Category Archives: Undergraduate

Womenomics in Japan: a discussion on women in leadership

Guest post by Mika Shimazu, Foster undergraduate and Certificate of International Studies in Business (CISB) student

Mika ShimazuOn August 6, I attended a lunch discussion at Perkins Coie on the topic of Womenomics in Japan. This event, launched by the U.S. Japan Council, is part of the new networking series funded by the Embassy of Japan to foster conversations relating to women’s leadership in Japan. As a member of the CISB Japanese Track and a female considering jobs in Japan, I found this topic to be an optimal opportunity to familiarize myself with the current situation.

The main question for discussion was “what is the current situation of women in the business world in Japan, and how can we encourage more women to remain in the workplace?”

Since elected in December 2012, Prime Minister Abe has worked to stimulate the Japanese economy through his economic policy, Abenomics. As a developed country with an aging population and decreasing birth rate, Japan will soon face a shortage of workers. Womenomics is part of Abenomic’s third arrow, structural reform.

Through group discussions we acknowledged that Japan has a skilled, educated population of women in the workplace. However, these women often quit their jobs after having children and many who remain often do not bear children. Although the government is making reforms in policies and increasing facilities to support mothers, we agreed that there was a tremendous cultural barrier to this issue. In Japan, it is the norm for women to be housewives, taking care of the family and chores, while the men work and provide for the family. In addition, there is a norm to “raise your own children,” and hiring babysitters and nannies is often looked down upon. Moreover, in this aging population, women may be in the middle of taking care of their children as well as looking after their elderly family members.

Observing the current situation, we concluded that the cultural barrier will be the significant struggle for Japan. Some suggested to start making cultural changes in smaller and more innovative companies, such as start-ups, IT companies, and non-profits. Others proposed allowing the couples to decide how to distribute their paid leaves between the mother and the father. Although the solution is still unclear, we were able to promote awareness and encourage conversations about the future of women in the Japanese business world.

Foster School ranks #14 of 100 Best U.S. Colleges for Business Majors

University of Washington’s Foster School of Business ranks best in the Northwest and 14th nationally in NerdWallet’s ranking of the 100 Best U.S. Colleges for Business Majors. Graduates from the Foster School’s undergraduate program had an average annual salary of $97,500 ten years after graduation and carried relatively low student debt thanks to reasonable tuition rates.

Ranked by affordability, prestige, salary, and average debt, the Best U.S. Colleges were rated based on data from the Chronicle of Higher Education, Payscale, SAT scores, and the Institute for College Access and Success.

Best U.S. colleges for business majors

Rank School Public
or
private
Median
SAT
score
Cost
of
tuition
Average aid package Average student debt Median salary after 10 years or more Score
1 University of California, Berkeley Public 1350 $12,874 $15,764 $17,468 $138,300 83.235
2 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Public 1313 $7,693 $12,622 $17,602 $93,000 71.517
3 Brigham Young University Private 1277 $4,710 $6,457 $15,769 $96,700 71.459
4 University of Virginia Public 1362 $12,216 $15,508 $21,815 $106,400 70.596
5 University of California, Irvine Public 1122 $13,122 $16,066 $20,728 $121,000 70.068
6 Georgia Institute of Technology Public 1352 $10,098 $8,510 $25,027 $116,100 69.299
7 City University of New York Bernard M. Baruch College Public 1225 $5,910 $6,607 $5,979 $88,300 68.859
8 University of California, Santa Barbara Public 1212 $13,671 $15,852 $20,452 $102,000 64.584
9 College of William and Mary Public 1358 $13,570 $13,615 $24,400 $100,900 64.408
10 University of California, Los Angeles Public 1289 $12,692 $16,288 $20,229 $92,200 64.401
11 California State University, Sacramento Public 945 $6,620 $8,939 $4,551 $85,700 63.908
12 California State University, Long Beach Public 1012 $6,052 $8,779 $13,386 $87,400 63.223
13 Washington University in St. Louis Private 1474 $43,705 $25,449 $23,082 $129,100 63.215
14 University of Washington Public 1234 $12,383 $13,441 $21,263 $97,500 62.880
15 California State Polytechnic University, Pomona Public 1070 $6,125 $8,932 $20,636 $91,500 62.838
16 University of Pennsylvania Private 1442 $43,738 $32,489 $19,798 $121,700 62.719
17 California State University, Fullerton Public 1021 $6,195 $8,616 $12,962 $86,400 62.661
18 University of California, Davis Public 1192 $13,877 $15,201 $19,970 $98,800 62.509
19 San Jose State University Public 1030 $6,852 $8,622 $18,424 $95,800 62.374
20 University of Texas at Austin Public 1262 $9,790 $8,627 $25,300 $101,300 62.158

