Business Tag

By Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities

Paul Skilton is the first professor from Washington State University Tri-Cities to participate in a teaching abroad experience with a prestigious business school in Brig, Switzerland.

WSU partners with the César Ritz Colleges in Switzerland to offer a dual degree program in hospitality business where students receive a degree from both César Ritz and WSU upon completion of the program. Through the years, professors from WSU have rotated to teach at the Swiss institution each semester. Since the hospitality business management program is fairly new to WSU Tri-Cities, the opportunity was not available for Tri-Cities professors until this year. The hospitality business management program began at WSU Tri-Cities in 2015.

Stockalper Palace in Brig, Switzerland

Stockalper Palace in Brig, Switzerland / Photo by Hansueli Krapf

César Ritz is a renowned school in the hospitality business management sector, ranking 24th in the world for hospitality and hotel management schools in 2016-16 by CEOWORLD Magazine and falling closely behind WSU, who ranked 21st in the world the same year by the publication.

“César Ritz prepares students who want to go into the hotel industry and all the fields that encompass that industry, from hospitality to restaurant and food service,” Skilton said. “Students from all over the world come to this school to study. The WSU Carson College of Business sends one faculty member each semester. I’m going this fall and Dr. Donna Paul will go in the spring.”

Skilton said the experience benefits both students abroad and students from WSU, in addition to allowing WSU professors to establish international connections with students and faculty from all over the world. WSU students, he said, may choose to study abroad for a semester at the Swiss school, broadening their scope of the hospitality industry and giving them that international experience that is crucial to their credentials in the field. The experience also opens doors for students overseas to come and study on campus at WSU, in addition to their experience on campus in Switzerland.

“The idea is that students will get a look at international contexts, contacts and points of view within the hospitality business world,” Skilton said. “If you are going to go into the hospitality business sector, you should be able to understand people who are different from you so that you can accommodate them accordingly. That international experience is very important.”

This semester, Skilton will teach a course focusing on management of innovation and change, as well as a principles of management course. He said he is most excited about learning as much from the faculty and students at the school as he is able to teach them.

“The faculty at César Ritz have a very different mindset,” Skilton said. “WSU is a research-based school whereas the faculty at César Ritz mostly consist of hotel professionals. It’s also a European college, so it’s going to be very different. I’m excited to learn about how they structure their programs and I hope they’ll teach me as much as I am able to teach them.”

Skilton leaves for Switzerland this month and will begin teaching at César Ritz in early October. He will return to WSU Tri-Cities in time for the spring semester this academic year.

The partnership program is one of WSU Carson College of Business’ longest-standing global partnerships and is in line with WSU’s Drive to 25.

For more information about the program and how WSU students can spend a semester abroad at with Cesar Ritz, visit https://business.wsu.edu/research-faculty/centers/switzerland/.

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. – 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. – Researchers at Washington State University Tri-Cities have figured out a way to successfully convert a common wood byproduct into hydrocarbon molecules that could be used as jet fuel.

Bin Yang, an associate professor of biological systems engineering, said the hydrocarbons from his new procedure could eventually replace the need for petroleum-based fuel sources.

The work of Yang’s team will be on the cover of the December issue of Green Chemistry, a journal of the Royal Society of Chemistry. The work was published online in September and can be seen athttp://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlepdf/2015/GC/C5GC01534K.
Yang also holds a patent on the process: http://www.google.com/patents/WO2014163652A1?cl=en.

Making use of lignin waste

Yang’s procedure converts lignin, an organic polymer that makes plants woody and rigid. Ordinarily, it is wasted when plant biomass, including cellulose, is converted into biofuels like ethanol.

“After cellulose, it is the most abundant renewable carbon source on Earth,” according to the website of the Switzerland-based International Lignin Institute. Between 40 and 50 million tons of lignin are produced annually worldwide, mostly as a non-commercialized waste product, according to the institute.

“The effort to transform lignin into higher-value products for large developed markets is critically needed,” Yang said. “If we can make jet fuel from the biomass-derived lignin, it addresses this challenge.”

Yang said the process could grow the economic potential of advanced biofuels.

“It will begin to address the nation’s challenge for the production of clean, domestic biofuels that can help replace crude oil,” he said.

Biofuel partnership with Boeing

Yang’s team is working with Boeing Co. to develop and test the hydrocarbons targeted to be jet fuel.

Yang’s procedure converts lignin into a mix of hydrocarbons in a single reactor using appropriate catalysts. The resulting product must be separated and purified to obtain the jet-fuel hydrocarbons that can be used in turbine engines.
Ralph Cavalieri, director of WSU’s Office of Alternative Energy, said molecules derived from biomass currently must be combined with petroleum-based jet fuel to meet the certification requirements for jet fuel. Yang’s procedure, however, may be able to supply the molecules that are necessary to be certified as a jet fuel.

Jet fuel typically needs molecules that consist of 12 to 16 carbon atoms to fulfill jet engine requirements, Cavalieri said. Comparatively, gasoline requires molecules with fewer carbon atoms, but that fuel is much more volatile. On the other end of the spectrum is diesel, which requires molecules of 16 to 20 or more carbon atoms. While it is significantly less volatile, diesel begins to gel at cold temperatures.

Cavalieri said jet fuel requires the same nominal range of molecules as kerosene, which isn’t as volatile as gasoline but also doesn’t freeze at the cold temperatures found at altitude.

“With the research being conducted by Dr. Yang, it may be possible to develop a more complete suite of molecules required for turbine engine systems using only biomass feedstocks, making the process more economically feasible and efficient,” he said.

Lignin yields diverse bioproducts

In addition to hydrocarbons suitable for jet turbine engines, Yang is using lignin to produce a variety of other chemicals and materials. Through two recent grants funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, both headed by Texas A&M University, he leads WSU’s effort to produce lipids and bioplastics created from lignin.

He also is working with the nearby Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado on projects to convert lignin into a range of chemicals, including supercapacitors.

Yang and his team’s research is supported by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency through the U.S. Department of Defense, as well as the U.S. Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation, the Sun Grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the Seattle-based Joint Center for Aerospace Technology Innovation.

Contacts:

Bin Yang, WSU Tri-Cities biological systems engineering, 509-372-7640, binyang@tricity.wsu.edu
Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities public relations, 509-372-7333, maegan.murray@tricity.wsu.edu