Wandering with Purpose at the 2017 Net Impact Conference

It’s the night before the first day of the Net Impact conference and I’m furiously looking through their website, writing down all talks I want to attend and people I want to network with.  The list was long – if I wanted to get to everything, there would have to be 5 extraverted versions of myself. I went to sleep feeling anxiously prepared.

Standing in line to register the next day, I saw a looming sign featuring the theme of this year’s conference – “Path to Purpose.” It struck me that I didn’t know my purpose for attending. Yes, I knew I wanted to network and learn new things, but that’s not purpose. Those are actions to satisfy my purpose. Suddenly, I felt like a lost child in a giant shopping mall. Where is my purpose?! Where’s an adult that can tell me where my purpose is?!

This isn’t a new feeling for me. Most of the time, I feel like a cat constantly changing direction to look at the new shiny thing. Professors, career counselors, and parents ask me, “what do you love to do?” In the words of one of the keynote speakers at Net Impact, Cheryl Dorsey President of Echoing Green, “what makes your heart sing?” I mean, a lot of things. I love connecting and helping people on a deep level. I love coming up with new and creative ways to communicate an old message. I love traveling and food. I love being outdoors. I love movies and culture and art and their impact on society. DO I HAVE TO PICK ONE?

At the risk of going crazy trying to define a purpose that would further my career and define my life’s work, I decided to keep it simple – be curious, learn something new. I left the extensive list of people and sessions in my bag and made game time decisions. It felt like I was moving with a tide – going to sessions and exploring which conversations moved me, then finding sessions that dig deeper into that topic. For example, Paul Hawken, the author of Project Drawdown, walked us through the top solutions to reverse climate change. I was moved to tears to hear that women’s issues had some of the biggest impact – Solution #6 was educating girls and solution #7 was family planning. Giving the control back to women gave them the power to choose their own path, which usually led to smaller families and higher education. This led me to the gender equality panel, one I didn’t consider before hearing those statistics. It turned out to be my favorite session. I learned about the implications of cognitive diversity from Mary Harvey, a Principle at Ripple Effect Consulting and former US women’s national soccer team goal keeper. I found out from a fellow student that computer science started as a female-dominated field before the personal computer revolution made it a “masculine” endeavor. Later, one of the sessions I wanted to go to was closed, so I ended up at “Don’t leave your values at the door.” Cause marketing is another passion of mine and it just so happens that the woman who essentially invented it, Carol Cone, was leading the panel.

I satisfied my “conference” purpose – I was curious and learned new things. Did that lead me to my life’s purpose? Not exactly, but it did reignite my passion for impacting food systems. And it did make me want to explore and understand gender equality and its impact on the workplace and environment. Most of the successful professionals I heard from had winding paths to their current positions because they were curious individuals with multiple passions. And with each pivot, their purpose became clearer. So, for all my fellow wanderers out there: Having a wide range of interests is a good thing. Don’t be afraid to follow your passions through unconventional career paths. Go to that art opening. Volunteer at that organic farm. Reach out to that person with your dream job – the one you never thought would want to talk to you. With each new opportunity, you’ll discover the common thread that spells out your purpose.

Written by Alison O'Shaughnessy

Ali is a 2018 MBA from the Center of Sustainable Business Practices. She spent most of her career working in digital marketing for non-profit clients in New York City. After graduating, she plans on combining her expertise in marketing with her passion for socially and environmentally responsible business practices by working for a company that shares her altruistic values.

Building Connections: My Weekend at the Clinton Global Initiative U Conference

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On October 13-15, I attend the Clinton Global Initiative U Conference in Boston. The conference was hosted by Bill Clinton and Chelsea Clinton, and I was beyond honored to be selected out of thousands of applicants to represent the University of Oregon at this incredible event. The speaker list was stacked with impact-makers from across the world including people like the 19th Secretary of State Madeline Albright; Alan Khazi, founder of City Year and national service champion; Daryl Davis, who did amazing feats to strengthen race relations; Massachusetts Rep. Joe Kennedy III; David Miliband, current CEO of International Rescue Committee and former Foreign Secretary in the UK; Olympic medalist, Ibtihaj Muhammad; and 19th Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy.

