Business

RICHLAND, Wash. – Washington State University Tri-Cities signed a memorandum of understanding today to partner with Vanwest College from Vancouver, British Columbia, and Mahasarakham University from Talat, Thailand, for a language and cultural exchange program that will benefit students from each of the three campuses and countries.

Christ Meiers, WSU Tri-Cities vice chancellor of enrollment management and student services, and Nitiphong Songsrirote, dean of the Mahasarakham University Business School, sign an MOU for a language and cultural exchange partnership.

The purpose of the partnership is to deliver programs that promote academics and cultural understanding between the three institutions and countries associated. VanWest will be responsible for delivering an English as a second language program, academic workshops and sightseeing at its campus. WSU Tri-Cities will be responsible for cultural exchange activities at its campus, which may include select lectures and presentations, tours and friendship exchange meetings with local organizations. The Mahasarakham University will be responsible for facilitating study abroad opportunities for WSU Tri-Cities students.

“This is a valuable experience both for our students and from those students from Thailand and British Columbia,” said Chris Meiers, WSU Tri-Cities vice chancellor of enrollment management and student services. “The students will benefit from the language exploration and competency experiences at VanWest and at Mahasarakham, in addition to learning about the cultural components, networking and more through WSU Tri-Cities and the regional community.”

Administrators from Mahasarakham University said they were excited to be partnering with both WSU Tri-Cities and Vanwest College.

(Left to right) Yujin Song, VanWest admission and marketing manager; Yawittha Daroth, Mahasarakham student; Mullika Yothikha, Mahasarakham student; and Kornuma Laphanuphat, Mahasarakham international affairs officer.

“Coming to Canada and the United States is a great experience for us,” said Pornlapas Suwannarat, associate dean for research and international affairs at Mahasarakham University. “We are hopeful for a fruitful collaboration to take place between VanWest and Washington State University Tri-Cities.”

A group of students and administrators from VanWest College and Mahasarakham University spent the last couple of days learning about the educational and business opportunities at WSU Tri-Cities, touring the Tri-Cities region, as well as networking with local businesses.

“It’s been a fun and enlightening past few days for all institutions,” Meiers said. “We have a lot to share and learn from one another. We’re excited about this partnership and the educational and cultural opportunities that will enrich the student experience for all three institutions and countries.”

By Maegan Murray

RICHLAND, Wash. – A team from Washington State University Tri-Cities took home the Wells Fargo “CleanTech” Big Picture prize during the University of Washington’s Business Plan Competition this week.

With the award, the team, which includes Libing Zhang, a recent doctoral alumna, and Manuel Seubert and Taylor Pate, who are master’s in business administration students, was presented with a $5,000 check.

UW Business Plan Competition – May 2017

“We believe that we performed very well,” Zhang said. “We received extremely positive feedback regarding our business plan and presentation. Each team had a great product and were very convincing. We felt fortunate to be a part of it all.”

The UW Business Plan Competition has awarded more than $1.3 million dollars in seed funding to more than 165 student teams in its 20-year history. The competition started with 82 teams, which was then reduced to 36 teams for the investment round. The teams were then narrowed to the “sweet 16,” which competed this week in Seattle.

The WSU Tri-Cities team presented the process of taking lignin — a waste product in the cellulosic ethanol biorefineries and the pulping process — one of the most abundant renewable carbon sources on earth, and turning it into an environmentally friendly, cheap jet fuel. The process could potentially reduce the carbon emissions for commercial airlines. The technology was developed by professor Bin Yang’s lab in the Bioproducts, Sciences and Engineering Laboratory.

The competition featured a 15-minute presentation by each team to judges including University of Washington faculty, investors and local business owners and leaders. The teams then participated in a question and answer session with the panel of professionals.

“It is a great accomplishment and is really a tribute to the research that made it all possible,” Seubert said about the team’s success in the competition. “Our goal as a company is to implement this technology within the aviation industry and reduce global carbon emissions.”

The team has been accepted into the Cascadia CleanTech accelerator program, which is a 14-week program that delivers mentorship, curriculum, connections and funding opportunities designed specifically for early-stage cleantech startups. The goal of the program is to accelerate startup businesses.