Sources: NerdWallet, Payscale, Chronicle of Higher Education, Institute for College Access and Success. For full rankings and methodology, visit http://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/refinance-student-loans/best-colleges-for-business-major-2015

For more information about Foster’s undergraduate program, visit http://foster.uw.edu/academics/degree-programs/undergraduate-programs/ 

Pahnke and Beard win UW Distinguished Teaching Award

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Leta Beard and Emily Cox Pahnke

Emily Cox Pahnke and Leta Beard, faculty members of the Foster School of Business, have received this year’s University of Washington Distinguished Teaching Award.

Only seven educators across the UW system are so honored each year, and it’s the first time the Foster School has had two awardees in the same year.

Emily Cox Pahnke is an assistant professor of management who joined the Foster School in 2010 after earning BS and MBA degrees from Brigham Young University, and an MA in sociology and a PhD in management science and engineering from Stanford University.

The daughter of a globe-trekking ethnobotanist, she grew up around the world before landing in Seattle after her doctoral studies at Stanford—where she received the Industry Study Association’s Best Dissertation Award and was a finalist for the Technology and Innovation Management division of the Academy of Management’s Best Dissertation Award.

An expert in entrepreneurship and innovation, Pahnke has taught Introduction to Entrepreneurship and Grand Challenges for Entrepreneurs to Foster undergraduate students, Entrepreneurial Strategy to MBAs, and Innovation and Organizations to doctoral students.

Pahnke is known for bringing the real world into the classroom with challenging case studies and connected industry speakers. To equip her students to navigate the ambiguity germane to entrepreneurial activities, she also connects them to expert mentors and launches them into the marketplace to learn firsthand the difference between a good idea and a good business idea.

“To do that you have to throw students in,” she says. “Give them really open-ended problems that kind of freak them out.”

The value of this goes way beyond the classroom. “I cannot overstate one thing about what Professor Pahnke provides to her class: inspiration,” says Marcus Van Der Peet (BA 2015). “Not everyone can be a successful entrepreneur, but everyone can enter the work place with a passion for innovation. Professor Pahnke gives her students the confidence to act upon their creative inclinations, she teaches that even when a project is not successful, it is only a failure if you do not learn from it, she gives them the desire to pursue those things that they are passionate about, and she motivates everyone she meets to think like an entrepreneur.”

Leta Beard (BA 1978, MBA 1980) is a senior lecturer in marketing and international business. Though raised in a family of educators, she opted to follow a different path… initially. “I went into business because it was the farthest thing from teaching,” she says, laughing

After earning BA and MBA degrees from the Foster School, Beard worked for 12 years at AT&T before being called back to the family “business” and joining the Foster faculty full-time in 1996.

Today, she teaches core marketing and international business courses to undergraduates, and also helms courses through Foster’s Executive Education and Consulting and Business Development Center, and through UW Professional & Continuing Education.

Students laud her innovative, inclusive approach to learning. Her mix of methods leans heavily on the experiential—class debates, “in the news” discussions, even an elaborate world trade fair.

But what sets Beard apart is her tireless dedication to students—inside and outside of the classroom. She is faculty advisor to Undergraduate Women in Business and the UW chapter of the American Marketing Association. She leads study tours, coaches and mentors case competition teams and counsels students on international study, resume writing, interviewing and anything else they need help with.

“Leta is most deserving of this award because of her passionate involvement in academics and student development,” says Caitlin Snaring (BA 2015). “She is an outstanding mentor and inspiration to everyone she meets.”

These qualities have resulted in a long list of accolades. In recent years, Beard has received the UW American Marketing Association Lifetime Achievement Award (2015), the Ron Crockett Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching (2015), the UW IFC/Panhellenic Faculty of the Year Award (2010, 2011, 2014), Faculty Partner of the Year from Foster Career Services (2014), Faculty Advisor of the Year from the UW American Marketing Association (2014), Marketing and International Business Faculty of the Year (2006, 2010, 2013), the Wells Fargo Faculty Award for Undergraduate Teaching (2007, 2010), and the UW Distinguished Contribution to Lifelong Learning Award (2009).

“Teaching is my passion. It’s my love,” Beard says. “When you can help people succeed and find their passion, it’s worth all the effort.”

