Category Archives: Student Life

Nuru wins People’s Choice Award at Global Social Entrepreneurship Competition

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University of Washington Foster School’s Global Social Entrepreneurship Competition is underway this week and 11 semi-finalist teams are competing for a chance to win over judges and beat out other innovative business ideas to combat global poverty.

At a trade show this week, the People’s Choice Award went to a team with an idea called “Nuru Light: a Solution to Africa’s Lighting Crisis” which provides affordable, renewable, clean lighting to replace kerosene in households. One of the team members traveled outside of Rwanda for the first time in his life to pitch this business idea along with a medical student from Massachusetts Medical School.

Winners will announced at tonight’s GSEC Award’s Ceremony which will also feature keynote speaker Bill Gates, Sr.

Good luck to the 11 teams and 5 finalist teams – part of a record-breaking number of applicants who chose to solve poverty with business innovations.

Foster students consult for Brazilian restaurant in Seattle: part 3

In this installment of our video series following student business consultants from the Foster School, the UW Business and Economic Development Center team members discuss the biggest challenges they face in improving the bottom line of a small Brazilian restaurant. This is the third in the series on Foster Unplugged where you can follow the five-member student team assigned to help Tempero do Brasil, a restaurant at 5628 University Way Northeast. Check back to follow more of the student team’s efforts as the winter quarter class progresses (under Student Life blog category).

A visit with the oracle, Warren Buffett

MBA Students in Omaha SnowEvery year the richest man in the country (or maybe 2nd richest depending on the most recent Forbes article) Warren Buffett invites groups from 5 to 6 business schools to visit him in the unassuming town of Omaha, Nebraska. The premise is simple. 120 business school students from across the country put on their best suits, tackle the Omaha snow (see photo), pepper Mr. Buffett with questions for over 2 hours, and then he takes us to his favorite restaurant in town for steak and root beer floats.

In early February, I was fortunate enough to make the trek. Naturally, people keep asking me what I took away from the trip. I respond with random facts about Berkshire Hathaway’s corporate philanthropy program and Buffett’s friendship with and admiration for former Geico executive, Lloyd Kreeger. And I love to share some of Buffett’s best lines such as, “You can’t make a baby in 1 month by getting 9 women pregnant.” He followed, laughing, “I probably should have told Tiger Woods that.” That’s classic wisdom, both literally and figuratively, and it demonstrates just how sharp and witty this 78-year-old man is.

BuffetwalletWhy does he meet with MBA students?
It is certainly not for us to hear stories we can see him tell on YouTube, nor to make sure I have a photo of me with an awkwardly devilish face stealing his wallet (see photo). No, I think this is Mr. Buffett’s opportunity to share his vision for investments, business, and life with the next generation of business leaders.

Buffett’s vision: Find passion, practice simplicity.
The man has more money than I can comprehend. Buying 120 people lunch is like me buying a gumball, or more likely, sharing a gumball. But he drives a simple car (a 1980s Cadillac), has lived in the same home for his entire life, and doesn’t seem to want more. His investment philosophy is the same. Find an undervalued company with good management, buy low, sell high. He doesn’t need fancy financial products that no one really understands; he just looks for good businesses. Oh, and he loves what he does. You can see how it sustains him, keeping him engaged day in and day out. I think he wanted to show us that. At a time in our lives when we’ve taken ourselves out of the workforce to build our skill set and reflect on our careers, he wanted to show us that money follows passion and simplicity brings happiness.

Meghann Glavin is a University of Washington Foster School of Business full-time MBA student slated to graduate in 2010. 27 Foster MBAs met with Warren Buffett this year.

Foster students consult for Brazilian restaurant in Seattle: part 2

Watch the second installment of our video series following student business consultants from the Foster School as they help a small Brazilian restaurant improve its bottom line and sell its hot sauce. Undergraduate students visit the restaurant for the first time on January 12, sample the food and hot sauce, and finalize their consulting contract with the business.

This is the second of a series of videos on Foster Unplugged where you can follow the five-member student team assigned to help Tempero do Brasil, a restaurant at 5628 University Way Northeast. Check back to follow more of the student team’s efforts as the winter quarter class progresses (under Student Life blog category).


The team was organized through the UW Business and Economic Development Center‘s Marketing 445 class. During winter quarter, dozens of students join teams and are paired with professional consultants from Hitachi Consulting, Deloitte, Ernst & Young as well as senior executives through the Seattle Rotary Club to help minority business owners expand their businesses and improve their bottom lines.

Foster students consult for Brazilian restaurant in Seattle: part 1

The UW Foster School of Business annual Multicultural Marketing and Business Development class is underway and that means local businesses owned by people of color and women will get hundreds of hours of free consulting from student teams, their advisors and mentors.

Through the Business and Economic Development Center’s Marketing 445 class, students are paired with professional consultants from Hitachi Consulting, Deloitte, Ernst & Young as well as senior executives through the Seattle Rotary Club to help minority business owners expand their businesses and improve their bottom lines.

In a series of videos on Foster Unplugged you can follow the five-member student team assigned to help Tempero do Brasil, a small restaurant at 5628 University Way Northeast, as the students experience the challenges and success of helping  this business with its accounting practices and market its unique hot sauce.

