Dean’s Blog

Maasai Mara

Posted by Joseph Phillips on July 24, 2016 at 9:07 AM PDT

July 21 and 22 many participants in the 2016 International Association of Jesuit Business School World Forum took a safari to Maasai Mara in Southwest Kenya along the border with Tanzania.  We left early in the morning to test the Kenyan road system. After a few minutes on a new four lane highway, we quickly slowed down as we followed the narrow two lane road down into the Rift Valley, built by Italian POWs during WWII.  Once we reached the valley, road conditions and traffic improved until we hit the town of Narok.  Soon after leaving Narok, we turned off the highway for a 75 kilometer journey along a heavily potholed and washed out dirt road.  Fortunately, we were driving a tripped out Land Rover, as I would hate to try it any other vehicle.

In fact, I was surprised to see minivans and even school buses inching along the road on their way to the park!  I wondered when was the last time that road had seen a grader??  With tourism given renewed emphasis of late in Kenya, improving that road would be something to think about.  There are many camps and lodges on the fringe of the Maasai Mara with a vested interest in the access roads.  I wonder if a tax could be assessed to pay for road maintenance!?

On the approach to Narok,  we moved in and out of several valleys and it was fascinating to see how the climate conditions changed from valley to valley.  A few valleys were too dry for much in the way of agriculture, but some supported wheat production and others focused on corn production.  It was interesting to climb one valley with corn on both sides of the road, only to go over the crest and see wheat fields stretching in every direction!

We arrived at our camp about five and a half hours after leaving Nairobi.  It was a very well appointed facility, as one was not really camping, but glamping!  It featured a well appointed bar and restaurant as well as an infinity pool viewing the plains! After lunch, we set off for a late afternoon tour to catch the animals when they are starting to move about for feeding.  We first spotted some elephants, followed by giraffes, antelopes, wildebeests, gazelle, topi, warthogs, various birds, and finally a hard to find rhino.  It is fascinating to see how the animals mix together, as you will frequently see them in close proximity to each other.  For example, zebras and wildebeests in particular are frequently side by side.  Our guide, always in communication with his colleagues, then tried to find us a lion, but to no avail, and we had to hustle out of the park before dark and closing.

Next morning we set out relatively early and the top priority of our guide was to find us a lion.  In the process, we again saw giraffes, elephants, zebras, impala, wildebeests, buffalo, gazelle, and antelope.  In the course of looking for lions, we came across a solitary wildebeest limping along with a broken leg.  Our guide explained this was the time of the wildebeest migration from South to North and in crossing the Mara River the wildebeests often break a leg or hip.  The lions, of course, pick off these slow moving animals, so the lions eat well at this time of year!

We finally got word of a lion spotting, but by the time we got there the lion was bedded down in the grass and despite being no more than 25 yards away, all we could see was the top of his head.  Nevertheless, we still took pictures because that could have been the last lion we would see!

We continued to move through the park, getting some great views of hippos standing on the river bank.  In our previous hippo spotting at the lake, we only saw their eyes and the tops of their heads except for a distant spotting of one getting out of the water and disappearing in the bush.  It turns out that hippos are responsible for more deaths in Kenya than any other wild animal!  So, it was alarming to see a school bus stop on the other side of the river with all the teachers and students getting out to get a better view of the beasts.  Our guide was very upset at this infraction of the rules!

As we proceeded on, we passed through a huge herd of the wildebeests, no doubt something like the buffalo herds years ago in the western US!  As we were leaving the park, our guide noticed a cluster of vehicles on a parallel road and decided we should check it out to see if there was something of interest.  Sure enough, when we arrived there was a male lion and two females right by the side of the road.  In fact, when we pulled in I did not see them because I was scanning the distance, not imagining they could be so close!  When we finished maneuvering, we had two on one side of the vehicle and one on the other, all within ten yards of the Land Rover and not seeming to care about us!  They just went on lounging in the grass, no doubt having recently dined on wildebeest!  We got some great photos and could therefore delete our previous lion-partials!

We exited the park via a different gate and road.  At the exit, while crossing the Mara River, we saw more hippos as well as alligators for the first time.  This road out was in much better shape than the first one and for large stretches it had been freshly graded.  As a result, the trip back to Nairobi took only four hours!