I heard inspiring talks on a variety of global issues, but to me, one key theme emerged: connection. It is the conversations between people that drive empathy and understanding, it is the partnerships between organizations that create massive change, and it is the networks each person at the conference had that allowed them to get where they are today. We are a global community that needs to work together to reach a common purpose, peace, and quality of life for every person. As President Clinton said, it is not division and subtraction but addition and multiplication that will help us create a better future.

I was particularly inspired by panelist Daryl Davis, an African-American man who decided to write a book on the Ku Klux Klan at the height of the civil rights movement. Like any good author, Davis needed to interview the subjects of his book, and he put himself in great danger to do so. But the conversations he had with KKK leaders also broke down walls. Through these conversations, Davis befriended 1000 Klan members who subsequently quit the organization. His words will stick with me forever, “It is when the conversation ceases that the ground becomes fertile for violence.”

Seeing the theme of connection played out so strongly was especially empowering for me, because it’s something I’m focusing on here at the Oregon MBA. The application to attend Clinton Global Initiative U required a commitment to action. For me, that commitment is a program I developed called the Sustainability Hyperinnovation Collaborative (SHIC). It’s an event series that brings together multiple stakeholders to co-create sustainable solutions to the problems we see today. The inaugural event for SHIC will take place April 20-21 and will focus on creating integrated transportation platforms that will help cities and businesses create cohesive public and shared transportation systems. Government officials, transportation executives, university researchers, and passionate graduate students will be divided into teams and lead through rapid innovation processes to create a product in just two days.

It has been a challenge to develop an event like this, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support of faculty members at UO who gave me the tools and connections to help this idea grow. With the help of my network, I hope to grow SHIC into a network of universities hosting annual events that support sustainable business through collaboration. Together, we can create bigger, faster, and stronger impacts; something that CGI U is working to accomplish as well.

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My take away from CGI U is this: connect with others. Impactful projects are only successfully with the help of a network and a team. Political and social divides can only be broken through mutual understanding, one conversation at a time. We can all do something to impact the world: communicate, listen, understand, grow, connect.

Written by Leah Goodman

Leah is a 2018 MBA student focusing on Sustainable Business Practices and Strategy. She is a Clinton Global Initiative U '17 class member and a Net Impact Climate Fellow. Currently, Leah is developing an innovation lab, the Sustainable Hyperinnovation Collaborative, and hopes to grow this business after graduation.

Engaged and Enlightened: MBA Experiential Learning in China and Singapore

The sights, sounds, colors, and smells form a tapestry: The hawker stalls. The culture. The ornately-manicured trees and chaotic-yet-somehow-organized subway traffic. The beauty of the Chinese and Singaporean people.

But let’s start from the beginning…
It was with eagerness and a measure of trepidation that we boarded our 14-hour flight from San Francisco to Shanghai. We’d heard the descriptions: Shanghai is like New York and Las Vegas smashed together, a city of 23 million filled with towering skyscrapers and neon lights, much of which was rice paddies 10 years ago. The hype was real: The scale is on another level. The drive from the airport was populated with high-rise apartment buildings, and the city itself was filled with the promised sparkling, whimsical and gravity-defying skyscrapers.

Our tour began at Spraying Systems Co., a world leader in automated industrial spraying technology, where fellow Oregon MBA’ers Mason Atkin, Aaron Bush, Leah Goodman, and Seth Lenaerts spend the summer as interns driving innovation and sustainable business practices. The visit highlighted some differences between US and Chinese practices, including ideas of credit and performance guarantees, as the company prepares for the changing business demands of the 21st century.

Our next stop was Silicon Valley Bank, where the Chinese branch of this bank has made inroads in the country through use of patience and partnerships. Our host for this visit was Head of Corporate Banking, and U of O alumnus, Tim Hardin. As the Chinese banking system slowly opens to Westerners, SVB has positioned itself to take advantage of this exploding market.