“We are optimistic that we can finalize a partnership with Washington State University for this technology,” Pate said. “There is a significant amount of momentum behind Lignin Biojet and we hope to carry that forward as we move into the next phase of the company’s growth.”

By Maegan Murray

RICHLAND, Wash. – Sam Barnes may have another semester before graduating from Washington State University Tri-Cities, but he already achieved his dream of starting his own business.

While he completed his college education, Barnes worked first as a marketer beginning in Nov. 2013 and then as an office manager for American Family Insurance.

Sam Barnes - business administration student

Sam Barnes, WSU Tri-Cities business administration student, stands outside his branch office for American Family Insurance.

Barnes uses what he learned in many of his business, finance and other related courses at WSU Tri-Cities, as well as the networking connections he made through the university, to excel with his own branch office for American Family Insurance in Kennewick, Wash.

“I think I always wanted to be a business owner,” he said. “I knew I wanted to be in management in some form. As I went through college, I realized that this was what I was meant to be doing. WSU Tri-Cities really helped me get there.”

“When I started, I had no intentions to have an agency, but as things worked out, it has turned into the perfect opportunity,” he said. “I love it and I’m really happy with how everything worked out.”

Barnes worked at an internship at another organization he secured through connections at WSU Tri-Cities this spring when he received the call asking if he would be interested in owning and operating his own branch office. He decided to make the leap and opened his office in one of the company’s fastest turnaround times on record– all while he completed his course final exams this month.

Barnes said if it wasn’t for some of the skills and theories he learned at WSU Tri-Cities, he doesn’t think he could have been as successful as he has been in the past month since opening the office.

“I used the concepts we learned about in a finance class to build out cash flows for my business, I’m using what I learned from my accounting class in meeting with my accountant and I’ve readily used what I’ve learned about business law and business ethics for the management of my business and the hiring process,” he said. “It’s been great to take what I learned from WSU and apply it to the real world.”

Barnes said his favorite part about his business education at WSU Tri-Cities was that it was intertwined with world-class organizations and industry standards.

“WSU Tri-Cities is really good at helping students get a job and getting them connected to real-world opportunities,” he said. “Everything about this campus is about plugging you in somewhere. They helped me get an internship before I came here to American Family. It’s a crucial part of the college experience, in my opinion, and something that they do better than most universities.”

Now, Barnes said he is excited to see where his business takes him in his next stages in life. He graduates this fall with his bachelor’s from WSU Tri-Cities.

“I think anyone can successfully open their own business if they are willing to put their mind to it and are willing to take the leap,” he said. “I think I’ve found what I want to do forever, which is be a business owner. The freedom you have and the pride in what you do is incredible. It’s the most rewarding experience.”

RICHLAND, Wash. – Washington State University Tri-Cities will confer 372 degrees during its commencement ceremony beginning at 1 p.m. Saturday, May 6, at the Toyota Center, 7000 W. Grandridge Blvd. in Kennewick, Wash.

WSU Tri-Cities commencementDoors open at noon. The event is free to the public and tickets are not required.

Among those graduating, 313 students are earning their bachelor’s degrees, 46 master’s and 13 doctoral degrees.

Chancellor Keith Moo-Young will present the welcome address, the Chancellor’s Excellence Award for faculty and staff and will confer degrees. He will also present the Distinguished Alumnus Award to Gesa Credit Union CEO Don Miller. Michele Acker-Hocevar, interim vice chancellor for academic affairs, will present introductions and recognitions.

Israa Alshaikhli, Associated Students of WSU Tri-Cities president, will give the graduate greeting, which will be followed by the student address by valedictorian Kylie Chiesa.

Six students were selected to carry gonfalons, which are colorful banners that represent the colleges, based on their academic excellence. Those students include:

• Dennis Bonilla, agricultural, human and natural resource sciences
• Ana Isabel Sandoval Zazueta, arts and sciences
• David Law, business
• Jasmine Gonzalez, education
• Lorraine Seymour, engineering and architecture
• Mercedez Gomez, nursing

WSU Tri-Cities graduating student Kayla Stark will sing the national anthem.

For more information, visit http://tricities.wsu.edu/commencement.

 

Media Contacts:

Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities public relations specialist, 509-372-7333, Maegan.murray@tricity.wsu.edu

RICHLAND, Wash. – Students will deliver presentations on their research, classroom projects and art noon-1 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, May 2-4, as part of the Undergraduate Research Symposium and Art Exhibition at Washington State University Tri-Cities.

