The word retreat suggests backward motion, withdrawal or reflection.
That’s not the case with the Presidents’ Leadership Retreat. The annual summit of undergraduate leaders at the University of Washington Foster School of Business keeps the focus firmly on the future.
Over two jam-packed early autumn days at Warm Beach Conference Center, the prime movers of the Undergraduate Business Council and 25 other student organizations undergo a distraction-free crash course in communication, collaboration, cultural competency, decision making, event planning, conflict resolution and, as last year’s keynote emphasized, staying true to the Foster ideals of honesty, integrity and respect throughout life.
“It’s a packed 48 hours,” says Clay Schwenn, the Undergraduate Programs’ assistant director for student leadership and development. “It’s so important to take them out of their daily lives to immerse themselves in this.”
The participants emerge equipped and inspired to lead more effectively at and after Foster.
“The retreat gave all of us a real sense of what it means to be a leader within the Foster School,” says Kelly Phillips (BA 2015), last year’s president of Undergraduate Women in Business. “It has inspired me daily to be a great leader.”
Focus on the future
This indelible experience—in its 13th year—is made possible by the financial underwriting of Roy (MBA 1970) and Frances Simperman, who know a thing or two about leadership.
Roy is the longtime chairman and CEO of a computer network management firm called Semaphore Corporation, but an engineer at heart. He got his start at the Boeing Company in the mid-1960s, an era of grand adventures developing a space shuttle prototype, the lunar orbiter, and warhead integration (he once borrowed a 105-mm tank from the US Army and commandeered 15 oscilloscopes from Boeing to study shock physics on the site now occupied by the Tulalip Casino).
After adding a Foster MBA to his degrees in mathematics and physics, he created a sophisticated economic simulation to guide Weyerhauser’s forestry program, partnered in a stock photography company at the dawn of the commercial Internet, and has led Semaphore ever since.
Roy and Frances, who served as president of Printex Press for three decades, have become staunch supporters of education, and keenly interested in the development of Foster’s emerging leaders.
“Leadership requires trust,” Roy says. “And trust requires integrity, good judgment and common sense. I think a program that can intervene and instill these qualities in young leaders is well worth our support.”
“We need leaders who are educated, ethical and responsible to take the long view,” adds Frances. “The future of our country—our world—is at stake.”
This year’s Presidents’ Leadership Retreat takes place September 21-23. The keynote speaker will be Long Phan (BA 2006), the founder of Foster’s Undergraduate Business Council and Week of Service who left a career in finance and venture capital to work in K-12 education reform with the City of Seattle Department of Education and Early Learning.
The Board Fellows Program is a unique opportunity for Foster School of Business MBA students and Evans School of Public Policy and Governance MPA students to learn together as they explore the unique leadership role that comes from being a member of a board of directors. MBA and MPA students serve for nine months on a nonprofit board while participating in seminars that teach effective leadership and governance principles. Gloris Estrella – MPA ’15, reflects on her experience as a 2014-15 Board Fellow:
As a second year MPA student at the Evans School of Public Policy and Governance, the Board Fellows Program offered by the Consulting and Business Development Center at the Foster School of Business proved to be invaluable to my development and career. The chance to sit on a nonprofit board seemed unreachable to me as a young professional, but the Board Fellows Program brought the opportunity within my grasp. I thoroughly enjoyed learning from and participating with the board I was selected to be part of, and was able to put classroom materials into play in a local organization whose mission I felt strongly about. It was also a fantastic opportunity to work with Foster School graduate students to make cross-sector connections in order to engage in addressing social issues in the Seattle area.
One of my favorite memories of the program was the day we had two guest speakers: one from the public and the other from the private sector. Their personal insight about their experiences on boards allowed me to better understand how to make a stronger impact on the board I was participating in. It encouraged me to step up and voice my opinions and offer more of my skills on the board. As a result, I was able to join the strategic plan subcommittee and provide a lasting impact on the future of the organization. Because of my active and positive participation, the Board Chair and Executive Director asked me to join the board as voting member following my allotted time as a Board Fellow. That opportunity wouldn’t have been possible without the Consulting and Business Development Center and the Board Fellows Program.
A growing company of armed forces vets is choosing the Foster School to transition from military to corporate careers, and the benefits go both ways
Dan Boirum was leading a search-and-destroy operation up the remote Arghandab River valley of Afghanistan when a 100-pound improvised bomb exploded under his armored vehicle, wounding four crewmen, one critically.
The blast knocked Boirum unconscious. But he recovered to resume command of his US Army Stryker platoon and its mission: stabilize this volatile region at the front lines of the war on terror—a task that required a precarious balancing of military might and cultural diplomacy that is perhaps unprecedented in wartime history.
