Category Archives: Student Life

The Rainier Factor

MBA students at Mt. Rainier
Foster MBAs climb Seattle’s iconic volcano for challenge, charity and camaraderie

You’ve seen the posters. Taut bands of rugged mountaineers, clad in Gore-tex armor, inch their way up frozen alpine landscapes as beautiful as they are forbidding—captioned with inspirational sentiments on such corporate virtues as leadership, collaboration, passion or persistence.

Some MBAs at the University of Washington Foster School of Business are learning that mountain climbing is more than a metaphor.

The past two summers, Scott Heinz (MBA 2012) has guided classmates of varying climbing experience on revealing expeditions to the thickly glaciated summit of Mount Rainier, the highest point in the contiguous United States.

“One of the highlights of the program for me,” says Heinz. “And not only the climb itself, but the collaborative nature of people across the program. Everyone got really excited about helping each other achieve this goal, all the while raising money for charities that everyone is passionate about.”

Base camp

An avid climber and skier, Heinz quickly found in the Foster MBA Program a large cohort of fellow outdoor enthusiasts. He also became involved in the MBA Challenge 4 Charity—the year-long competition among west coast business schools to provide the most financial and volunteer support to local non-profits. It occurred to him that a Rainier climb could make a potent fundraiser for the Foster School’s C4C beneficiaries.

Somewhat to his surprise, this idea was met with enormous interest.

Working around the rigors of the MBA curriculum, Heinz designed an ambitious but manageable training regimen to prepare the mostly novice climbers for a technical, high-altitude glacier climb. They began in January. Casual group runs led to thigh-busting slogs up nearby peaks. Mountaineering workshops led to advanced expeditions on the lower flanks of Rainier and neighboring Cascade peaks, including Adams and Sahale.

Climb on

For ascendant MBA types, it was a chance of a lifetime.

“I am an outdoor-loving person,” says Amy Widner, a second-year MBA who joined last year’s summit team. “But I’d never done anything like this before. The technique and equipment was a lot to get my head around. But Scott was great at leading the charge.”

That charge—both years—was a great success. Eleven Foster MBAs safely reached Rainier’s summit in July of 2011 and eight in August of 2012, with many others participating in various legs of the preparation. The climbers raised a two-year total of $13,000 to support Boys & Girls Clubs of King County and Special Olympics of Washington.

And, true to their generation, they chronicled the experience in a blog, a photographic storyboard, and even a music video (soundtrack provided by the 2011 Foster house band, Death Spiral).

The Foster fabric

A passion for the natural world—and its challenges—is etched in the Foster DNA. “When we ask students during admissions week what they want to do for fun, it’s incredible,” says Dan Poston, assistant dean for masters programs. “Hiking. Kayaking. Mountain climbing. Almost every response has a common theme. Something about coming to the Northwest. When we have a break, we get on our gear and go outside.”

These high-altitude expeditions took the “Rainier Factor” literally. But pushing individual limits was not the only positive outcome. Poston sees much of the program’s core curriculum put to practice in the process, including planning, preparation, financing, promotion, collaboration and leadership.

He also sees a defining trait of the Foster MBA Program: initiative.

“We’re one of the few schools that ask people, before they come, how they plan to get involved,” Poston says. “If they don’t find an organization or activity they’re interested in, we expect that they form it. We’re looking for people who have that kind of motivation.”

That DIY element is a point of pride for Heinz, who graduated in June to a position creating marketing analytic processes with Ecova, the Portland-based energy and sustainability management firm.

“A lot of MBA programs offer outdoor leadership courses,” he says. “But most of them are professionally guided where you tie into a rope and they carry you up. What do you learn from that? Ours is a much richer experience. Everybody has to develop the skills, take ownership of the process, and rely on each other—take what we learn in the classroom and put it to work in an environment that really puts it to the test.”

Student-funded scholarship is a first

UWiBThe student organization, Undergraduate Women in Business (UWiB), recently established an endowed scholarship–a monumental achievement. UWiB is the first student organization to establish an endowed fund and they raised $32,000 in a little over 2 years. Additionally, this initiative was completely student driven and a team effort.