Pahnke and Beard represent the 11th and 12th Foster School faculty members to receive the UW Distinguished Award since its inception in 1970. Here is the complete list:

1971 – Robert “Rocky” Higgins, Professor of Finance
1974 – David Hart, Professor in Business Administration
1976 – Alan Hess, Professor of Finance and Business Economics
1983 – Gerhard Mueller, Professor of Accounting
1984 – Sharon Gailbraith, Professor of Marketing & International Business
1986 – Nicholas Binedell, Lecturer in Business Administration
1998 – Frank Rothaermel, Lecturer in Business Administration
1999 – June Morita, Senior Lecturer in Management Science
2006 – William Wells, Senior Lecturer in Accounting
2011 – Christina Ting Fong, Principal Lecturer in Management
2015 – Emily Cox Pahnke, Assistant Professor of Management
2015 – Leta Beard, Senior Lecturer in Marketing and International Business

Something special every day: Foster students provide solutions to zulily

Zulily1
zulily, the darling e-commerce flash-sale company based in Seattle has had exceptional growth since emerging on the market in 2010. “zulily has grown substantially, exhibiting astronomical growth over the last five years. zulily reported fourth quarter and full year 2014 net sales at $1.2 billion, up a staggering 72 percent year-over-year.”¹

They have cornered the “mom” market by focusing on products for women and children with a focus on delighting their customers with short-term (3-days) sales on unique products from both boutique brands as well as name-brand fashion. In recent years, zulily has begun to expand into related categories – such as homewares. Encouraged by their powerful e-tailing platform and passionate customer base, zulily continues to focus on delivering an exceptional customer experience for all of its customers, each and every day. The Foster School of Business partnered with zulily to explore the critical question through the Strategy Development Case Competition: Where should zulily focus their growth and expansion?

Each quarter the Foster School partners with a Seattle-based company to develop a customized business case as part of a required capstone course (MGMT430) for all graduating seniors. The case, written by Sadie Raney, Foster MBA Alumna (’14) and overseen by the course coordinator, Rich McPherson presents an urgent business issue in a condensed format.

Nearly 60 teams of students presented their solutions to panels of
judges composed of alumni, friends of the business school and zulily leaders. Although the case challenge centered on expanding addressable markets, the winning team built a compelling argument for remaining true to the zulily brand and their core customer – mom by developing a rewards programs. The winning team highlighted that there are still opportunities to gain market share with moms throughout the United States. Their solution was backed by their business finding – 80% of future revenue comes from 20% of existing customers.

Zulily2
The winning team hard at work at zulily’s headquarters

Members of the winning team were: Kevin Cruz, Kayla Jedele, Erinna O’Brien, Phi Pham, and Bryanna Woo, had the opportunity to present to the Customer Experience team at zulily headquarters a few days after the competition – and a few days before graduating! The general consensus of the senior leaders of the students’ “bloom” rewards program (featuring a flat membership fee to enable customers’ early access to specific daily sales and free shipping on a monthly basis) was that it is ‘simple, clean, and easily understood.’ Kayla Jedele “loved actually presenting to zulily employees both in the competition and during our office visit because it meant they cared about our work. They were just as excited and invested as we were which really enriched the whole experience.”

Erinna O’Brien said of the experience overall: “I had the most incredible experience at Foster doing this case competition with my team. The key to our success was trusting one another, not being afraid to speak up and capitalizing on our best skills.”

¹Brohan, Mark. “Zulily sales spike 72% in 2014.” www.internetretailer.com. 12 February 2015. Used content from earnings press release hosted on zulily: http://investor.zulily.com/releases.cfm

Foster undergrads create social media plan for U.S. Open Golf Championship

Foster undergraduate students enjoy U.S. Open media day with legendary champion Greg Norman and FOX Sports broadcasters.
Foster undergraduate students  at Chambers Bay Golf Course during  U.S. Open media day with legendary champion Greg Norman and the FOX Sports broadcast team.

When the world’s best golfers tee off at the U.S. Open June 17-21, not all of the action will take place on the rugged Puget Sound landscape of Chambers Bay. A coordinated “Open For All” Fan Experience in Seattle’s Lake Union Park will offer big-screen viewing of the championship, games, activities and official merchandise, a “Learning Science through Golf” exhibit, local food trucks, and an opportunity to see the famed U.S. Open trophy at the end of its cross-country tour.

The event—if not the trophy—will bear the fingerprints of Foster School undergrads.

In winter quarter, the United States Golf Association and its broadcast partner FOX Sports challenged students in Abhishek Borah’s social media class to brainstorm event ideas and promotion of the fan fest viewing party. Their target demographic was a familiar one: Millennials, the legion of 20-somethings raised on technology though not necessarily on golf.

