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Keynote speaker: Carrie Pederson

Carrie PedersonMcGowan Scholar Stands Out in Almost Any Crowd

You could say Carrie Pederson has a way of standing out in a crowd, but not simply because she’s 6-foot-3. The 31-year-old already has nearly a decade of international business experience under her belt and speaks Mandarin fluently thanks to the time she’s spent working with Chinese and Taiwanese businesses.

After spending her junior year of college in Taiwan and China as an exchange student, she returned after graduation to develop her Chinese language skills. Pederson says that living and interacting with the locals for so long made a huge difference in how quickly she was able to assimilate into the local lifestyle and business culture.

“I always knew I wanted to work abroad after experiencing life overseas,” she recalls. “But I also knew that if I wanted to continue in the business world, I’d need to get an MBA.”

Taiwan business ventures

That notion became apparent through her business experience in Taiwan. Starting in 2001, Pederson worked as a special consultant for the Council of Forest Industries where she helped facilitate business development for the Canadian lumber industry, including regulatory issues, training and promotion. At the same time she helped establish “Language Canada,” a Taipei company providing North American-style ESL classes. She led the expansion of operations—including administration, marketing, customer service, human resources and program development. These experiences spurred her back to academia to further her professional growth.

“Because I have spent most of my adult life in Taiwan, I often process things from more of a Chinese perspective without realizing it,” Pederson explains. “After being away for nine years, adjusting to life here and going through ‘reverse culture shock’ took much more energy and time then I anticipated!”

From Chinese life to student life

Working to get the most of her education leaves her little time for hobbies outside of trying to find the best Chinese restaurants in the Emerald City. But she does pack her days with extra-curriculars that enhance her classroom learning. Pederson served as co-chair of last year’s UW Business Plan Competition and attends internationally focused events and conferences as often as possible. She’s currently working with the Seattle School District and community business leaders to help expand international education in local schools.

So it comes as no surprise that she was named a 2007-08 McGowan Scholar. Pederson is the third-straight UW MBA to receive this prestigious bursary named after and funded by William G. McGowan, the late founder of MCI Communications and catalyst of telecommunications deregulation. Each year, the McGowan Charitable Fund awards scholarships to a select group of management students who exhibit extraordinary leadership, academic achievement, character, entrepreneurship and commitment to the community.

Pederson and her MBA teammates recently won the first-ever Chinese international case competition on January 5, 2008 in Beijing for creating a re-branding strategy for Tsingtao Beer to increase its American market share by targeting Generation Y consumers.

Upon graduating in 2008, Pederson says she’d like to focus on helping companies enter the China market, and is confident that her time spent living there, coupled with the knowledge she is acquiring in the Foster MBA Program, will pay dividends. “I not only plan to help facilitate more trade and business between Seattle and China but also hope to help create an even stronger global awareness and mind-set in Seattle and Washington state, where our economy is so dependent on international trade.”