In this first installment, watch as Foster teams meet Tempero do Brasil owners for the first time on January 11. Check back to follow more of the student team’s efforts as the winter quarter class progresses (under Student Life blog category).

The power of three: LaunchPad teams are fearless

“This partnership with CIE is absolutely unique,” said Jim Roberts, the business development officer for UW TechTransfer’s LaunchPad. “We create teams of three:  an entrepreneurship MBA, a UW inventor and a TechTransfer manager. The job for the team is to assess potential applications for very early-stage technologies and develop strategies for taking them to market.  The results have been invaluable.”

The teams of three work very well. It all begins with the UW tech managers identifying research faculty/inventors who have developed technologies that could well move quickly into the marketplace. The descriptions of these projects are sent over to the CIE, which in turn advertises the 2-credit ENTRE 600 internship to second-year MBAs and other graduate students who have taken the entrepreneurship core courses. There are multiple deliverables for the internships, and CIE is very clear about the personality requirement: “fearless in conducting market research, talking with potential customers, making findings/recommendations presentations.”  Students must apply to specific technologies, relating their experience and interest in that specific project.  Not every project gets a student, not every student comes away with a project.

Once the pairings are complete, the real work gets underway. “What we’re seeing is that these teams have become very skilled at communicating the details and are developing trust in each other’s knowledge and experience,” said Connie Bourassa-Shaw, CIE director. “The results have been impressive—more  commercialization licenses and start-up companies. It’s a great practical experience.” The program launched in Fall 2008 with 14 teams and ramped up to 32 teams in Fall 2009.

Foster undergrads place 3rd in Spanish Business Case Competition

BYU competition 2009A team of three UW Foster School of Business undergraduates placed third in the second annual Spanish Language Business Case Competition at Brigham Young University in Utah on November 13, 2009 – the only one of its kind in the US. Both business knowledge and mastery of a second language were tested for each participant.

Britten Ferguson, Alex Fitch and Taylor Sloane recommended strategies for Walmart’s international expansion. The case, the presentation and the Q&A with judges were all in Spanish, which is a second language for these students. The team presented to panels of corporate and faculty judges in two preliminary rounds.  The top three teams, representing Indiana University, Utah State University and the University of Washington, went on to the final round.

Alex Fitch, Certificate for International Studies in Business student organization president, said, “In using my Spanish language skills in this competition, I gained confidence in the prospect of doing business in Spanish in the future.”

Study abroad photo contest winners: Spain, South Africa, India

Every year a fresh batch of University of Washington Foster School of Business students embark on trips across the globe to study or work abroad, absorb a language, fortify their business studies and explore other cultures. Each student comes away with something different. The Global Business Center third annual study abroad photo contest for undergraduates and MBAs captures a snapshot of the Foster student experience. 2009 was a particularly close race and judges consisted of more than 30 Foster faculty and staff. Winners are:

FIRST PLACE: Darcy Llyod, undergrad – Cadiz, Spain study trip

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Title: Desert Caravan
Location of photo: Somewhere in the Moroccan desert

Caption: After a night spent camping in the Moroccan desert, our trusty camels left us to finish our tour by van. A bit more comfortable, but much less interesting. 

Experience abroad: I spent 9 months in southern Spain last year. During this time I got a real taste for the Spanish culture, but probably the most amazing part of the whole experience was the chance I had to travel all throughout Europe and even down into Morocco. Seeing the differences in cultures was and eye-opening experience that I won’t soon forget.

 

 

SECOND PLACE: Jonah Peters, undergrad – Cape Town, South Africa study trip

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Title: On Top of the Bottom of the World
Location of photo: On top of Table Mountain, overlooking Cape Town with the South Atlantic Ocean in the background

Caption: Perhaps I should have purchased the UW Student Insurance Plan…

Experience abroad: My program in Cape Town, South Africa had two components. The CHID curriculum examined social movements surrounding apartheid, through the scope of hip-hop music and other forms of activism. Our program allowed us to build relationships with local NGOs and other international organizations that promote, among other things, a healthy dialogue surrounding social issues in the wake of apartheid. The program also allowed me to complete a “community engagement” project, where I single-handedly taught economics to a class of 10th graders at a severely underfunded public school in one of the townships in the Cape Flats.

THIRD PLACE: Yan To, undergrad – India study trip

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Title: Simply Saris
Location of photo: Bangalore, India

Caption: University of Washington students touring a village near Bangalore interacted with rural families in India who received land ownership. Rural Development Institute works to secure land access and improve land rights to the rural poor, women, and other marginalized groups.

Experience abroad: India is truly a land of extreme contrasts and is unlike any other place I have ever been. I had the unique opportunity to learn about both sides of India; the flourishing as well as the developing country. Upon arriving in India, I was overwhelmed with sights, smells, and sounds of the city. It contains the best and the worst all in one place. While the twenty-first century embraces democracy, remnants of the 19th century still survive in Indian society. Amidst the enormous wealth, the severity of poverty is apparent. Just outside our hotel gates, we saw families living in makeshift homes. Everywhere you look, there is evidence of magnificent accomplishment mixed in with a harsh dose of reality in which most people live.

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.