At China Steel, an online steel trading startup and client of SVB, we were exposed to the pace and adaptability of the Chinese startup culture. Within a few short years, the startup has grown from an idea into a multi-million-dollar company, completely changing their business model almost yearly as they adapt to this new arena. Chinaccelerator, a Shanghai-based startup accelerator, was another impressive example of the pace of the Chinese startup market. Here businesses are created, funded, and launched within a matter of months.

The next leg of our adventure took us to Beijing, the cultural center and seat of Chinese power for thousands of years. Our first visit was to AECOM, an international engineering and consulting firm that has designed and built several large-scale projects for the Chinese government. AECOM is truly synthesizing the old and the new, with aesthetics that combine traditional techniques and styles with modern materials. The company is also innovating creative solutions to public transport and urban congestion, helping China steer away from polluting combustion-engine vehicles that clog the streets towards efficient and effective public transportation.

Next was a presentation at the Silk Road Fund. This collaboration between government and private entities is funding projects that advance China’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative, which strives to reestablish and reinvigorate trade routes between China and Europe, Africa, and Asia Minor. By investing in infrastructure, energy, and transportation projects, China is reopening the historic “Silk Road” trading routes and transitioning its economy from a manufacturing power to a service, innovation, and knowledge economy.

That wrapped up our time in China, and it was truly bittersweet to leave behind our new friends and favorite foods. It’s one thing to hear the hyperbole about China: Rising superpower, a billion-and-a-half people, a culture and political system so different from ours. But it’s altogether different to see it firsthand, and I think it’s safe to say I was changed by the experience.

Next it was on to Singapore, the tropical nation-state and financial powerhouse known as the “garden city.” After meeting with some local politicians and businesspeople who delved into Singapore’s political and socioeconomic realities (Western ties, and close proximity to a rising China), we toured Sports Singapore and Singapore Airlines. Sports Singapore is a terrific example of the push to invest in its people. Through a focus on active play, healthy competition and beneficial lifestyles, the government is preparing its people for the dynamic, competitive world that lies ahead. At Singapore Airlines, we were briefed on their success from small airline to regional player with multiple subsidiaries, as well as getting an up-close look into their training program.

Last on the agenda was a special visit to the Singaporean Parliament building, where we learned of the island’s brief but storied history from British colony to independent nation-state. Such visits provide valuable insight into our own, mostly unquestioned, mores and beliefs.

Overall, my takeaways from Engaging Asia 2017 are that I grew personally and professionally in ways that I can’t quite quantify, but are tangible and real. Many of our world’s conflicts come from misunderstanding or lack of knowledge, and we reduced that in a way that could have ripple effects. Professionally, I think my basket of potential career destinations and job titles got bigger, and I also think there’s a spark to build stronger international connections and networks.

Engaging Asia changes and bolsters perspectives in an irreversible way, a way that hyperbole simply cannot. As we boarded the return flight to San Francisco, we left a piece of ourselves behind, but took a piece of China and Singapore with us. Until next time!

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.

2017 Honors Program Spring Banquet

On May 15, the Lundquist College of Business Honors Program hosted its 19th annual spring banquet at the Ford Alumni Center. Students, their families, and faculty members gathered together to celebrate and recognize the 2015-2017 cohort and their completion of the Honors Program curriculum and resulting graduation from the program.

Keynote speaker Jonathan Evans began the evening by sharing his experiences as co-founder and CEO of Skyward IO, a Verizon company. Skyward is a revolutionary drone operations company that Evans started during his time in the Oregon MBA program in 2012. Since then, Skyward has grown tremendously and recently merged with Verizon. Evans shared inspiring stories from his company as well as important lessons that he learned through his business experience. As Evans discussed making it through Skyward’s most challenging years, he emphasized the importance of persevering and maintaining core values. By sharing his story, Evans hoped to spark students’ curiosity to explore new things—after all, that’s how Skyward began years ago.

Sahar Petri, the 2016 Leadership Award recipient, announced two award winners. First, Julie Meunier of the 2016-2018 cohort received the 2017 Leadership Award. Meunier is highly involved in the Lundquist College of Business, notably working as a Duck Guide and as a member of the Oregon Consulting Group. Next, Doug Wilson was recognized as the recipient of the 2017 Faculty Award. Wilson taught the honors capstone course, BA 453H, in which teams of students worked on projects with the City of Albany.

