Innovation and Entrepreneurship MBA students at the Bend Venture Conference.

OMBA takes the Bend Venture Conference

The numbers have been crunched, the presentation decks prepared, and nerves are on high. Your carefully thought out idea is about to become reality…but only if you win. Welcome to the Bend Venture Conference.


As an MBA student in the Innovation and Entrepreneurship track, I expected to be provided with insights into the start-up world within a classroom context. But when I found myself, only three-weeks into my MBA program, traveling to Bend, Oregon for my first venture conference I realized that the Oregon MBA exceeds expectations.

A venture conference is an event where ideas turn into actions. A little research on the Bend Venture Conference (BVC) website led me to expect a multi-day entrepreneurship-focused event and close to $1 million in prize money. The start-up companies were broken into three categories of competition: Social Impact, Early Stage, and Growth Stage. 15 founders were going to pitch their start-up ideas to groups of investors. And I was going to be part of it.

After arriving at the Tower Theater in Bend, my classmates and I got settled in for the first round of competition: Social Impact. Here, companies were formed around the idea of helping others. We saw presentations centered around water conservation, fighting human sex trafficking, and blood-borne disease diagnostic tools. To round out this philanthropic group, Rebekah Bastian, the Vice President of Product at Zillow took the stage as the key note speaker. Bastian discussed how she is leveraging her role at the United States’ leading online real estate marketplace to help end homelessness.


The Early Stage competition kicked off Day Two. Here we saw six founders pitch their hopeful companies for three minutes each. Again, the company focuses varied. Anything from inner-tire suspension to rainwater collection systems to crowdsourcing apps could be found onstage. These new companies were competing for $15,000 and the vote was decided by the audience. I was amazed to know that my ballet could help the company I most believed in launch.


The Growth Stage competition rounded out the conference. The five companies were seeking seeding funding, typically in the amount of 1 million dollars. These companies – like Cartogram, Hubb, and Outdoor Project – have all been around for a few years and the founders were practiced presenters. The keynote speaker for Day Two was Loni Stark, the Senior Director of Strategy and Product Marketing at Adobe and the co-founder of Stark Insider, a West Coast media brand. Stark shared her thoughts on the significance of digital on customer experience and marketing.


As a future entrepreneur and hopeful starter-upper like myself, the face value of attending the BVC was obvious. It was a chance to see how entrepreneurs and investors were going to come together to bring the next big thing to market. I was able to learn impactful tips, like what to wear on stage, at what pace to speak, and how to stand while presenting. I was able to apply the business terms I have been learning in my MBA classes to a real-world application. But the most valuable lesson I learned at the BVC that it is always possible to turn your passion into your career.

There is little scarier than introducing yourself as a Master’s student specializing in innovation and entrepreneurship to a room of innovative entrepreneurs. There is a pressure to have that next million-dollar idea researched and ready. So when you don’t have it all figured out, it is easy to feel apprehensive. But the BVC showed me how to discover that million-dollar idea… Or at least where to start. Despite how varied the ideas presented on stage were, the theme was all the same: do what you love. Discover your passion and work within that space. And if no one is doing exactly what you want to, go out and build that company from the bottom up.

I had high expectations for the MBA program at the University of Oregon. But looking back at the connections made, ideas inspired, and knowledge grasped while attending the BVC with the classmates, I realize that the Oregon MBA is already exceeding expectations.


Written by Tess Meyer

Tess is a 2018 MBA in the Innovation and Entrepreneurship track. With a background in Psychology and experience managing extensive teams, she is passionate about driving human potential. Tess' aim is to enter career services where she can encourage sustainable career passion for clients and businesses alike. When she is not writing or studying, Tess can be found hiking, reading, or trying a new restaurant. Learn more on


Experiential Learning in Portland: A Sustainability Cornucopia

It was a dark and stormy night. Okay, it was technically morning as the Center for Sustainable Business Practices’ 1st-year cohort gathered near the edge of campus in preparation for our first Experiential Learning trip. The destination: Portland, Oregon, home to some great street food, a thriving urban culture, and a number of businesses and organizations making terrific strides toward environmental and social sustainability.

