All posts by UW Foster School of Business

UW Foster MBAs take second at East-West All-Star Challenge

East-West MBA all Star Challenge 2009
The UW Foster School of Business East-West MBA All-Star Case Challenge team (L-R): Ming Fan (faculty advisor), George Zhu, Megan Armstrong, Martin Wilson, Nathan Kolmodin.

A team of MBA students from the University of Washington’s Michael G. Foster School of Business tied for second place at the 2009 East-West MBA All-Star Case Challenge held in Beijing January 5-6.

Sixteen teams representing 12 elite universities in China, Singapore, South Korea and the United States participated in this invitation-only competition, organized jointly by Microsoft and Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business.

The Foster School team – full-time MBAs Martin Wilson and Nathan Kolmodin and evening MBAs George Zhu and Megan Armstrong – finished behind only the University of Chicago in the “compete” phase of the event. This phase was the culmination of six weeks of work to conceptualize a new, scalable mobile service and marketing campaign to support Microsoft’s Imagine Cup or DreamSpark programs. Imagine Cup encourages young people to create technology innovations that can make a difference in the world. DreamSpark provides free development and design software to millions of college students across the globe.

Real-world challenge
By design, the competition offered challenging real-world conditions. “We wanted to leverage the current economic downturn to give participants a taste of some of the scenarios they could encounter in the real world – budget cuts, changes in project parameters, increased expectations on return to investment – and help the students see that innovation is the ability to see change as an opportunity, not a threat,” said Pradeep U.N., director of the Microsoft Firenze program.

The Foster plan was a localized version of Imagine Cup that seeks to reach a larger, younger, more diverse segment by appealing to less tech-savvy students who might otherwise feel intimidated by the challenge.

Student teamwork and raw skill makes a difference
Following the “compete” phase, participants were shuffled into eight inter-school teams to create a new solution that addressed the same scenario in short order. Kolmodin’s mixed team placed second in the “collaborate” phase, earning $10,000 from Microsoft to implement its proposal. He says he earned much more from the experience.

“The ‘compete’ phase allowed us to focus on honing the skills we are developing in an academic environment,” he said, “where the ‘collaboration’ phase enhanced the experience by giving us the opportunity to seek synergies across cultures since we needed to implement our idea without regard to borders, geographical restrictions and cultural differences.”

“The competition was taxing, exhilarating and led to relationships that can only be created within a crucible-like situation.”

The Foster team was advised by Ming Fan, an assistant professor of information systems, and Elizabeth Stearns, a senior lecturer in marketing. Foster MBAs brought home the grand prize from the inaugural East-West MBA All-Star Case Challenge in 2008, with their winning plan to market Chinese-brewed Tsingtao Beer in the US.

Foster School of Business honors transformational leaders

At the 2008 University of Washington Business Leadership Banquet, October 30 at the Sheraton Seattle, the Michael G. Foster School of Business recognized the paramount importance of transformational leadership during the current global economic crisis. On that note, the school honored a trio of long-time advisors, stalwart supporters and exceptional leaders — Gerald Grinstein, Mark C. Pigott and Eileen O’Neill Odum – with its 2008 Distinguished Leadership Award.

“Our nation’s sixth president, John Quincy Adams, said, ‘If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.’ And each of the people we’re recognizing tonight is just that,” said Foster School Dean James Jiambalvo. “They serve as an inspiration to all of us.”

Gerald Grinstein is a strategic director at Madrona Ventures Group and CEO emeritus of Delta Airlines. He has served as non-executive chairman of Agilent Technologies and chairman and CEO of Burlington Northern, Inc. He was a partner in the law firm of Preston, Thorgrimson, Ellis & Holman, chief counsel to the US Senate Commerce Committee and assistant to US Senator Warren G. Magnuson. A native of Seattle and graduate of Yale College and Harvard Law School, Mr. Grinstein is currently the trustee of the Henry M. Jackson Foundation and a board member of Long Live the Kings, The Seattle Foundation, the Foster School of Business, the University of Washington Foundation, and the William D. Ruckelshaus Center.

