Category Archives: Undergraduate

Authentic international business experience at the Specialty Coffee Event

Guest post by Cristina Stefan, Foster undergraduate and Certificate of International Studies in Business student

Through the Certificate of International Studies in Business program (CISB), I had the incredible opportunity to attend the 27th edition of the Specialty Coffee Event, which took place April 9–12 at the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle. Josef Moreno and I volunteered to work with the honorary consulate of Peru, located in Seattle, to help translate and interpret for the coffee roasters that had come from all over Peru to show their merchandise and enter the international coffee market. For some it was their second or third time attending the event, but for others it was their first time outside of their home country. We did our best to support them and help them in their interactions with the consumers and retailers present at the trade show.

It was an unimaginable experience and a perfect way to put my Spanish language skills to use. While Joe helped with a private meeting among the Peruvian vendors, I interpreted for the coffee roasters–some of whom spoke a very distinct Spanish dialect specific to the region they had come from. I facilitated information exchanges and future travel arrangements between coffee growers, toasters, vendors, and buyers from all over the world who had come to the Peruvian booths to learn about the delicious coffee grown in Peru.

Being so closely involved not only enriched my vocabulary and stretched my thinking, but also opened my eyes to a new industry few people know the details of. Among the coffee types we tried were Geisha, Catuai, Caturra, Colombiana, Arusha, Kona, Java, and Pache. We discovered “cupping,” a very unique coffee tasting technique, using a spoon and very briskly sipping the coffee. Who knew being a coffee taster also requires a specific certification?

We were able to observe how coffee is toasted, bagged, and even roasted and prepared in the different machines and then served. We tried iced coffees, frappes, Italian sodas, and many other delicious coffee based products.

Above all, the cultural experience and the ability to interact and network with professionals in the coffee industry was invaluable. Observing the different negotiation techniques and all the cultural differences based on the country of origin of the attendees reminded me of all that I’ve learned about international business in my classes here at Foster. This was probably the most authentic international business setting I have participated in.

Foster undergrads place eighth at National Collegiate Sales Competition

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

Foster Professional Sales Program students Collin Lea, Amy Tachasirinugune, and Laurel Rice
Foster Professional Sales Program students Collin Lea, Amy Tachasirinugune, and Laurel Rice

Foster Professional Sales Program students Collin Lea, Amy Tachasirinugune, and Laurel Rice competed in the National Collegiate Sales Competition on April 8-10 at Kennesaw State University. They placed eighth out of 67 universities, sending one student to the quarter finals and one student to the semi-finals. Thirty-five corporate sponsors acted as judges and buyers for the twenty minute sales calls.

The NCSC undergraduate competition is a sales call skills challenge which is run as an elimination-style tournament. The goals of the competition are to promote the sales profession; provide an opportunity for corporate sponsors to interact with top collegiate prospects; furnish a venue for students to exhibit and enhance their selling skills; and provide a venue for students, professors, and sales executives to network.

Collin Lea said, “The competition is based on real situations, needs ID, product demos, and plenty of buyer objections. Knowing that any of us can go into a room and lead a sales call from beginning to end is invaluable. This is a skill set we are using right now as we seek our first career job.”

The competition is designed to be challenging, engaging, and rewarding. Laurel Rice said, “I had to go back into the wild card round and felt very discouraged, but I flipped my mindset and forced myself to smile, work hard, and stay in the competition. That evening the news came that I had made the quarter finals, and we were overwhelmed with excitement.”

Amy Tachasirinugune said, “This was an experience that was unforgettable and helped me build confidence to compete in the real world. I’m much more comfortable in high-pressure situations and have been more relaxed in recent job interviews.”

Congratulations to the 2015 National Collegiate Sales Competition UW Team!

Developing the ability to develop – UW students get a taste of CLST’s approach to leadership development

students in workshop
Students in CLST workshop discussing their development plans


This post was written by staff members from the Center for Leadership and Strategic Thinking

What can undergraduates do to develop their leadership while at UW?

That’s what over 150 undergraduates came to a Leadership Conference on a recent Saturday to learn about. Hosted by Delta Sigma Pi (a professional co-ed business fraternity)* in conjunction with the Center for Leadership and Strategic Thinking, the one-day conference gave attendees a real-world perspective on what they can do now to develop the leadership skills that will be vital to their professional success. The conference included representatives from companies such as Accenture, PepsiCo/Frito Lay, Boeing, Microsoft and Target.