WSU Tri-Cities Undergraduate Research Symposium and Art Exhibition

WSU Tri-Cities Undergraduate Research Symposium and Art Exhibition

The public is invited to hear presentations, explore topics, ask questions and give feedback.

“Our undergraduates have opportunities to engage in hands-on experiences with research, scholarship and creative works throughout their undergraduate careers, starting with freshman survey courses through senior capstone projects,” said Allison Matthews, WSU Tri-Cities clinical assistant professor of psychology. “The Undergraduate Research Symposium and Art Exhibition highlights their accomplishments in discovery and advancing knowledge.”

Some of the projects that will be featured include:

  • Nondestructive nuclear inspection robot
  • SAE Aero Design – electric airplane
  • Solar Mushroom Dryer – one of three projects that will be implemented in Uganda
  • Social Problems and Service Learning
  • Freshwater Invertebrates from the Columbia Basin
  • Bioinformatic Approaches Further Research for Ovarian Cancer
  • Cinema Verite
  • Digital imaging

The sessions will be in Consolidated Information Center, Room 120, with Thursday’s presentations also in the Art Gallery. 

Disciplines covered will include the sciences, digital technology and culture, fine arts, English, history, political science, engineering, psychology, statistics and exploration and leadership.

RICHLAND, Wash. – A team from Washington State University Tri-Cities whose business plan is to commercialize a WSU-patented jet fuel technology developed by WSU Tri-Cities professor Bin Yang’s lab has advanced to the University of Washington Business Plan Competition’s “sweet 16” round.

Libing Zhang presents during the UW Business Plan Competition

WSU Tri-Cities’ Libing Zhang presents during the UW Business Plan Competition

According to the university website, the goal of the UW Business Plan Competition is to promote student ideas and new venture creation and provide an opportunity for business and science students to present new business plans to Seattle-area venture capitalists, entrepreneurs and investors.

The team, composed of Libing Zhang, a recent doctoral alumna, and master’s in business administration students Manuel Seubert and Taylor Pate, presented the process of taking lignin, a waste product in the cellulosic ethanol biorefineries and pulping process that is considered one of the most abundant renewable carbon sources on Earth, and turning it into an environmentally-friendly, cheap jet fuel that can potentially reduce the carbon emissions for commercial airlines.

The WSU Tri-Cities team advanced from an initial pool of 82 teams in the screening round of the competition, which was then narrowed to a pool of 36 teams in the investment round before the team advanced to the sweet 16. During the investment round, each team had approximately four hours of face time with entrepreneurs, angel investors, venture capitalists and competition alumni from the Seattle area.

Last month, the same WSU Tri-Cities team placed third at the Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge. Zhang is also the entrepreneurial lead on a National Science Foundation I-Corps lignin-to-biojetfuel project, which was awarded to Yang and his team.

Paul Skilton, WSU Tri-Cities associate professor of management, and Yang are advisers for the WSU Tri-Cities team.

The sweet 16 round of the UW Business Plan Competition kicks off May 25, followed by the final round that afternoon. The final round is open to the public. Prizes will be awarded later that evening at the competition dinner at MOHAI in South Lake Union.

RICHLAND, Wash. – Don Miller, CEO of Gesa Credit Union, will be honored with Washington State University Tri-Cities’ Distinguished Alumnus of the Year Award in recognition of his service, career achievements and dedication to the promotion of educational excellence.

Miller will be presented with the award during the 2017 WSU Tri-Cities commencement ceremony at 1 p.m. Saturday, May 6, at the Toyota Center in Kennewick, Wash.

Growing as a professional and as an individual

He grew up on a farm where he learned about long hours, hard work and pitching in to help where needed to get the job done. In high school, he built and managed his own small herd of cattle while juggling his regular school work and other activities.  Managing that venture led to his interest in business and management.

WSU Tri-Cities Distinguished Alumnus Don Miller

WSU Tri-Cities Distinguished Alumnus Don Miller

“That’s really where I started to develop a liking for business and management,” Miller said. “But it would take me a few years to actually head in the direction, professionally.”