Our first stop was at Mercy Corps, a non-profit aid agency that assists areas around the world hit by environmental disaster, conflict, and economic hardship. Locally, Mercy Corps Northwest helps strengthen community bonds through business development and training, prison re-entry programs, and economic development. Their latest project is a Community Investment Trust, an investment vehicle designed to give low-income residents an ownership stake in their neighborhoods. After a brief tour, we sat down for some Q&A with Mercy Corps’ Sven Gatchev, Ecova’s Cassidy Williams, and the Bonneville Environmental Foundation’s Sara Hoversten. All three are CSBP alum who are doing amazing work in Portland and the greater Pacific Northwest. It was a great opportunity to hear what’s going on in the real world, the problems people are taking on, and the work being done to make the world a better place.

Then it was back into the vans to head over to Columbia Sportswear. Founded in 1938, Columbia is an internationally-recognized brand with annual sales in the billions. The company is probably best-known for “Ma Gert” Boyle, one of the founding members who ran the company for years with her son Tim. At 95, Boyle still punches the clock from 9-5, Monday-Friday.

After a tour of the Columbia campus, we sat down for a panel discussion with several of the company’s executives. The panel included Steve Woodside, Senior Vice President for Global Sourcing and Managing; Doug Morse, VP, Chief Business Development Officer; Mike Peel, Senior Manager of Indirect Procurement; Valerie Morse, Global Consumer Insights Director; and CSBP’s own Guru Khalsa, Columbia’s Sustainability Director. This group provided insights into their industry, their personal and professional journeys, and keys to success, among other things. Columbia’s commitment to environmental stewardship is impressive, and the fact that they would sit their high-level executives in front of us for over an hour spoke volumes about their culture and willingness to give back.

As we rolled back into Eugene later that night, tired and road-weary, there was a mixture of emotions, but the most tangible was gratitude. Gratitude to the humble, inspiring professionals who took time out of their busy days to meet with us, to my classmates for being engaged and curious, and to everyone who helped plan and organize this experience. There was also an understanding that we have the responsibility to pay this experience forward in a few years, to the next flock of ducks.

“We are all faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as insoluble problems” – John Gardner

Written by bfordham

Fordham is a writer and journalist who believes in addressing the future with clarity and vision. He has most recently written for the Mad River Union, an award-winning Northern California newspaper, where he helped bring subjects like biogas production and bond procurement to life. Through the Oregon MBA’s Center for Sustainable Business Practices, Fordham plans to build out his overall skill-sets, taking advantage of rigorous coursework and experiential learning opportunities to gain a strong framework of business fundamentals. After graduation he plans to work toward renewable energy solutions for a changing world. Fordham will graduate in Spring '18.


Warsaw MBA Students and Oregon SPM Students Connect Over Shared History

Warsaw Sports Marketing first year MBA students, together with the incoming Sports Product Management (SPM) students from the U of O’s Portland campus had the privilege of visiting some powerful pieces of Eugene history in September 2016.

When an email came through to my inbox inviting Warsaw students to join a private tour of “Nike/Eugene” heritage, I was immediately intrigued and RSVP’d. On the morning of the tour, we all met outside Bowerman’s Lab where we were greeted by Steve Bence from Nike.  Bowerman’s Lab is a hidden gem in Eugene; it was a space Bill Bowerman created to work on the design and construction of some of the very first Nike shoes. The rooms in Bowerman’s Lab were quite small, so before we all split into smaller groups for the tour, we congregated outside to hear the story behind the lab. Bence shared details about the history of the lab. The location was all part of Bowerman’s plan, and his location choice helped lead him to some of his greatest innovations. We then heard from Ellen Schmidt-Devlin, the Director of the UO SPM program, who recounted her experiences as a runner on the University of Oregon track team during Bowerman’s launch of Nike. She was one of the women who got to trial shoes while they were in development and played a key role in the evolution of their design. It was exciting to hear her account of Bowerman’s design inspiration and then to take a step back in time and see it all come to life as we toured the lab.