CLST’s role in the event was to help students build their Developmental Readiness, their willingness and ability to develop when faced with challenging leadership situations. (It’s worth noting that the students certainly demonstrated their willingness to develop by showing up to a leadership conference early on a sunny Saturday morning.)

Research on leadership development has shown that only about 30% of leadership is hard-wired, while the other 70% can be developed, and that the extent to which one develops through experiences differs from person to person. In other words, facing a similar challenge, a person with higher developmental readiness might thrive and grow while another struggles and gives up. Further, this ability to develop can itself be developed. CLST’s goal was to help catalyze this process.

In a workshop format, CLST coaches helped participants craft a plan for working on an aspect of their developmental readiness, including specific actions they could take on a daily basis. Sienna Landry, a member of Delta Sigma Pi who helped organize the event, said that the attendees “have absolutely walked away from this conference with a new sense of how they can impact their leadership styles.”

The event was a huge success, and the fraternity plans to hold it again next year. This collaboration with Delta Sigma Pi is a great example of how CLST is reaching out to UW undergraduates to help develop critical leadership skills during their time at UW.

*Delta Sigma Pi is a professional fraternity organized to foster the study of business in universities; to encourage scholarship, social activity and the association of students for their mutual advancement by research and practice.

GBCC student teams tackle solar energy

Foster School Team showing off their school spirit!
The Foster School team members Eric Zhu, Emmeline Vu, Morgan Bell-Smith, and Dinesvara  Airlangga show off their school spirit!

This Saturday, the Global Business Center hosted its 17th annual Global Business Case Competition (GBCC) – where twelve teams representing eight countries competed for the title of GBCC Champion.

Each of the undergraduate student teams spent 48 hours analyzing a business case on First Solar Inc.  In 2010, First Solar was the global leader in production of solar panels. However, by 2013, Chinese producers dominated the world market, helped by generous government subsidies.  First Solar was also challenged by falling prices for solar panels made with a competing technology.  First Solar responded by vertically integrating into the solar systems business, making the company a “one-stop shop” for utility customers.  First Solar’s sales have been concentrated in the US market, but they are exploring opportunities outside the US.  The GBCC student teams were tasked with identifying the external forces affecting First Solar’s business over the next five years and then prioritizing the non-US target markets.

Four teams were selected to move on to the final round: the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Florida State University, Simon Fraser University, and the University of Southern California.

GBCC 2015 Winning TeamOur final round judging panel commented that this was one of the most difficult and complex cases in the history of GBCC. In the end, the judges chose the Chinese University of Hong Kong as this year’s GBCC Champion.

We would like to acknowledge the hard work of our GBCC Student Leadership Team who spent countless hours organizing this event.

GBCC would not be possible without our major sponsors. A special thank you to The Boeing Company, Costco Wholesale, F5 Networks, Russell Investments, Starbucks Coffee International, and Wells Fargo for their generous support.

Global Business Case Competition exports inspiration around the world

GBCC-facesEvery year the Foster School’s Global Business Case Competition (GBCC) welcomes the world.

Bangladesh and Brazil. Egypt and Estonia. Israel and Italy. Jamaica and Japan. Korea and Kuwait. Pakistan and Peru. Serbia and Singapore. Uganda and the United Kingdom. In all, 52 nations have sent their best and brightest undergraduate business students to match wits in the GBCC since its 1999 launch.

Now this long-time importer of competitors is exporting inspiration.

Kindred competitions in Portugal, New Zealand, Belgium, Sudan and Colombia have been inspired by unforgettable GBCC experiences and informed by its best practices.

GBCC-Presentation2After Brendon Potter, student development and engagement manager at the University of Auckland Business School, brought a team to Seattle for its first international experience in 2004, he was moved to launch his school’s own champions league of case competitions. “Because of that invitation to the GBCC, we have established a significant case program of our own,” says Potter. “And it was the motivation to instigate our own Champions Trophy Case Competition in 2008, to which we’ve been delighted to welcome the Huskies on several occasions.”