Foster undergrads Amber Waisanen and Raychael Jensen started UWiB in 2005. They were inspired by a similar organization at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. Their core mission in starting UWiB was to connect and prepare the future generation of female business leaders. They are very pleased with how the organization has grown and evolved over the past eight years.

“UWiB was founded on the premise of serving others and giving back, with an underlying mission to connect and prepare the future generation of female business leaders.

As founders, we feel extremely proud of how far UWiB has come. We are strong supporters of this fund and look forward to securing a long-term future for the organization.

For UWiB to reach an endowment status is truly a dream come true, as it was part of our list of things we hoped to accomplish one day. To see that goal come to fruition is a very rewarding and exciting opportunity for us, our members, the Foster Business School and the community at large.”

- Amber Waisanen & Raychael Jensen, Co-Founders of UWiB

The recipient of scholarship for the 2012/2013 academic year is Amanda Hamilton. She is junior at the Foster School pursuing marketing and a certificate in international business. According to Amanda, “The scholarship will help me further my international interests as I study abroad in Spain.” Last year Amanda served on the executive committee for UWiB as the fundraiser associate.

You can learn more about UWiB by visiting their website: http://uwuwib.com/

Sludge, China, and the Freshman Direct Track winning team

The 2012 Holland America Line Global Case Competition involved 48 hours of intense analysis of sludge, soil remediation, and joint ventures in China. The case for the November 17th competition was Phase Separations Solutions (PS2): The China Question, and over 60 Foster School undergraduates teams were asked to recommend a course of action regarding PS2’s opportunities in China.

Teams were asked to tackle difficult questions in the charge and even more challenging ones from the panels of corporate and faculty judges:  Which JV option should they pursue? What challenges are posed by partnering with the government? What about intellectual property theft? What are the bankruptcy laws in China?

Among these teams were sixteen Foster School Freshmen Direct students. They made up their own track in the morning rounds and competed for a $500 prize. The panel of judges for the Freshman Direct Track was impressed by the ease with which these teams presented and the depth of their research and analysis after only a few months at the Foster School.

I had the opportunity to sit down and talk with the winning team of the Freshman Direct Track about their experience. Here is what the winning team members Tim Kim, Barrett Stapleman, Erik Meister, and Ben Hagen had to say:

 What did you learn? Lots of different business terminology; how to prepare, conduct research and how to play the role of a consultant; we learned what a real business presentation looks like, and how to creatively think on our feet.

What did you take away from watching the upperclassmen presentations in the Final Round? Teams need to know everything inside and out – the numbers, the strategy, the facts. The organization of their PowerPoint presentations was impressive, and the team members all presented in a professional tone that was very direct, clear, and to the point.

What was the most challenging part? Time management, researching obscure aspects of the case, and the formulation of the actual presentation – how to include relevant content without overwhelming the slide – were all difficult.

What would you tell other students? Even if you don’t have any background in case competitions, it is a good learning experience to throw yourself into this difficult situation. Just attack it. You will learn skills that will prepare you for the future like time management, presentation skills, and teamwork. Just go out and get involved.

Will you compete again?  Yes!

The Global Business Center would like to give a special thanks to our sponsor of this year’s competition Holland America Line. To learn more about the Holland America Line Global Case Competition, visit the Global Business Center website.

Sell it, win it

UW undergrads Hayden Krall, Hannah Hanson, Hanna Klemm, and Megan Smith beat out 20 other schools and won the 2012 “Can’t Beat the Experience” National Team Selling Competition at the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University.

Guest post by Megan Smith, UW undergrad and Sales Certificate student

National Team Selling CompetitionWe received the case approximately two weeks before the competition. The case was an internal sale and we were a “special task team” of employees that needed to make a presentation to our company’s CEO and VP of Human Resources. Our company was a research firm called “Abaci.” As the special task team, we were charged with creating a Workplace Wellness Program that introduced a new fitness device: the GetFit wristband.