“The executives from FOX Sports and the USGA wanted my students to provide research and analysis to support a location for the event, and a plan to create social media buzz that would get young people excited about it,” says Borah, an assistant professor of marketing at Foster.

Golf in the city

The projects, conducted through the FOX Sports University program, became the real-world capstone to Borah’s course.

Four teams presented. The winning “Golf The City” team—Yen Phung, Tyler Ronish, Supo Techagum, Nap Poshyananda and Coral Lee—delivered outside-of-the-box creativity in a coherent and professional presentation that most impressed the USGA and FOX Sports executives.

“The kids came up with a variety of great ideas, presented with real professional polish,” says Greg Ross, manager of branded and special events at the USGA. “Since we’re not from the Seattle area, it was a great eye-opener to see what options are there, what the younger demographic would think was cool and fun.”

Golf The City proposed a network of mini-golf installations around the city, encouraging social sharing of pictures and recommended hashtags. They outlined an advertising campaign featuring local celebrities. For the Fan Experience, they envisioned photo ops with wax figures of famous golfers from Madame Tussauds, specialty golf-themed cakes and a virtual swing analyzer. They recommended favorite food truck vendors and popular local bands.

“Since we were the target audience, we thought, what’s interesting to us? How could we be convinced to go?” says Phung, a senior at Foster who is president of the school’s American Marketing Association branch.

“The winning team had great ideas—along the lines of our original thinking,” Ross adds. “But they went the extra mile and presented budgets, projected impression numbers. Information we weren’t even asking for.”

Next generation entertainment

Their reward (beyond an excellent grade and a valuable resume booster) was an all-access pass to U.S. Open media day in May, and VIP status for the Fan Experience.

The winning team gets a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to broadcast a major sporting event.
The winning team gets a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to broadcast a major sporting event.

The students have seen how such an event is promoted and executed, and how well their ideas dovetailed with the USGA’s plans. Their mini-golf notion resembles the “Epic Putt Challenge” that has challenged fans at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (and continues at the Fan Experience) to match some of the greatest putts in championship history. Their swing analyzer has morphed into a golf simulator that allows fans to virtually play the signature 15th hole at Chambers Bay. And there will be food trucks galore.

Alas, no golf ball cakes or waxed U.S. Open champions.

In sync

“The students didn’t know what the USGA was planning for the Fan Experience,” says Kaitlyn Beale, manager of marketing and strategic partnerships at FOX Sports. “So to be so in sync was pretty exciting. It was great for us to be able to tap into some great minds at the University of Washington, and for the students to be so engaged and invested in this project.”

They certainly learned a lot. Apart from Ronish—an avid golf fan who will intern with the USGA this summer—nobody on the winning team knew the first thing about the sport at the outset.

“Coming into this class, I didn’t know anything about golf, and not a lot about the power of social media,” says Phung, who will join Hitachi Consulting after graduating this June. “But I did know something about marketing. It was so interesting to see all of the behind-the-scenes work that goes into a big event and social media campaign. And it was an incredibly valuable challenge to apply what I’ve learned in school to an unfamiliar industry, something I’ll be doing a lot in my career.”

YEOC marks end of the year with competition and celebration

With summer break just on the horizon, students are preparing for a little down time before they transition to the next chapter in their lives. However, before the vacations and summer jobs begin, YEOC marked the occasion with the Annual Case Competition and End of the Year Celebration.

Inspired by the popular TV show Shark Tank, the entrepreneurial-themed case competition highlighted the students’ creativity, business insights, and teamwork skills. Prompted to “solve a problem that the world is facing today using technology” students worked together in groups to create their own innovative solutions. With thirty judges from the business and higher education communities in attendance, thirty YEOC student teams competed against one another for the top prize. After three rounds, it was the “Piezo board” that took first place. Described as a piezoelectric crystal floorboard that captures energy from the footsteps of passing pedestrians, the winning team received a check for $1,000 and a trip to the EY Entrepreneur of the Year Gala.

During the celebrations, EY took the time to showcase their commitment to the YEOC program. With a giant check in tow, the company renewed its pledge of support with $225,000 over the next three years. EY partners Glenn Carrington and Matthew Alexander also surprised the audience with personal donations of $1,000 each.

See photos of the celebration below:

YEOC students
A group of YEOC students
YEOC Mentors and MITs
YEOC Mentors and MITs
Winning team
Winning case competition team
sponsorship renewal
EY’s $225,000 sponsorship renewal for YEOC

Find out more about the YEOC program on the Foster website.