The safari was a great experience, and if you always wanted to do one, I recommend you keep it on your bucket list.  But, I must confess that 2-3 days would have been about it for me.  The scenery is great but it does start to get repetitive.  I had many people admonish me to stay longer in Kenya, but I had enough safari time and was ready to get back to Seattle!

2016 IAJBS World Forum

Posted by Joseph Phillips on July 24, 2016 at 9:07 AM PDT

I attended the 22nd Annual International Association of Jesuit Business Schools (IAJBS) World Forum  in Nairobi, Kenya July 17-20.  IAJBS represents Jesuit business schools from around the world, including Europe, Latin America, Asia, India, and the US.  Some 120 were in attendance from 34 Jesuit business schools from around the world.

Why the Kenya location?  Although there are currently no Jesuit business schools in Africa, the Jesuits hope to change that. In fact, one project has been approved by the order for Kinshasa and their are groups hoping to get similar approvals for Nairobi, Lagos, and Abidjan.  The Kenya location was meant to demonstrate support for these efforts and that schools from around the world would be willing to assist.

The meeting was supposed to start for me on the morning of the 17th with the board meeting of the IAJBS.  As president-elect, of course I needed to be at the meeting!  (One serves a two year as president-elect before serving as president, so my term as president begins in July, 2017.). It seems that some board members had scheduled themselves for a tour of the nearby Giraffe Center and the Elephant Orphanage, so the board meeting was postponed until the afternoon, and of course I went along for the morning tour.

The Giraffe Center was interesting for its up close view of the giraffes.  The Elephant Orphanage was even more interesting.  It's mission is to nurse orphaned young elephants back to health and integrate them into the wild.  They find elephants less than two years of age and take about five years to complete the integration.  There are currently 24 elephants at various stages of the process.  Visitors see the elephants at their 11 am feeding and it is an interesting process to watch!

At the board meeting that afternoon we mostly discussed the details of the 2016, 2017, and 2018 conferences.  The 2017 conference will be in Namur, Belgium and it was decided the 2018 conference will be in Seattle!  That means a lot of work for SU and Albers but I am sure we are up for it!  The 2018 conference will also be a joint meeting with Colleagues in Jesuit Business Education (CJBE), which is a group that supports faculty at Jesuit business schools.  This will be the 20th anniversary of CJBE and, ironically, the first CJBE meeting took place at SU in 1998, so it is fitting to return to Seattle in 2018!

The conference kicked off later that afternoon with a celebratory mass, Kenyan style.  The choir gave an amazing achepello performance and there was energetic dancing by a group of children.  The Provincial of the East African Provence, Fr. Joseph Arfulo, celebrated the mass, and 12 other Jesuits concelebrated.  It struck me how the ethnic composition of the priests illustrated the future of the Jesuits -- seven were African, four were Indian, and two were White (and older)!

After mass was the opening dinner.  The featured speaker was the CEO of Equity Bank, James Mwabgu, who has received many awards for his leadership as the bank has become the largest domestic bank in Kenya.  He discussed how the Kenyan economy has progressed since independence and how Jesuit business schools could assist Kenya.  He indicated that beyond skill development, there was a need for ethics and leadership training.  We also heard from a Georgetown educated member of Parliament, who stressed the need to counter the bad rumors abroad about the safely of traveling to Kenya!  I am happy to report that Kenya appeared very safe to us!

July 18th was the start of the conference.  The original plan was to have the President of Kenya greet us, but that was cancelled at the last minute.  Instead, we heard from Senator Beatrice Elachi, a powerful legislator in the Parliament and a member of the ruling party.  She also stressed the need for business education and discussed the difficulties of corruption in the country and the broad impact of that.

The first plenary session featured an update on the four projects mentioned above.   We have heard off and on about Jesuit business education in Africa since 2012 when we met in Barcelona, and this is the first time since when things appear to be solidified and priorities are in place.  Later that afternoon there was a meeting of business school deans and project representatives and we formalized plans on how to connect the projects with business schools that are willing to help them get up and running.

Jim Joseph, dean at LeMoyne College, gave an update on the Jesuit Case Series and the plans to extend that to an electronic platform linking Jesuit schools worldwide in a variety of ways, not just the case series.  Jim has been the primary driver of this project and deserves most of the credit for its progress to date.  Our faculty do not use cases in class or write cases as much as faculty at other schools do, so the case series is not as impactful on us as it might be for others, but it is still something we should support and of course the global platform will benefit us as it will other schools.

