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2011 Hult Global Case Challenge: San Francisco - 4/2011
Gonzaga's Women MBAs - 3/2011
Creating a Global Classroom Experience - 12/2010
American Cancer Society Clothing Drive - 5/2010
Rethinking Healthcare: PriceDoc.com - 12/2009
Beyond the Classroom: Going Green - 12/2009

2011 Hult Global Case Challenge: San Francisco

by Katherine Love - March 2011

Hult Challenge

(Left to Right: Eric, Johanna, Kyle, Heidi and Paresh)

Current MBA students Eric Agnew, Paresh Patel, Heidi Anderson, and Johanna Root teamed with alum Kyle Hurley to form the first-ever Gonzaga Graduate School of Business Hult Global Case Challenge team. The group traveled to San Francisco to participate in the March 5th competition in a regional tournament against students from around the country.

The competition challenged contestants to devise mechanisms for water.org to deliver clean drinking water and sanitation to people in developing countries. Upon registration, participants were given an information packet about water.org. They studied the material, the organization, and developed a loose strategy for approaching potential prompts.

The team was formed following an email from Graduate School of Business director Jinny Piskel informing MBA students about the opportunity. Paresh contacted Jinny directly, but for the other four, a somewhat non-traditional route was taken. Soon after receiving the email, Eric became interested in the challenge and spoke to his co-worker Heidi, who posted it on her Facebook page. Johanna and Kyle responded to the post, and the team was born.

The group had three weeks of preparation prior to the event. They spent a weekend "here and there," but advised that future teams sign up in advance and spend more time in preparation. In fact, some teams who registered early had two or three months more than the Gonzaga team to ready themselves for the event.

Johanna, Eric, Paresh, Heidi, and Kyle prepared slides for the presentation 8 hours in advance, after being given the final prompt. After contemplating the question at hand, the five students decided to approach the problem from a fundraising and marketing standpoint. Ultimately, they felt that one of the key differentiators between their presentation and those of top-ranked teams was the deliverable. The team that won the regional competition had developed a well-planned structural mechanism for transporting water and had planned their presentation accordingly. 

"These teams were very detailed. Ninety-nine percent of their material was rehearsed and complete," the group explained in reference to the top-performing teams. While contestants had an idea of what to expect, they were never told the exact question they would need to answer. Despite this, teams came with several PowerPoint slides ready to modify for the final presentation. According to the team, these were the presentations that wowed the judges.

"It was surprising to find out that more people have cell phones than toilets," Johanna elaborated in reference to the content of the competition. "It was a completely new experience for me, and was very eye-opening."

Paresh appreciated the competition for many reasons. "The team was excellent to work with - everyone brought different strengths and work experience to the table," he said. "Every team member respected each other. There were no team issues. It was really great to work with my classmates."

When asked about advice for next year's team, Eric held that; "The teams that made it to the final had prepared exceptionally well. You cannot prepare enough."

Johanna, Eric, and Paresh also recommend utilizing available resources. "Talk to professors; teams have a faculty advisor - use them! Also, talk to people who have done case competitions in the past."

"It was a great experience - really rewarding," Eric explained. The team emphasized the importance of seeing other schools and sizing up the competition. "Gonzaga stacks up," he added.

While in San Francisco, the five Gonzaga representatives were able to meet new students and utilize the MBA skills garnered from semesters of study. Moreover, the participants felt that the goal of the competition aligned nicely with the mission of Gonzaga. "It [water.org] was a social cause and a great organization."

 "I am so proud of them," team advisor and professor Mirjeta Beqiri lamented. 

 Hult hosted regional competitions in Boston, San Francisco, Dubai, Shanghai, and London. The winners from each regional event will compete on April 28 in New York City in the Global Final.

Gonzaga's Women MBAs:  Smart.  Sophisticated.  Above all, savvy.

by Katherine Love - March 2011

Smart.  Sophisticated.  Above all, savvy.

Encroaching on the proverbial glass ceiling, women are making a splash in business. More educated, and with more career opportunities than ever before, women constitute roughly 47% of the United States labor force, but hold an impressive 52% of management, professional, and related occupations.

Recently ranked as #58 in the nation among part-time MBA programs by US News and World Report 2011, it is no wonder that Gonzaga University's Graduate School of Business has a history of producing accomplished and successful female graduates.

Terri AlvaradoOne such graduate is Terri Alvarado, Director of Legal and Franchise Administration at Red Lion Hotels Corporation, who is no stranger to hard work. After accepting a job as an administrative assistant at Itronix in 1996, the mother of three was encouraged by then-boss and General Counsel, Carol Haugen to pursue a paralegal degree at SCC. "That step opened the door of education and self-improvement to me," Terri says. Transitioning to a role as a business paralegal at Paine Hamblen LLP, Terri continued her educational endeavors, taking night classes at Eastern Washington University four nights per week as she pursued a major in Business finance.

