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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

A team from Washington State University Tri-Cities placed 17th recently during the SAE Aero Design Competition in Fort Worth, Texas.

WSU Tri-Cities - SAE Aero Design Competition

The WSU Tri-Cities mechanical engineering team poses with the airplane they designed and competed with at the SAE Aero Design Competition.

The team, composed of senior mechanical engineering students Erik Zepeda, Austin Shaw, Ryan Hagins, Matt Kosmos, Arich Fuher and Jose Espinoza, spent five months designing and constructing their airplane. The plane spanned seven feet long and had a wing span of eight feet.

The team said they chose a different design from WSU Tri-Cities teams who competed in years prior, and that their design was also different from many teams competing.

“Most of the other designs were pretty square, but we wanted to go with a more aerodynamic shape,” Shaw said. “We got numerous compliments on the design of our plane.”

During the competition, the team had a very successful first flight, placing fourth in the first round. During their second flight, however, the team had some electrical problems, which they weren’t able to remedy mid-air and the aircraft crashed.

“Even with that crash, we ended up placing 10th in the flight category,” Shaw said. “If we hadn’t crashed, we probably could have placed in the top five teams. That was disappointing, but everything else went really well.”

In addition to their 17th overall placing, the team placed 23rd in regular class design, 22nd in regular class presentation and 18th in regular class most payload transported.SAE Aero Design Competition - Spring 2017

All of the team members said despite their disappointing second flight, they all thoroughly enjoyed the design process, as well as the competition.

“It was a pretty cool experience, especially since it was our senior project,” said Zepeda. “I had never thought about aerospace engineering before, but now I’m thinking about it as a possible career direction.”

All the team members said the project presented them with excellent preparation for their future careers as engineers, regardless of the field of engineering they each go into.

“It definitely gives you good experience for taking on a large engineering project, as well as working with different people, scheduling, meeting deadlines and making presentations in front of judges,” Fuher said.

SAE Aero Design Competition - Spring 2017The design project was part of a senior capstone course taught by Messiha Saad, WSU Tri-Cities clinical assistant professor of mechanical engineering and faculty adviser for the campus’ SAE Aero Design team. Saad said the competition provides the opportunity for his students to learn the mechanics and importance of teamwork, project organization, scheduling, system and product design, product testing, cost analysis and project reporting.

“Through this design project and competition, my students are able to demonstrate and develop their engineering skills set in a real-world environment with real deadlines and stiff competition,” he said. “I am very proud that my students demonstrated the ability to successfully compete with students from some of the top-rated engineering programs in the country.”

RICHLAND, Wash. — Israa Alshaikhli secured her second term as president of the Associated Students of Washington State University Tri-Cities for the 2017-18 school year and will serve with a new vice president – sophomore Zachary Harper.

Israa Alshaikhli is a junior majoring in biological sciences and hopes to one-day become a doctor. Harper is majoring in business administration.

ASWSUTC student leaders

2017-2018 ASWSUTC Vice President Zachary Harper (left) and ASWSUTC President Israa Alshaikhli

The duo ran on a platform of bringing innovation, inclusion, transparency, community and accessibility to all students on campus.

One of the team’s largest initiatives in the upcoming year will be transitioning the student government into the new student union building while maintaining the current student lounge as a student-centered space.

“It will be nice to have a large space that is entirely student-focused,” Alshaikhli said.

Alshaikhli said they are also excited about continuing to build the WSU Coug nation, further connecting all of the WSU campuses together to share resources and provide support for all students.

“It has been our goal to provide the right resources and support in order to build a campus community where everyone feels welcome and represented,” she said. “It feels good to continue what I started last year and improve for next year. One thing that made me really happy about getting reelected is that students trust me to finish what I started.”

Harper formerly served as ASWSUTC’s director of finance. He said he is excited to step into larger leadership role as vice president.

“I’ve had such a great experience serving with ASWSUTC and I’m now excited to work side-by-side with Israa to continue to improve our campus and our community,” he said.

The elected college-specific senators include:

  • Connor Burnham – School of Engineering and Applied Science
  • Anjellica Ampil – College of Nursing
  • Tyler Schrag – College of Business
  • Essence Braggs – College of Arts and Science

To learn more about WSU Tri-Cities and its commitment to dynamic student engagement, dynamic research experience and dynamic community engagement, visit http://www.tricities.wsu.edu.

