Category Archives: Student Life

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


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


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


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.

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.

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.

Evening MBA student and entrepreneur perspective

By guest blogger Daniel Rossi, Evening MBA Class of 2010

Daniel Rossi (UW MBA 2010) and Dustin Miller (UW PhD student), Nanocel founders
Daniel Rossi (UW MBA 2010) and Dustin Miller (UW PhD student), Nanocel founders

Over the past two years, I’ve had the pleasure of immersing myself into many of the classes and programs that the UW Foster School of Business Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship offers students here at the University of Washington. I’m here to tell you what you can expect if you do the same.
First there is the entrepreneurship curriculum. It’s for UW business and technology students wondering what exactly entrepreneurs do and if they might want to be one someday. “Searchers” are exposed to the risks and rewards associated with starting their own companies. You’ll hear the good and the bad from myriad entrepreneurs that have started and sold many of their own companies. If you decide, like I did, that you dig it and want to learn more, there is an entrepreneurship certificate that will prepare you (in finance, accounting, marketing, networking, etc) to give it a shot. The teachers, speakers and subjects are excellent and give students a strong knowledge base.

Entrepreneurship competitions

There are three competitions that allow students to put what they have learned into practice: Venture Capital Investment Competition (VCIC), Environmental Innovation Challenge (EIC) and the Business Plan Competition (BPC). I’ve competed twice in the BPC and in last year’s inaugural EIC. These competitions are the perfect forum for business students and technology innovators (engineering/medical researchers) to partner up.  They’re great for academics looking to research an idea and write a business plan and for real start ups looking for their big break. The EIC focuses on “green” technologies and awards scholarship money so teams can research and actually build prototypes. The BPC is a virtual marathon of research, market validation, business plan writing and presenting. CIE brings in a virtual “who’s who” of local entrepreneurs and investors that act as judges throughout the competition. We’re talking SERIOUS networking people! And if you want, you can even apply for an internship (for credit) with UW’s Center for Commercialization office and be assigned to a technology and team that will compete. Last year, ALL of the teams that made the BPC finals had UW Center for Commercialization technologies, including mine. Any one of these competitions can be considered a capstone for your studies here at UW.

My own start-up, Nanocel

In 2009, I formed a team called Nanocel with Dustin Miller (mechanical engineering UW PhD candidate and Mad Scientist Extraordinaire). Dustin had an amazing technology and an even better idea of how to use it. I had competed in the previous BPC and knew how to write a business plan. We teamed up and got to work. Even with a brilliant technology, it took all the knowledge and experience we had accumulated in CIE classes to validate our technology and write our plan. We worked and competed very hard. We wrote our plan and presented it. Then we fixed it and changed it and kept presenting. The work was arduous but exhilarating. In the end, we were overjoyed with our results. We won the BPC and have had many opportunities to network with and present to the local business establishment, including investor groups. We’ve formed a start-up called Nanocel Inc. and are in the process of licensing our technology from UW’s Center for Commercialization. We’re really doing this thing!

All of this began with a simple introductory class offered by CIE at the UW Foster School of Business called ENTRE 509 (and with a mad scientist with an entrepreneurial bent).

To those of you—niche carvers, franchisers, industrialists, capitalists and social entrepreneurs—who wonder if you have what it takes to make a calculated leap—to strike out on your own and start something. Entrepreneurship is not for everyone. It’s not even for most of us. Is it for you? That can be a very tough and expensive question to answer alone. So don’t do it alone. Let the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship help you begin to answer that question. I did.

Foster MBAs collaborate from the start

The first week of fall 2009 brings a new crop of Foster School full-time MBA students to the UW Seattle campus for orientation, leadership preparation and collaboration with “veteran” 2nd-year MBAs. Here’s a taste of what new full-time Foster MBAs are experiencing during the intensive LEAD week.

“Teams are a central part of the Foster MBA Program. During the first year nearly every class requires you to complete work with your core team of 5 or 6 students, whether it’s a research paper, a presentation or both. Foster’s Leadership Fellows program matches a 2nd year student with a 1st year team to provide support and guidance. As 2nd year students, by now we’ve all learned a thing or two, from tools for facilitating a brainstorming session to the secret for cheap parking on campus.”

- Jessica Didion, current Foster MBA 2nd-year student

Read more about the Foster MBA student experience on Inside the Foster MBA blog.