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From Cal Bear to Oregon Duck: Highlights from San Francisco

Earlier this month, the entire first-year MBA cohort had the opportunity to spend the first week of April in the San Francisco Bay Area visiting with top executives in a wide variety of companies.

In just four days, we met with Levi Strauss, Blackrock, Strava, Wells Fargo, the Federal Reserve, Farmland LP, Capital One, LinkedIn, Google, Women’s Startup Lab, Interwest Partners, Bay Area Impact Investing Initiative, RSF Social Finance, Clif Bar and Sierra Nevada Brewery! We also had a little time to explore downtown San Francisco, take pictures under the Golden Gate Bridge, and spend the evening playing in the Exploratorium.

Showing our Oregon pride under the Golden Gate Bridge

Showing our Oregon pride under the Golden Gate Bridge

While I was excited to get insight into the inner workings of some incredibly successful companies, I was also thrilled to be returning to the Bay Area for the first time in a few years. I did my undergrad at the University of California, Berkeley, and I was eager to show my new friends around all of my old favorite spots in the city.

Oregon Ducks take over the UC-Berkeley Campus (My alma mater)

Oregon Ducks take over the UC-Berkeley Campus (My alma mater)

 

It would be hard to pick my favorite experience from our week in the Bay, but I was able to narrow it down to a list of my top three:

  1. Clif Bar

Going in to the trip, Clif Bar was the company that I was most excited to visit, and the office tour did not disappoint. Between the rock-climbing wall in the employee gym, bike parts repurposed as door handles, an endless supply of snack bars, and a program that allows employees to volunteer for an unlimited number of paid hours, it would be hard not to want a job at Clif. Our group was lucky enough to meet with the CFO, who shared stories about what it was like to work for the company 15 years ago when the CEO turned down a $120 million offer and decided to keep Clif Bar private. As far as authentic companies go, Clif Bar is the real deal.

  1. RSF Social Finance

One of the primary benefits of the experiential learning trips is the opportunity to be exposed to an array of companies in many different industries. While I am not personally interested in a career in impact investing, I really enjoyed learning about RSF Social Finance. RSF is a nonprofit financial services organization dedicated to transforming the way the world works with money. The visit with RSF drew together the interests of all three centers (finance, entrepreneurship, and sustainability) in attendance, as we had the chance to talk about social responsibility, financial analysis, and innovation and entrepreneurship within the company.

  1. Net Impact Meet Up

My third and final highlight of the trip was our meet up at UC-Berkeley’s graduate chapter of Net Impact, a nonprofit organization of students and professionals dedicated to using business skills for social and environmental causes. On Tuesday night, students from our chapter at UO met with students from the chapter at UC-Berkeley. We compared professional interests, internship prospects, and our plans for the Net Impact conference in Seattle, Washington in November. Of course, we also told stories about our experiences in grad school and laughed over local brews. This highlight might be biased, but it was eye-opening to see my college campus through the eyes of my new friends.

Despite feeling slightly nostalgic for my college days in Berkeley (who isn’t nostalgic for their alma mater), my biggest takeaway from San Francisco was a renewed appreciation for the MBA program at the University of Oregon. The experiential learning trips are just one of the many benefits of the Oregon MBA, and I feel really lucky to have a cohort full of intelligent, passionate, collaborative and enthusiastic students with which I can share these trips. Until next time, San Francisco!

Written by Katie

Katie is a first year MBA student in the Center for Sustainable Business Practices. Before returning to school, she was the Assistant General Manager at a mission-driven organic grocery store in Washington, DC, where she led community outreach and employee engagement initiatives. She hopes to bring this experience and her MBA coursework to a strategic sustainability position within a mission-driven company in the outdoor and athletic industry.

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Business Honors Students in Guatemala

Thirteen students from the Lundquist College of Business Honors Program spent the week of spring break in Guatemala learning and gaining hands-on experience about micro-consignment projects through Social Entrepreneurship Corps, a nonprofit working in tandem with the Guatemalan-based company, Soluciones Comunitarias (SolCom). SolCom aims to make products such as water filters, wood stoves, and reading glasses accessible to all communities by partnering with and training local entrepreneurs (termed asesoras by SolCom).