Eileen O’Neill Odum, a 1977 graduate of the Foster School and member of its Advisory Board, is executive vice president and group CEO at NiSource, a natural gas and electric company. She has served in a variety of senior leadership roles with GTE Corp., Verizon Communications and Commonwealth Telephone Enterprises. Ms. Odum is also an active member of the Committee of 200, an invitation only membership organization of the world’s most successful female entrepreneurs and corporate leaders which helps to equip the next generation of women with scholarships, education and mentoring that will foster their rise to the top

Mark Pigott, a major benefactor of the Foster School, is chairman and CEO of PACCAR Inc, a Fortune 150 technology company. PACCAR has received the National Medal of Technology, the nation’s highest science award. Mr. Pigott has been honored with the prestigious Officer of the British Empire (UK), the Commander of the Order of the Crown (Belgium), and the Officer of the Orange-Nassau (Netherlands) for his efforts in strengthening international business relations. A passionate philanthropist, Mr. Pigott and PACCAR have made numerous contributions to the Foster School, including the lead gift to construct PACCAR Hall and the PACCAR Award for Teaching Excellence.

In his keynote address, Reginald Fils-Aime, president and chief operating officer of Nintendo of America, Inc., spoke of the opportunity that exists amid every crisis – for those with vision. “Given the broader, macro-economic challenges that we are facing right now, the topic of leadership is especially timely,” he said. “At Nintendo, we believe there are opportunities right now for leaders to do what they do best, to create opportunities and to drive businesses forward.”

To illustrate, Fils-Aime offered Nintendo’s bold, innovative moves to expand a shrinking home video gaming industry through its inclusive new offerings of the hand-held Nintendo DS and family-oriented Wii console. Delivering gaming to the masses rather than only hard-core players, both products have seen blockbuster success around the world.

“Hopefully you can look at your own industry through a new set of eyes, challenging not what has been but what can be during this time of opportunity,” he said. “Challenge those paradigms and hopefully you’ll find growth in new spaces.”

Advisory Board Chair Lex Gamble (a 1959 Foster School graduate and 2006 Distinguished Leadership Award recipient) added: “Times of crisis underscore the need for a great business school like the Foster School of Business. Because it is here, in the learning laboratory, that we educate leaders who have the skills to make a difference in the challenges they confront, and who are prepared to lead their organizations – and their communities – through times like these.”

The 2008 UW Business Leadership Banquet’s Premier Sponsors included iPass Inc., Premera Blue Cross, Saltchuk Resources, Inc., Wells Fargo and Weyerhaeuser Company. Major sponsors included Alaska Air Group, The Boeing Company, Crowley Maritime Corporation, Deloitte, Neal and Jan Dempsey, Ernst & Young LLP, GM Nameplate, GVA Kidder Mathews, KPMG LLP, LMN Architects, Odum & O’Neill Family, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, RSM McGladrey, Sellen Construction, Sonosite, Inc., Sweeney Conrad, P.S., Univar and Williams Investment Company.

Proceeds from the event fund scholarships for students at the Foster School of Business. And it was to those students that Odum delivered the following advice upon receiving her award. “Keep your own scorecard – your personal performance report. This scorecard may contain traditional performance metrics but it should also include your contributions of positive energy, active support to others, giving back, making good things happen – leaving your school, your job, your company, your community better for your presence. Truly high performance is both deep and wide in its impact.”

Reunion gifts becoming tradition

Class giftFoster leaves a lasting impression. Alumni don’t just walk away with a degree. They walk away with the experience of a lifetime…and a lifelong commitment to the School.

That’s why the MBA class of 1980 celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2005 by pooling funds to make a combined gift of over $37,000—more than double the total of individual gifts made the class the year before.

Since then other classes have followed suit. In every case, the collective totals have exceeded the amounts of previous years.

Although Foster structures the giving campaign, alumni like Coreen Nickerson (MBA 1996) and Kevin Scharpenberg (MBA 2006) pitch in to add their personal touch that makes the giving much more generous.

Kevin said of his work to collect donations back in 2006: “In two years with 100-plus classmates, you develop a pretty tightly knit community.” He believed the class gift would connect the alumni to each other as much as it would connect them to the School. It also helped them give back to the community that supported and challenged them during their two intense years in the program.

Coreen continues to be involved with reunions and soliciting donations because she still feels so connected to her class: “I had such a good experience that it”s an easy way to continue to enjoy that experience.”

Just as Foster leaves a lasting impression, a class donation leaves a lasting legacy, one that benefits future MBA classes, and continues to unite alumni with each other and the School.