Following her graduation from EWU in 2004, Terri accepted a position with Red Lion and immediately went to work pursuing an MBA at Gonzaga, once more taking night classes while working full-time and raising a busy family. "I recommend getting your education earlier in life, but it's never too late," she claims.

Terri attributes a great deal of her success to the people she has worked with over the years. "In a nutshell, my advice is to surround yourself with smart and successful people, appreciate everyone who takes an interest in you, seize opportunities...and work very hard," Terri recommends.

Having successfully worked her way through corporate ranks, and even becoming a four-time Ironman triathlon finisher, Terri offers an interesting insight regarding women's workplace contributions. "Women bring many unique qualities to the business environment. We sometimes think differently than men; we have the ability to multi-task in a fluid way... Women are creative thinkers, intuitive, and due to our innate ability to manage varying interests, we are natural negotiators who desire to achieve a win-win."

Jinny PiskelJinny Piskel, director of the Graduate School of Business, adds, "Women are vital to the success of the program. The different perspectives of men and women are invaluable - they bring a value-added to classroom discussion and group work."

Nationally, women constitute roughly 35% of MBA classes, a figure on par with the Graduate School of Business' present enrollment rates. In fact, during the 2009-10 school year, 74 of 232 MBA students were women; in the MAcc program, that figure shot up to nearly 50%, as 32 of 69 enrollees were female.

Asked about some of the challenges that women face, Jinny laughs "We take on too much. It's all about balance - life, work, being a mom. You have to learn when to say no and when to delegate."

Jinny recognizes that such a statement is easier said than done, juggling time with her daughter and husband around a demanding work schedule. "Being a mom is great," Jinny smiles. "And I love my job. I love the program, the students, and the people I work with - they are all wonderful."

"You should put the company before the position," Jinny advises. "Find a company - or, in my case, a university - you believe in, one for which you are willing to go an extra mile."

This is not a stance Jinny takes lightly. In fact, she entered Western Washington University with a full ride for a major in piano performance. After just a quarter, however, she realized that she didn't want to pigeon-hole her career, subsequently changing her major five times before settling on marketing with a minor in computer science. During her undergraduate studies, Jinny completed three internships, and upon graduation, spent six weeks in Europe, expecting to return to a job in the booming high-tech industry.

Unfortunately for Jinny, during her jaunt across the pond, the Internet bubble burst, consequently drying up many web-based jobs; consequently, she took a job as a headhunter for marketing executives. After being out of school for a year, Jinny knew she wanted to pursue an MBA, ultimately deciding upon Gonzaga after Dr. Weber took the time to meet with her on a Saturday to discuss the program. Jinny graduated with a concentration in accounting and worked for a year in public accounting before becoming the Graduate School of Business' Marketing Specialist. Her ambition, hard work, and determination led Jinny to her present position as Director, and she hasn't looked back.

Mary NellenbachSimilarly, Mary Nellenbach, Vice President of Commercial Banking at Washington Trust Bank, had many different interests before settling on a career in business. As an undergraduate, Mary pursued a degree in American history, even securing an internship in sports history at the Smithsonian in Washington, DC. However, she soon realized that a career as a museum curator wouldn't work for her, and began to explore other options.

Mary had visited a friend in Spokane, and after contemplating a move, made the decision to relocate in January of 1998. An avid football fan, Mary drove across the country in the dead of winter in the hopes of making it to her new home before the Super Bowl. "I knew that I wanted a graduate degree, and there are excellent schools here. Spokane is affordable - it is an all-around great little city."

Working as a salesperson for a computer school, Mary took night classes at Eastern Washington University in order to fulfill prerequisites for an MBA program. Having narrowed her choice of MBA programs to Eastern and Gonzaga, Mary ultimately chose Gonzaga for "the attention they gave and the good, warm feeling of the school." As Mary describes, "Larry Lewis, the Dean at the time, called me back immediately. He said that he could meet with me that evening - I don't think I got there until 6:45 or so, and there he was, waiting for me. I was so impressed."

In just under two years, Mary fulfilled the necessary prerequisites and completed an MBA at Gonzaga before going to work for Washington Trust as an Associate Relationship Manager, a position that was created for her. In this position, Mary did a great deal of underwriting and analysis, where she was able to learn and meet new people.

An avid networker, Mary is committed to the Spokane community, as evidenced through her extensive involvement. Not only is Mary a Big Sister, but she is also a dedicated member of Executive Women International, where she served on the board for three years. She has also been on the board of Allegro Baroque and Beyond and is a part of the Spokane Risk Management Association. "I feel very lucky," she explains. "I have a responsibility to give back."