News media contacts:

Jeffrey Dennison, WSU Tri-Cities director of marketing and communications, 509-372-7319, jeffrey.dennison@wsu.edu

Brandon Fox, WSU Tri-Cities assistant director for the office of student life, 509-372-7300, Brandon.fox@tricity.wsu.edu

By Kaury Baucom, Viticulture & Enology

RICHLAND, Wash. – Connor Eck, a senior at Washington State University Tri-Cities originally from Del Mar, Calif., has been named a national Newman Civic Fellow by Campus Compact, a Boston-based nonprofit organization working to advance the public purposes of higher education.

The fellowship provides learning and networking opportunities to teach students leadership and how to bring communities together for positive change. As a student winemaker in WSU’s Blended Learning program, Eck worked with local growers and winemakers to develop leadership skills, gain hands-on experience and exercise environmentally friendly winemaking practices.

“I aim to find a way to limit the amount of water used in the farming of grapes and during the winemaking process, while still producing a high-quality product,” he said.

“The cultivation of community-committed leaders has never been more crucial,” said Andrew Seligsohn, Campus Compact president. “Our country needs more people who know how to bring communities together.”

The fellowship, named for Campus Compact co-founder Frank Newman, chose 273 students for the 2017 cohort. It is supported by the KPMG Foundation and Newman’s Own Foundation.
News media contact:
Kaury Balcom, WSU viticulture and enology communications, 509-327-7223, kaury.balcom@wsu.edu

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

By Maegan Murray

Jamie Silva hadn’t considered a career in the medical profession until he saw directly how he could use research and patient interaction to better medical care for all citizens, regardless of demographic.

The recent nursing graduate of Washington State University Tri-Cities said it was through the research experiences he observed through both as a community college student, as well as in his undergraduate experience through WSU Tri-Cities, that opened his eyes to the possibilities of medicine.

As a community college student in Wenatchee, Silva participated in a research experience where he completed research on algae that they used to replicate the behavior of cancer cells and observe treatment effectiveness. The effort tied directly in with what friends and family had experienced in their battles with cancer. It propelled Silva’s interest in the medical field.

“I’ve seen family and friends pressured into certain types of treatments and this made me realize that I could have an impact on how patients are consulted about treatment,” he said. “My aunt, for example, was pressured into chemotherapy right away. Since she didn’t really understand English, so she assumed that was the best route for her. I want patients to be able to better understand their options.”

Silva began focusing on how he could take his newfound passion for medical research and patient care to the next level and applied to WSU Tri-Cities’ competitive nursing program. The school, he said, provided a perfect blend of medical research and implementation of innovative patient medical care that he had sought for a future in the profession.

This year, he was named the undergraduate nursing student of the year for WSU Tri-Cities.

“I feel that the nursing program is really impactful,” he said. “I didn’t want to be in a lab all day. I wanted that patient interaction. I wanted to see how the research applies directly to and affects the patient. WSU Tri-Cities ended up being a perfect fit for that.”

Real-world experiences

Through his hands-on courses at WSU Tri-Cities, Silva learned about how cancer and other diseases impacted the human body, how to treat those ailments, about different medicines, as well as how to approach patients about possible treatment options.

Silva said his courses utilized innovative tools such as advanced medical mannequins that mimicked individuals with various ailments and allowed students to practice their medical procedures. Additionally, he learned from world-class nursing faculty that tied what the students were learning in the classroom to extracurricular opportunities outside the classroom.

“Some of my biggest highlights were actually the professors,” he said. “They really care about us and really want to make sure that we succeed, and in turn, that our patients succeed.”

Silva’s professors at WSU Tri-Cities helped pair him up with a practicum experience at the Kadlec Regional Medical Center where his work focused specifically in research and administration. Through the experience, Silva attended meetings with physicians, nurse navigators and dietitians where they discussed cases, what worked best for individual patient cases, as well as what needed some changes. They then applied those strategies directly to their patient care.

Through the practicum, Silva also completed a research project that detailed how the hospital could reduce the time that patients suffer from neutropenia — a condition where the patient has an abnormally low count of a type of white blood cell, causing their immune system to be weak and creating a higher risk of infection. Neutropenia occurs in about half of people who receive chemotherapy. It is also a common side effect for people with leukemia.

