MBA Tag

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.”

RICHLAND, Wash. – Four Washington State University Tri-Cities students are working with AREVA, a multinational group specializing in nuclear power and renewable energy, to identify real-world process and cost improvements for the company using the Six Sigma approach.

The effort is part of WSU Tri-Cities’ master’s in business administration capstone course, which is led by Tim Baker, associate professor of finance and management science.

WSU Tri-Cities news

Tim Baker, background, with some of the Six Sigma students. (Photo by Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities)

“Through student-led projects, we either implement process improvements or new product designs and measure the benefits of each,” Baker said of the Six Sigma process. “It’s all about maintaining a continuous improvement in methodology.”

MBA students John Kummer, Kevin Sykes, Hongfei Rassmussen and Sammy Ernst are currently examining the processes and organizational structure within AREVA to identify cost and process improvements for production supplies.

Baker, who holds the highest certification in the Six Sigma process – a master black belt, said WSU Tri-Cities has paired up with local organizations for the last eight years to complete similar projects, and that AREVA has been a primary customer since day one. The student projects, he said, has saved various local organizations significant time and money.

Baker said on one previous year’s project, the students worked out a procedure to save the Sandvik Specialty Metals company approximately $750,000 due to a 25 percent reduction in throughput variability in the pilgering process for their titanium rods production. Another student project reduced the average patient flow time for the Grace Medical Clinic by 17 percent.

This year’s student group hopes for similar results in their own project with AREVA.

What is Six Sigma?

 Baker said the purpose and goal with the Six Sigma process is to systematically assess the current state of a process, uncover and prioritize improvement and design goals and generate and prioritize ideas for improvements and designs.

Six Sigma professionals measure the benefits to the client for an implementation of an improved process or new design and set up a control plan for the client to ensure that performance does not regress once the Six Sigma project has been disbanded.

Paul Skilton, assistant professor of management, information systems and entrepreneurship, said one of the great aspects of the project and utilizing the Six Sigma approach in a real-world scenario is that the students actively see all the “worms” and the “mess” of systematic procedure within companies, which is also not unique to any one company.

“They’re working through organizational messes that end up generating real results,” he said. “They are able to work through what we call a wicked problem. It’s a problem that doesn’t appear to have nice answers, but they ultimately have to get to one.”

Value to the company and the student

For AREVA, getting students involved in the company’s process and procedures opens opportunities to evaluate both new and old strategies.

“Projects like these give us a fresh perspective on our own processes and identify previously unseen improvement opportunities,” said Lance Stephens, AREVA manager of operations strategy and supply chain.

Ernst said part of her job outside of school is recognizing a problem within her company, examining the root of that problem and determining a solution. Utilizing the Six Sigma process through a real-world scenario in her MBA class, she said, is instrumental both in her academic and professional life.

“My employer is currently trying to ramp up in Six Sigma and improve its processes,” she said. “There is a huge push towards Six Sigma in our career fields, so this is definitely a huge asset.”

Sykes said it has been rewarding seeing the “mess” of the internal company structure because it is useful in his own career.

“It’s real-world life experience and we get do dive into a project in a company and see the overall scope,” Sykes said. “It’s been a really good learning experience.”

Skilton said WSU Tri-Cities also benefit from having Baker as their professor and mentor, as he is a world-class Six Sigma and operations research expert.

“As a result of his knowledge and experience in the field, our students here locally get to work on these exceptional projects,” he said.