Mary advises, "Don't be afraid to be exposed to things you aren't familiar with. And the number one thing is golf. Learn how to golf, or you will be left behind."

Caroline Wyatt, Vice President of Human Resources at Yoke's Fresh Markets, couldn't agree more. "Early on, I noticed that key people in our organization golfed together.  For this, and other personal reasons, I decided to take golf lessons that summer. It (golf) gives you exposure to people who are influential, in a more relaxed setting.  They learn more about you, and you about them.  It helps break down barriers so that business discussions become far more engaging and comfortable."

As trophies in her office attest, Caroline went on to become a very accomplished golfer, learning the sport methodically through both lessons as well as careful observation. Employing a similar strategy, she advanced through the ranks of Yoke's after graduating from Gonzaga in 1989. While her friends took corporate jobs upon graduation, Caroline made the decision to continue her college job as an assistant to the Human Resources Manager, Marcia Yoke, allowing her to "learn the (grocery) business like a fly on the wall."

"I observed and learned," Caroline explains. Working so closely with the Human Resources Manager allowed Caroline to assist with and develop payroll and HRIS (human resources information systems) procedures, programs she still uses to this day. Moreover, she worked briefly in most departments of Yoke's before she began recruiting, screening, and hiring, eventually earning a Senior Human Resource Management certification (SPHR) and receiving a promotion to Vice President of Human Resources.

After 10 years on the job, Caroline felt that pursuing an MBA would be relevant and it would give her credibility in addition to providing her with more business insight as to what was happening in her career. "An MBA invites you to look at the environment a little differently. It allows you to make more practical sense of business and how you fit into the world."

"One of the most meaningful accomplishments for me, borne out of my MBA experience, was the development of our company's Leadership Workshop Program.  From a human resource perspective, this was perhaps the most significant project we have undertaken in working towards a corporate culture of inclusion and participation based upon our mission and core values."  

The goal was to create an atmosphere that would maximize potential, respect differences and strengthen possibilities for people - giving them a chance to see themselves and others in a completely new light.  The result was our Leadership Workshop, a program that began in January 2001.

Employees throughout the organization apply to become part of a year-long process introducing them to thoughts, ideas, and skills they may not otherwise experience either practically or educationally.  In an industry that at times clings to the mindset that, "‘...that's the way things are because, ‘that is the way it has always been done'", I felt that our people would have much more appreciation for their profession and their own potential living ‘outside of the box' once in awhile.  They quickly gain respect and admiration for each other, our business partners and our community, which I believe makes them more committed to their role at Yoke's.  This program also shows that we are committed to their personal improvement."

MBA student Sabrina Jones also used her MBA classroom experience to develop an idea that has had drastic real world implications. An entrepreneur, Sabrina had been developing the idea for a new company for quite some time before actualizing her concept. Last year, she launched Movher. "Movher had been in the back of my mind for awhile. The moving industry is poorly marketed, male-dominated, and does not have a great deal of inherent trust."

Sabrina saw the opportunity to take a unique spin on a moving company. "I strive to have at least one woman on every move along with my big, strapping guys," she says. "Women are organized, we are multi-taskers by nature." Moreover, Sabrina jumped at the chance to develop personal relationships through a very hands-on approach. She emphasizes building trust with her clients. "With many moving companies, you don't know who will be in your house. Movher employs people, mostly Gonzaga University students, who not only have physical strength, but also strength of character."

Throughout her first year in business, Sabrina rented moving trucks from a local Budget dealer, waiting to see if what she believed was a "great" idea would really pan out to hold true. Sabrina and her Movher crew have moved a variety of people and businesses, from college students and a 93-year-old to Magner Sanborn Advertising and the Spokane branch of the Bank of Fairfield.

What's Sabrina's recipe for success? Passion. "You have to believe in your vision and seek out resources," she describes. Moreover, allow yourself to screw up, but not give up. "When you stumble in a new business, turn it around and help make it better... that's hard."

Sabrina is certainly making a splash in the local moving industry. The proof is in the pudding: A shiny new moving truck emblazoned with the Movher logo will soon be found perusing the streets of Spokane. 

Candace mummRecent MBA graduate Candace Mumm has also spearheaded an entrepreneurial venture of late. After developing a business plan in one of her courses, Candace founded Smartland LLC, a real estate investment firm focused on equity appreciation. As President of the undertaking, Candace produced a positive cash flow in just two months' time, a feat garnering a great deal of respect.

"Women ask me all the time for financial advice, and some are sheepish because they don't know much about banking or investments," Candace explains. "Don't be a lamb. Be a lion. Get out there and discover how to be smart about your money. I love to say, ‘nobody loves your money more than you do.'"