Foster Professional Sales Program 18th Annual Spring Business Partner Breakfast

Guest post by Rick Carter, assistant director, Foster Professional Sales Program Foster Professional Sales Program

professional-sales-program-spring-business-partner-venture

Celebrating the Foster Professional Sales Program 18th Annual Spring Business Partner Breakfast

On May 20, close to 500 guests celebrated the accomplishments of 125 students who have completed practicums with 66 business partners from the Puget Sound Area. The student-led celebration showcased the winners of the National Team Selling Competition, the National Collegiate Sales Competition, and the Husky Sales Club’s $18,000 gift to the program.

Conner Olsen of The Broderick Group, Hanna Klemm of Towers Watson, and Tyler McManigal of F-5–all alumni of the program–were interviewed by Dick Foley on their experiences as recent grads living out their education in real world application. “This program set me apart from my colleagues, giving me a quick start and advantage in my success and advancement.” All have experienced rapid growth and are very successful in their positions.

Congratulations to the Foster Professional Sales Program Class of 2015.

2015 UDS graduation ceremony

On Saturday May 17th, students, families, Foster staff, and community members gathered in Anthony’s Forum to celebrate the Undergraduate Diversity Services (UDS) graduating class of 2015! The goal of UDS is to attract, recruit and retain diverse students here at the Foster School of Business. These UDS graduates have participated in the UDS pipeline programs (YEOC, B2, ALVA, BEOP) and diverse student organizations (ABBS, NABA, ALPFA). During the event, the soon-to-be Foster alums took to the stage to receive a custom UDS stole and a special message of congratulations from Undergraduate Assistant Dean Vikki Haag Day and former UDS Associate Director Jai-Anana Elliott. Attendees also heard from staff members Kate Merriwether (Assistant to Undergraduate Deans), Pamela Lacson (Associate Director of Diversity & Recruitment), and Korrie Miller (YEOC Program Manager).

See photos from the celebration below:

UDS_Graduation_2015-007-X2UDS_Graduation_2015-195-X2 UDS_Graduation_2015-147-X2 UDS_Graduation_2015-201-X2 UDS_Graduation_2015-206-X2
Learn more about UDS on the Foster website.

2015 Undergraduate Consulting Challenge

Big Time Brewery owner Rick McLaughlin with winning student team from South Seattle Community College – Louise Bayona, Amber Jiang, Gosay Mohammed and Aliya Zhaxylykbayeva.
Gargoyles Statuary owner Gayle Nowicki with winning student team Jeremy Santos, Anthony Li, Emmeline Vu, and Jennifer Louie.
Panache206 owner Elizabeth Morris with colleagues and winning student team Ataur Rahman, John Tran, Alan Cai, and Anthony Shen.

On Friday, May 8, the Consulting and Business Development Center hosted the Undergraduate Consulting Challenge, pairing three local small businesses – Big Time Brewery,  Gargoyles Statuary, and Panache206 with teams of students who were given a week to create a plan that would aid in the growth and development of each client.

Approximately 60 students formed teams of three or four to research and analyze the companies in order to develop recommendations to present at the competition.  For the first time, the Consulting and Business Development Center extended the invitation to compete beyond UW to business students from community colleges throughout the state. South Seattle College and Yakima Valley Community College each sent four students to compete in the challenge – with the South Seattle team winning first place for their recommendations to Big Time Brewery!

Each student team presented dynamic ideas and data to the business owners and panel of  judges from event sponsors Key Bank and Target as well as professionals from  Community Sourced Capital, Crown Moving, PaintBox Labs Media Group and Project Management Institute who volunteered their time and expertise. Following the presentations, all attendees gathered in Deloitte Commons for a celebratory lunch and networking opportunity for students, business owners and professionals. After lunch the winning teams for each business were announced and each winning team member received a $200 gift card prize.

Congratulations to all involved with the 2015 spring Undergraduate Consulting Challenge!

For information about the next Consulting Challenge email: Consult1@uw.edu

Thank you to James Dennis Professional Photography

Veterans way

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

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Dan Boirum

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.

Finding Foster

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.

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Norma Domingo and Chris Wigley

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.”

That training is the best in any business, according to Bruce Avolio, director of the Foster School’s Center for Leadership and Strategic Thinking and author of multiple studies on military leadership.

“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.”

Nested networks

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.”

The version of this article that appears in the spring 2015 issue of Foster Business includes profiles of six additional Foster veterans.