“We compiled data on the time from when the patient walked in, to when they received antibiotics, the type of antibiotics they used and when those particular antibiotics were administered,” he said. “I compiled all of that data and showed it to the chief of nursing. It was a pretty informative experience and I hope it helps to make a difference in the lives of future patients.”

During his time at WSU Tri-Cities, Silva also gained admittance into a highly competitive summer internship through the National Institute of Health in Washington, D.C. Through the experience, Silva studied the latest and greatest methods for combatting cancer using the patient’s immune system.

“I would get to the laboratory and would have a research experiment in mind and I would write a protocol and conduct that experiment,” he said. “Some of those experiments involved observing how certain treatments would impact rats with cancer. I would also examine all the organs within the rat and see how effective the treatment was.”

Silva said he didn’t really realize it at the time, but he got the opportunity to work with some of the nation’s leading scientists and medical researchers.

“It was a pretty extraordinary experience,” he said.

Silva’s future in medical care

Silva said he hopes to take the experience he has had through WSU Tri-Cities, his experience at Kadlec, as well as his experience through the National Institute of Health to further improve the standard for patient care, as well as create and improve upon current and future cancer treatments.

“My friends and family who have had cancer have been the driving force with where I want to go and the influence I hope to have in the medical field,” he said. “It’s why I went into nursing.”

His end goal, he said, is to one-day become a physician focusing on cancer immunology. Because of his experience at WSU Tri-Cities, the WSU medical school is on his list of potential medical schools he hopes to gain acceptance to into the future.

“The nursing program at WSU Tri-Cities was more than impactful,” he said. “I learned how I could advocate for people with these diseases, the research behind those diseases, as well as how to combat those diseases through research into different treatment options.”

“I want to take a little bit of time working as a nurse and then apply what I’ve learned through my undergraduate courses, my experience as a nurse, as well as what I am going to learn through medical school in my future as a physician,” he said.

Alejandra Cardoso, a recent graduate of Washington State University Tri-Cities, was chosen as one of three representatives from Washington state to participate in the Council for Opportunity in Education’s National Policy Seminar March 19-22 in Washington, D.C.

The seminar affords the TRIO and GEAR UP communities the opportunity to help educate members of Congress, congressional staff and the president’s administration officials about the history and success of the programs, while giving the participants a chance to represent the interests and desires of low-income and first-generation students, veterans, adult learners and students with disabilities in the policy arena.

“It is really an honor,” Cardoso said. “What I’m looking forward to most about the conference is the opportunities to develop myself as a leader, as well as the opportunity to connect with other students with both similar and different backgrounds.”

Cardoso said she hopes to use the experience to share her own story of how the TRIO program at WSU Tri-Cities helped her be successful in her academics, which led her to successfully obtaining a position as a crime victim advocate with the Support, Advocacy and Resource Center in Kennewick, Wash., immediately following graduation last spring.

Cardoso said she was raised in an environment where school wasn’t considered valuable. She said she dropped out of school her junior year of high school, and that it wasn’t until after she had her first child at 17 that she considered going back to school to complete her high school diploma. The TRIO program, both at the community college level, as well as at WSU Tri-Cities, helped ensure her success in obtaining a bachelor’s in psychology.

“I never really saw myself as a college student,” she said. “What really got me interested in going when when I first worked at my first job at WorkSource. Seeing the social workers there inspire me to drive for my own success in that field. The TRIO program at WSU Tri-Cities kept me on track toward obtaining that goal.”

After transferring from Yakima Valley College to WSU Tri-Cities, Cardoso said she got really involved in the TRIO program, which provided her with support services ranging from tutoring, to counseling about academic and person-related issues and much more.

“The TRIO staff always try to help you as best as they can,” she said. “Just knowing that there was someone out there looking out for me and willing to help me, as long as I was willing to help myself, was crucial.”

In her current role as a crime victim advocate for SARC, Cardoso is fulfilling her dream of helping individuals get out of their despairing situations in order to live a better and more prosperous life. Specifically, she helps victims of harassment, assault, child abuse, identity theft and more.