The two weeks leading up to the competition were filled with preparation, devising plans, and a lot of coaching. We had fantastic support from our coaches and advisers: Jack Rhodes, Jeff Lehman, Joe Vandahey and last year’s NTSC team (Eric Hotaling, Dorine Rassaian, Julie Reynolds, and Neil Carter).

The competition day was split into two presentations: a morning session for needs analysis (15 min) and an afternoon sales presentation (20 min). The need analysis was a meeting with the VP of HR, “Casey” whom we were able to talk to about the issues facing the company, the data we were given, and uncover any other information that wasn’t included in the case description. Discovering all of the company’s needs was vital for success in the afternoon presentation. In the three hours between our morning session and afternoon presentation, we modified our presentation to incorporate the needs uncovered in the morning session and fit in as much practice as we could. We presented our Wellness Program to the company CEO, “Doug,” and our VP of HR, Casey. We addressed all their questions and received approval to implement the program.

Winning was surreal. There are not words to describe the feeling of having many late nights and hours of practice pay off. It is impossible for us to give enough credit to our coaches for their unparalleled support and guidance. Their support in combination with how well our team was able to work together made it possible for us to create a comprehensive and creative Wellness Plan that pulled us through to win. The amount we learned and the enjoyment and excitement of the competition truly made the experience unbeatable. Watch the morning and afternoon sessions.

The Sales Certificate Program at the Foster School provides students with the knowledge and real-world experience necessary to be successful in sales.

Study abroad photo contest winners 2012

Over 250 University of Washington Foster School of Business undergraduate and MBA students studied or interned abroad last year. These photos and short descriptions are a small taste of the transformative educational experiences these students have each year. The UW Global Business Center held a competition for the best student photos in two categories: 1) Foster Abroad: Photo that inspires others to study abroad or makes a statement about the student experience abroad; 2) My Global Lens: Views uniquely accessible to students living abroad – social issues, cultural interactions, cityscapes, landscapes, etc.

Here are the first and second place winners in each category. Enjoy them!

1st Place Foster Abroad: Chris Comley, Undergraduate; Montpellier, France

Bon Appetit, Au Revoir
Friends dining at an enchanting garden cafe, enjoying a final lunch of quiche, iced tea, and peaches and cream before the magic of a summer in the Midi ends

Experience abroad: Summer in the south of France afforded many luxuriant opportunities. Among the best were afternoons spent dining in this tiny garden area tucked discreetly behind an antiques shop where good food and company created moments to savor. The photos captures the ironic laughter of our final lunch at the cafe, a day before the end of the program.

2nd Place Foster Abroad: Ashley Matsumoto, Undergraduate; Kobe, Japan

Becoming Japanese
During summer in Japan, Yukata (summer version of kimono) is the Japanese traditional-wear for festivals and other events, but my fellow Foster friend and I decided one day near the end of our semester that we wanted to just explore the beauty of Kyoto and make memories together. We had hundreds of photos taken of us and are probably now in those tourists’ photo albums, who were shocked when we spoke to them in English – though we had been speaking the language the entire time there, this day in look we also finally became “Japanese.”

Experience abroad: Studying abroad was the most exciting, amazing, memorable experience of my life. Time became something I thought about every day. At home, most of my time was devoted to school, commute, family, friends, etc. But in Kobe, I was starting completely fresh with no established routine – and it was almost like time was something I now had complete control over, and /I/ could decide how I wanted to use it. My choice was to focus on everything happening in the here and now, so that I would never regret not doing something during these 6 months that I knew I would forever pine for but never get back no matter how many times I return to Japan. And when I look at my thousands of photos and think on the memories with the amazing friends I was able to make, I am happy to say that I regret nothing. And, I am heading back to Japan as soon as absolutely possible!

1st Place My Global Lens: Roda Barket, Undergraduate; Longji, China

Craving Fresh Air
Figuratively, craving the freshness and uniqueness of China. Literally, craving the fresh air in Longji after experiencing the pollution in Beijing and Shanghai.