After our tour of Bowerman’s Lab, we drove across town to visit Pre’s Rock. Up windy roads and tucked into a neighborhood we found a memorial for the late Steve Prefontaine. I had first heard about Pre when I was a runner on my high school’s track and cross country teams. My coach, Rey Garza, was one of many who were inspired by and believed in Pre’s legacy – so much that he’d named his son Steve, after him. Often at practice Coach Rey would tell us the stories he’d heard of Pre’s running career, so visiting Pre’s Rock for the first time was an exciting and sobering moment for me. Many runners and Pre fans travel thousands of miles to come dedicate their running memorabilia in Pre’s name. We saw t-shirts, sweat bands, race bibs, finisher medals, beads and cheer poms all decorating the memorial. Bence, who was good friends with Pre and ran with him during his college years, shared with us some of his favorite personal memories.  It has been decades since Pre’s passing, so it is truly remarkable to see the impact he still has on the entire running community.


Our third stop on the tour was on the University of Oregon campus – Hayward Field. Hayward Field holds a special place in the hearts of runners across the globe, whether they’ve actually visited the track or not.  There is no other track in the United States that is as well-known and rich in history as Hayward Field. Some of the best athletes in the world have competed on the field, and some of the fastest runners in the world have toed the line on the track. It’s home to many of the most prestigious international meets, including the annual Prefontaine Classic. It’s the kind of place that gives you goosebumps. I’ve already ran past the field a few times since I moved to Eugene – just for the extra inspiration.


Our next stop for the day was at the state-of-the-art John E. Jaqua Academic Center for Student Athletes. We all filed into the auditorium and found our seats in bright yellow theater-style chairs. We heard a speech from Whitney Wagoner, Director of the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center, and she shared some of the goals and the history of the Warsaw program.  Schmidt-Devlin spoke next about the Sports Product Management program and welcomed the second class of SPM students. They each talked about the significance of the two programs in the sports community, and future plans for more collaboration between both programs. Last, but not least, David Higdon, NASCAR’s VP of Integrated Marketing Communications and the Chair of the Warsaw Center Advisory Board, got us pumped for the tailgate and the game we attended that afternoon.


Inspired and energized by the morning’s activities and speakers, we all flocked over to the Ducks football game for some food and networking at the joint Warsaw-SPM tailgate.

These once-in-a-lifetime opportunities are what differentiates the University of Oregon’s sports programs and what ultimately sold me on choosing to pursue my MBA here. I know this day will be one of the highlights of my University of Oregon MBA career.

Written by Amber Santos

Santos is a Class of 2018 Oregon MBA student with a passion for marketing, running and the outdoors. Before moving to Eugene for the MBA program, Santos grew up in California and earned her undergraduate B.S. in Business Administration; marketing, with a minor in fashion merchandising from California State University, Long Beach. She spent her time between degrees working in the advertising world in Los Angeles. As an Oregon MBA within the Warsaw Sports Marketing cohort, Santos plans to further develop her skillset and pursue a career in sports apparel marketing upon graduation.

1st Year Oregon MBA's

Oregon does it different.

I never really expected to be a student again. When I walked across the stage at my college graduation in 2008, I was pretty sure it was the last time I would ever do that. With my shiny new degree firmly in hand, I transitioned seamlessly into my 9-to-(often-way-past)-5 job at an advertising agency in Chicago. I had the opportunity to work with passionate, smart, ambitious people who all loved what they did. Turns out, I was good at my job and I was rewarded for it. But after 7 years of marketing consumer-packaged goods, I found myself in a rut. I wasn’t inspired by the work I was doing, and the grind of agency life was starting to get to me. I was looking for something else, but I didn’t know what.

