Alumni mentoring

Life as a college student can be fraught with uncertainty about the future. And who better to understand the angst of a student than a former one?


It was that empathy with the mental mindset of the undergrad that prompted two former Foster students to launch a mentoring program.

“A student’s life is so brittle,” Nishika de Rosairo says. “They are at the point where even the most confident harbor insecurities about their careers and life in general. But having a mentor to aspire to, or who can just help guide them through that process, is an incredible advantage.”

With this in mind, de Rosairo and Anne Sackville-West (BA 2002) launched a mentorship program in 2006 for undergraduate students working toward the Certificate of International Studies in Business (CISB). Anne has since moved away, and now Brian Wright helps Nishika run the program.

The program matches students with a young professional, someone who can still recall what it’s like to be an undergrad. “Most mentors have graduated within the past one to seven years so they’re more connected to what it’s like to be a student and enter the corporate world–a world quite different from what the students know,” says Nishika.

Each mentor takes a student under his or her wing for a year, providing counsel on career and life development. The benefits for the student are obvious: confidence, information, support, insight and more. And the mentor benefits too.

Mentoring improves leadership skills, and “today’s business world is demanding leaders who are well rounded and equipped to develop our talent of the future,” says Nishika.

Mentors also learn important skills such as effective listening and questioning, and how to provide constructive feedback. “For a lot of us, the hardest thing is to learn how to manage and develop people. Mentoring gives us an opportunity to improve our people management skills,” says Margaret.

Mentoring also keeps alumni connected to Foster, a prestigious business school. It provides an opportunity to network with other young professionals with similar interests. And mentoring is a fulfilling way to give back to Foster, to help nurture the next generation of business leaders while nurturing one’s own career development.  For more information, contact CISB at

Foster MBA grad expands the horizons for bacon

Just as oranges in the 1970’s ad campaign became “not just for breakfast anymore,” a recent Foster School grad has given bacon (or at least bacon flavor) a post-morning rise in popularity as a vital ingredient in libations ranging from Bloody Marys to chocolate martinis.

Sven Liden was back at the UW for the 2009 MBA Reunion Weekend on Sept. 11 and 12 when he discussed how he transformed bacon from eggs’ traditional sidekick to Bakon Vodka.

The Foster grad’s new brand of vodka hit the market earlier this year and sales are sizzling.  Mentions from CNN to Details magazine have driven demand for bottles of Bakon as fast as Liden and his partners can produce them.

So is Liden “that guy” everyone in college tabbed as going into the spirits business?  Well…yes and no.

Returning to Balmer Hall along with 50 of his classmates for their five-year reunion, Sven’s development of Bakon surprised no one.  Along with being known as the life of the party by more than a few classmates, Sven was also remembered as the electrical engineer who worked for Sprint, Nortel and AT&T Wireless before piloting start-up TeachTown, maker of software to assist children with Autism and language disorders.

Following a standing-room-only afternoon of professional development in Boeing Auditorium – including presentations from former Starbucks President Howard Behar on culture, Gates Foundation President of U.S. Allan Golston on k-12 education, and molecular biologist John Medina comparing the brains of 60 Minutes’ Mike Wallace to that of Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards – Liden held court at his class’s gathering later that evening at The District Lounge.

Showing his true Foster MBA colors, Liden explained Bakon’s surprisingly complex route through production and shipping, licensing and gaining access to new markets.  Of course there were more than a few taste tests conducted…an activity Liden’s class – along with other returning reunion participants from ’99, ’94, ’89 and ’84 – took up again at the Foster School tailgate on Lake Washington prior to the Huskies victory over Idaho.

Maybe it’s not just for breakfast, but plenty of people enjoyed Bakon (in moderation, of course) that sunny morning…courtesy of Sven.  We can’t wait to see what Liden cooks up by his 10-year reunion!

