in Seattle.  Again, it was a situation where the industry was controlling information in a way that short circuited him as a buyer.  Zillow was launched in 2005 to release that information and empower the consumer.  It is 2016 and the rest of the Zillow success story is history, you might say.  Being a homebuyer is a much more information-informed activity today!

GlassDoor was inspired by a gaff Barton made while doing some employee evaluations at Zillow.  He mistakenly left some employee performance and salary information in the copy machine and some employees found it.  In the aftermath of that experience, Barton asked himself what would be wrong with more transparency around such things as salary, benefits, and company culture?  It turns out that nothing is wrong with that, and GlassDoor has been very successful since launching in 2008 and successful companies are embracing GlassDoor rather than resisting it.

In the question and answer period, noted that, "Good ideas are cheap.  Execution is dear."  Good ideas are the easy part.  Actually building the company (execution) is the hard part.

When asked why he thought 2016 had been such a slow year for IPOs, he noted that part of the problem is the prevailing myth that companies do not need to go public.  Barton disagrees and thinks going public introduces a certain discipline that is good for firms in the long run.  He also noted a trend of waiting for really big market valuations before going public, but he ticked off a long list of companies that started with market valuations below $1 billion who have gone on to create much larger market capitalizations.

How does he think about horizontal versus vertical growth? He prefers the latter, because it is hard to do and if you can make it work, it is very difficult for someone to replicate, giving you more market power.

When he was asked where he saw future opportunities in the job market, he emphasized the growth of data and the need to manage it and get something useful out of the data.  He thought this would be particularly true in the marketing arena.  Sounds like a great plug for our new MS in Business Analytics program starting this fall!

Richard Barton has demonstrated a phenomenal ability to pick out businesses that will succeed in disrupting their industry by putting more information in the hands of the consumer.  It was a great opportunity to have him speak at the Albers School on April 19th!


Vidya Awasthi

Posted by Joseph Phillips on April 19, 2016 at 9:04 AM PDT

Vidya Awathi, Associate Professor of Accounting in the Albers School, will be retiring from Seattle University at the end of this academic year.  Vidya has been on our faculty since 1996, and prior to that served on the faculty of Santa Clara University.  The university is honoring his many years of excellent service by naming him an emeritus professor.

At a dinner last night, we recognized Vidya for his many contributions to the Albers School, especially those to our students and alumni!  Above all, Vidya was an excellent teacher.  Students found him to be clear, patient, and approachable.  They appreciated his strong concern for their success.  Vidya taught primarily managerial and cost accounting, and was the department champion for the CMA designation – Certified Management Accountant!

Vidya was not only a teacher, but also a scholar, embracing and modelling the “teacher-scholar” role that characterizes SU faculty.  His research appeared in some of the top journals in his fields – The Accounting Review, the Journal of Business Ethics, and the Academy of Management Journal, and for a number of years was the most productive scholar in the Department of Accounting.

Most important, Vidya was a supportive and affirming colleague.  He was the leader in the department when it came to assessment, a thankless task, and at the university level was very active in inter-religious dialogue, something he hopes to continue with in retirement, continuing to bring his Hindu perspective to those conversations.

The comments by those in attendance last night were instructive.  Above all, people remarked on his humility and how they enjoyed conversations with him because he put them at ease with his unassuming demeanor and subtle sense of humor.  Several faculty members also commented that Vidya served as a mentor and role model for them.  They picked the right person for that!

Thank you, Vidya Awasthi, for twenty years of outstanding service to Seattle University and for being such a great colleague!