Some 12,000 miles and a hemisphere away in Portugal, Renata Blanc de Melo had a similar response when she brought a team of students from the Universidade do Porto to the 2007 GBCC. The lecturer and senior consultant began drawing up plans to replicate the competitive and cultural experience and in 2013 launched the FEPUPORTO International Case Competition. “There is no case competition culture in Portugal, so being invited the first time was a departing point for us,” says Blanc. “And regarding our own competition, GBCC was undoubtedly a benchmark.”

This year, two former Foster students are instigating GBCC-style competitions to serve students in their respective corners of the world. Aysa Miller (BA 2004) and Nathan Bright (BA 2014) are both alumni of the Certificate of International Studies in Business (CISB), Foster’s nationally-ranked specialty program that gives undergrads a competitive edge in global business through language immersion, study or work abroad, and practical experience.

Miller, the economic and deputy commercial officer at the US Embassy in Khartoum, Sudan, has assembled a team of students representing three Sudanese universities to compete at this year’s GBCC. He’ll follow up with a local case competition hosted by the Ahfad University for Women—the first in the east African nation.

Bright, a teacher of international business, technology management and marketing at the Universidad de Manizales in Colombia, decided that a GBCC-style competition would benefit his students. To pull it off, he’s been working with Kathleen Hatch, assistant director of undergraduate programs at the Global Business Center.

GBCC-2014 winnersHatch offers open source guidance to Bright, Miller and any others seeking to replicate the life-changing experience that the GBCC annually delivers through its heady mix of company visits, social events, professional development, cultural exchange and rigorous competition to solve a real-world international business challenge.

She’s not surprised to see the competition’s effect rippling so far and wide.

“I think that GBCC has been an inspirational model to other business schools because it incorporates everything that is so critical to business education today—cross cultural communications, team work, and strategic thinking,” says Hatch. “It forces students to grapple with the complexities of doing business in today’s global landscape.”

Not to mention, it’s great fun.

This year’s Global Business Case Competition takes place April 13-18.

In Beijing, an internship worth yakking about

Guest post by Joyce Tang, Foster undergraduate and Certificate of International Studies in Business student

Joyce TangAt a recent Certificate of International Studies in Business (CISB) Alumni Panel, I heard a woman say she wished she had spent more time during her study abroad experience building a professional network, rather than only engaging with other students. I couldn’t agree more because I personally benefited from this decision while I was an exchange student at Peking University, the most prestigious higher learning institute in China.

After a meaningful summer internship in Shanghai, I knew I wanted to have more work experience while I was studying abroad. My resolve led me to find and accept an internship at a social enterprise called Khunu. This company produces premium yak wool apparel, while supporting the yak herders from whom the wool is sourced. With a great passion for social entrepreneurship and fashion, this was the perfect opportunity for me. Three days a week, I took a 45 minute commute—if I was lucky enough to squish my way onto the first subway that came during rush hour—to work and 45 minutes back to school.

During those three months, I learned things that turned my assumptions about China upside down. For example, I assumed most luxury fashion brands produced their products domestically to maintain quality and workmanship, but found out the factory we produced our apparel in was also used by a big name luxury label. It was also a lot smaller than I expected, as the picture in my head was of an enormous factory designed for mass production. Many people immediately think low quality when they hear the words manufacturing and China in the same sentence. However, this is not always the case. Khunu is one fashion label that is trying to redefine the “Made in China” tag.

What I learned at Khunu was reinforced at a panel discussion I recently attended on ethical sourcing, which was sponsored and organized by CISB and AIESEC. The vice presidents of global sourcing from Costco and Brooks Running Company spoke about the manufacturing, supplying, and operations practices of their respective companies. They emphasized the importance of setting a new market standard where businesses create value chains at every step of the process, rather than just supply chains. To accomplish this, the players at each stage of the chain—from cotton farmer to spinner to business to consumer—must demand and be provided fair compensation for the part they play. As I pursue a concentration and future career in operations and supply chain management, my experiences in CISB have played an invaluable part in helping me understand sustainable supply chains from both sides of the Pacific: Seattle and Beijing.

Foster students brew up delivery solutions for Starbucks

Guest post by Josina Garnham, experiential learning manager

Starbucks winning teamThe warm chocolatey-caramel notes swirling through the air is what you notice first–often times before you even open the door. When you do enter the storefront, you are enveloped by the sound of well-selected jazz, the buzz of the espresso machine and the friendly baristas calling out the names of customers and their made-to-order beverages.