At lunch, we heard from Richard Leaky, the son of Louis Leaky the famous paleontologist and a paleontologist himself and Kenyan wildlife advocate.  He gave an overview of some of the challenges facing the preservation of wildlife in Kenya, including the new rail line being constructed by the Chinese from the port city of Mombasa to inland destinations.  It is not accommodating wildlife migration patterns and that will become very problematic.  He also talked about increasing wildlife migration outside of the parks and how putting in the fencing to control that would be very expensive.  His most interesting remarks were about the burning of ivory inventories to reduce price and decrease the incentive for poaching.  It seems the empirical evidence supports his claim that burning, despite the decrease in supply, reduced price by decreasing demand by increasing the stigma of purchasing ivory.  As an economist, I find it a fascinating example of the supply and demand model!

After lunch I moderated a panel discussion on the theme of "How can Africa Help IAJBS? -- How can IAJBS Help Africa?"  The panel featured five panelists with only 60 minutes of airtime, so we had to be sure everyone was very disciplined with their remarks in order to leave time for Q&A!  Needless to say, I did not organize this panel, because it violates one of my Iron Rules of three panelists only!

Tuesday featured more speakers and paper presentations by faculty members.  That evening the group attended a dinner featuring Kenyan dancing and acrobatics.  Did you know that Meena Rishi is an acrobat?  It is true and someone must have a photo of it!  After the dinner, our group started its version of Kenyan dance, which must have been an interesting sight for the Kenyans.  It turns out that Meena is also a good Kenyan dancer, so her Indian dance training translates very well to the Kenyan scene!  Meena and Chips Chipalkatti were at the conference to present their paper on Laudato Si, Pope Francis' recent encyclical on the environment.  Unfortunately, I could not attend their presentation because I had a board related meeting at that time.

Wednesday was mostly a day for local tours organized by the conference.  We decided to take the Lake Naivasha tour, which is a couple of hours northwest of Nairobi.  To get there, you have to drop down into the Great Rift Valley.  It is part of a 9000 kilometer fault line running from Israel to Mozambique and fascinating to see from the top of the rift down toward the immense valley.

The lake was very interesting for its mix of wildlife near the shore and less than a mile fro m the highway.  Within a small area of a few hectares we saw giraffe, zebras, gazelle, hippos and others.  There were also a tremendous variety of birds on the lake.  Our guide said that 1100 of Africa's 1300 bird species can be found at the lake.  Ironically, even though Kenya is facing increasing drought due to global warming, the lake is increasing in size, and scientists are struggling to determine why.  Rivers are drying up well lakes are expanding.

Like many emerging economies, Kenya suffers from a critical lack of infrastructure.  The ride back to Nairobi illustrated that, as we climbed out of the valley on a narrow two lane road built by Italian POWs during WWII and filled with slow moving trucks.  The going was very, very slow, but part of the experience!  The hope is that the new railroad will relieve some of this congestion, but not everyone thinks people will give up on the flexibility of truck delivery.

That was the end of the official conference events.  For the next two days, we took a safari to Maasai Mara facilitated by the conference.  For the news on that you will need to go to my next blog!

Sarah Bee Earns BAP Faculty Advisor Award

Posted by Joseph Phillips on June 22, 2016 at 4:06 PM PDT

Sarah Bee has been named the 2016 Beta Alpha Psi Outstanding Faculty Advisor.  She will receive the award at the BAP annual meeting in Baltimore, MD in August.  The award is presented each year at the Beta Alpha Psi annual meeting to five faculty advisors who go above and beyond the requirements of a faculty advisor.

BAP is the international academic honor society for financial information students and professionals (normally, but not always, accountants!).  Previous winners of the BAP faculty advisor award include Dave Tinius, who recently retired from the Albers faculty! 


Congratulations to Sarah for receiving this distinguished award from BAP!

Tax Prep Program Returns Nearly $1 million to Under-served Households

Posted by Joseph Phillips on June 14, 2016 at 2:06 PM PDT

Students, faculty, and alumni in our Low Income Tax Preparation Program (formerly known as VITA) served 751 clients in the 2016 federal income tax season, facilitating tax refunds of $738,216 and Earned Income Tax Credits of $238,776, returning nearly $1 million to underserved families! 

This was the 43rd year of service for the program, organized by our Department of Accounting!

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!