Honors students used what they learned in their business classes to develop an outreach campaign to sell water filters and attract asesoras for SolCom in the San Juan la Laguna region. As many students came to learn however, the trip would not only draw on their business knowledge but also interpersonal and communication skills because most of the students did not speak Spanish. “I would get frustrated when I couldn’t communicate with my host family because I really wanted to be able to talk to them,” said Sara Chrisman, a junior who went on the trip. “Especially in the end when I wanted to show them how grateful how I was but I couldn’t properly express that. But people were very patient and understanding and willing to help you. My homestay family was very kind, welcoming, and went out of their way to make me comfortable when they didn’t have to.”

The outreach campaign produced some great results. Through the outreach campaign, six water filters were sold, at least 10 businesses were approached to consign products, and hundreds of fliers—designed by the students themselves—were distributed in the town center.

But perhaps an even greater success was what students took away from the experience. For students, the trip became a launching point for future endeavors. Several students expressed an interest in learning more Spanish and traveling more after their time in Guatemala. For three students, this trip was their first time out of the country, and they are taking their experience to guide them on their study abroad to Europe in the upcoming year. David Creach, a sophomore, is excited to take what he has learned in Guatemala—what he calls his “first international business improvement experience”—and apply it to his internship in Japan this summer.

What the students got out of the week was definitely priceless. Chad Derrick, who had never been out of the country before Guatemala, reflected positively on his experience. “I gave up a chance to recuperate, sleep, and hang out with friends to go to Guatemala, but it was worth it. I learned so much, especially about how important relationships are to people in Guatemala and I’ve been able to apply it to my own life,” said Derrick. “Coming back from that trip, I realize just how differently people can live and that it’s definitely easier to care about something when you feel like you’re making a difference.”

—Anna Karvina Pidong ’16

Anna Karvina Pidong is an accounting major graduating in Spring 2016. Aside from the business school, Anna is heavily involved with Kultura Pilipinas, the Filipino and Filipino-American student organization at the UO, and hopes to one day use her accounting background to manage a nonprofit in the Philippines.

Written by UO Business

The UO Lundquist College of Business empowers an engaged community of students, faculty, staff, and stakeholders who create, apply, and disseminate knowledge that contributes significantly to their professions, communities, and society. The college delivers a dynamic learning environment where world-class professors engage and get to know students, where students work on real projects for real companies, and where alumni go on to high-powered jobs worldwide.

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Our Last Day in the Netherlands

Today was a bittersweet day that had some of us excited to return home and sad to be leaving this fantastic country. It started with a lecture on investor relations from Kris Douma. He was very entertaining and easily kept everyone engaged. We discussed crises in the business world and how investors and managers deal with them. One of the main take-aways I learned from the session was cultural difference in the mindset of the Dutch and Americans. When making decisions, the Dutch tend to take more nonfinancial risks into consideration than Americans. The Dutch have a saying: “Just because something is legal, doesn’t mean it is right.” I have enjoyed learning about the many cultural differences on this trip.

After our morning lecture, we had lunch with the accounting students from the Nyenrode Business University. Their teacher this year was Ferdy, who we heard from on Wednesday. It was interesting to hear about their school and work life. They go to school one day a week and work full time the other four days. Their program is seven years long and started when they were 18. Our table talked about language barriers and school differences.

The last half of our day, we had presentations. We were all split into buddies near the beginning of the trip and were assigned a topic to present on today. We stated what we learned, how it related to past courses, and how it will help is academically, professionally, and personally. The topics were international tax, auditing, sustainability, auditing challenges, financial reporting, the Authority of Financial Markets, and the reporting process. Govert was the judge and the first- and second-place groups won a prize from the Nyenrode bookshop. It was refreshing to see how much information we all took in throughout the trip.

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The day ended with a farewell dinner with Sophie and Govert. We ate at Lakei on campus and enjoyed a great steak dinner. It was nice to have one last dinner with everyone and show our thanks to our hosts. This trip was an unique experience, and we all learned so much. I am sad to leave the Netherlands, but our last term awaits.

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Written by eproulx@uoregon.edu

I started the MAcc program September 2014 and will graduate June 2015. Last year I graduated from the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs where I obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting. I am excited for our study tour to the Netherlands and looking forward to the adventures that await!

