Tag Archives: Class of 2014

Winetasting for Professionals

Smitt Rojanasthien, Class of 2014, explains the art and science of wine tasting
Smitt Rojanasthien, Class of 2014, explains the art and science of wine tasting

On May 29th, over 50 current students, faculty, staff and alumni joined Foster’s in-house Sommelier, Smitt Rojanasthien, Evening MBA ’14, for an evening of fine wine education and food pairings. The event was sponsored by the Evening MBAA, with support from the Evening MBA Excellence Fund.

Throughout the evening, guests sipped on five different wines with four different food pairings hand selected by Smitt to provide the perfect balance. This included:

  • Solletico Prosecco for reception and toast
  • New Harbor Sauvignon Blanc, paired with Citrus Lime Shrimp
  • Sagelands Riesling, paired with Spicy Coconut Curry with Naan
  • Primarius Pinot Noir, paired with Hardwood Smoked King Salmon
  • Sterling Vintner’s Cabernet Sauvignon, paired with Sirloin Steak Strips
Students and staff at the Winetasting for Professionals event
Students and staff at the Winetasting for Professionals event

Smitt reminded the crowd that it pairing wines with food is not only about determining between a red or white wine, but selecting the right foods to match the tannins, acidity levels, and sweetness of the wine. Common knowledge suggests that red meats are best paired with red wines because the tannins help break down the fat and balance out the flavor. On the other end of the spectrum, white wines pair well with lighter foods, like salad and fish dishes because of higher acidity levels. One interesting fact that Smitt offered: “The old adage is that red goes with meat and white goes with fish.  However, there are multiple things to consider when pairing wine with food.  You have to consider different aspects of the dish… fat, acid, saltiness, sweetness, bitterness, and texture.  Each element will affect the flavor of the wine, and in turn, the flavor of the food.  Feel free to do white wine with meat and red wine with fish… the trick is to find the right wine”

“While there is no technically wrong or right pairing, some matches work better than others.  The idea is to have each enhance and complement the other to increase the overall dining and drinking experience.  But, at the end of the day, drink what you enjoy.”

Finally, understanding the audience of young business professionals and acknowledging that selecting wine can be a difficult and daunting task, Smitt laid out some tried and true rules for choosing wines during a business dinner.

2013 Evening Alumni at the Winetasting for Professionals event
2013 Evening Alumni at the Winetasting for Professionals event
  1. When in doubt, go with a sparkling wine, especially Champagne. The effervescence and acidity make it great for pairing and cleansing the palate.
  2. A Riesling is great for ethnic food… particularly anything spicy.
  3. The sauce or seasoning of a dish impacts the pairing more than the main ingredient. Keep that in mind. Big flavored sauce? Big flavored wine.
Smitt Rojanasthien, Sommelier and Evening MBA Class of 2014
Smitt Rojanasthien, Sommelier and Evening MBA Class of 2014



A little about Smitt: Growing up in Wenatchee, Washington, Smitt attended the University of Washington as an undergrad, earning a degree in German Cultural Studies.  After college, he focused on the Hospitality Industry and studied wine through The Court of Master Sommeliers, earning his certification as a sommelier.  He then decided to go “Double Husky” and entered the Foster School of Business for his MBA.  Smitt currently works for Southern Wine & Spirits as the Moët Hennessy Portfolio Manager, partnering with Seattle’s top wine and spirits accounts, focusing on consumer and event marketing, as well as education.  Smitt loves to travel, but when he’s in Seattle, he can be found spending time with family and friends, enjoying a glass of champagne.


Selfie of attendees at the Winetasting for Professionals event
Selfie of attendees at the Winetasting for Professionals event
Smitt Rojanasthien (left) with two attendees at the Winetasting for Professionals event
Attendees at the Winetasting for Professionals event
Attendees at the Winetasting for Professionals event
Attendees at the Winetasting for Professionals event

Graduation 2014: a short summary of 3 years

Saloni Sonpal, Evening MBA Class of 2014
Saloni Sonpal, Evening MBA Class of 2014

Saloni Sonpal is a 2014 graduate from Foster’s Evening MBA Program. She has her B.E. in Information Technology from the University of Mumbai and an M.S. in Computer Science from the State University of New York at Buffalo. She has been a Software Development Engineer at Microsoft for the past 7 years. Below is a post that she shared with her social network on graduation day.


Some things that will stick with me after the nine quarters of Foster’s Evening MBA program:

  • Debits and Credits
  • Incentives change behavior
  • Positive NPV projects
  • Statistical significance
  • Sunk Costs
  • 4Ps and 3Cs
  • Leadership
  • Bottlenecks, Kanban and Kaizen Bursts
  • Decision Trees
  • Value Prop
  • Corporate Responsibility
  • GDP and volatility
  • Conjoint and bundles
  • Listen to your customer
  • What’s your BATNA?
  • It depends…
  • Segregate gains, aggregate losses
  • Be Lean and Agile!
  • Less is more.

Oh wait, did I mention the awesome people, life-changing experiences and the endless fun?! That stuck more than anything else!

