Minority community must mobilize today for green economy

Guest blog post by Rita Brogan, CEO of PRR

RitaBroganWhat do solar energy, non-toxic cleaners, bio-plastics and alternative fuels have in common?  More than meets the eye.

All are obviously outgrowths of the emerging green economy—big business, about to get even bigger. But here is something else these industries have in common: All are enterprises owned and managed primarily by Caucasian Americans.

The growth of the green economy reflects growing public demand for products and services that reduce our carbon footprint and help the planet.  More and more, people are asking questions about what products contain, how they are manufactured and their impacts on human health.

The need for green goods and services is of particular relevance in communities of color, whose health and safety are more likely to be threatened by environmental impacts such as water and air quality, toxic exposure and hazardous working conditions.

Green jobs for minority communities
Many organizations that include non-profits, labor unions, community colleges, and the federal government have worked hard to promote “green jobs” for people of color.  These are jobs that give training and job skills in areas such as weatherization, solar panel installation, and green building.

This is a good thing, but it is not enough.  Green jobs may produce skilled laborers who can get family wage jobs.  These programs will not bring as much sustainable prosperity to communities of color as would a solar panel factory or a business that distributes environmentally-friendly products.  After the government funding ends, then what?

Businesses that are owned and managed by people of color are more likely to hire people of color, and more likely to return wealth and investment in their communities. What will be the opportunities for minority-owned businesses to play an early and formative role in the emerging green economy?

Scott Oki, a University of Washington MBA, who conceived and built Microsoft’s international operations, once said, “Preemption is worth its weight in gold.”  The sooner minority-owned businesses can establish a toe-hold in the green economy, the more likely they will be to establish a strong market presence.

For minority-owned business owners and leaders: In coming posts, we’ll discuss the tools and resources that minority-owned businesses need to get established in the world of green business—capitalization, market intelligence, networking, policy support and more.  Tell me what you would like to hear about, and we will marshal the resources to help you get what you need.

Rita Brogan is the CEO of PRR, a public affairs and communications firm based in Seattle that is nationally recognized for its work in social marketing, public involvement, and community building. PRR is one of Washington’s 50 largest minority-owned businesses. Brogan was a recent recipient of the Foster School’s Business and Economic Development Center Asian/Pacific Islander Business Leadership Award. She will be writing the BEDC Brogan blog series twice a month, focusing on green economy issues with an emphasis on ways that businesses owned by people of color or women can create a competitive advantage.

Building the next generation of business leaders of color

MichaelVerchotThis past spring, the College Success Foundation released the results of a study that looked at how well Washington’s high school students are doing in progressing toward high school graduation and their success in making it into college. As a state, we are lagging the national average:

  • Washington has a lower-than-national high school graduation rate of 69% versus 71%
  • The four-year high school graduation rate for white students in Washington is 72%; for Latino students it’s 57% and for African American students it’s 52%
  • Washington’s college-going rate of 48% for high school graduates immediately starting college is lower than the national rate of 61.6%
  • For 18-24 year olds in Washington just 29.2% are enrolled in college compared to 33.9% nationwide

For an economy like Washington’s where the future job growth is dependent on an educated and high-skilled workforce, these numbers are troubling. And with the projected growth among students of color among the college-going age group over the next decade the gap in college attendance between Caucasian and Asian American students on the one hand and African American, Latino, Native American, and Pacific Islander students on the other has the potential to have a significant impact on this state’s economic future.

Recently, the UW released a profile of our new freshman class. There was nearly a 7% growth in the number of freshman applicants but due to state funding cuts this year’s freshman class is about 4% smaller than last year. Looking at the number of under-represented minority students, this year’s freshman class has an all-time record number of Latino students (330 up from 320 last year) and Hawaiian/Pacific Islander students (45 up from 42) an increase in the number of Native American students (75 up from 71) but a four-year record low in the number of African American freshman (134 down from 179 last year).

At the Foster School of Business we focus on the total number of under-represented minority students at the undergraduate level. This year we have:

  • 70 Latino students (a record high)
  • 39 African American students (a slight increase from last year)
  • 13 Native American students (a slight increase from last year)
  • 533 Asian/Pacific Islander students (a record high)

But what’s most exciting to me is the growing pipeline of under-represented minority students we are building. For decades the Foster School has worked with the Office of Minority Affairs and Diversity (OMAD) and we continue to do so. But recognizing that business continues to be the most popular undergraduate major we’ve felt a special need to build programs that complement OMAD’s work and insure that the next generation of business leaders reflect the diversity of Washington State. That is why I’m very excited about the symbiotic relationship between the Foster School’s Business and Economic Development Center (BEDC) and the Undergraduate Diversity Services (UDS) office.