Candace is familiar with the hard work and perseverance required to make it in the business world, having worked in many family businesses from the tender age of 6, before ultimately pursuing a career in broadcast journalism. Humbly, Candace admits that while she once won an Emmy for her work in the San Diego NBC station, she considers her greatest professional accomplishment to be the advancement of local girls' volleyball.

"I helped Spokane area girls reach their dreams of going to college through a sports non-profit called Splash. As Club Director, I pushed hard to market local girls' grades and talent to get them noticed by schools and get them the training they need to play volleyball and other sports at the collegiate level."

Highly invested in the Spokane community, Candace has been a volunteer on the city planning committee for ten years. As she describes, "Government is our business. Collectively, we can do things more efficiently, which ultimately benefits the community."

In fact, Candace wrote a strategic analysis on city water programs for her capstone project in Dr. Stewart's class. Ultimately she discovered several financial issues within the water plans and delivered a detailed analysis and presentation on her research to the city. Candace believes her MBA gave her a great deal of credibility when presenting the plan, as it reflected her financial savvy. "The city is a huge entity, with a $600 million budget and 2,000 employees. We need to take ownership of this."

As we rose to leave, Candace and I compared handbags. "Is that Coach?" I asked of her shiny blue purse.

"It is." Candace responded with a smile. Then, as if to share a secret, she leaned close. "You know, I went to Vegas awhile back, but before I went, I checked a report on Coach's cash flow statements. They looked like they were in trouble, so I knew I could get a good deal. Sure enough, when I went to visit the store, they handed me a coupon for 75% off."

This experience reveals more than a stylish accessory, a symbol of success, or an eye for a good deal; it demonstrates skills garnered through the MBA degree pertaining to problem-solving and goal-setting, which are able to enhance many facets of everyday life. Candace's experience epitomizes the modern professional woman, the MBA graduate, and the executive-level leader.

Smart. Sophisticated. Above all, savvy. Hallmarks of an MBA graduate.

Creating a Global Classroom Experience: Gonzaga's MBA & MAcc International Students.

by Katherine Love - December 2010

A sparkle of laughter lit up the lobby of Jepson on a gray November afternoon. For brothers Anas and Nezar Hussain, conversation flowed easily as they described their journey to Gonzaga University. Originally from Cairo, Egypt, the pair came to the University of Idaho as part of a study abroad opportunity during the summer of 2007, but decided to extend their original six-week long stay through December 2008 to complete their undergraduate studies in engineering.

Having been to Moscow, Idaho a time or two, I was shocked that the brothers could leave somewhere as vivacious and energetic as Cairo for life on the Palouse.

Anas Hussain“You know, they asked us at the Embassy, ‘Are you really going to Idaho? Do you know anything about Idaho?’” Anas laughed. “But the University of Idaho had an exchange program with our university in Egypt, so it made sense. Plus it’s a great school.”

“In Cairo, you can have McDonald’s delivered to your door at 3 am. In Moscow, you’re lucky if a coffee shop is open until 10,” Nezar added. “Cairo never sleeps and there is so much to do. Moscow has a Wal-Mart and a strip mall.” Despite the differences, however, Nezar and Anas grew to love Moscow, and reminisce fondly about their time at the University of Idaho.

“I remember the first snowfall,” Anas described in a very animated manner. “I was like, what is all of this white stuff?”

Following graduation, the pair decided to pursue an MBA at Gonzaga after meeting with a recruiter at a career fair. Once they arrived on campus, they were welcomed with transitional programs offered through the International Student Programs’ Center for Global Engagement, in addition to those hosted by the Graduate School of Business. The outgoing duo enjoys spending time in Schoenberg to socialize with other international students. For fun, the lively Hussain brothers take pleasure in going to coffee shops and hanging out with friends.

For Anas and Nezar, Gonzaga’s reputation, small class sizes, caring staff, and “cozy feeling” were critical factors in their decision to attend Gonzaga. As Nezar explained, “Gonzaga’s atmosphere is very helpful with assimilation.”

The Hussain brothers are part of the Graduate School of Business’s increasingly large international student population. In fact, roughly 10% of the program’s 300 students are international, hailing from places such as Egypt, Zambia, India, Russia, and South Korea. Indeed, this figure represents nearly half of the 61 graduate students from Gonzaga University’s six schools graduate curricula, indicating the growing prominence of the MBA program. To put this in perspective, the number of international students enrolled in the MBA and MAcc programs in 2006 stood at 7% of total enrollment.

According to Marketing and Recruiting Specialist Colleen Mallon, “Resources such as immigration advising, IRS and tax workshops, and the Business Internship program provide support and development opportunities. The International Student Union plans a number of social events including holiday parties, ski trips, barbecues and the annual international student dinner. The Graduate School of Business hosts an annual international student luncheon to help introduce international students to other MBA and MAcc students.”