“I’m the first person in my family to graduate from high school, let alone a university,” she said. “Now, I’m working on my master’s, which will allow me to further help individuals suffering with dangerous and undesirable situations. TRIO and WSU Tri-Cities helped me get to where I’m at now. I’m excited to share my story with others at the national policy seminar and I hope that I can help inspire positive change at the national level.”

For more information on the national policy seminar, visit http://www.coenet.org/policy_seminar.shtml.

By Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities

Before LIGO announced that it had made its second-ever observance of gravitational waves last year, further proving Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity, Daniel Cain was one of the few who already knew.

Cain, an engineering student at Washington State University Tri-Cities, took on an internship experience at LIGO Hanford last summer where he worked with engineers in

WSU Tri-Cities student Daniel Cain

WSU Tri-Cities student Daniel Cain

radio frequency technology. He spent the summer building devices that would help filter and decipher radio waves, which would help prevent interferences and disruptions with equipment that had a larger role in the gravitational wave detection technology.

LIGO made their second gravitation wave detection on Dec. 26, 2015, but it wasn’t until July 15, 2016, that they made the detection public. A large part of the gap in time, Cain said, is that scientists must sort through a multitude of data to ensure that their detections are accurate and that they hadn’t picked up a false positive from another source.

While Cain’s internship experience didn’t deal specifically with the gravitational wave detection technology, it still had an impact on safeguarding the equipment that will continue to be crucial in the whole effort.

“While the radio waves don’t interfere with gravity waves themselves, they interfere with other electrical equipment, such as the laser controls,” he said. “My job was to help them make sure that radio interference doesn’t affect their detections.”

Cain will present his project at WSU’s Academic Showcase from 9 a.m. – noon March 27 in the Compton Union Building at WSU Pullman.

Preventing disruption

Cain said in order for scientists and engineers to detect gravitational waves at the facility, they use a number of very sensitive, very sophisticated instruments that detail intricate waves that, until 2015, had never been physically observed. Cain said the lasers used to detect the waves, which require a vacuum-sealed environment, also necessitate a range of equipment that prevent and decipher between even the slightest of environmental factors, which could lead to a false positive.

“The moon passing around the earth causes the earth’s crust to flex,” Cain said. “It changes the shape enough that they have to worry about it being a disruption to their monitoring equipment. The scientists and engineers at LIGO have to monitor a lot of environmental factors, from wind, to seismic activity, to even spring runoff from the mountains.”

Similar disruptions could occur with other vital equipment at the facility.

Cain said what they wanted him to create was a circuit that would take the output of their radio receivers and tell LIGO engineers how strong radio waves were in a way that could be turned into a digital number that they could easily read and categorize. Knowing the radio signal strength would help them eliminate false positives.

A learning experience

Cain said the difficult part of his initial study and creation of radio monitoring equipment is that radio waves are so fast that normal circuits can’t rate them accurately.

“The tiny things that wouldn’t interfere with normal circuits, interfere with radio,” he said. “It makes the engineering problem more challenging.”

Additionally, he said, most radio wave-reading equipment use the logarithmic decibel scale, which is effective for increasing equipment range, but not so convenient in understanding what the wave is doing, exactly.

Part of a radio wave device that WSU Tri-Cities student Daniel Cain made for LIGO during his internship last summer

Part of a radio wave device that WSU Tri-Cities student Daniel Cain made for LIGO during his internship last summer.

“Almost all radio equipment is logarithmic, which is why they wanted my design to work because it wasn’t logarithmic,” he said. “It wasn’t absolutely necessary, but would have made their data processing a little easier.”

Cain created two prototypes, the first of which had a few design issues, which he corrected using new and modified materials. His second prototype worked, but its main issue was that it couldn’t pick up weaker radio signals.

“It became very accurate,” he said. “The output had to be between zero and two volts, and it was in the 90th percentile for accuracy. It could detect the higher-strength signals very well. But the tiny signals, which are weak and easily blocked, it didn’t detect very well.”

Cain ran out of time for his third prototype. He was successful, however, in modifying one of their established device designs to do what was asked of him, but it remained in logarithmic scale, which was still an issue. But his efforts were not all lost. One of Cain’s major feats came by accident in the final stages of creating one of his devices.

“I figured out that one of the antennas for their radio receivers was broken,” he said. “It isn’t something they are always watching, but it is something they have to check. They told me they probably wouldn’t have found out it was broken until they were about to look for gravitational waves for real, which would have forced them to reassign an engineer to fix the problem. They told me it was almost worth the whole summer finding that.”