At the 2001, UW Minority Business of the Year Awards the BEDC raised funds to award the first scholarships (we call them BEDC Fellowships) to students of color at the business school.  In the fall of 2002, under the leadership of the UDS, these BEDC Fellows began to mentor and tutor high school students of color to help them prepare to go to college. Since 2002, individuals and companies who have attended the UW Minority Business of the Year Awards banquet have donated $170,000 in scholarships to 68 students of color at the Foster School of Business.

In 2006, UDS altered this high school program to become the Young Executives of Color (YEOC). This nine-month program has brought 247 high school students to the Foster School of Business between 2006 and 2009. Last year, there were 37 high school seniors who completed YEOC and 35 of them were offered admission to four-year colleges and universities and two were offered admission at community colleges. We’re excited that 13 of these students are enrolled at the UW and are getting in line to apply to come to the Foster School when it’s their turn to declare a major.

This year, we are witnessing a significant change in the YEOC program. Thanks to a three-year $75,000 commitment from Ernst & Young, this program will be able to support 100-125 high school students each year – a tripling of the number of students we can reach.

But now the leaders of the YEOC have come back to the BEDC with a challenge. The eight BEDC Fellows are being stretched to the limit as they work with our YEOC high school students. We need to increase the number of BEDC Fellows from 8 to 10 which means we need to raise at least $25,000 in scholarship funds at our December 10 UW Minority Business of the Year Awards banquet. In this economy that will be a steep challenge, but we’re confident that our 550 guests will be able to help us reach this goal. After all, our state’s economy depends on having an educated work force and what better way to do that than to increase the college-going rate for the state’s fastest-growing population groups.

I hope to see you all there on December 10.

By Michael Verchot, director of the UW Business and Economic Development Center

Undergrad field trip to Seattle start-up

By guest blogger Dmitry Muzechuk, UW sophomore

I joined the Lavin Entrepreneurship Program as a freshman (the program is geared for freshmen interested in entrepreneurship). I’m also a student assistant at the UW Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and am passionate about starting companies.

The Lavin Program is one of the great gateways to entrepreneurship that is offered at UW (I might be a little biased since I am in the Lavin Program, but consider that an inside tip). Most recently we Lavin students visited an amazing product development firm in the heart of Seattle called Synapse. This is not your ordinary engineering firm with employees galore in white lab coats hunched over crazy looking machines. These guys know how to lure in the biggest names, including Philips, Nike, Apple, GE, etc., and do it in style. Synapse started with four partners who were employed at a dot com business that went belly up. So, in the birth story, Scott Bright (CEO and Founder), explained, “Finding ourselves out of work, we hung up a shingle and called ourselves consultants.” Now Synapse is a thriving firm in its eighth year. During our tour, Scott explained one of Synapse’s mottos exclaiming the reason Synapse is able to bring in such high profile clients is simply, “Give us a chance and we will rock your world, and if we don’t–don’t pay us!”  In addition, Scott explained that “the strategic advantage of Synapse is to make our people happy” which is obvious in the open work environment infused with graffiti art, game tables, half of a skate vertical and half of a rock wall.

At the end of the tour, after shaking hands and repeating countless thank yous, I walked out of Synapse and couldn’t help but think – “Wow, with the right formula, engineering businesses don’t have to be boring.” In other words, they don’t have to be appealing to only those amazed by the complexity of computer science and molecular physics. Now that I’ve learned what it’s really like to work at Synapse, maybe physics isn’t that bad after all.

A message from the former director

The University of Washington’s Michael G. Foster School of Business offers doctoral students the opportunity to study with outstanding faculty who rank highly among their peers in research, serve as editors of prestigious journals and author influential articles. Students are also attracted by the program’s moderate size – roughly 80 students in residence with 6 to 15 students in each of 7 fields of specialization – which allows close contact between faculty and students. Former director Terence Mitchell describes the Foster PhD Program’s approach to doctoral education:

Team spirit carries EMBA student through recession

Megan Lum, Foster School Executive MBA program student (class of 2010), is blogging for Business Week while pursuing her graduate degree.