Luxury brands are here to stay

Guest post by Gary Shansby, Foster alumnus (BA 1959)

There has been a lot of talk these past several months about whether luxury brands will survive the recession, and whether “premiumization” is dead. Contrary to what the pundits, consultants and bankers may be saying, I believe certain niche premium brands are not only surviving the recession but actually creating inroads and growing in this down economy.

I have spent the past 50 years building luxury and premium consumer brands such as Famous Amos Cookies, Mauna Loa Macadamias, Shaklee Nutritional Products, Terra Chips, Voss Water, Pureology Hair Care Products and my latest brand venture, Partida Tequila.

While I’ve never experienced economic conditions of the current level, I have been through numerous market and economic roller coasters and I can say from years of experience that the biggest mistake a luxury brand marketer can make in an economic downturn is to abandon the premium brand positioning and begin price promotions and discounting. This will provide short-term sales relief but ultimately doom the brand—once you break a price, there’s no going back up market.

America has become an investment nation focused on the here and now, and on short-term (quarter-to-quarter) results. Public company CEOs and management teams are unrealistically forced to deal with stock prices, temporary or current trends, and demands built by financial institutions. We know how weak many of those institutions have become.

As a former CEO of a Fortune 500 company, an investor and a proud entrepreneur, I do not believe “premiumization” is dead. Marketers must learn that the growth path to success is not a straight line, and variances occur along the journey of life. Consumers are becoming more and more interested and knowledgeable about what they purchase and especially about what they put in their bodies. I believe premium brands will resume the upward momentum once the economic downswing lightens, and consumer confidence comes back.

I believe that brands that discount, offer lower “deals,” and change their direction for temporary gain will succumb to a form of suicide. Brand equity is all important along with the highest quality products that can be made.

Only time will tell… but my bet is on future growth for truly great premium brands.

Gary Shansby is founder, chairman and CEO of Partida Tequila, LLC and on the advisory board of the UW Foster School of Business.

What do you think? Will premium or luxury brands survive the down economy?

Naming opportunities connect more than money to PACCAR Hall

Stepping into PACCAR Hall next fall, you will see a multitude of differences between the Foster School’s spacious, cutting-edge facility and its former primary classroom building, Balmer Hall. Most noticeable will be the feeling one has stepped into the next century where natural light bathes a sophisticated architectural mix of brick, steel, wood and glass.

Pass through the corridor of the second floor and you’ll see a two story atrium complete with a coffee shop and a fireside lounge (again, this isn’t Balmer Hall). To your right you’ll see an undergraduate commons and three of the most advanced multimedia classrooms at the University of Washington. To the left are four more classrooms ranging from 30 to 95 seats. Outside each is a cluster of student team rooms to promote collaboration and business planning… perhaps for the launch of the next Microsoft.

It took more than $80 million in private support to build PACCAR Hall, and a closer look in the new building will show significantly greater signage carrying the names of business partners and alumni who helped make the building possible. Yet, there is more than money behind each name found in PACCAR Hall.

Here’s the story of one such amazing person: Alice W. Sandstrom.

The sign adorning the last team room on the left says Ms. Sandstrom was a 1934 graduate of the business school. 1934! Unlike today’s evenly represented programs, there weren’t many women studying business back then.

In fact, Ms. Sandstrom was one of only two women in the accounting program and an exception to many social restrictions throughout her life. In the midst of the Great Depression, she realized that an accounting degree was necessary for the future she hoped to have.

Alice, who passed away in March of last year, was one of the first female CPAs in Washington and worked as an accountant through World War II. In 1948, she began a 33-year run in helping Children’s Hospital become the vital community enterprise it is today.

When Alice stepped down as CFO in 1981, she did anything but retire. She spent more than 10 years sharing her knowledge as a lecturer at the UW. She was a long-time president and board member at both the YWCA of Seattle and Senior Services. Alice also received numerous awards for volunteerism and community service.