#Graduation2014 #EveningMBA2014 #UWFoster

MBA Graduation Collage Saloni

Student Spotlight: Kim Hickey ’14

Kim Hickey, Evening MBA Class of 2014
Kim Hickey, Evening MBA Class of 2014


Name: Kim Hickey
Age: 32
Graduation Year: 2014
Pre-MBA Profession: Human Resources
Post-MBA Profession: Sr. Specialist, Veterinary Systems at Trupanion

What lead you to pursue an MBA?: I have a bachelor’s degree in biology but my career has led me into the corporate world. In order to move forward I knew it was necessary to get a solid business education that would serve as the foundation for my professional growth and development. I appreciated that Foster balanced elective and core classes and felt that this program offered the most balanced experience. In coming to the end of the program, I can say that it has exceeded my expectations.

What did you do prior to the Evening MBA Program and what do you do now? How did the Foster Evening MBA program impact your career?
My career path has had several twists and turns, but with the support of the Foster Evening MBA program I was able to combine my past experience with my education to get the job of my dreams. After graduating with my bachelor’s degree in 2003, I managed a veterinary hospital in Phoenix, AZ for five years. Upon moving to the Northwest, I transferred those skills to work in human resources. While I enjoyed the strategic planning and business insight that came with the role, I knew I wanted to get back to my roots and return to the veterinary industry.

Throughout my time in the Evening MBA program I attended most of the workshops hosted by Career Services. During these sessions I improved my networking, interviewing, and communication skills that were critical to switching careers. I also had several one-on-one meetings with Career Services to map out my job search strategy. I started researching Trupanion, a pet health insurance company based in Seattle, in winter quarter of my last year and with the help of Career Services I was able to connect with an alumni at the company. Two months later I had my job offer and I successfully moved from a human resources position to my current role, which focuses on growing a new product that Trupanion offers to vet hospitals. My experiences in the Evening MBA program, including taking advantage of all that Career Services has to offer, definitely gave the confidence to pursue and make a career change!

What has been your most valuable academic experience at Foster?: Aside from gaining exposure to accounting and finance, my most memorable class has been Finding Your Voice. I was not comfortable with public speaking coming into Foster and it was a goal of mine to improve upon this skill. Despite being nervous before presenting in each class, I knew it was a safe environment to practice the public speaking tools we were learning. The feedback I received from the instructor and my classmates, both constructive feedback and positive recognition, helped me gain confidence in my presentation capabilities. Although I still get a little nervous, I often reflect back and pull from those experiences to help me give an impactful presentation. This class not only gave me vital business tools but also helped me grow personally as well.

How are you involved with Foster outside of the classroom?(i.e. Clubs, Groups, Programs, Activities, Committees): Student Ambassador (2nd and 3rd year) and Group Mentor (2nd year); travelled to India on the Global Consulting Trip.

What is the most valuable lesson you have learned at Foster?: That it is possible to work and get an MBA! It seemed like such a daunting task at the beginning but the time has flown by. It’s amazing to look back and see what has been accomplished.

Kim Hickey (left) with two Evening MBA classmates on the annual Global Consulting Trip to India in December, 2013
Kim Hickey (left) with two Evening MBA classmates on the annual Global Consulting Trip to India in December, 2013


Learning to Lean In

A Post by Jana Morrelli, Evening MBA Class of 2014

Jana Morrelli, Evening MBA 2014
Jana Morrelli, Evening MBA 2014, with her copy of Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

As a woman with big career ambitions, I’ve known for some time that Foster was the place for me. In the MBA program, I’m gaining the tactical skills I need to make a difference in a company. I’m learning how to think strategically and see the bigger picture. I’m meeting the people that will be business partners and mentors for life. But there was one problem in my grand plan. I wasn’t sure I could achieve it.

For my whole professional life, there has always been a niggling sense in the back of my mind that no matter how hard I worked or how much I learned, I was not qualified for the big jobs. How could I promise an employer that I could be a top performer if I’d never done it before? That lack of confidence, the lack of trust in myself to learn new things caused me to take jobs I was overqualified for, and I ended up getting incredibly bored very fast.

Enter Lean In. Lean In is the 2013 book by Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook. Sandberg has been a widely known advocate for women in leadership since her TED talk in 2010. Among other things, she shows (using mountains of scholarly research) that women are far more likely to doubt their own abilities and decline to take on huge career challenges- the challenges that typically lead to top leadership roles.

It was amazing to me that this could be a gender issue and not a “me” issue. Are you telling me that other women feel this way, and yet no one is talking about it? Well, it turns out that’s exactly true.

Leanin.org is a non-profit organization Ms. Sandberg set up with the proceeds from Lean In. One of the goals of Leanin.org is to help women set up professional development support groups, called Lean In Circles. Think book club, but instead of a book, we focus on Lean In created content like videos and discussions around Negotiations, Managing Difficult Conversations, and Power & Influence.