Experience abroad: I had the most incredible experience of my life. Being an African immigrant young woman, I never thought I would have the opportunity to go to such an “exotic” country as China. I use the word “exotic” because I’m often referred to as exotic by Americans but never quite understood it until China. I never had the chance to go to a place or learn about a culture that was so unfamiliar to me. I had no idea what to expect. I loved every minute of my experience, it was life transforming for me and inspiring to many of the people I knew who also considered China exotic.
2nd Place My Global Lens: Alex Birch, Undergraduate; Pingyao, China

A Land That Time Has Forgotten
To describe urban and rural China as “180 degrees” from each other, would be an understatement. As much as we think of the progression made today, the rest of the world is still trying to catch up.

Experience abroad: I was able to explore many different areas in Asia while studying abroad in Shanghai. My program took me to the ancient city of Pingyao, the first city to have China’s first national bank. Here, I was able to witness rural China, something that I could never have imagined prior to arriving to the city. It truly made me realize that this is how a significant portion of the world still lives. Over my 3 months, I was able to experience the extreme ends of Chinese culture, the most modern and most dated, something I will never forget and always will cherish.

See all photos submitted for the contest. Judges included over 30 faculty and staff members. Learn more about MBA and undergraduate study abroad opportunities at the Foster School.

Top 5 tips for succeeding in a business plan competition

Guest post by Chris Rodde, CEO of SeniorHomes.com and 2012 UW Business Plan Competition judge

In April of 2012, I participated as a judge in the screening round for the University of Washington Business Plan Competition. I have never served as a judge before in this competition, nor do I have any personal start-up investing experience (as many judges do). However, as an experienced founder/CEO of a start-up, I have good experience to leverage as a judge. My start-up, SeniorHomes.com, is now in its fourth year. We’ve raised two rounds of financing from angels and institutional investors and now employ more than 25 people.  Based on my experience as a start-up founder and as a judge in this competition, I have a few tips for next year’s entrepreneurs.

My top 5 tips for entering a business plan competition:

    1. Don’t submit a plan until you have traction. My biggest surprise as a judge was the lack of traction demonstrated by many of the teams. Three of the six plans I judged didn’t even have a website. During the investment round of the UW competition, judges are asked to invest a hypothetical $1000. So the same mentality used by investors in the real world comes into play in the competition. Investors in the real world pick companies that have momentum and that demonstrate that they can execute. Execution is everything in a start-up and to stand out in a business plan competition, show more progress than your competitors. Simple things like having a website (even if it just says “coming soon”), a working prototype, a first pilot completed, or actual paying customers will go a long way to make you stand out. Customers using or paying for your product is particularly important as this will help eliminate unknowns and back up the assumptions in your business plan with real world data.
    2. Be complete. There are some critical things every business plan must cover. Make sure that you cover all of these things, even if briefly. There are tons of great sites out there with advice on what to include in a business plan so I won’t elaborate but only suggest that you find out who the current thought leaders are with regards to business plans and make sure you’ve covered everything. Two to three of the plans I read had critical elements missing.
    3. Write like a NY Times reporter. Write in clear, objective language and avoid unsupported claims. Investors pick teams in which they have developed trust. This trust begins with the words you put in your plan. Don’t sound like a playground braggart boasting about your future $1 billion business. Instead build your case piece by piece in an objective fashion using real data.  The key claims that you make in your plan should be well supported with evidence you’ve gathered through experimental learning or research.
    4. Market your team. Investors invest in people not plans. Several plans I read simply listed the names of the people involved, without any bio at all. This gave me no chance to get to know the team. Why should I invest in you? What makes you uniquely positioned for this opportunity? Showing personality is good.
    5. Find mentors to critique and edit your plan. There are two types of editors you should seek. First, and most importantly, find someone that has credibility in reviewing business plans and have them critique it for content and completeness. Find someone who won’t hold back on asking the hard questions. Judges will likely find these same weaknesses so knowing these in advance and doing something about them (even if you simply point the weakness out as a risk) will help inspire further trust that you have thought things fully through. Second, find someone who can help you with writing and tone (this being especially important for techie founders who may have floundered in English 101). A business plan is a marketing document for your business, so you need to ensure you are putting your best foot forward.