In 2002, on the heels of receiving the Outstanding Alumna Award from Foster students in Beta Alpha Psi, Alice was given Foster’s Distinguished Leadership Award, the School’s highest non-degree honor.

For 94 years, Alice lived in Seattle and eagerly helped those around her. She enjoyed nothing more than the opportunity to share her success and passing on nuggets of wisdom, which included the five rules she lived by:

  • Be passionate about what you do
  • Be a mentor
  • Cherish your friends
  • Always be positive and enthusiastic
  • Dream big

Even in her last few years, Alice frequently attended events throughout the community.

Patricia Angell, Accounting Department Lecturer and Internship Director at Foster, accompanied Alice to many functions and was one of Alice’s many fans and friends.

“Alice was an inspiration to me and all women pursing our professional dreams.” Patricia said. “She was a trailblazer in accounting and she continues to inspire us today.”

There’s no question the Foster School and the University of Washington benefited from Alice Sandstrom’s presence, passion and persistence. The team room named for her in PACCAR Hall is but one small way she will be remembered.

And, knowing Alice, little would bring her more joy than seeing future generations of business and community leaders learning to “dream big” using the Sandstrom Team Room in PACCAR Hall. She’ll be right there with them in spirit as well as name, just like so many others who helped make Foster’s new world-class facilities a reality.

Foster MBAs collaborate from the start

The first week of fall 2009 brings a new crop of Foster School full-time MBA students to the UW Seattle campus for orientation, leadership preparation and collaboration with “veteran” 2nd-year MBAs. Here’s a taste of what new full-time Foster MBAs are experiencing during the intensive LEAD week.

“Teams are a central part of the Foster MBA Program. During the first year nearly every class requires you to complete work with your core team of 5 or 6 students, whether it’s a research paper, a presentation or both. Foster’s Leadership Fellows program matches a 2nd year student with a 1st year team to provide support and guidance. As 2nd year students, by now we’ve all learned a thing or two, from tools for facilitating a brainstorming session to the secret for cheap parking on campus.”

– Jessica Didion, current Foster MBA 2nd-year student

Read more about the Foster MBA student experience on Inside the Foster MBA blog.

Foster undergrads study in China

Great Wall of ChinaWhile UW Foster School faculty met with businesses and toured China last week, Foster undergraduate students are studying in China this fall, on one of many undergrad study or work abroad trips. Foster students’ first impressions and experiences in China?

Great Wall of China toboggan descent
“…the view was amazing and we really felt chills being able to say that we had climbed the Great Wall. However, what really made the experience great was the way down. …we chose to toboggan and it was probably the most exhilarating thing we did in Beijing.” – Alan

Lesson on local study habits
“Even though this is not my first time here, I am still very excited to be a student at Peking University, the best university in China. Many of my classmates are exchange students from all around the world, but surprisingly about 80% of them are from Europe. I was expecting more exchange students to be from the US, but there is only a handful.

“I also made friends with local Chinese students. During the break in the evening’s Operation Management class, I had a conversation with a local student who sat behind me. I asked him about the typical life of a typical Peking University student. Some of the students can study 14 hours straight per day! To deal with this study-mania, the school completely turns off the electricity in the dormitory at 11pm.” – Daniel

Find more Foster undergraduate international adventures on the Undergrads Go Global blog.

UW Seattle campus gets rave, green reviews

uw-seattle-campusUniversity of Washington’s Seattle campus, home to the Foster School of Business, keeps getting greener and was recently noticed for its efforts. Recent UW honors:

  • Sierra Club ranked UW Seattle campus 2nd in their 2009 cool school ranking for “most eco-enlightened U.S. universities.”
  • UW Seattle made the The Princeton Review green honor roll – a rave review for the UW’s energy conservation, green building and other practices.

Living to the Fullest

Mendoza-JosueThis post was written by Josue Mendoza detailing his 2007 Foster School Exchange trip to Chile.