My introduction to the OMBA happened by chance. A visit to family friends in Phoenix one week in March 2015 turned into a meeting with a woman who was, at the time, about to graduate from the program. She spoke passionately about her time in Eugene, her experience with her cohort, and about the unique opportunity that the Warsaw Center offered her.  Something clicked into place for me that night. The realization that I could combine my passion for sports and my belief in the power of being a fan, with a strong business education and roll that all into a career that I could get excited about. How could I not jump at that opportunity?

But as any good strategist does, I approached my application process from multiple angles, exploring programs that offered similar-but-not-quite-the-same options to what we do here. I kept coming back to Oregon. “There’s something different about the MBA at Oregon,” my alumni friend said that night in March. She was right, and it was clear from the very beginning of the application process. The family-like attitude, the welcoming communication, the strong desire to really get to know me – the Oregon MBA just felt different than every other program I applied to. If I was going to leave my job and my life to dive head first into a full time program, I had to be damn sure I was moving forward. And my first visit to Eugene, my first day on campus, felt like stepping into a whole new world of possibility.

So here I am, eight years after that first graduation, settling back into the familiar role of student. I’m three weeks in, and I have to say – an MBA is a whole new level of “student-ing”. Our 52-person cohort (the largest the program has accepted to date) spent two full weeks in MBA GO! Eight whole days of teaming, talking, sharing, learning and building each other up. Every business school will introduce its new class to the case study method, teach them how to navigate the university’s calendar and remind everyone to utilize career services ASAP. But again, the OMBA proved that we do things differently. Sure we did all those expected things during orientation, but there was also a clear focus from the beginning on establishing communication and teamwork skills – skills industry leaders say they need more of from MBA graduates. There were whole sessions dedicated to self-care, to building trust among our teams, and to helping us identify strengths and build confidence in one another. At the end of it, I came out ready to tackle the challenge ahead of me in the next two years. But I also came out feeling like I have 52 new best friends that I can rely on to pick me up when I stumble, which I inevitably will. I have 52 new teammates that I want to see succeed as much as I want to succeed myself. And that’s the biggest part of the Oregon difference that I’ve seen so far.

We’re committed to excellence here, but to achieve excellence, we must all be the best version of ourselves. And that’s really why I’m here. Orientation started us down that path, and for me it crystalized what I was looking for all along – new challenges to push me into a better version of myself. And a team around me striving for the same thing.

Written by Laura Condella

Laura is a 2018 MBA with the Warsaw Center for Sports Marketing. She's a creative problem solver with over 8 years of experience helping a variety of brands from packaged goods to sports & entertainment organizations build their business through authentic connections with shoppers & fans. She's passionate about the power of sports in community building and the impact being a fan. Hockey fan, baseball lover, Chicago native.


Shifts in the Trade Winds: IFT16 and the Opportunity of Conscious Consumption

If you haven’t met me, the basic introduction is that I’m using my time in the Oregon MBA to build a career that impacts sustainable food and agriculture. This path led me to interning with Mercaris, a startup that provides rare and valuable market intelligence to the organic grain industry. Also, nice to meet you, hope you’re having a nice summer, and welcome to the Oregon MBA!

The IFT16 Trade Show Floor

The trade show floor at IFT16

Two weeks ago, I represented Mercaris at IFT16, an international convention of food scientists and industry professionals. The conference promoted professional development through shared research. Meanwhile, an accompanying trade show attracted a cross section of the industry, all vying to show their “on trend” ingredients, equipment, and processes.

Being new to the world of food science, I noticed a unifying trend: the prevalence of informed, discerning, and wary consumers. If you have paid attention to food advertising in the last five years, you’ll recognize terms like “clean ingredients” and “sustainable sourcing.” You might also know a little bit more about technical ideas like probiotics, antioxidants, or minimal processing. You might be attempting a diet that is “free from” ingredients like gluten, sugar, sodium, and even meat. You might even classify yourself as a locavore, a flexitarian, or just a foodie in general. And the most interesting part of this amazing development is how it has taken the food industry by surprise.

