Alum feature: Meet Kit Walling

Kit Walling
PSU MSF Alum Kit Walling

Program: MSF

Graduation Year: 2018

Program Schedule: Full-Time

Please briefly describe your career path and what led you to choose The Graduate School of Business at Portland State.

Once I completed my undergraduate degree, I spent some time in sales and about seven years in the U.S. Navy. When I found out that I was going to deploy to the Middle East, I knew I would have an opportunity to go back to school once I got home. I spent my off-duty hours studying for the GRE and taking the prerequisites needed to start a graduate business program in finance. I had known that I wanted to work in finance for a long time, but didn’t know what that might look like. I chose PSU because of its location and reputation as being one of the best business schools in the area. I started the program a week after I got home from deployment, and still believe it is one of the best choices I’ve made.

What drew you to the MSF program, in particular?

My specific interest in the MSF program at Portland State drew from the STEM designation of the curriculum. My undergraduate career focused mainly on theory, and PSU’s hands-on experience was refreshing and welcomed. I believe the practical application of theory is one of the most important elements to being a more successful employee post-graduation.

What skills gained at PSU have you found most valuable in your career?

The focus on applied learning helped solidify concepts that I had only previously learned about in lectures or books. The faculty here really helped me build the skills I needed to be able to communicate with my managers or peers who don’t come from a finance background. If you can build models and create forecasts, but you’re not able to communicate how or why you did it, it will make things more difficult in the long run.

What inspires you?

My sister is one of my biggest inspirations. She graduated from high school at 16 and had her master’s degree by the time she was 22. She has never let anything stop her from accomplishing her goals. Her drive and compassion for others is something I strive to emulate.

A non-profit I’m involved with works with Queer youth in Clackamas County. Hearing their stories and learning with them on their journey is awe-inspiring. I wish I had known a group with such bravery and courage when I was their age.

My co-workers also inspire me, and I learn something from them every day. Working for a small company can be challenging, but also incredibly rewarding. My co-workers come from many diverse backgrounds, all with a unique set of skills. It is incredible what we can accomplish together.

What advice do you have for current or prospective graduate business students who are interested in finance?

Keep an open mind about what you want your career to be once you have finished school. The program opened my eyes to careers and opportunities that I had never heard of or even considered before.

The focus on applied learning helped solidify concepts that I had only previously learned about in lectures or books. The faculty here really helped me build the skills I needed to be able to communicate with my managers or peers who don’t come from a finance background.

From MBA candidate to sustainable business owner: Interview with Alex Gamboa Grand

Alex Gamboa Grand

Program: MBA, Social Innovation & Entrepreneurship Certificate

Graduation Year: 2016

Program Schedule: Full-Time

Please briefly describe your career path and what led you to choose The School of Business at Portland State.

Prior to the MBA program, I worked in various child development roles, as well as retail management. I chose to pursue an MBA because I wanted to develop the skills to launch and lead a sustainable business in every sense.

What drew you to The Portland MBA in particular?

I was looking for programs in Portland and the Social Innovation & Entrepreneurship certificate really intrigued me, as well as the ability to be in an MBA program that was so connected to the Portland business community. I wanted to learn more about social enterprise and make sure that the business I chose to start (I’ve had many ideas over the years) was working to solve a meaningful problem, and was operating with a strong foundation of social and environmental responsibility.

What was the inspiration behind Good Intent?

I had been really inspired by a variety of businesses and products that were attempting to reduce waste from food, disposables, and single-use plastic in an effort to minimize the effects of climate change. However, I had noticed that most people weren’t even aware of the zero or low waste movements, and if they were, they associated it with being kind of an extreme and unattainable lifestyle. But that doesn’t reflect the reality of how many people really care and would be willing to make changes if they felt it was more approachable. We wanted to take all of that collective good intent and turn it into actions that make a difference. We do this by providing informative content that gives people ideas for reducing waste regardless of budget or lifestyle. We also offer reusable and sustainable alternatives to everyday household products. Ultimately, we want to remind people that the goal is progress, not perfection.

What skills gained at PSU have you found most valuable in launching your own business?