Growing up, money issues have always been a problem for my family. Not in my lifetime did I ever imagine that one; I would go to college because of the expense and two; be given the opportunity to study and travel abroad for over a year in South America.  I did the latter while working on my degree at a prestigious university and interning at the North American Chilean Chamber of Commerce in Santiago, Chile. Thanks to the Foster School’s extremely dedicated undergraduate advisers and scholarship opportunities, this one thought impossible dream, I lived to the fullest.

Being abroad in South America has done more than help my Espanol, it has truly helped solidify the academic, career, and personal paths I follow now and will follow for the rest of my life. This was a genuinely transformational experience that I recommend to all students.

I have learned that “The world is [truly] our classroom”. Not only have I been able to see the world through the eyes of professors in the areas of business, economics, and culture in Latin America in ways that I would have never considered, I have also discovered and explored the millions of details that distinguish each individual country as their own little satellite.  I have done so while understanding what unites these countries to one world.

A week into being in South America I heard a phrase in a song by Bacilos titled “Tobacco y Channel” which I have used as a guide throughout my experience abroad; “Esto solo se vive una ves” (You only live this once). I challenged myself to take this quote of the song to heart and live it out; my same challenge goes out to you.

Software and hutongs and buses, oh my

IMG_0178Today was a really packed, informative day.  We started out with a presentation by Francis Zhang and Johnson Chen of F5 Networks, a company that has found significant success in the Chinese market by entering relatively early (2001) and being patient and consistent.  We then hopped on our bus with our guide Elaine and visited the new U.S. Embassy in Beijing, a large and impressive compound designed by a world-reknowned architect and filled with incredible works of art.  We spoke with press officers, commercial officers, and economic officers; the sheer complexity of the environment in which they are operating was eye-opening.  As we toured around the lobby area to see the art collection, we passed by Jon Huntsman, the new U.S. ambassador to China, who just came to Beijing in August.

After an enormous lunch at a Belgian restaurant called Morel’s, we visited Microsoft’s new offices just northeast of the city center.   Mr. Fengming Liu, a UW Law alum, gave us an illuminating presentation on their intellectual property challenges since entering China in 1992.  For example, Windows 7 is set to launch in late October of this year, and they have already found versions of the software online, as well as the security key (removed now, so no need to go looking for it, you pirate).  The sheer size of the Chinese market is difficult to imagine, but we’re definitely getting a better idea after hearing from these companies and organizations.  (An additional special guest at the meeting was Felix Liu, just about to start his senior year at the Foster School of Business; it seems like everywhere we go, more Huskies appear).

After the MS visit, Elaine took us to the lovely Houhai Lake area, which is surrounded with “hutongs,” narrow traditional alleyways with low multi-family houses surrounding small courtyards.  We took a rickshaw tour of the area, and had the opportunity to visit a hutong compound that is currently occupied by 26 members of the same family, five brothers and their wives and children (one per family).

After all this activity, we were hungry and ready to explore the Wangfujing area and try some Beijing street food.  We struck out on foot only to find that, due to the rehearsal for the 60th Anniversary celebrations, all the streets were closed off and filled with military equipment and buses full of children in matching dance costumes.  Huge military vehicles rumbled by with what appeared to be large missiles draped in canvas, and a nearly endless line of buses headed towards  Tian’anmen Square.  Every store and restaurant on the street was closed and will remain so all night.  After a bit of exploring, we found a restaurant (all on our own, without Elaine or Ming, who speaks Mandarin), and enjoyed a wonderful meal for about $5 each.

The working portion of the trip has come to an end.  We’ve learned a lot, and we’ll surely be processing it for some time to come.  Tomorrow, we will visit the Great Wall, and since I scheduled nearly no time at all for shopping, hit some markets in the afternoon.  It’s supposed to be rainy, but hey, we’re from Seattle.  After a farewell dinner together, we’ll be off on our various flights home on Sunday, after what I believe to be a successful pilot faculty study trip.

Posted by Krista Peterson, Associate Director, Global Business Center