Colleen goes on to describe financial assistance available to international students. “International students have the ability to work as a graduate assistant for a staff or faculty member in the school of business while earning $15/hour. Moreover, scholarships paying for up to half of tuition costs for the fall and spring semesters are available to non-immigrant status international students.”  

The application process for entrance to the Graduate School of Business at Gonzaga University is rigorous, as prospective students need adequate test scores, competitive GPAs, letters of recommendation, and essay questions that demonstrate English proficiency. However, an additional caveat remains for international students: Procurement of a student visa.

BlessingsSecond-year graduate student Blessings Mushala, who immigrated to America from Lusaka, Zambia explained the visa process in detail. International degree-seeking students must apply for an F1 visa, which has two critical components. First, an applicant must have been accepted at an American University. Second, the student must have a sponsor in America. This stipulation means that the student needs to not only have someone to sign as a financial provider, but the student is also required to show that they have finances for an entire year of study. Six months after graduation, the F1 visa expires; however, students have the option to work in the United States for one year after graduation, should they obtain work authorization through the Optional Practical Training program. For students with backgrounds in science and engineering, this deadline is extended.

When asked how he first heard of Gonzaga, Blessings chuckled slightly before admitting, “Basketball.” However, like Anas and Nezar Hussain, Blessings decided to pursue an MBA at Gonzaga after meeting with a program recruiter at a career fair at his undergraduate college campus, BYU-Idaho. With a background in computer engineering, Blessings is currently studying for an MBA with a concentration in entrepreneurship.

“I like innovation,” he explained. “I have several ideas.” As a rapidly growing country, Zambia holds many opportunities for Blessings, who looks forward to returning one day. But while he misses his country and family, he has enjoyed his time in the States a great deal.

“My brother was in Rexburg with me, and now I live with my wife and child,” said the proud father, who is about to welcome the birth of a second child. “We had Spokane connections.”

Blessings’ sanguinity manifested itself as our conversation unfolded. “I miss the food (from Zambia), but that is replicable,” he admitted after thinking for a while about niceties he missed from Zambia. Ever the optimist, Blessings has nothing but positive words to describe his time stateside. With respect to the MBA program, he appreciates the small class sizes Gonzaga offers, as well as the opportunity to meet real entrepreneurs.

ManasiSimilarly, Manasi Katragadda, a native of Bhubaneswar, India, emphasized the importance of small class sizes as a crucial factor in her decision to attend Gonzaga. “Here, people respond to you – you’re recognized for who you are. There is a great deal of personal attention.”

With spirited eyes, Manasi eagerly explained her background. Not only is she an aspiring businesswoman, but Manasi also has an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering and a master of science in engineering from Colorado State University. Moreover, she is an incredibly gifted artist.

Manasi shared albums laden with examples of her art. Photos of Manasi winning awards for her artwork are inauspiciously stashed between pages of vivid landscapes on glass and breathtaking canvas paintings. An album detailing her twenty years as a practitioner of the Odissi dance reads more like a story than a collection of pageant and performance pictures.

“You have to be animated in Odissi,” Manasi explained over a snapshot of her performance by a temple. “You want to mimic your surroundings.” Adorned with richly colored and ornate attire, Manasi seems to tell a different tale on each page, as her large, expressive eyes indicate a range of emotions and expressions.     

Contemplating how the many facets of her life – engineering, art, and business – work together, Manasi seemed reflective. “My art is logical. I think, ‘How can you improve lines? How can you improve subjects?’” She elucidated further; “Business complements engineering.”

In fact, this past summer Manasi had the opportunity to meld her studies and experiences with an internship at IBM. Traveling to India for the opportunity, Manasi worked on a project based on IBM’s smarter planet initiatives, which focused on tools providing intelligent transportation management solutions for large, global cities. She explained, “I enjoyed the challenge of working on next generation products, as well as learning from collaborating with different international teams within the company.”

Ekaterina “Kate” Rolan also brings extensive work experience and a diverse background with her to the Master of Accountancy program. Originally from Vladivostok, a city located in eastern Russia near the borders of China and Korea, Kate studied economics and international relations as both an undergraduate and as a graduate.

KateAfter university and work in Vladivostok, Kate received an opportunity to work on Russia’s largest island, Sakhalin Island at a Russian-American oil and construction company, where she met her husband-colleague. Eventually, the couple’s desire to be closer to family brought them to Nine Mile Falls in 2007, where Kate sought a new challenge and decided to pursue an advanced degree from an American university.

Kate did her homework prior to enrolling in the MAcc program. “I asked a lot of friends, relatives, and neighbors what kinds of jobs are in demand,” she explained. “Everyone told me to become an accountant, so I could most easily find a job.”