I’ve applied a lot of what I learned in my marketing classes, the Launch in 9 entrepreneurship capstone, as well as the Social Innovation & Entrepreneurship certificate program. For example, we practiced design thinking from the very beginning, collecting information and engaging our audience to ensure that we understood who they were and how to effectively support their needs. It also gave me a strong sense of how to grow our audience and build a following before we even launched our online store and once we did, how we should market ourselves. I also gained the confidence to know that, not only could I successfully start my own business, but I have the resources and support to ensure that it thrives.

What inspires you?

I’ve always been inspired by people who act and are willing to leave their comfort zones and take risks because they have faith in themselves and in the work they’re doing. I have also been so inspired by how many entrepreneurs have found ways to use business as a force for good. I used to think business was something you’d have to fight against or climb over to enact positive change in the world, but I was so wrong. Using our power as consumers is one of the easiest ways we can create a world that reflects our values, and we can do it every single day. Every dollar spent supporting a business going above and beyond to do the right thing is a seed planted for a better world.

What advice do you have for current or prospective graduate business students who are interested in entrepreneurship?

  1. If you’re interested in entrepreneurship, keep that perspective in mind throughout your courses, and don’t be afraid to ask specific questions about how the content you’re learning can be applied in a start-up context. Take notes of everything you think might be relevant and save them (maybe even some of your textbooks)! I kept a notebook specifically for information I learned throughout the program that I thought might be helpful for starting and running my own business. 
  2. Attend events and get involved with clubs that are of interest to you. The connections I made and the inspiration and insight I gained from various speakers during my time at PSU was just as valuable as the time I spent in class. (My involvement with Net Impact and the B Corp consulting project even helped me get a job!) Take advantage of this community while you’re in it. It’s a huge asset!

Be sure to check out Alex’s company, Good Intent, at http://shopwithgoodintent.com/

Using our power as consumers is one of the easiest ways we can create a world that reflects our values, and we can do it every single day. Every dollar spent supporting a business going above and beyond to do the right thing is a seed planted for a better world.

From Portland to London: Landing an internship with the US Business Tax Group at Deloitte UK-London

I just finished a Master of Taxation with The School of Business. This winter, I had an amazing opportunity to complete an internship for the US Business Tax Group (USBT) at Deloitte UK-London. They’ve never had someone from Portland State University come to their internship, so it was really cool to represent PSU students. Here are some tips and tricks from my experience if you are interested in applying for this internship.

What was your group like?

My group was really diverse! There are about 100 people, split between London and India. Most of the London group is American, but we have people from all over the world, including Brazil, Belgium, France and South Africa. The diversity of cultures and traditions meant I was always learning and trying new things.

But you were an intern, right? So you made copies and got coffee?

Not at all! Interns with the USBT are treated as first year analysts, so you are responsible for tax preparing. We attended loads of trainings taking us step-by-step through workpapers, how to use software, etc. 

Later on, we attended trainings about different code sections and rules surrounding various business situations that we commonly run across (e.g., is the gain or loss from exchanging currency taxable to corporations? Why or why not?). These were really informative and attracted professionals from all levels because the rules of taxation are ever-changing. 

As for the work I personally did, I spent the first month doing workpapers for corporations, partnerships and disregarded entities. The second month, I did Passive Foreign Investment Company testing (a different kind of workpaper), and the third month, did a mix of the first two months as well as helping to develop new software for my group. It was really rewarding to see that we were given work and treated like full-time employees.

What is it like working abroad?

I’ve worked abroad before, teaching English in Japan, so comparatively, this was a much easier experience based on the lack of language barrier alone. That being said, the actual work experience with my group similar to moving offices in the US, only with a different keyboard (US keyboard forever, please) and questioning your spelling always (realise, favourite, colour). I think the similarities are in large part because the majority of my group was American and doing US tax work.

How about living abroad? Did you get homesick?

Living in London was amazing, but the first week or two was genuinely difficult. I think this is due to things being just different enough to make me uncomfortable. For example, I was walking down the street like I do all of the time in the US, checking my phone whilst walking (because #Multitasking), when all of a sudden fell flat on my face. I’d forgotten that the sidewalks are cobblestones instead of poured cement and in case you don’t know,cobblestones = uneven surfaces. I wish I could say I learned my lesson that first time. 