As an undergraduate student, he took classes in nearly every subject, often tackling large quarterly class loads at Central Washington University to try and identify what he was passionate about pursuing as a career. Ultimately, he decided on finance and graduated with his bachelor’s from CWU in 1987. Shortly following graduation, he accepted a job at Gesa Credit Union as a junior accountant.

Miller decided to pursue a master’s in business administration from WSU Tri-Cities a few years later because he knew it would not only expand his knowledge and skill in the finance world, but it would also help him develop as a leader. He felt the degree would also better position him to potentially become a CEO of an organization. He graduated with his MBA from WSU Tri-Cities in 1993.

“I worked with so many smart and talented people through the WSU Tri-Cities MBA program,” he said. “I appreciated having the opportunity to work with people of such high caliber who all brought such a diverse range of experience to the table. It was definitely a very knowledgeable and mature group.”

From there, Miller continued to work his way up within the organization and in 2006, received his first chance at a position as CEO with Gesa. The position went to another individual from outside the organization, however, the new CEO was very open to expanding Miller’s job-related experience.

“I worked for her, and she gave me opportunities to build the experience I needed to one-day take on the position of CEO of an organization,” he said. “She told me, ‘If you want to be CEO, I will help you fill those gaps.’ And she did.”

In late 2013, after serving as Gesa’s interim CEO for nearly six months, he took on the full role.

Service to community

Gesa CEO Don Miller (right) was recently named the WSU Tri-Cities Distinguished Alumnus.

Gesa CEO Don Miller (right) was recently named the WSU Tri-Cities Distinguished Alumnus.

Throughout his years of professional growth, Miller has dedicated himself to improving opportunities for up-and-coming professionals. He has taken on mentorship roles for individuals, helped coach his children’s youth sports and participated in church-related activities. Miller said he and Gesa are committed to promoting financial literacy and education.  Currently, he serves on the board for Junior Achievement of Washington in the Tri-Cities.

“I think it’s very important to give back to the community that has supported your own success,” he said. “It’s also important to learn that no person is ever too important for any role. I learned early in life and in my career that, especially within smaller organizations, everyone wears a lot of hats and that you should appreciate everyone’s contributions.”

Miller said he recommends that people define what their own idea of success is and run with it.

“There are always going to be people who are smarter and better than you, but it is important that you recognize and appreciate that fact and not let it intimidate you,” he said.

Miller said people are going to make mistakes in life and in work, but that the important thing is that individuals don’t overemphasize those mistakes, and instead, own them and find a way to overcome and learn from those experiences.

Miller said he also recommends that people challenge themselves in asking the right questions.

“As you a grow as a professional, you learn to ask better and better questions,” he said. “A lot of people are not willing to ask the questions.

By Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities

RICHLAND, Wash. – A team from Washington State University Tri-Cities took third place among 21 teams at the Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge’s finals this week for their creation and business model presentation of a technology that converts lignin, a natural byproduct of plant-based materials, into biojet fuel.

Photo courtesy: Matt Hagen / UW Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship
Libing Zhang talks with people at the Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge.

During the challenge, interdisciplinary student teams define an environmental problem, develop a solution, design and build a prototype, create a business plan that proves their solution has market potential and pitches their idea to 170 judges from throughout the Northwest who have expertise in cleantech, as well as to entrepreneurs and inventors, at a demo-day event.

The WSU Tri-Cities team, composed of postdoctoral researcher Libing Zhang and Manuel Seubert, a master’s in business administration student, advanced to the finals from an initial pool of 29 teams during the first round of the competition.

Paul Skilton, WSU Tri-Cities associate professor of management, and Bin Yang, WSU Tri-Cities associate professor of biological systems engineering, advised the team. The WSU Tri-Cities team also worked regularly with researchers at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory to prepare for the competition.

The team was presented with the Starbucks $5,000 prize for their third-place ranking in the final round of the competition.

Advancing biofuels

Zhang, team leader for the challenge, said the main benefits for their technology is that it takes lignin, a waste

Photo courtesy: Matt Hagen / UW Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship
Manuel Seubert presents at the Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge.

product in the biorefineries and pulping process that is considered one of the most abundant renewable carbon sources on Earth, and turns it into an environmentally-friendly, cheap jet fuel that can potentially reduce the carbon emissions for commercial airlines.