Applying school to the real world

Cain said even though he ran into some issues during his internship and wished he would have more time to develop the technology, the learning process, alone, made the whole summer a worthwhile experience.

“I learned so much,” he said. “I put to use a lot of things that I learned in school and I had to learn a lot of things from scratch. The practical experience, alone, I would recommend to anyone in an engineering program.”

Daniel Cain, left, and engineering classmate

Daniel Cain, left, and a classmate work on a device during an engineering lab course.

Cain said the body of knowledge in engineering has grown to be so large that it is becoming not possible to teach a student everything they need to know during an undergraduate education.

“It is not really possible to bring an undergraduate to the level of knowledge of the industry, which is where things like internships come to play,” he said. “Having the experience this summer means that some of the mystique surrounding engineering is removed. That is one of the main reasons why internships and practical experience is so important. It gets you out of the school mindset and into the real-world mindset.”

Cain said it was also incredibly rewarding to work with world-renowned engineers that have truly made a mark in history, but at the same time, are as down to earth as the next person. They were always willing to “help out the ultra noob,” he said with a laugh.

“The engineers were all really nice,” he said. “They all took pity on me as the new guy, helped answer my questions and offer their advice. They were all quick to help explain things that you wouldn’t normally learn in school, but that everyone else knows in the industry. That was the most valuable part.”

By Maegan Murray

Robert Mendoza, a senior student at Washington State University Tri-Cities, will compete at the National Collegiate Wrestling Association tournament March 9-11 in Allen, Texas, after placing second at the Northwest Regional Championship last month.

Mendoza competes in the 141-pound classification with a team based out of WSU Pullman. The WSU team took second overall at the regional tournament and will send eight other wrestlers who also qualified for the national championships:

  • Hunter Haney – 133 pounds – first place
  • Jerdon Helgeson – 149 pounds – second place
  • Tommy Herz – 149 pounds – fourth place
  • Zach Volk – 165 pounds – second place
  • Jason Nicholson – 174 pounds – third place
  • Tucker Hanson – 184 pounds – second place
  • Michael Huscusson – 235 pounds – third place
  • Xavier L Henderson – Heavyweight – fourth place

During Mendoza’s first match at the regional tournament, he pinned Grays Harbor College’s Brent Goodwater in the quarterfinals to advance. In the semifinals, he edged out Western Washington University’s Keagan Mulholland 5-3 in a close overtime match. Mendoza then lost to Montana Tech’s Timothy Ellinger 13-9, who took home first place in the finals.

Overcoming adversity

Mendoza is the only WSU Tri-Cities wrestler on the WSU team this year, as his only WSU Tri-Cities teammate, Joe Traverso, is out for the season with a knee injury. He commutes to Pullman every other Friday to practice with his teammates in the same weight class.

Mendoza’s other workouts are centered at his local employment at The Den fitness facility at WSU Tri-Cities, which provides him the facilities to workout on a daily basis, as well as his duties as a volunteer coach at Pasco High School. The opportunity allows him to work out with the high school students and wrestle with the younger coaches. Mendoza also runs five miles a day at his local gym in Pasco.

Mendoza said he has never let the fact that he doesn’t have a home team in the Tri-Cities prevent him from accomplishing his goals with wrestling.

“Overcoming adversity in the sense of lacking a college wrestling in my home area is a process, but this is a great opportunity to turn some heads and surprise the teams in our conference,” he said.

Succeeding in athletics and academics

Mendoza is majoring in business administration and hopes to also pursue a master’s in business administration from WSU Tri-Cities after graduating this spring. He said wrestling is a large motivator in performing well with his school work.

“I’ve always been competitive as an athlete, and that has continued to spill over into my school work and other parts of my life,” he said. “My goal is to one-day encourage and motivate other Tri-Cities students to follow their dreams and set a high goal to eventually achieve. Implementing a phenomenal work ethic, whether it’s athletics or academia, will make any crazy goal realistic.”

Mendoza said he has high hopes for the upcoming tournament, especially with it being his second year competing at the national level.

“I am grateful to have the opportunity to represent my university and my Tri-Cities community on the national stage,” he said.