Today, just a few years removed from the dust and dangers of Kandahar Province, Boirum is back in his home town of Seattle, learning to manage in a very different context at the Foster School of Business. His combat experience and leadership credentials aren’t exactly typical at Foster. But he’s hardly alone, either.
In the past few years, a growing cohort of veterans of the United States Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard have come to Foster, looking to power their transition from military to corporate careers.
“I came to Foster hoping it would give me the ability to learn about the various aspects of business and then give me a path to a new career,” says Boirum, a first-year student in the Full-time MBA Program. “I didn’t come in with a plan. I came knowing that it would be a place where I could figure it out in a safe environment and with all the support I could possibly ask for.”
Back to school
Foster is part of a nationwide surge of military veterans flooding into colleges and universities to plot civilian careers. Recent troop withdrawals and military budget cuts are expected to send 1.5 million service members into the civilian workforce by 2019.
At the same time, the education benefits available to veterans and active duty military have never been better. The largest is the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which covers tuition, books and housing costs.
“The GI Bill made all the difference to me,” adds Matthew Nutsch (TMMBA 2014), a recent graduate of Foster’s Technology Management MBA Program who served in the Navy as an electrician on a nuclear-powered submarine and is now a senior management systems analyst at Seattle City Light . “It’s an amazingly good deal and the TMMBA Program is so dynamic that it would feel wasteful not to take advantage. The education has changed my life.”
Tony Casement, lead counselor at the University of Washington Veterans Center, says that’s a common sentiment: “Instead of getting out and trying to go straight to work, many military vets are taking advantage of the benefits to advance their education and enter the workforce with a better job.”
A great place to restart
It happens that one of the best places to advance that education is the UW. U.S. News & World Report named the UW second nationally in its 2015 ranking of Best Colleges for Veterans.
Casement believes the reasons for the ranking begin with proximity to multiple military bases, including Joint Base Lewis-McChord and the Whidbey Island, Kitsap and Everett Naval Bases. He also factors the university’s generous tuition waivers and other assistance for veterans; a proliferation of military student organizations; and a high-functioning Veterans Center that advises students, offers career counseling, and removes the pain of finding and applying benefits so veterans can focus on their studies.
The university’s sterling international reputation doesn’t hurt, either. “The UW is not only military friendly, but also a great name academically,” Casement adds. “It makes a lot of sense to go here.”
He says that more than 1,500 students at the Seattle campus are receiving some form of military benefit, which is transferrable to dependents. Of that number, around 700 are veterans or active duty service members. And nearly 80 of them are enrolled at the Foster School.
Casement believes that business is a popular field of study for veterans because it opens doors to so many lines of civilian work, and because many of the management and leadership skills mastered in the military—especially by officers—are transferrable.
This may explain why the largest jump in military enrollment at Foster is occurring in the MBA programs. The Full-time MBA has seen a doubling of veterans and active duty officers in the past couple of years alone.
Why Foster? Start with its reputation and ranking in the upmost echelons of American b-schools. Add its personalized approach to teaching, advising and career services, plus its long tradition of assisting dramatic career transformations.
But the thing that seems to appeal most of all to military veterans is the school’s genuine culture of collaboration. “There is definitely a different culture at Foster,” says Chris Wigley, a second-year MBA who has compared notes with Army buddies studying in MBA programs across the country. “For me, the collaborative environment here has been enormously beneficial.”
It’s familiar territory for anyone who has served in any branch of the military where, as Boirum says, “everything is a collaboration.”
The full package
Collaboration goes both ways. And Foster veterans give as good as they get.
According to Dan Poston, assistant dean for masters programs at Foster, students with military backgrounds add immeasurably to the shared learning environment.
“We’re looking for classes with a diversity of perspectives,” he says. “Military students bring a facility with structure and organization to get things done. These are very positive traits to have in any team. Plus, they share their leadership training, both formally and informally.”
“What you see in our military is what we expect from our leaders in business: authentic, ethical, adaptive, agile role models who focus on development and put collective interest above themselves,” Avolio says. “This comes from a program of training and development that exceeds any business organization in the US or likely on Earth.”
But leadership is not the only asset that veterans bring to the management classroom. Avolio adds that they offer wisdom from having dealt with the most difficult decisions in life. They are comfortable working in hostile environments and ambiguous situations. They have a deep sense of team and self-sacrifice. They appreciate the ultimate importance of ethics. And they bring a learning orientation that challenges others in a respectful way.