“I see several advantages of the technology and hope we can scale it up for commercialization, which will help commercial airlines to achieve their goals in reducing greenhouse emissions,” she said.

Developing a commercial product

Seubert, team co-leader for the challenge, said their goal with the competition was to capture people’s attention for the value of their technology, while using the experience as a learning opportunity for their future in developing the lignin-based jet fuel product into a commercial business.

“The next challenge is to secure funding so that we can scale it up to an industrial scale,” he said. “We are

Libing Zhang displays a container of lignin

Photo courtesy: Matt Hagen / UW Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship
Libing Zhang displays a container of lignin

actively looking for funding sources at this point and are thinking about establishing a limited liability company, which will allow us to pursue small business grants.”

Zhang said raising awareness about the product was a crucial part of the competition experience.

“We want people to know that the technology for converting lignin to biojet fuel has a commercial value,” she said. “It is encouraging knowing that people care about the technology and see its potential for reducing the carbon footprint. Now, we hope to take the technology to the next level in the business world.”

Zhang is also the entrepreneurial lead on a National Science Foundation I-Corps lignin-to-biojetfuel project, which was awarded to Yang and his team.

Skilton said the project represents an excellence illustration of the cutting-edge, hands-on programming students experience at WSU Tri-Cities.

“This is an example of the kind of integrated project team work our MBA students come to WSU Tri-Cities to do,” he said.

The Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge is the creation of the Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship in the Foster School of Business, in partnership with the University of Washington’s College of Engineering, College of the Environment, Clean Energy Institute, College of Built Environments and the Department of Biology.

Contacts:

Libing Zhang, WSU Tri-Cities recent doctoral graduate and postdoctoral researcher, libing.zhang@wsu.edu

Manuel Seubert, WSU Tri-Cities master’s in business administration student, manuel.seubert@wsu.edu

Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities public relations specialist, 509-372-7333, maegan.murray@tricity.wsu.edu

Pauline Garza, a student at Washington State University Tri-Cities, has never wanted to be anything other than a chef.

Growing up, she said she remembers watching her mother and grandmother cook, hoping one day that she, too, would take hold of a spoon to whip up something that would captivate the senses.

“I just love food,” she said. “Becoming a chef has always been on my mind. I never really thought of doing anything else.”

Garza held a few jobs in the restaurant industry, and even job shadowed at Table 10, one of Emeril Lagasse’s restaurants in Las Vegas. Now a full-time chef for the 3 Eyed Fish Wine Bar in Richland, she plans the menus, completes the shopping, researches meal ideas, and prepares courses for restaurant customers.

HBM program at Tri-Cities offered for the first time

However, even with all this experience, Garza said there was still much to learn about the restaurant business.

This year, Garza enrolled in the hospitality business management (HBM) degree program at WSU Tri-Cities, which is offered at the campus for the first time this fall. The WSU Faculty Senate voted to extend the bachelor of arts degree to the Carson College of Business on the Tri-Cities campus March 12, 2015. The degree will offer two majors: HBM and wine business management.

Garza said she originally started her degree at the WSU Pullman campus, but due to personal reasons, decided to move back home and put school on hold. She resumed school at WSU Tri-Cities and planned on getting a business degree since the campus didn’t offer the HBM degree. But now that she can specialize in HBM, she will have the opportunity to apply even more of what she learns in the classroom to her career.

“I was really worried when I left Pullman that I wouldn’t have the same opportunities, but now, I like to think that I’m in the Tri-Cities for a reason,” she said.

Community benefits from HBM talent pool

Cindy Goulet (’90), owner of 3 Eyed Fish Wine Bar and a graduate of WSU Pullman’s hotel and restaurant program, said she is thrilled about the WSU Tri-Cities campus offering the degree. She said it will allow her to find even more talented employees like Garza.

“I think it is really exciting,” she said. “We are always looking for talented people. We are so fortunate to have Pauline here.”

Garza said she is already putting what she has learned through her business classes at the university to good use. She said school helps keep her motivated and increases her potential to be a better chef and future business owner.

“I want to have my own bistro and influence others who are passionate about the food industry,” she said. “I want to make beautiful food for everybody. It’s all about getting that smile after the first bite from my customers.”