No, but really. I didn’t get terribly homesick once I got used to the discomfort of the things being  different. Something new or different gave me a lot of anxiety the first time I did it, but then it quickly became second nature when I could do it correctly. Looking the correct way before crossing the street was a big accomplishment for me. 

Learning to embrace the discomfort and appreciate the new culture for what it was — and to stop wishing that it would be more like my culture — helped me a lot. That being said, I’m pretty sure I heard angels sing the first time I walked into Target when I came back. I’ll never stop missing the availability of a one-stop shop.

What was it like to work for one of The Big Four accounting firms?

The Deloitte UK-London campus is comprised of four buildings in Central London, where the other three Big Four companies are in the financial district at Canary Wharf. I absolutely adore the hustle and bustle of big city life, so the centralized location made me pretty happy. 

Working at such a big campus was really cool because there were a lot of ways to specialize and further my career. Do you want to work on hedge funds? Real estate? CRS/FATCA reporting? Corporations? Partnerships? High Net Worth Individuals? Done. We have a place for you. There’s always work and always something more to be done if you want to take the time to do it, and it was nice to be able to feel like I contributed to important clients.

Did you have to work 80 hours a week?

The average work week in the UK is 35 hours and the UK firm doesn’t mandate 55 hours per week minimum for busy season like the US firms do. I generally worked between 40-50 hours per week during the peak busy season. Outside of busy season, I stayed under 40 hours per week.

I want to do this! What do I need to do?

Applications open December/January for the following January, and the group interviews on a rolling basis from January–May each year. In case all of those January’s confused you — I applied December 2017, interviewed January 2018 and started my internship January 2019. It was a long year of waiting, but very exciting!

If you’re interested, talk to an accounting faculty member about it, and start working on your resume and cover letter! There are two internships available annually: January–April (Spring) and May–August (Summer). If you’re interested, send me an email, and we’ll have a chat and I’ll turn in your resume for you.

Most interns were either in their senior year of their undergrad or in between their undergrad and graduate programs; only 3 of the 15 this year had already started their master’s degrees, so plan accordingly for that kind of timeline. That being said, if you’ve already graduated, there are people that work there currently that did an internship after graduation, or that just applied for full time work straight away without doing the internship at all!

Do I need a scholarship to do this? It sounds expensive!

Nope! Deloitte pays for your round trip plane ticket, your car ride to and from the airport, your housing, and you receive a monthly salary (you aren’t paid hourly unfortunately). 

Additionally, you get paid time off as well to travel around Europe or just relax from the busy season. I visited five countries as well as several parts of the UK, and I only used half of my paid time off, the rest was paid out to me at the end.

I’m not sure if I want to do audit or tax. . . is that a problem for this opportunity?

Not at all! A lot of people don’t know if they want to do tax or audit when they come; it’s all about experiencing it. In the end, everyone wants you to do what’s best for you and your career. Make the choice that makes you happy!

What if I don’t know about Deloitte. . . or London. . . Are there other international opportunities with The Big Four?

My advice for those of you that want to live abroad is pretty simple: reach out. LinkedIn is a great tool to find people in major cities around the world that work in US Tax. Reach out and see if they have an internship opportunity or if you can do an informational interview with them. A lot of these locations are almost always hiring and would love to hear from people that are passionate about living abroad.


Morgan Healey

Morgan Healey graduated from PSU’s Master of Taxation program in 2019. She now lives in London and works for Deloitte UK in the US Business Tax Group.

I just finished a Master of Taxation with The School of Business. This winter, I had an amazing opportunity to complete an internship for the US Business Tax Group (USBT) at Deloitte UK-London. They’ve never had someone from Portland State University come to their internship, so it was really cool to represent PSU students. Here are some tips and tricks from my experience if you are interested in applying for this internship.

From MBA candidate to consultant: Interview with Rich Schwartz

Rich Schwartz

Program Name: MBA
Year of Graduation: 2016
Program Schedule: Full Time

What sparked your interest in consulting?

I fell into consulting accidentally. After graduation I was volunteering with the procurement group at Oregon Food Bank part time and looking for my next opportunity. Given my new MBA degree and interest in sustainable food systems, a friend recommended me to Ecotrust to write business plans for two agricultural producers that had received USDA Value Added Producer grants. After working on those projects, I realized that I was a consultant, and I started looking for other clients and projects to work on.