Good luck!

Former Schwab CMO and “mad woman” illuminates “talk to Chuck” case study in MBA advertising class

 
It’s Thursday afternoon, and in one of the University of Washington Foster School of Business classrooms, former Charles Schwab Chief Marketing Officer Becky Saeger was talking to MBA students about the experience of digging deep to revitalize a major brand. As the architect and marketing protagonist of the integrated “Talk to Chuck” campaign platform, Saeger had plenty to offer the students on this Harvard Schwab Case.
Former Schwab CMO Becky Saeger (middle) with Associate Dean Dan Turner and Senior Lecturer Elizabeth Stearns

She discussed the importance of the big picture marketing process. From there the focus was on the decision metrics, advertising strategy and execution, and ultimately how that contributed to Schwab’s overall brand objectives.

Saeger’s also great in her capacity as guest lecturer, which was her role in Marketing 540, taught by Elizabeth Stearns, senior lecturer. Saeger brings to life the lay of the land at Schwab. The year was 2004 and the CEO who hired her was replaced by Charles “Chuck” Schwab himself, reclaiming his role as CEO of the $4.2 billion company he founded in 1971. Saeger reinforced the problem as described in the Harvard case, on the potential for losses and eroding customer loyalty, as the company struggles to fulfill its promise to the individual investor.

Following Professor Stearns’ lead, Saeger asked as many questions as she answered. One interesting aspect of this class is that Stearns does not play the role of professor—but rather that of a marketing client. Students have formed teams acting as advertising agencies vying for Stearns’ business. There’s very little handholding – and that’s good, because as any marketing agency veteran will attest, clients expect initiative and brilliance. The students demonstrated considerable chutzpah—one memorable moment occurring when a student agency, Drapers’ Disciples, turned down Saeger’s request for an additional $50 million budget with their excellent ROI analysis.

In the end Saeger won out with exceptional rationale; moreover, she proved success.

This teaching model brings intense realism into the classroom, as do guests like Becky Saeger.  There was an exhilarating quality to the session, and an overwhelming sense that Foster MBAs are getting the best of rigor where it intersects relevance to their futures.

As a side note, there was some irony that the ‘agency’ challenging Saeger’s budget request was “Draper’s Disciples.” As it turns out, she began her career at Ogilvy & Mather in NY, where she made a name for herself with global brand campaigns for American Express, among other clients. A true Madison Avenue prodigy.

MBA Challenge for Charity 2012: sports weekend, 2nd place

Guest post by Jay Winzler (MBA 2013), 2012-2013 Foster School MBA Challenge for Charity president

Dodge ball…last time I played dodge ball was in 5th grade. If my memory serves me right, I was pretty good back then.

ZING! I managed to avoid the first ball, but the second one knocked me out of the game. The next three games were no different. Apparently I’m not as quick as I used to be. That’s okay, the women’s basketball game was about to start and I wanted to join the Dawg Pack as we cheered them in the championship game against Stanford.

Sports Weekend is an annual event in which Foster students join students from 8 other MBA programs including Stanford, UCLA, USC and Berkeley to celebrate our year of hard work in volunteering and fundraising for local charity organizations. The weekend is filled with sunshine, new friends, school spirit and competitions in every type of event imaginable. Team sports – football, ultimate, volleyball, trivia. Individual sports – swimming, running, spelling bee and just for fun – cheerleading, battle of the bands and challenge races. At the end of the weekend, there is an epic celebration and the program that has raised the most money, volunteered the most hours and successfully competed in the most sports is announced as the winner of the coveted Golden Briefcase.