In her first post, Lum shares her story of losing a job—and corporate funding for the program—mid-degree. After these set-backs, she decided to stick with the Executive MBA program, in part, because of the collaborative environment at the Foster School of Business.

In her own words…

“I was very lucky to have been put in a study group filled with extremely bright and talented professionals. While UW called us the Purple Team, we dubbed ourselves the Phoenicians. We developed a team charter that we have stuck to so far. The five of us—Rebecca, Aidan, Dave, Eric, and me—have become an extremely effective team.

“My husband and I sat down and considered the options. I could continue with the EMBA program with its premium price. I could transfer to a full-time day or evening program, which would undoubtedly be less costly. In the end, we decided that I would stay with the EMBA program. The EMBA class schedule would undoubtedly be more attractive to a new employer, but most important, I didn’t want to miss the camaraderie and support of my fellow Phoenicians and the rest of my EMBA class.

“I had expected the MBA to fill out my skill set and give me the tools I needed to go where I wanted in my career. What I had underestimated was the broadening of my skills and world view. I had always been so confident that I would be an EHS executive. Now, after just a year of my program, I could see there were many more options before me. I’m no longer convinced that I will finish my career as an EHS executive. There are so many more possibilities.

“In hindsight, it’s rather amazing how much my paradigms have changed in a year, the first of my MBA program.

“I can’t wait to see what I learn in my second year.”

Read Megan Lum’s full blog post on Business Week.

Foster alumni honored at 2009 Business Leadership Celebration

A social networking entrepreneur, a finance executive and a light doctor walked into a room. Why?

Foster School Leadership Celebration 2009 Distinguished Alumni Awardees









Last night, the UW Foster School of Business honored outstanding alumni at the 18th Annual Business Leadership Celebration. Over 300 alumni, faculty, students, staff gathered in downtown Seattle to celebrate leadership, mix, mingle and connect.

Who won the 2009 awards?

  • Chris DeWolfe (BA ’88), MySpace co-founder
  • Phyllis Campbell (MBA ’87), JPMorgan Chase chairman of the Pacific Northwest
  • Don Nielsen (BA ’60), Light Doctor LLC chairman

Past winners? Take a look at past Foster alumni awardees and keynote speakers.

UW entrepreneur networks

By guest blogger Zachary Okun (MBA 2010)

I’m a 2nd year UW Foster School of Business Full-time MBA student. I say “full-time” loosely as I’m also working at Alliance of Angels, a local angel investment forum where I get to work with dozens of entrepreneurs every month as they prepare to pitch to investors. It is easily the most rewarding and exciting job I have ever had, and it is a legacy among Foster MBAs—two 2nd year students are offered this position each year.

I also serve as president of the University of Washington Entrepreneur Network, a student-run organization that complements the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship‘s various offerings with events put on for, and by, MBA students. Over the past year we’ve heard from entrepreneurs (i.e., Tom O’Keefe, founder and ex-CEO of Tully’s), writers (i.e., Greg Huang of Xconomy fame), business brokers (i.e., Bill Pearsall of Bizbuysell) and many more. In addition to inviting more incredible speakers to campus, this year we plan to host a few events and competitions, including Pandora’s Challenge, StartupDay, Poker2.0 and a few others.

You’re probably getting the idea by now: there is no shortage of activities for those of you interested in entrepreneurship. From the courses and competitions put on by the CIE, to the student-led events, to the various organizations in the Seattle community (NWEN, Alliance of Angels, etc.), the hardest decision becomes which event NOT to attend.

Emotional leaders – new research and survey

Joy. Sorrow. Guilt. Anger. Are emotional leaders received well by employees? Perceived as sincere? Motivational? A new series of studies by UW Foster School of Business researchers explores this topic and found followers are skeptical of sincerity when leaders emote negatively. Doctoral student Marion Eberly and Christina Fong, assistant professor of management and organization at the Foster School conducted a study and are doing ongoing research on the effects of emotions in leadership.

Mid-career professionals: Take a short survey of your experience with emotions in leaders or supervisors. Do you work for a manager who expressed either positive or negative emotions? How did that impact you? Express yourself in a study and contribute to ongoing research about the effects of emotional leaders.