By Maegan Murray

Paul Carlisle had just completed his undergraduate degree in business administration from Washington State University Tri-Cities in 2005 when he decided to open his own technology solutions company.

Alumnus Paul Carlisle used the WSU Tri-Cities master’s in business administration program to found Tri-Cities-based tech company ‘elevate,’ which now contracts with more than 50 companies throughout the region and state.

The idea came after the organization he previously worked for sold to another company and he felt the work he was doing became less challenging.

“It was an opportunity for me to say ‘I’m going to jump off and try to tackle something larger,’” he said.

But rather than focusing on large equipment installations, like most technology infrastructure companies were doing at the time, Carlisle planned to serve companies as an end-to-end technology management firm. With that, ‘elevate’ was born.

Carlisle used the master’s in business program at WSU Tri-Cities to refine the business structure, launch the organization, as well as consult with his professors for what worked and what didn’t within the company.

“I leveraged a lot of my business school classes through the master’s in business administration program at WSU Tri-Cities for elevate,” he said. “I feel like WSU Tri-Cities really helped me identify and create a level of maturity when it was being launched.”

Seeing success

Since that period, the company has grown to contract with more than 50 companies throughout the mid-Columbia region and across the state. In 2016, elevate welcomed Gov. Jay Inslee to talk about job creation, focusing more specifically on companies that have worked from start-up to thriving operations that aren’t based around the Hanford Site. This year, Carlisle was recognized with the Richland Rotary’s Sam Vulpentest Entrepreneurial Leadership Award for his devotion to growing community through service and entrepreneurial ventures.

Photo of Paul Carlisle talking with a colleague at tech company elevate.

Paul Carlisle talks with a colleague at tech company elevate.

But with all the recognition, Carlisle said it was through community support that truly made him and his business a success.

“I certainly didn’t do it on my own,” he said. “I did it with the community. I’ve worked with people in the Tri-City Regional Chamber, at WSU Tri-Cities, through WSU Tri-Cities’ Carson College of Business Advisory Board and with co-working and startup programs. In the end, that community engagement is the differentiator, and that is what continues to be special at WSU Tri-Cities.”

Carlisle said WSU Tri-Cities is different from many college campuses because the courses are truly rooted in the community and the business connections that are already established locally.

“People come here because it has a cool connection with the community,” he said. “Students at WSU Tri-Cities learn from those they will be working with into the future after they graduate. These are the people they’re getting internships from and the same people who are recommending those internships. In the MBA, you are consistently meeting with managers who are mostly based here.”

Giving forward

Now, Carlisle is using his success in his own career to give back to students and future entrepreneurs.

Carlisle serves on the WSU Tri-Cities Carson College of Business Advisory Board, which aims to create opportunities for community partnerships between local businesses so that students may be connected with many more research experiences, internships, co-ops and more. Additionally, he serves as an adjunct faculty member teaching entrepreneurship.

Photo of elevate founder Paul Carlisle talking with a colleague.

elevate founder Paul Carlisle talks with a colleague.

“We’re working on lots of good ideas on how we can really help grow the idea of community engagement within the degree,” he said. “At the end of the day, if all you’re doing is learning the course material, you’re missing out on a lot, and really the main point. We’re looking to give students that real-world access, hands-on experience that is so unique here at the Tri-Cities campus.”

Carlisle also works with the Tri-City Regional Chamber on its board and on its regional affairs committee, where through community connections, they are working to provide further opportunities for local businesses to excel.

“By looking at the natural flow of businesses in the Tri-Cities, we can start to remove barriers and just let the natural momentum move forward,” he said. “There is some risk, but with that little bit of risk, creating even a little bit of traffic, we can make a large impact.”

Carlisle said it has always been his goal to use his own success as a catalyst for growing the success of others.

“I’ve been there,” he said. “I know the hurdles that some of these young people have to conquer because I’ve experienced it all with elevate. In my 20s, I worked to really form elevate. In my 30s, I quickly realized that helping these emerging businesses is what elevate is all about. In my 40s, I want to be invited to play with these fantastic new startups built by these bright young students because they are the future of our community.”

Carlisle says he hopes his involvement within the business community inspires positive momentum among the young and up-and-coming professionals.

“What I recommend to current and future students is to seize the moment to engage with these amazing local opportunities,” he said. “You don’t know what is possible until you take the leap.”