What are the biggest challenges you’ve encountered starting your own business?

Finding clients has been the biggest challenge. I don’t especially enjoy marketing myself, and I have been fortunate that most clients have found me via word of mouth.  I have been in Portland since the mid-90s, so I have a fairly extensive local network of friends and associates that I’ve been able to leverage in building my business. But the work has been inconsistent. I am fortunate that I have part-time work as a computer programmer (my former career), so the inconsistency has not been a financial burden. Having tech work that covers my expenses means I can be very discerning in taking on consulting projects, even to the point of doing pro-bono work on projects that interest me. Without my network or my part-time tech job, I’m not sure I would have been able to make consulting work.

What skills and experiences gained at PSU have you found most valuable in launching your business?

During my second year at PSU, I co-founded the B Impact program, which pairs teams of PSU graduate students with local businesses going through the B Corp certification process. Portland State graduate students had been working with aspiring B Corp businesses for a few years, but these were one-off engagements and there was little support for their efforts. The Net Impact leadership team brainstormed the structure for a more formal program in the summer of 2015, and fellow classmate Emma Ingebretsen and I launched B Impact PSU as a pilot program in the fall of 2015. 

Like any startup, we experienced our share of false starts and setbacks during our first year of operation. Some of our initial ideas didn’t pan out and we were forced to make changes along the way. Yet by all accounts the program was a big success. We found our initial clients through our contacts in the B Corp community and our student consultants through our Net Impact chapter and personal outreach. More than twenty students worked with over a dozen businesses that first year, a few of which achieved their B Corp certification. Students appreciated the chance to learn about the B Corp certification process, apply skills they were learning in school, and make a contribution to a company whose values were aligned with their own. The companies were thrilled to have support and technical assistance for the challenging and time-consuming process of taking the B Corp assessment. And the Business School recognized the program as a boon to the recruitment efforts for its newly rebranded MBA program.

All involved with B Impact wanted to see it continue and improve beyond the graduation of the founders. To support that effort, Net Impact advisor Jacen Greene solicited funding from the law firm Miller, Nash, Graham and Dunn, and in the summer of 2016 I was offered a three month post-graduate fellowship. During that time I processed the feedback we had received from the first year’s participants, suggested changes to the program structure (e.g. running two longer cohorts instead of three shorter ones), trained the Fall cohort of student consultants, and compiled a How-To manual for the second year’s student leaders. Partially as a result of those efforts, PSU now has one of the most robust B Corp student consulting programs in the country.

The skills and confidence I developed in launching and executing B Impact PSU, and then in refining and formalizing it post-graduation through my fellowship position, carry over into my consulting work. My involvement in the program greatly increased my professional networks and directly led to some of my consulting jobs. My efforts at starting the program, combined with a summer internship at a startup food manufacturing business, allowed me to see first-hand the challenges and creative problem solving associated with launching a business. I also find that the planning of B Impact plus the accounting skills I learned in the MBA program are especially helpful when writing business plans for my clients.

 

The skills and confidence I developed in launching and executing B Impact PSU, and then in refining and formalizing it post-graduation through my fellowship position, carry over into my consulting work. My involvement in the program greatly increased my professional networks and directly led to some of my consulting jobs.

From MBA candidate to account strategist: Interview with Elena Heilig

Elena Heilig

Program Name: MBA
Year of Graduation: 2018
Program Schedule: Full Time

What drew you to The Portland MBA in particular?

Before I started The Portland MBA, I studied International Business at ESB Business School in Germany. Between 2014 and 2017, I completed my undergraduate degree while working as an intern with several companies such as Porsche Consulting, Google and Lufthansa Cargo. After finishing school, I decided to do an almost three-year long apprenticeship before going to college in order to apply my theoretical business knowledge in a practical context. My work experience before and during my undergraduate program helped me understand the direction I want to go in and discover my passion for international business, languages and cultures.

A scholarship allowed me to follow-through with my plan, and I applied and got accepted to The Portland MBA as one of ESB’s partner universities. I was especially fascinated and impressed by the diversity and range of people in Portland and the sustainability focus of the program.