Starbucks, a ubiquitous brand globally and especially here in Seattle, is seeking to extend this experience from their stores to meet its customers’ just-in-time demands. Graduating seniors from the Foster School were invited to join Starbucks in developing solutions on how to deliver fresh beverages without compromising on quality and maintaining the company’s value of “delivering our very best in all we do.”

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 Anna Fung, Foster PhD student, and overseen by Rick McPherson, course coordinator, presents an urgent business issue in a condensed format. The Foster Strategy Development Case Competition is one of the largest single-day case competitions in the world. This winter’s competition with Starbucks featured 54 teams comprised of over 225 students.

For Dave Twehues, director of Global Corporate Strategy, the decision to partner with the Foster School was an easy one: “I think the value of the case competition from Starbucks is twofold. First, the participation of our partners as judges is a great way for Starbucks to connect with future business leaders and second, the exposure to the creative solutions delivered by the student teams brings fresh perspectives to really difficult business problems.”

To develop a winning solution, the students focused on Starbucks’s mission and values: “To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.” Madeline Sykes, a senior finance major, noted, “it is important to do research on the company’s values and we knew Starbucks values its customers very highly. We started off our presentation by presenting a story about a target customer and the customer’s needs.”

Student teams have three weeks to research the issue and prepare presentations summarizing their recommendations to business leaders—both Foster alumni and Starbucks employees who serve as judges. For Matt Hansen, an accounting major, “the Q&A section…is the hardest part to prepare for. This is one area that our team spent a lot of time focusing on because it is where groups can differentiate themselves by their ability to think on their feet and shows how confident they are in their business proposal/strategy.”

The winning team of Renee Chiang, Allison Gaylor, Matt Hansen, Rebecca Ruh, Kamal Sohal, and Madeline Sykes proposed meeting the challenge of delivering Starbucks beverages with the solution of creating smaller satellite “stores” which would focus on preparing drinks for delivery exclusively. Current stores maintain a brisk business with customers walking in the doors. The student’s research—including frequenting area Starbucks cafes—led them to hypothesize that increasing demands on these storefronts for delivery orders would slow service in both areas. From these small-scale, delivery-focused beverage outlets, bike messengers would be deployed to deliver both hot and cold drinks in specially designed temperature controlled bags.

Beyond understanding the company’s values, having a strong situation analysis, well-justified idea, and presenting their solution in a clear and compelling way, what really differentiates teams are their interpersonal dynamics. Ruh said, “Our success in the case competition was rooted in the relaxed, yet focused environment we created. Our vision developed alongside our team synergy. Taking this experience into the future, the strengths of lightheartedness and creativity, are key components that will define future teamwork endeavors, essential in today’s business world.”

“What I learned about teamwork and team dynamics I will definitely…take with me to my future career” said Renee Chiang. “This was my first time participating in a case competition and it taught me to be confident with myself and my ideas. That confidence would definitely be something I hope to apply to my career—from negotiation to pitching my ideas.”

On March 18, 2015 Starbucks announced the launch of delivery services in Seattle and New York City. Foster School of Business students will be amongst the first to be delighted by having a perfectly prepared, hand-delivered cup of coffee to fuel their last quarter of studies before graduating in June.

To learn more about previous Strategy Development Case Competitions please see our competition webpage and the following Foster Unplugged posts: Alaska Airlines and
Seattle City Light

Designed for this international internship

Guest post by Joyce Tang, Foster undergraduate student and Certificate of International Studies in Business student

Joyce Tang
Joyce Tang

It’s never too early to start. That’s what I was thinking when I replied to a vague email about a summer internship opportunity abroad. After getting the internship, what ensued was the development of my skills as a professional designer, project manager of programmers, and an expert print shop price haggler. The first role I was able to experience from the comfort of my own room and the last two I did across the Pacific Ocean in China.

The company I interned at was a startup in Shanghai called Sino Society. The business specialized in international real estate marketing to wealthy Chinese home buyers. Real estate was never an industry I expected to be in, but the promise of getting to live and work in China for a summer sounded like an invaluable experience. With that in mind, I said yes to working remotely for seven months on a probationary basis. During this time, I conducted weekly conference calls that led to a greater understanding of the company’s business model, China’s consumer environment, and–to my delight–that I was capable of being a graphic designer.

