Rotary First Harvest: adapting to new bylaws

Guest post by Laura Peirano, 2012-2013 Board Fellow

The Consulting & Business Development Center’s Board Fellows Program places Foster MBA and Evans School MPA students as non-voting board members of local nonprofit organizations. Nonprofit agencies participating in the program reach diverse communities with different passions and interests.

At the annual Net Impact conference in Portland in fall of 2011, I met Benjamin Rasmus who works for the nonprofit Rotary First Harvest (RFH). RFH locates surplus produce, coordinates the harvesting, packaging, and distribution of it in order to solve two problems: leftover crops that go to waste and hungry Americans in need of nutrition. I’m very passionate about nutritious food and the food system in America, so I asked Benjamin if RFH would want to partner with the UW Board Fellows Program. We had a group meeting and decided it was a great fit and I became the Board Fellow.

As a Board Fellow for Rotary First Harvest, I attended RFH’s strategic planning meeting in September along with many RFH Board of Directors meetings from May 2012 to May 2013. As part of the UW Foster School of Business Board Fellows 2012-2013 Nonprofit Board Leadership Seminar, I also attended twelve hours of class sessions during which I learned about nonprofit strategic planning, structural analysis, effective Board governance, and changing Board structures.

In order to get to know the way RFH works first hand, I volunteered at several work parties to help pack produce at Northwest Harvest and volunteered at the local food bank. The Northwest Harvest facility is clean, with an abundance of volunteers wearing hairnets and gloves, working tirelessly while chatting, laughing and getting to know each other. I was impressed by how easy it seemed to package food for 100,000 meals in four hours.

The University Food Bank receives produce from Northwest Harvest and Food Lifeline, so a portion of the fruits and vegetables there go through RFH on the way. When I volunteered at the University Food Bank, I was able to witness the supply chain in action, as well as the people who are benefitting from this nonprofit’s amazing work. After sorting donated produce and organizing it in the food bank store, I helped check out customers and bag their groceries. It was rewarding to see people who would not have access to this food without the Food Bank picking out their food for the week. Rotary First Harvest plays its part by making sure more of the food available comes from wholesome fruits and vegetables.

There are hundreds of nonprofits in Washington State, and only thirty-six of them were selected to participate in the UW Board Fellows Program. Of all of these strong nonprofits, Rotary First Harvest has one of the highest functioning and successful Boards in the program, which made it difficult to find a topic with problems to solve. Since RFH recently updated its bylaws, I decided to focus on the transition from the old bylaws to the new bylaws and on ways that the transition could be more successful. My recommendations include evaluating the level of Board involvement, using metrics to evaluate Board success, and engaging the Advisory Board.

Rotary First Harvest Board of Directors is a successful, strategic and nimble Board that has identified and taken steps to correct the problems that have arisen. The fact that the bylaws are frequently reviewed and updated shows that the Board is continually looking for ways to improve. I presented my findings and recommendations in May 2013 to the Board of Directors. My recommendations suggest ways that the Board can continue to be successful and even exceed expectations. It was a great experience working with the board, learning how a board functions and how their strategic objectives shape the success of the nonprofit.

Business classes help every dog have their day!

Guest post by Anna Ridle, graduate of the Consulting & Business Development Center’s Seattle Business Certificate Program

The Consulting & Business Development Center’s Seattle Business Certificate Program (BCP) wrapped up after six weeks of educational coursework early this summer with over sixty graduates. We have invited graduates from the BCP to reflect on their experience of the Program; this is the second in the series written by Anna Ridle, Director of Camp Canine Doggy Daycare, Inc. in Mukilteo, WA.

Camp Canine Doggy Daycare, Inc. opened our doors during the summer of 2006. Our owner, Dr. Susan Torgerson, had an open lot on her land next to her veterinary clinic. She saw the market potential for a dog daycare and started business! At the time, Dr. Sue’s vision was to build a daycare that could service about fifteen dogs per day.

I began working at Camp Canine in January 2008 as a fun, part-time job while I completed my programming degree. In April 2009, I was promoted to a management position. I graduated in June 2010, and currently serve as the Director for Camp Canine. During the past two years, we’ve expanded the business to offer additional services, such as boarding, grooming, merchandise, and training classes. This year we are averaging 54 dogs per day, nearly 4 times greater than what Dr. Sue originally envisioned.

Because my educational background is not in business, I began searching for programs to help me navigate the increasing demands of a growing company. The UW Consulting & Business Development Center’s Business Certificate Program fit my needs perfectly. For six weeks, the Program offered a three-hour long crash course on different business related topics. We covered marketing, selling, common legal issues, leadership, financial health, and had a discussion panel composed of entrepreneur CEOs.

I have been able to directly apply concepts from each class to my job. I am especially thankful for Professor Leta Beard, who taught a workshop on how to market and brand your company. Not only did I gain valuable information from her marketing class, but she met with me after class and lent me resources to further my marketing education so that I could build a comprehensive marketing plan. Thanks to this Program I’ve been able to streamline processes and procedures, which has allowed me more interaction time with our staff, clients and the doggies!

TMMBA Study Groups: Team Gangnam

Meet Team Gangnam: “Work Hard, Play Hard”

Team Gangnam’s name comes from the popular Korean pop song “Gangnam Style”. Gangnam is the name of a district in Seoul, Korea where people are trendy, hip, and work very hard during the day, but play much harder at night. This represents the team’s spirit and motto for working together in the Technology Management MBA Program.