Foster is famous at Sports Weekend. We are known for our terrific student turnout, fun-loving personalities and because the men arrive with creative and sometimes hilarious facial hair. After a sun-filled Saturday of sports, new friends and school spirit, we ended with the annual Battle of the Bands. Death Spiral, the favorite UW band, got the party started with a rousing song by Seattle favorite Nirvana before following up with the entire crowd singing along to Cee-Lo’s “Forget You.”

2nd place among 9 West Coast universities

UW has a history of winning the Golden Briefcase and yet again we were in the hunt! Everybody was on edge as the final announcement was made. UW took 2nd place in both volunteer hours and fundraising efforts and took 2nd place overall. WHOO HOO! Although we didn’t win Sports Weekend this year, our hard work (over 1,600 volunteer hours) and effort was justified with a 2nd place finish.

On Sunday, we took one last chance to sit by the pool and top off our tans, said goodbye to our new friends, traded business cards (we are MBA students after all) and shared a few more stories. It was hard to leave California, but I, for one, was excited to get back to Seattle. I had a speech to prepare. I finished my quantitative methods homework on the plane and after landing checked a voicemail from my friend and co-president:

“Hey Jay, it’s Jessica. I had a great weekend, so much fun. That football game was intense! We need to talk. It’s time to start strategizing about how we are going to win the Golden Briefcase next year. Oh yeah, one other thing. Please shave, your mustache is scaring the little kids.”

2012 Business Plan Competition innovations inspire

Business plan competitions are never just isolated, one-off events. Instead, not only do they help advance the participant innovations along their entrepreneurial paths, but such competitions also help identify overall trends and patterns. What we learn from watching changes in participation, the width and breadth of the ideas and the increasing professionalism of submissions over the years may also serve as an indication of where our economy is (or will be) heading and how prepared our emerging innovators are to address it.

As the University of Washington Foster School of Business’ 2012 Business Plan Competition gets underway, student co-chairs Alan Blickenstaff and Annie Koski-Karell (both MBA 2013) wrote a submissions review letter noting key developments. Letter excerpts:

The first submission I picked up from the daunting stack of papers in front of me described an innovative online service that would connect entrepreneurs seeking funding to would-be investors. Out of the gate, I knew I was in for a fun and inspiring time. Indeed, I was: the entries I reviewed ran the gamut from high-tech cooking tools to DIY veggie gardens in wooden boxes. Across the board, participants demonstrated a remarkably creative, savvy ability to pinpoint business opportunities among a myriad of industries. In addition to the plans addressing some of the more familiar sectors such as medicine and fashion, I was introduced to businesses in fields that I was completely unfamiliar with, including drone aircraft manufacturers and crowd-sourced charity funds. Before I knew it, the stack had disappeared. I came away brimming with excitement for this year’s competition, and more glad than ever for the privilege to be a part of it.

This year, 101 teams of students submitted their innovations, visions and start-ups to the Business Plan Competition. While most entrants classified their idea as a technology or consumer product, the ventures continue to blur the lines between industries. Current trends include a focus on food (15% of plans feature innovations to help you source, cook and enjoy your favorites), crowd-funding platforms, language learning tools, and creating social networks for motivational and educational purposes (such as getting in shape or learning to program). Additionally, 2012 sees environmental innovation infused throughout all categories with focuses on local, efficient and sustainable ideas. Not only does this year’s field represent a wide range of ideas, but the entrepreneurs are already getting their ventures off the ground; more than 25% of entrants have incorporated their venture, raising nearly $400K in combined seed capital and generating more than $120K of earned revenue thus far.

This year’s cohort of young entrepreneurs also represents an amazing range of northwest schools. Nine regional universities are represented with their innovations: Bainbridge Graduate Institute, Eastern Washington University, Evergreen State College, Gonzaga University, Seattle University, Seattle Pacific University, University of Washington, Walla Walla Community College and Washington State University. Additionally, several teams include partnerships across universities, including team members from UCLA, UC Davis, University of Montana, and University of Tokyo.

Follow the 2012 UW Business Plan Competition on Facebook, or search #UWBPC12 on Twitter. The competition is the largest Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship annual event.