Since junior high, I had taken up design as a hobby and almost majored in design, but chose to pursue business because I wanted the skills to build my own business. I figured the design projects would come later, but here I was at my first internship getting to do what I loved most. It seemed like no coincidence when I found out in a conference call that I was to start a project using Adobe Indesign during the same week I had taken an introductory course on the program through Odegaard Library’s free workshop resource. This initial assignment led to creating an entire series of business collateral used for sales pitches to our company’s international clients. My design was translated into Spanish, Italian, Dutch, and Chinese. Without receiving extensive training, I was able to learn by doing real-work assignments and am now proficiently using the program.

At the end of May, my probationary period ended and the company asked me to come to Shanghai to continue for the summer. Contrary to what many might expect of startups, Sino Society provided my round trip ticket to Shanghai. Working in the heart of the city, I continued my marketing projects, but secretly wanted a hand in the technology side of things. My involvement in the Lavin Entrepreneurship Program built up my experience and fascination with the tech space. I asked my boss if I could take on more projects relating to the technology side of the business, which led me to being a project manager of Chinese programmers. After only one meeting, it became pretty clear there was a language barrier, so I gave myself the goal of learning the Chinese phrases for IT terms. Meanwhile, I was occasionally tasked with the grunt work of making print shop runs with the goal of lowering our cost for bulk print jobs. By the end of the summer, I had perfected things I always thought were my weaknesses: communicating about technical topics in Chinese and haggling with locals. And guess what? I’m still happily doing side design projects with Sino Society in my free time.

Learn more about the Certificate of International Studies in Business and Lavin Entrepreneurship Program.

Working abroad leads to freedom in the job market

Guest post by Nathan Bright (BA 2014)

Nathan Bright at the University of ManizalesMy name is Nathan Bright and I graduated from the Foster School and the CISB Program in March 2014 with a general business degree and Spanish minor. During my time at UW, I was able to study abroad in Spain and travel around Asia, so I knew when I graduated I wanted to find opportunities to work abroad and travel. I was lucky enough to be offered a position in Spain teaching English as well as a position in Colombia working at a university teaching business. I chose to move to South America because I wanted to experience a new country and continent and was excited about the opportunity to teach business and speak Spanish at work.

My original contract at the University of Manizales was for six months, but my coworkers and bosses were so happy to have me that I was able to extend my contract to a year. One thing I really enjoy about the job is the amount of freedom I have to design my own projects and work with professors to develop programs that are interesting to both the faculty and students. I also have the opportunity to speak English and Spanish while teaching business courses and work with students and professors in class and outside of the University during separately organized events. Working abroad has given me much more freedom in the job market because I would have never had the opportunity to be a professor or design my own projects if I had found a similar entry-level position in the US.

The CISB Program did a great job preparing me for this opportunity. We studied a wide variety of cultural experiences and had a lot of opportunities to work in real-life business contexts, which gave me the skills and knowledge required to live and work in a foreign country.

Because companies in other countries are often excited to have the opportunity to work with foreigners who are passionate and well-educated, there are plenty of ways to enter the job market in a different country. If you wish to contact me about my experiences abroad, email me at natebright01(at)gmail.com.

Syncing to the digital age of marketing

Wired In ConferenceOn January 31, the Foster School of Business welcomed 170 student registrants from 10 universities across the Northwest for Wired In: Syncing to the Digital Age of Marketing, the 2nd Annual Undergraduate Marketing Conference. The event, hosted by Foster Undergraduate Career Services and the UW American Marketing Association, was sponsored by Eddie Bauer for the second year.

Centered on the theme of digital marketing, the day’s presentations included an opening keynote by Eddie Bauer, breakout sessions by Bing, Porch, Delightful Communications, and Drake Cooper, and a closing keynote by 4th Avenue Media. The attendees could choose which of the breakout session options to attend based on their own personal interest level.

In addition to the presentations, students participated in two interactive elements; team activities led by Puget Sound American Marketing Association and a networking event. The team activities were designed to get students talking about relevant marketing topics which included: designing a Google AdWords campaign, creating a sales pitch, responding to a social media blunder, creating a content marketing campaign, and brainstorming for a guerrilla marketing campaign. The networking event featured 16 companies of various sizes and industries, offering attendees opportunity to meet more professionals in the field.