Having moved to Eastern Washington, Kate’s options for MAcc programs were quickly narrowed down to two choices – Gonzaga University and Washington State University. Ultimately Kate decided upon Gonzaga University because of the school’s quick response to her inquiries, welcoming attitude, small size classes, and nice campus. “Plus,” she added, “It is very well-respected.”

As a full-time student, mother of a nearly three-year-old, and wife, one must wonder how Kate spends her precious spare time. However, she has her passions. One of her primary interests is medieval history and culture of Europe. “If I had not decided to study accounting and be practical, I would go for history of arts or medievalism,” Kate smiled.

Following the suggestion of a neighbor a few years ago, Kate attended a summer event of the Northwest Renaissance Festival, held in Nine Mile Falls. In due course, Kate decided to audition and landed the role of a Russian peasant. “We had lectures about historical events of that time, language, fashion, culture.”

Kate’s face lit up as she described the event. “It is like a performance,” she revealed. “Everyone has a certain part to play – we have practices and everything.” While Kate was unable to participate this past summer due to her coursework, she looks forward to participating again one day. “It’s a lot of fun,” Kate reminisced.

Anas, Nezar, Blessings, Manasi, and Kate represent much more than international peers in a course of study. They bring a great deal of perspective to a program concerned with molding students into conscientious, worldly, and compassionate decision-makers.

“International students bring a new flavor into the classroom; they help other students become familiar with different cultures and traditions,” expounded Professor Mirjeta Beqiri. Originally from Albania, Professor Beqiri came to Gonzaga in the fall of 2002 as an Assistant Professor of Operations Management. “Furthermore, most international students possess high quantitative knowledge and skills; their presence in the classroom certainly helps create a more challenging environment and adds rigor to the courses.”

Jinny Piskel, Director of the Graduate School of Business adds, “Recruiting international students is a top priority for our program. These students provide diverse perspectives on a wide range of issues, and are fantastic to work with. We are fortunate to have such a rich international student body.”

The students I interviewed displayed levels of kindness and helpfulness I have rarely experienced. Blessings immediately typed and emailed me additional information he thought would be helpful to my pursuit. Anas and Nezar invited me to the International Student Thanksgiving dinner and recommended electronic cables for my new television. Manasi gave me a hug in departure. Kate’s benevolence is second to none. The generosity extended by these individuals was both electrifying and encouraging.

However, just as I learned a lot from my interaction with these new friends, they also sought to educate prospective international students.

“Always remember that GU students warmly welcome other cultures and views,” explained Professor Beqiri. “If you need help, do not hesitate to ask. It will be offered to you unconditionally and in the most affectionate way.”

“Make friends with American students,” Manasi offered. “Make the time to create a support system of family and friends so you always have someone to talk to.”

Nezar Hussain certainly agrees. “You must have different experiences with different cultures – take new courses, meet new people. Get out of your comfort zone.”

As we prepared to brave the stormy November weather, Anas jumped in with some advice of his own. “The snow was fun for a little while, but remember to bring warm clothes!”

Gonzaga Graduate Business Students Donate Nearly 400 Items to the
American Cancer Society Discovery Shop

by Colleen Mallon - May 2010

Gonzaga's graduate business students recently participated in a week-long clothing drive that collected over 400 items for the American Cancer Society Discovery Shop. Donations included men and women's clothing, jewelry, books, and small furniture items. The American Cancer Society takes these high quality, gently used items and sells them in their Discovery Shop. For over 40 years the American Cancer Society has owned and operated these shops, from which all proceeds go directly to the American Cancer Society. Currently there are 11 shops in Washington and Oregon, staffed by over 400 volunteers.

Donations for this worthy cause filled the hallway of the Graduate School of Business. Students enthusiastically donated to what they believed a very worthy cause. As Master of Accountancy student Elizabeth Hackney commented, "Cancer is a disease that has affected everyone. I was happy to donate to this important cause."

This project was part of an annual national Jesuit MBA week of service.  Each year during this week, over 20 Jesuit MBA programs across the nation commit to completing a service project in their communities. As Jinny Piskel, Director of Graduate Business Programs commented, "Each year the Jesuit MBA service week is a time for our 27 MBA programs across the nation to give back to our communities." These Jesuit MBA programs also collaborate to offer portability of credits, international travel options, powerful alumni connections, and career support for students. (www.jesuitmba.org)

Gonzaga received special assistance transporting donations from Movher, a moving company owned and operated by Gonzaga MBA student Sabrina Jones. Jones launched the business in February 2010. As she describes "Movher is a Spokane-based, woman-owned moving, packing and cleaning company that provides unsurpassed customer service for its residential and commercial clients. We employ local people to help local people move and we give back a percentage of each job to our local community. Did I mention we are local?"  (www.movher.com)

Jinny Piskel summarized the impact of this year's campaign by saying, "This year the donations made by Gonzaga MBA & MAcc students, faculty and staff demonstrated their commitment to giving back..." The Graduate School of Business would like to thank everyone who contributed to making this project a success, once again illustrating Gonzaga's commitment to service and the local community.