Brave new world
So why do they need a business degree? Part of the value is simply in the time and opportunity to figure out what to do with the rest of their lives—especially for people with little work experience or professional network outside of the service.
“It’s hard for military people to start over,” explains Norma Domingo, a former aircraft mechanic in the Navy now studying human resources management in Foster’s Undergraduate Program. “You’ve earned a rank and a name for yourself. But that doesn’t carry over to the civilian world. I’m the same as every other Foster undergrad. We’re all here to start something new.”
Beyond career discernment and the acquisition of technical knowledge in the business disciplines, many veterans use Foster to “demilitarize” themselves, as Ryan McCarthy puts it. “In the Army we wear our rank on our chest, so you always know a person’s level of authority,” says the former artillery officer now pursuing his Foster MBA. “Here in business school and in corporate America, you have to be persuasive without the rank.”
Transferring soft skills is only half the battle. The other half is translation. “Bragging about your accomplishments is frowned upon in the military,” says Wigley. “But when you interview with a company, that’s exactly what you have to do. When you’re not used to telling that story, it can come out raw and unrefined.”
Poston says that Foster’s program staffs and career services excel at helping veterans communicate the assets they bring to any organization: “We help with the meat and the message, framing their experience in a way that has relevance to a recruiter.”
Military and ex-military students at Foster report a kind of sixth sense (or is it radar?) for finding each other in class. Maybe it’s their age. Or something in the way they speak, or carry themselves. Whatever it is, the bond is inescapable, the product of a shared experience, whichever their flavor of military service.
Now Foster vets have a more formal place to find each other. The student-organized MBA Veterans Association is only a few years old, but it’s rapidly evolving from social club to network hub.
The current officers are working with undergraduate leaders to charter a BA chapter of the organization. They are advising prospective students, coordinating with the Husky United Military Veterans organization (HUMV) to create a mentor program, hosting career development and networking events, and connecting with military bases and area employers to develop a military-to-corporate pipeline.
“The MBA Program administrators talk about how we have a golden ticket as a student,” says Veterans Association president Wigley. “I think we have a second golden ticket as veterans. If you reach out to vets at all kinds of companies, they’re usually more than willing to help.”
An old habit that dies hard.
Dan Boirum describes the connection between veterans in familial terms. He recalls suiting up for an interview with Liberty Mutual when a couple of classmates stepped in to perform an informal class A uniform inspection—even swapping watches so he’d look sharper. “It was just an instinctive thing,” he says. “Your buddy is going into an important meeting, so we’ll look you over, straighten you up. There’s a definite brother/sisterhood here—all within the larger Foster family.”
Passion and purpose
That’s the ultimate expression of the Foster student experience.
Matt Pescador, an executive officer in his 20th year with the Navy, enrolled in Foster’s Executive MBA Program preparing for an eventual second career, ideally at a comparable level of seniority. What he’s found is the definition of a symbiotic relationship. And endless inspiration.
“I have deep experience in leadership, and the executives in my program bring a fast-paced technocracy that I’m not familiar with,” he says. “The relationship between what they learn from me and what I learn from them is exactly what the program is trying to foster.”
For Boirum, those relationships—with people from every background who share a genuine passion—are the keys to his transformation to a successful and meaningful civilian life.
“When you transition out of the military, one of the things you’re most concerned about is finding another place where you belong, where there is a shared sense of purpose to make the world a better place. I was afraid that I’d leave the Army and be lost,” he says. “But at the Foster School I’m surrounded by people who want to be part of something special together, something bigger than themselves. I never feel lost here.”
While introducing Bsquare CEO Jerry Chase as the April 22 Leaders to Legends Breakfast speaker, Dean Jiambalvo described the tech leader as an “accomplished executive with decades of experience leading public and private companies through times of transition and growth.” With the theme of “transition and growth” clearly in mind, Chase spent his time at the podium discussing the importance of listening to customers, company adaptability, and the burgeoning “internet of things” industry.
Now that more than 20 countries have adopted quotas for women on corporate boards, the number of companies with women directors is growing worldwide. To identify the impact that women directors make on boards, Foster adjunct professor Cate Goethals and global management consultant Susan Bloch recently completed the Better Boards Project, an international study of more than 100 board members.
The study builds on research by Credit Suisse, McKinsey, and Catalyst that concluded public companies with women directors outperformed all-male boards on several financial dimensions, including stock price, return on equity, and better average growth. For the Better Boards Project, Goethals and Bloch explored the distinctive qualities that women directors brought to the table and the relationship between board effectiveness and women’s contributions.