They met for the first time last November at the Welcome Reception. Now, halfway through TMMBA, Team Gangnam reflects back on their experiences to-date in the program and as a team.

Sujeet Jha is a program manager at Microsoft and manages a team that delivers data insights to business leaders. He joined TMMBA to gain the skills to successfully manage a business – either his own or as a P&L owner in a larger organization.

Sejo Kim was most recently an interactive project manager with a video game publisher based in South Korea. He has 13 years of experience in the tech sector and chose TMMBA because of the technology focus.

Farhad Teymurian works at Boeing as a project engineering manager. His goal in the TMMBA program is to fill the gap between his engineering and management experience.

Ajith Prabhakara is responsible for developing the product strategy and roadmap for GoSmart Mobile, a sub-brand of T-Mobile. He chose TMMBA because the program fit within his work schedule, had in-class learning, offered a rigorous and broad-based curriculum, and had a strong reputation and alumni network.

Jay Iyengar has a background in IT program and project management. She joined TMMBA to gain a broader perspective on how people, process, and technology relate to each other, especially in the global economy.

Team Gangnam Collage








How has your study group enhanced your learning experience?

Sejo: I think that the best part of TMMBA program is the team activity. TMMBA students are extremely busy juggling their jobs and studies. Therefore, mutual aid among team members is essential for academic success. My team members are very smart, active and passionate so I get huge intellectual and moral support from them. On top of that, all my team members have different styles and strengths, which is very beneficial for me as well because all of them created a huge synergy effect as a team.

Sujeet: My study team brings diversity, different context, and different ways of approaching the same problem.

Ajith: My study group has made an incredible impact on my overall TMMBA learning experience! In addition to the teamwork and leadership skills that we’ve all learnt, I have especially enjoyed how our team discussions have exposed me to new ways of analyzing each situation. In addition, I’ve loved the cultural learning since our team had folks who lived in 5 countries between us.

Farhad: They have provided much needed moral support, added diverse experiences, enhanced each homework assignment and class lesson with After Action Reviews and group meetings. I benefit by hearing new ideas and seeing different approaches to tasks which I would never have thought of. In addition, their work knowledge and previous experiences are invaluable.

How much time do you spend studying individually and meeting with your team? What is a typical week’s schedule?

Jay: As a team, we meet every other Saturday and have a phone session on Tuesdays to check in on upcoming tasks, homework, and group projects. On an individual basis, most Monday/Tuesday evenings are spent getting ready for the Wednesday class and Thursday/Fridays are mostly spent getting ready for Saturday class – all depending on the workload of course.  (Take home exams are a whole different story. In my case, everything else is set aside until I have completed the exam).

Sejo: I usually spend 8 hours per week on individual study. Additionally, our team normally gets together every other Saturday morning to do group work. We actively utilize technology like Dropbox or Google Groups to improve efficiency of team activities. By doing so, we can collaborate very well as a virtual team.

Sujeet: In reality there are two kinds of weeks for us, one with classes on Saturday and one without any class on Saturday. We meet as a team for 3-4 hours on Saturdays (face to face, when classes are not scheduled) with two additional sync meetings over the phone on Tuesday & Friday evenings.

Ajith: A typical week’s schedule includes 3 hours of class time each Wednesday and an all-day class on Saturday. In addition to class time, I spend 10-12 hrs studying on my own and 3-4 hours with the team as needed.  Over a period of time, we did figure out more effective ways of reducing individual study time by working more efficiently with the team.

What classes have been the most valuable to you so far and why?

Ajith: Accounting, Finance and Marketing have expanded my knowledge. Ethics and Leadership have made me think critically about values that matter and leadership skills that I can continue to get better at.

Jay: It is hard for me to choose one course in particular, as I have found that the basic concepts and learnings from each course can be applied across other courses as well.

In general, most are fairly new to me, such as Accounting, Finance, Marketing, Micro & Macro Economics, Competitive Strategy and  Decision Modeling. I pleasantly discovered that a concept from one subject, when applied across to another subject, helped me understand the newer concepts even better.

Farhad: Leadership allowed me to become more self-aware and learn from every person and every event in my life. It also showed me personal areas for improvement which I might not have ever seen otherwise.

How has the TMMBA network been beneficial to you?

Sujeet: I recently interacted with a TMMBA alumnus at work who also happens to be one of my business stakeholders. This helped me hit the stakeholder relationship ground running. Other than that – having an interaction pool of so many bright professionals in our class gave me quite a few pointers on potential opportunities I may pursue in the near future.

Farhad: I have met the greatest people, staff, and instructors through TMMBA, including CEOs and guest speakers. I have made friends and helped friends, and have learned a lot about the inner workings of other companies as well.

What’s the glue that holds your team together? 

Sejo: A spirit of mutual respect is the key to our team’s success. Actively exchanging in feedforward (not feedback) among team members helped our team move forward.

Farhad: Respect and caring for each other. We have all become friends, meeting as each other’s houses and going out together for non-school dinners and picnics.

Ajith: It’s that we enjoy working together and want to have fun. I have a great time whenever we meet in person for our team meetings. Online collaboration tools and an effective team charter also make a difference.

What advice would you give to someone who is considering the program?

Ajith: Whole-heartedly commit to it!  This program is intense but, as I can unequivocally confirm, it is also a lot of fun!  So, when you are ready, have the requisite conversations with your family and at your work place and take the plunge.

– Faculty perspectives, alumni happenings, student experiences, Seattle and Pacific Northwest community connections, and a taste of life around the Foster School.