Rethinking Healthcare: Gonzaga Alum Leads Marketing Efforts for PriceDoc.Com

by Colleen Mallon - December 2009

Gonzaga's MBA and MAcc programs seek to produce graduates who are able to think outside the box and develop innovative solutions to complex problems. Heidi Safadago, Gonzaga MBA Alumnus ‘05, is leading the marketing & sales force of a small start-up company that is doing just that- offering an alternative solution to one of the most convoluted issues facing American society: healthcare reform.

Safadago graduated from Gonzaga's MBA program in 2005. She relocated to Seattle where she began working in marketing and sales for a medical and sports testing equipment company.  Last January, she was recruited by a small start-up company called PriceDoc.com to become the Director of Marketing & Sales.  As she explains, "PriceDoc is a healthcare search engine for medical and dental procedures. PriceDoc allows cash-paying consumers who are under-insured, uninsured or seeking elective procedures to shop and compare prices for specific procedures."  Additionally, patients can submit a bid for services at their desired price to multiple providers through their online bidding system. The ultimate goal of PriceDoc is "to empower consumers to access affordable high-quality healthcare."

 PriceDoc was incorporated in late 2008, and in February 2009 the sales team, led by Safadago, began signing up subscribers for the Seattle-based pilot program. At times this process was arduous, as some healthcare providers felt uncomfortable with the capitalistic nature of PriceDoc. "PriceDoc is a paradigm shift for healthcare providers, and some providers have initially been hesitant to post price. They see their purpose as helping people, and we've had to show how PriceDoc works to make their practice more efficient and profitable," explains Safadago. At the beginning of April, the team began the campaign to sign up consumers, which brought on a whole new set of challenges. PriceDoc has had to validate their identity while signing up consumers, and has fought to establish themselves as a recognizable and trusted source for healthcare services.  As Safadago points out "Our public relations efforts have been the most valuable tool for creating this validity. They have helped us establish our brand identity and share consumer success stories."

Despite these challenges, the initial response to PriceDoc has been overwhelmingly positive. In fact, the feedback from the pilot program in Seattle was so encouraging the company launched their national campaign in November, approximately six months ahead of schedule. The sales team's original goal was to sign up 1,500 providers by the end of the year in the Seattle area, but by early November they had already signed up over 2,000 providers who have posted more than 50,000 medical and dental procedures that are available for cash prices. Additionally, consumers have performed over 490,000 searches for medical and dental procedures, accessed provider information and reserved a price. Dental procedures have been the most widely searched, which is not surprising considering the 114 million Americans without dental insurance. Cosmetic procedures have also been popular searches, followed by basic medical and vision.  For consumers, the benefits of having transparent pricing for procedures is revolutionary and have empowered them to compare options for healthcare services while also reviewing provider experience, credentials and patient referrals online. For healthcare providers, the site gives them the ability to access cash-paying clients, which reduces paper work and overhead costs.  Safadago points out that surprisingly, even insurance agents are supportive of PriceDoc since it gives them a place to refer clients who are either uninsurable or are seeking elective procedures.

Looking forward, Heidi and her team plan to continue signing up new providers and increasing their brand awareness with consumers. "We've identified major corporate accounts and will focus on populating major cities with providers first. Next we've identified second-tier cities, and have a plan to continue connecting the dots across America," says Safadago.  "While at the present time not everyone can use PriceDoc to find a provider in their area, they can at least use it to get a baseline price comparison for various procedures." Additionally, Safadago will focus on further public relations and marketing efforts in the coming year in order to build a strong brand identity for the company. As she points out, PriceDoc is a whole new way of looking at healthcare, and it takes time to establish validity with consumers and providers.

While there will always be new challenges to overcome, Safadago says that her Gonzaga MBA has increased her confidence in facing these challenges head-on. "My MBA has been invaluable in my career thus far and has given me the tools to succeed in each business endeavor I take on. PriceDoc was founded by five seasoned executives from the healthcare industry and having my MBA has prepared me to perform at a level that has exceeded their expectations."

When asked how a company like PriceDoc fits into the debate over healthcare reform, Safadago points out that PriceDoc is a small business seeking to provide entrepreneurial solutions for both consumers and providers. The overall goal is to connect the consumer and provider directly and allow consumers to access better healthcare at lower costs. While the problems of healthcare are vast and complex, Safadago hopes that a company like PriceDoc can be a part of the solution.