Next, Amanda Gonzales led a look back on the 2017 Honors Program alternative break trip to Guatemala. Gonzales took time to thank the generous sponsors, donors, and all of the other individuals who made it possible for 11 students to travel with Where There Be Dragons, an experiential learning organization, this past spring break.

Honors Program director Deb Bauer followed Gonzales to present the final award of the night, the 2017 Student Achievement Award. This award is given to the graduating member with the highest GPA. This year’s recipient was Jack Miller. Bauer also recognized members of the student management board for their hard work and contribution to the program’s success this past year.

Graduating senior Ben Tesluk ended the night with a speech reflecting on the 2015-2017 cohort’s time in the Honors Program. He emphasized his appreciation for his cohort, whose members are now close friends, and for the opportunities the program provided. Tesluk also thanked Bauer for her enormous contributions to the program over the years, as she is finishing her final year as program director. Bauer received a standing ovation from banquet attendees as Tesluk presented her with a thank you gift from the graduating class.

The evening was full of inspiration and recognition of notable people involved in the Honors Program. The banquet marked 35 students’ successful completion of the program, a significant challenge and honor worthy of celebration.

Story by Carolyn Graeper ’18. Graeper is a business administration major with a minor in art. She will spend this summer working before traveling to Denmark to participate in a fall semester exchange program at Copenhagen Business School. Graeper will graduate in spring 2018.

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.

2017 Honors Program Spring Site Visit to Nike

In May, members of the Lundquist College of Business Honors Program were invited to Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon for a campus tour and panel discussion with long-time Nike employees.

The tour included visits to numerous buildings dedicated to the different departments that make up the Nike brand. Some notable buildings included the Michael Jordan building and Prefontaine Hall. It was amusing to hear about Nike’s humble beginnings making sales out of the back of a van in Eugene. The storytellersmdash;as Nike fondly calls their guides—gave students insight into how the campus and numerous intramural clubs, courts, fields, and gardens all contribute to Nike’s incredible business culture. The stories of sports legends like Mia Hamm and Jerry Rice demonstrated Nike’s culture of treating its sponsored athletes as part of the team.

Students explored the many food options available during their lunch break, during which they shared what they had enjoyed most about the tour and what they had learned about Nike’s history. Nike’s cafeteria space provides employees with a place to come together and interact over lunch, creating an exciting and vibrant atmosphere.

After lunch, students attended a panel discussion comprised of Nike employees, the majority of whom were part of the golf division. The panelists included Aaron Heiser, David Pearce, Collette Hemmings, Jarod Courtney, and moderator Heather Broderick. Each panelist shared the story of their career paths and the challenges that they faced along the way. Many of the panelists had experienced career journeys best described as nomadic, experiencing Nike’s global reach by landing positions in the U.K., Europe, and Asia. Another aspect of Nike life the group discussed was how interconnected the business culture is to their everyday activities.

Each panelist discussed the Nike company value that spoke to them most and that they keep in the back of their mind to help guide their way through decisions and challenges. During the Q&A portion, the panelists were candidly open and honest about their experiences. From the closure of the golf equipment sector to the struggles of following your career in unfamiliar places, their stories resonated with students on both a mental and emotional level.

To conclude the day, Honors Program students received access to the Nike company store, where they had the opportunity to purchase merchandise and further mingle with their peers. All students left full of insightmdash;many left with bags full of Nike gear as well.

Story by Liam Jacobs and Nick Miller, 2016-2018 Honors Program cohort members. Jacobs is a business administration major, concentrating in sports business with a minor in economics. He will spend this next school year as a marketing and promotions intern for UO Athletics, and graduates in spring ‘18. Miller is a business administration major with a concentration in finance. He is also pursuing a second major in economics. This summer he will hold a position as a summer analyst at Ascent Private Capital Management, a subsidiary of U.S. Bank, in San Francisco. Miller will graduate in spring ‘19.

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.