Study highlights The directors interviewed overwhelmingly believe that the contribution of women makes majority-male boards more effective. Specifically:
Women provide the broad diversity of perspective critical to robust governance practice
Female directors are more likely to fully explore the implications of decisions through their implementation stage and insist upon discussing standards of ethics and accountability
Women are more likely to build relationships among board members and with management
They ask more and different questions to fuel deeper discussions and better-considered decisions
Women are more likely to probe the human dimensions of policies—their effects on employees, customers, and other women
Inside the boardroom, female directors are generally more collaborative, listening carefully and facilitating contributions from others
Many directors expressed enthusiasm for bringing more of the right women onto their boards, but noted challenges locating qualified candidates.
Creating a pathway for potential women board members Several countries, including Norway, France, India, and the United Arab Emirates, have passed legislation mandating a percentage of women serving on public boards. Still, there are remarkably few female directors—about 11 percent of all board members around the world and markedly less in some countries and sectors.
The number of women on public boards is closer to 20 percent in the U.S., and growing as companies actively seek qualified women directors. The percentage of new female nominees to S&P 500 directorships has doubled in the last seven years to 30 percent—almost one in three new board members is a woman. The primary problem boards face is locating and nominating eligible women directors.
To respond to this recruitment gap, Goethals, Foster market researcher Andrea Bowers, and Executive Education staff Lisa Loucks and Ann Koziol launched a new program to help prepare talented professional women for board service. The Women Board Directors Development Program will be offered June 18-19 at the Foster School of Business.
The program will feature sitting directors Colleen Brown (American Apparel, Newport Board Group), Connie Collingsworth (Premera Blue Cross, Banner Corporation), and Betsy Berkeimer Credaire, (Women Corporate Directors, Los Angeles/Orange County, author of “The Board Game”) joining Goethals to share their personal board experiences.
The Women Board Directors Development Program will help participants:
Deepen knowledge of board roles and responsibilities, including financial reporting, corporate strategy, CEO performance, and regulatory compliance
Understand the best professional pathways to influential boards
Develop a detailed personal action plan for securing the right board seat and advancing board service
Learn proven techniques for becoming known to nominating committees
Understand the board interview and onboarding process
Hear from sitting board members how they found their best voice at the table
The UW Foster School of Business hosted a Global Leadership Summit in Taipei, Taiwan ROC on April 10, 2015. The purpose of the Summit was to host a high level forum in Taiwan in an effort to reach out to business leaders in the region and engage them in a meaningful dialogue on strategies in innovation and leadership. The Summit included presentations by Dean James Jiambalvo, Professors Michael Johnson and Matthew O’Donnell as well as panelists representing Chairmen and CEOs from Taiwan Cement Group, Chungwha Telecom, CTCI Group, Walsin Lihwa, Costco Taiwan, and The Boeing Company. Attendees were mostly from Taiwan, but also included participants who traveled from S. Korea, China, India, and the Philippines. See photos of the event below.
What can undergraduates do to develop their leadership while at UW?
That’s what over 150 undergraduates came to a Leadership Conference on a recent Saturday to learn about. Hosted by Delta Sigma Pi (a professional co-ed business fraternity)* in conjunction with the Center for Leadership and Strategic Thinking, the one-day conference gave attendees a real-world perspective on what they can do now to develop the leadership skills that will be vital to their professional success. The conference included representatives from companies such as Accenture, PepsiCo/Frito Lay, Boeing, Microsoft and Target.
CLST’s role in the event was to help students build their Developmental Readiness, their willingness and ability to develop when faced with challenging leadership situations. (It’s worth noting that the students certainly demonstrated their willingness to develop by showing up to a leadership conference early on a sunny Saturday morning.)
Research on leadership development has shown that only about 30% of leadership is hard-wired, while the other 70% can be developed, and that the extent to which one develops through experiences differs from person to person. In other words, facing a similar challenge, a person with higher developmental readiness might thrive and grow while another struggles and gives up. Further, this ability to develop can itself be developed. CLST’s goal was to help catalyze this process.
In a workshop format, CLST coaches helped participants craft a plan for working on an aspect of their developmental readiness, including specific actions they could take on a daily basis. Sienna Landry, a member of Delta Sigma Pi who helped organize the event, said that the attendees “have absolutely walked away from this conference with a new sense of how they can impact their leadership styles.”
The event was a huge success, and the fraternity plans to hold it again next year. This collaboration with Delta Sigma Pi is a great example of how CLST is reaching out to UW undergraduates to help develop critical leadership skills during their time at UW.
*Delta Sigma Pi is a professional fraternity organized to foster the study of business in universities; to encourage scholarship, social activity and the association of students for their mutual advancement by research and practice.