I founded a Lean In Circle in July 2013. The group was about half Foster classmates and half former colleagues of mine and friends. From the first meeting, we were spellbound. This was finally a place we could talk about our career ambitions freely, in an incredibly supportive environment. For example, when someone was going to bat for a promotion, we’re there to share things that have worked for us and work through the details of a salary negotiation. But most importantly, we’re there to cheer her on, remind her she deserves this and when needed, tell her the self-doubt she’s feeling is simply not true.

Some members from Seattle's first Lean In Circle
Some members from Seattle’s first Lean In Circle at a meeting in summer of 2013

That circle grew so quickly, we split into 2 groups, then added new circles with growing demand. We now have 8 circles with almost 80 members and are working with Lean In headquarters to develop a scalable model to on-board new circles, which will be distributed world-wide soon. Our circle members are getting huge jobs, promotions, raises and taking on massive challenges. Most importantly, we are believing in our own ability- raising our hands for projects where we have little experience and rising to the occasion.

Our circle leaders had the amazing honor of meeting Sheryl Sandberg last week at Facebook Seattle. She was incredibly impressed with the progress the members have made and how we are embracing our leadership potential. She is an inspiring role model for us as leader, as a business person and as a woman.

Leaders from several Lean In Circles meet with Sheryl during May 2014 visit to Seattle
Leaders from several Lean In Circles meet with Sheryl during May 2014 visit to Seattle

With the support of our Lean In Circles, we have stopped putting limits on ourselves and are open to the possibility of opportunity bigger than we could have imagined. I can’t wait see what is around the corner!

Want to get involved in Lean In? Visit www.leanin.org to learn more or feel free to email me at jana3@uw.edu. Additionally, the Foster Women in Business group is forming a Lean In group- contact Kelsey Ingram at kingram@uw.edu for details!

Passing the Torch, State of the MBAA

As the old MBAA board transitions to the new, the outgoing President presents a “State of the Union” to the old and new boards. The following was written by Ben Flajole, President of the MBAA during 2013-14, and presented to the boards at the beginning of April.

Ben Flajole, Evening MBAA President 2013-14
Ben Flajole, Evening MBAA President 2013-14

I wanted to start at the beginning. I found out about my acceptance to the Evening Program at the Foster School on March 18th, 2011. I remember because I was at my friend’s bachelor party in Las Vegas. I was standing in the lobby of the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino and I’ll say this much: there are fewer prouder moments of my live. Along with the other members of the Class of 2014, I am now preparing for the next milestone in my journey: June 14th- graduation.

I mention these specific dates and events because they are some of the most important moments of my Foster experience. I submit another date: March 31, 2014, the first day of Spring Quarter, and the official commencement of your term. As I’ve come to realize after sitting in your shoes last year, you all now sit on the precipice of one of the most valuable and memorable experiences of your time here at Foster.

Our board hosted the biggest Evening MBAA end-of-the-year function to date, with nearly 250 people in attendance. We chilled at the “Frosters”, our winter function, which marked an early performance of Adam’s brother as DJ, or “the next Skrillex” as I like to think of him. We hosted professional events and ordered the business cards that were exchanged there. We awarded Students of the Month, to show Foster how important community-builders are to us. We even created an Evening MBAA gear order, which generated a $600 donation to our C4C efforts. Our board realized that students didn’t always know how much the MBAA was responsible for doing, so I charge you all with always thinking about MBAA branding.

There are few things that people love more than me “monologue-ing.” So I’ll be as brief as possible as I share some of the key learnings from my time on the board. You are all here because you see Foster as something greater than the sum of its parts. You see an opportunity to grow a community that is rich, vibrant, and dynamic. And for all the times that this experience will be about others, be sure to also make it about you.

You will be called upon to run errands, to arrange tables, and stack chairs. You’ll wake up too early, stay up too late, check names off of lists, and perhaps most importantly, you’ll obtain banquet permits. The buck stops with you. The MBAA is a volunteer, student-led organization that depends on you all to function to its greatest capability. Be accountable for yourself. If you cannot fulfill your commitments, reach out to your colleagues. You will all have moments of feeling challenged by all of your non-academic responsibilities. If you need assistance, let someone know.

Some of you joined the board for specific reasons. You already have a vision, and see the possibilities of implementing your initiatives. If you don’t, you will- Adam and Tim will see to it. Be mindful of creating timelines and sticking to them. Deliverables matter. Twelve months goes by very quickly, so I urge you to take advantage of the summer and get a jumpstart. The summer is crucial for hitting the ground running in the fall. Being behind in the fall means you’re struggling to catch up for the winter and spring quarters. Commit to organization. Use the existing structures and build on them where needed.

Finally, have fun. Enjoy this experience- you will make some great friends, grow existing connections, and expand your network. You will learn about leadership, working with others, and the importance of vision. You will accomplish great things. Refer to the transition documents for notes on your specific positions, but feel free to reach out to your predecessor if you haven’t already. If there is anything that I can do to help you, I’m always a phone call or email away. I wish you all the best in this journey. And here’s a little nugget to file away: March 30th, 2015, the start of spring quarter next year and the beginning of YOUR successors’ MBAA board. So do your best to make the next 12 months count.