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Day 4: Lecture on Regulatory Environment and Trip to KPMG

Our day 4 started from a great lecture in the morning. The topic for today’s presentation was financial reporting supervision and enforcement in international accounting. Ferdy van Beest, who is from Authority of Financial Markets (AFM), presented the aim of AFM and the way in which they are trying to accomplish goals in the Netherlands. Ferdy is an energetic speaker who always encouraged students to ask him questions and made students get involved in this serious topic. He stated that the goal of AFM was to create a better market in the Netherlands. However, AFM was still confronted with some challenges to achieve its goal. For example, collecting sufficient evidence was one of the most important thing for AFM. Beyond that, balance between firm-level and country-level regulation is the other problem they needed to consider. He also spoke about some companies in the Netherlands using integrated reporting, which included a scoring list with mandatory and voluntary components. At the end of his presentation, he mentioned that companies seemed to postpone taking impairment losses, hence suggesting that the financial results are distorted. AFM could not fine them since it was hard to measure without certain information. It seems like AFM still has some challenges when it regulates and enforces the process of financial reporting in the company. We really enjoyed Ferdy’s passionate speech and most of MAcc students even said he was the most interesting speaker during this business trip.

After lunch, we headed to KPMG in Amsterdam. As the previous leading audit firm of Philips, KPMG addressed the challenges they face in auditing an international listed company, and the lecture on external regulation was given by a partner and audit manager, who is also a UO alum. One issue the partner raised is that audit firms must be trusted. He stated that one audit challenge that the auditor faces is the potential punishment from negative news on social media. When one or two auditors fail on audit quality, the whole audit firm would be exposed to negative news. So the audit firms face the challenge of building relationships and trust with stakeholders and potential investors. Our alumnus also gave us some suggestions on how to deal with culture shocks, work pressure, and difficulties from his own experiences on KPMG’s rotation abroad. This presentation was a great opportunity to gain knowledge that could help us to begin our future career path.

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Written by Joyce

I am currently a MAcc student at UO and I really enjoy the time here.

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Day 3: Randstad, Nike, and the Employee Store

Randstad: Sustainability 

Hallo from Amsterdam day three! This morning the MAcc students visited Randstad, which is an HR services firm that provides jobs for about two million people annually. The topic for today’s presentation was on sustainability. Group Sustainability Officer Marlou Leenders on integrative reporting, sustainability reporting, and provided a case study for MAcc students to present on.

Today, traditional financial reporting is not sufficient enough information for stakeholders. Stakeholders want information on risks, opportunities, environmental efforts, strategy, the social environment, as well as financial performance. Randstad spoke about how important this is for their business model in order to create the most value for shareholders. We then discussed a case study where Marlou had us decide whether Randstad should keep a specific sustainability key performance indicator on which they currently report. This interactive learning opportunity was a great way to involve the MAcc students with important ongoing discussions currently happening at Randstad. We then enjoyed a wonderful lunch in the Randstad office and headed off to the Nike global headquarters in Amsterdam.

Nike: Accounting in Europe 

“If you have a body, you are an athlete.” Nike started off bold. Engaging us with an inspirational video and of course none other than an introduction to the history of Nike speaking about Phil Knight (Uncle Phil) and Bill Bowerman. Courtney Keating, a MAcc graduate and current european accounting manager for Nike, started off this presentation and was kind enough to set up one of the most intriguing discussions of the trip. There were five different topics presented on during our time at Nike. We had Lars Stratveit, Nike iD buyer, speak about the culture and heritage of Nike, as well as the process of Nike iD and what buying from vendors looks like for the company. Suzan Arendsen, director of WE tax, spoke about taxation at Nike and how the Dutch tax authorities are favorable to work with.

Then Erin and Scarlet, the PwC auditors of Nike came to talk about their audit procedures for Nike. They touched on risk assessment of their audit, the use of specialists, the audit planning timeline, and their experience living abroad. It was interesting to hear both the Nike and PwC side. What was even more exciting for me was the fact that I worked with Scarlet this summer during my internship at PwC in San Francisco. Such a small world. Then Justin Allen, retail accounting manager, spoke about Nike’s focus to move towards digital and the growing trend of Nike’s direct-to-consumer business in Europe. Then came THE BIG SURPRISE from Nike.

The final presenter was no one other than the CFO of Nike in Europe, Bart Boekraad. Bart spoke about what it means to be a CFO and how he deals with international management. He touched on the challenges of operating in certain countries and how Nike copes with the current political unrest and economic situations. I also asked him what advice he had for us as young professionals going into the workforce. His answer was that we need to be able to work well in a team, that soft skills are extremely important, as are believing in yourself, staying committed, not over-planning, and not being afraid of new opportunities.

We finished off the day by getting access to the Nike Employee Store. We all bought way too many clothes and shoes. I mean you don’t get that opportunity every day, so our mindset was JUST DO IT!

Written by Gabrielle Sanders

Current candidate for a Masters of Accounting degree from the University of Oregon. After graduation I will be pursuing a career in public accounting with PwC in Portland.