Beyond the Classroom: Gonzaga MBA Students Turn Class Project
into an Entrepreneurial Reality

by Colleen Mallon - December 2009

Josh and Sarah

When Gonzaga senior Josh Neblett walked into his "Creating New Ventures" class during the first semester of his senior year, he felt fairly confident about the direction of his future. A finance major, he had an impressive internship on his resume and many doors in the financial world were beginning to open for him. Neblett was excited about the entrepreneurship class taught by adjunct professor Tom Simpson, but up until that point, he had no idea how life-changing one business course could be.

Simpson, the managing partner for Northwest Venture Associates, used many real-world examples and ideas throughout the course. One of the ideas he discussed was an online retail company specializing in the sale and certification of "green" household products. "Going Green" was becoming more and more popular with American consumers, and currently there was no comprehensive venue for the certification and distribution of green products. When the time came for students to develop a business plan for the annual business plan competition, Neblett asked Simpson if he could use his idea as a starting point. With the help of 3 other seniors, including his long-time girlfriend, Sarah Wollnick, Neblett led the charge in putting together a business plan for "GreenCupboards" that would go on to win the Hogan Entrepreneurial Business Plan Competition that spring. After this initial success Neblett approached Simpson about the possibility of taking this plan to the next level and making GreenCupboards a reality. Simpson signed on, and Neblett dropped his secure plan to work in the financial sector to chase an entrepreneurial dream. In June of 2008 GreenCupboards was incorporated, and Josh Neblett, at 22 years old, was CEO of the company.  Sarah Wollnick was named the Vice President of Marketing.

GreenCupboards set its sight on becoming the online provider of "all things green". While the green market has become a hot spot for American consumers, Wollnick points out that there are great discrepancies in the standards for what "being green" truly means. GreenCupboards, she adds, is founded on the idea guaranteeing every manufacturer of products distributed meets a very high standard of ecological friendliness. GreenCupboards certifies manufacturers through independent research, including a comprehensive questionnaire completed by each company. Additionally, most products are shipped directly to the customer, thereby reducing energy expenditures and shipping costs to deliver goods to purchasers.  Operations are conducted solely online. Consumers are encouraged to reduce their carbon footprints by purchasing small to medium pack sizes. Finally, employees bike or carpool to work and bring their own laptops. They also recycle as much as possible, and the company maintains an enclosed compost bin.

As if these two young entrepreneurs did not have enough on their reusable plates, both committed to pursuing their MBAs at Gonzaga shortly after the company launched.  Why take on this extra challenge? Wollnick says she realized that with the tumultuous nature of the economy, she wanted to be prepared and to have the best credentials possible for the future. She added, "After four years at Gonzaga as an undergraduate student, I knew the quality of the professors and the overall excellence of the institution," Wollnick said. "I also knew that as crazy as things were with the start of up of GreenCupboards, life was not likely to slow down in the future..." Neblett echoed these sentiments, adding that his MBA classes have provided a sort of think tank to test his ideas for GreenCupboards, and  that the feedback and ideas that he has gleaned from them have been invaluable to the company.  Both agreed that their classroom experiences have been greatly enhanced by the real-world realities they experience on a daily basis at GreenCupboards.

Over a year has passed since the inception of GreenCupboards, and the future of the company appears bright. Of course, it has faced inevitable obstacles including working through the logistics of online retail and adapting to the ever-changing market environment. As Neblett points out, "The only thing you can be certain of when starting up a business is that you will NOT be doing what is in your original business plan." The employees and interns, all of whom are under 25, are constantly reevaluating the company's decisions and refining its direction.

Nonetheless, GreenCupboards has seen financial growth at a rate of 20-30% each month, and has exceeded its projections for the last five months in a row. The company has now sold merchandise to customers in every state, with New York being its largest market. Neblett, a self-proclaimed "numbers guy", admits he derives immense satisfaction from hitting these goals. An additional accolade-in July, Neblett was named one of Spokane Catalyst Magazine's "Top 20 Under 40" business people. But as Wollnick points out, there is also an intangible reward every time the company redefines itself and refines its vision. Currently, that vision includes aggressively pursuing relationships with small to mid-size companies who are interested in reducing their corporate ecological footprint.  Long-term, GreenCupboards seeks to be the "go-to spot" for the green product market for both businesses and individual consumers. Additionally, they are seeking to be the place that people turn to not only to purchase green products, but also to educate themselves on living an eco-friendly lifestyle. Recently the company launched a blog series that includes daily updates on tips for living green, interviews with vendors, and product reviews.

The future of Josh Neblett and Sarah Wollnick appears bright as well. Wollnick will receive her MBA this November with a concentration in ethics, and Neblett will receive his MBA next spring with a concentration in entrepreneurship. The two were engaged this summer and plan to marry next July.

 We wish them a life that is happily ever green.

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