A keynote seminar underlined the gap in understanding between the food scientists and the food consumers. A marketing executive presented the findings of C+R Research, which conducted a marketing study on the clean label trend. He stated that clean label claims and minimalist packaging are “a backlash and a challenge to Big Food companies” and they target a mainstream audience. 69% of those surveyed reported consistent label-reading behavior. Consumers are certainly awakened to the idea that some food products have negative health benefits. More importantly, consumers woke up to the idea that some companies have a consistent track record of stakeholder care. 47% of those surveyed reported the use of simple strategies to meet their personal dietary requirements, including trust in certain retail outlets or packaged products.


Me and a 2,000lb tote, a standard of transportation for food commodities

In another age, health and wellness were confined to certain high-value customer segments. However, the final takeaway from C+R Research pointed to a tectonic shift in consumer behavior: when it comes to food, education and socio-economic status are no longer the reliable barometers they once were. Conscious consumption now cuts across class, with consumer age playing a key role for segmentation purposes. Millennials and Boomers are more receptive to clean label claims than are Gen Xers, but all generations exhibit some level of food literacy which impacts their purchase behavior. As one Gen X member of a live consumer panel remarked, “they put [high fructose corn syrup] in our food and we got fat as a nation… I’m mad at them.”

And so, to what cause do we attribute this disconnect between consumer and industry? Alarmist documentaries like “Cowspiracy,” and “Food, Inc.” paint a grim picture of multinationals that hide their nefarious production practices or actively sacrifice the health of people and planet in the name of profit margins. From my position on the trade floor, however, the disconnect seems to stem from reductionist science. As one executive from the GreenBiz Group noted, the purpose of a food company is to create products with an eye toward cost, safety, and taste. Within this spectrum of values, raw food commodities boil down to fats, sweeteners, and emulsifying agents. They are designed for shelf-stability and are marketed for mass appeal.

Once you add nutrition to this mix, the food scientists begin to scratch their heads. A food product is only the sum of its ingredients, and meeting dietary guidance is a matter of stacking nutritional values. Under this lens, food science looks more like product development, while nutrition separates into another discipline altogether. Food scientists are rapidly trying to address this gap in their education; one of my favorite seminars was amusingly titled “Nutrition and Food: An Obvious but Little Appreciated Partnership.”


A consumer panel hosted by C+R Research

The trend towards health and wellness has seismic implications for the entire supply chain. Going forward, consumers will reward food companies for their attention to nutritional economics and transparency, rather than for their cost economics and quality control. Furthermore, as the world shifts towards more sustainable diets, food companies will be rewarded for communicating the environmental impact of their ingredients. The IFIC reports that for 41% of consumers, the sustainability of a food product is an order winner. And Big Food is responding with agility. A seminar on sustainable proteins illuminated the development—and the opportunity—of supply chains based around plant, insect, and cultured proteins.

At IFT16, I tasted the future of food. Protein bars made with chia, amaranth, and algae oil. Egg-free chocolate chip cookies made with a chickpea flour. 100% Guatemalan dark roast served on a nitro similar to Guinness, and an Indian spice cold brew made with tamarind. Naan pizza. Spaghetti-and-mealworms. I also had updated versions of trending classics like the mango smoothie and the grilled cheese sandwich. IFT16 stimulated all my senses and sensibilities, and I am fortunate for the experience.

Written by Joey Jaraczewski

Jaraczewski joins the Oregon MBA with a passion for changing the food industry. He grew up in rural Arizona and has spent the past four years exploring the world of food from multiple angles. He’s worked as a server and bartender in Flagstaff and traveled across the country visiting farms, feedlots, food distribution warehouses, and retailers. As an Oregon MBA on the sustainability track, Jaraczewski plans to build on that experience to explore ways to build a more sustainable food system for generations to come. Jaraczewski will graduate as an Oregon MBA with the class of 2017.