This post was written by staff members from the Center for Leadership and Strategic Thinking
On Friday March 13, the Center for Leadership and Strategic Thinking (CLST) and Foster MBA Association (MBAA) celebrated the upcoming leadership transition as elected 1st year students prepare to take over the reins from soon-to-graduate 2nd year students. This event is part of our year-long Leading Across Boundaries (LAB) workshops series. The theme chosen for this half-day event was to Transition under Pressure.
Working in four parallel teams of six to eight students, each team was charged with designing a giant Rube Goldberg machine! Teams consisted of both 1st and 2nd year students. Machines were required to involve at least 4 transfers of energy from one “mini” machine or component to the next culminating in a final machine that would drop a weight into a cup. Armed with an array of materials including dominoes, mouse traps, springs, and marbles, second-year students were instructed to work on the upstream portion of the machine and first-year students were instructed to work on the downstream or terminal portion of the machine. Midway through the event, the facilitators transferred a key player from each team to another team and added design requirements. The purpose of this challenge was three-fold: 1. To focus on how well, under extreme time pressure, the 1st and 2nd year MBAs coordinated the effort and communication needed to make all parts of the machine connect and work as one; 2. To examine how well teams adapted to unexpected and disruptive changes in their structure and resources; and 3. To observe how leadership emerged and was shared to achieve the team’s objectives.
Following the ending of the game competition, feedback about how the teams worked to achieve their goals was provided by the judges – CLST’s Bruce Avolio and Chelley Patterson; 2012 alumnus, former MBAA Executive Vice President, and co-founder with CLST of the LAB series, Colin Beazley; and Director, Full-time MBA Student Affairs, Sigrid Olsen.
Many thanks to outgoing MBAA Executive Vice President, Soleil Kelley, for keeping the LAB tradition alive and for all his thought- and leg-work putting together this Rube Goldberg event! And now we move on to working with the new MBA leadership on the next LAB event as we move into the Spring quarter…
Watch video of the event below:
L.A.B. sessions enable MBA students to discuss topics of interest with business and community leaders while developing their own leadership skills. The sessions are sponsored by MBAA and CLST. Visit CLST’s website to learn more.
For B. Kevin Turner, Microsoft’s Chief Operating Officer, leadership is the greatest privilege in life. On Wednesday, April 1, Turner provided a thorough discussion on the lessons he learned about being a leader, interweaving stories from his years of experience with companies like Walmart and Microsoft. Topics ranged from the necessity of self-awareness and continuous self-improvement in leaders, to the significance of simplicity in all businesses.
On Thursday, March 5, 2015, the Executive Development Program (EDP) at the Foster School of Business celebrated 45 years of advanced business education. Alumni representing over 40 organizations attended the event, from established companies like Microsoft, Nordstrom, and Boeing, to numerous startups created by Seattle entrepreneurs.
Founded in 1970, under the name “The Management Program,” EDP is designed to help individuals improve their understanding of the big picture of business. The program begins and ends with strategy and touches on every aspect of business in between. “It tells you how all these things fit together,” said Professor Charles Hill.
At the event, Dean Jim Jiambalvo talked about how the program had a major impact on the Foster school, specifically the quality of the faculty. “Executives have a higher standard, and they drove us to meet those standards,” Jiambalvo said. Often, executives enrolled in EDP want to know how to immediately apply what they just learned. “It impacted my teaching for a long time,” said Jiambalvo.
Bill Ayer, former Alaska Airlines CEO and a long supporter of the Foster School, provided a keynote address on leadership, sharing numerous lessons and pieces of advice as he talked about his experience in a challenging industry. Among the numerous takeaways of the speech, Ayer discussed the primacy of the customer, as well as the importance of decisive action: “The perfect plan will never be perfect,” he said.
Over the course of the keynote, Ayer listed eight lessons he wanted to pass on to other executives:
Get the right people on board
Create a sense of urgency
Focus on one to two big ideas at a time
Always have metrics, what you measure is what gets done
Focus on what you can control over the long-term
Be totally and completely customer focused
Don’t confuse being popular with doing the right thing
Develop strategic partnerships
The evening ended with an invitation for EDP alumni to share their experiences about the program. One alumna, Mamtha Banerjee, founder and CEO of MagicFlix, talked about how EDP helped her become more than a technical expert, giving her the business skills to take part in strategy and decision making. “The best part was really the case studies—getting everyone’s point of view from different industries,” Banerjee said.
– Faculty perspectives, alumni happenings, student experiences, Seattle and Pacific Northwest community connections, and a taste of life around the Foster School.