You worked at Google as an intern and now you are working full-time with the company. Tell us more about that experience and how The Portland MBA prepared you for your current role.

I did an internship as a business intern within the Google Customer Solutions unit in 2017, just before I came to Portland. I got to work with end clients as well as online marketing agencies to enhance our customers’ digital marketing activities. 

While attending PSU, I completed a digital marketing certificate through the Center for Executive and Professional Education along with my regular classes to broaden my knowledge in the field and understand the components of digital marketing. Furthermore, it led me to gain a deeper understanding of the digital advertising landscape, i.e. social media, analytics and content creation. 

The MBA classes, instructed by some of the most knowledgeable and inspiring professors in the field, conveyed invaluable lessons. I learned a variety of skills and had the opportunity to gain experiences, some of which were pivotal for my career and personal development. 

One of the greatest assets of the The Portland MBA is how it is set up. Each cohort consists of well-chosen individuals with tremendous sets of skills and experiences. The professors have incredible practical experience working in their industries. Faculty and staff encourage and enable students to focus on themselves and the program. 

This all-encompassing program encouraged me to fail fast and be successful in a safe environment, understand the importance of emotional intelligence, and be humble by lifting myself and others. I am eminently grateful for the opportunity to learn from the professors and practitioners at PSU.

How did your time at The School of Business impact your business mindset most?

Completing the The Portland MBA has been one of the most exciting, yet challenging experiences so far. Living in the US, working with a diverse set of people with different mindsets and values and balancing my interests led me to become more confident in myself and my skills — I’ve attained a higher level of conscientiousness. The course work, especially the capstone project, required me to give my personal best at all times and understand the ratio of effort to impact. It led me to change my way of thinking when approaching challenging situations and unexpected complications to always focus on the goal.

What activities were you part of while attending PSU?

In the winter term, I started working as a research assistant with one of the most inspiring professors, Jeanne Enders, to understand what ethical leaders do differently and how they become an ethical leader in the first place. I was also a guest speaker in one of the marketing classes and got to share some sales frameworks.

What inspires you?

What a question! I get inspired by so many little things in life. Sometimes it’s a song, sometimes it’s a paragraph I read, sometimes it’s working with a colleague and sometimes it’s positive feedback. What I love about the little things that inspire me: They make me become the best version of myself and amplify my inner drive.

What advice do you have for current or prospective School of Business students who want to advance in their careers?

People always tell you that you should find a purpose and an ultimate end goal. I don’t think there is an ultimate goal to achieve in life, but rather, I think as the world becomes more fast-paced and agile, so do we — and so do our goals. Try as many things as possible and find out what satisfies you, excites you, and makes you want to get up in the morning and then have the courage to follow-through. That follow-through is where I am currently. 

 

The MBA classes, instructed by some of the most knowledgeable and inspiring professors in the field, conveyed invaluable lessons. I learned a variety of skills and had the opportunity to gain experiences, some of which were pivotal for my career and personal development.

Finding purpose through consulting: Interview with Rebecca Goldcrump

 Rebecca Goldcrump

Program Name: MBA
Year of Graduation: 2018
Program Schedule: Full Time

What sparked your interest in consulting?

I kind of fell into consulting, but looking back it seems like it was inevitable. If you look at my resume, you can tell I get bored easily. So I enjoy the excitement of getting to work on new projects with different clients in a variety of industries. I have forever been on a search to find my purpose through my work. In The Portland MBA, where I also earned the Social Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship Graduate Certificate, that purpose became clear — I want to use skills in business and finance to make a positive impact in the world. I’m able to stay true to my purpose by being intentional about the type of consulting work I take on. I primarily consult with nonprofits to help them use business skills to make a greater impact, and I also consult with small businesses to add value through social impact. My goal is to bridge the gap between nonprofits and business, because I believe that earning profit and doing good can (and have to be) one in the same.

What are the biggest challenges you’ve encountered in starting your own business? 

It’s scary! The biggest challenge was having the courage to get started and then putting the company and myself out into the world. It was a bit isolating. No one close to me is going through the same thing, which is very different than when I was in my previous career as a CPA. So it’s been hard to know where to turn to for advice or support. I have to be intentional about keeping in touch with the few people I know who are able to relate to my situation — shout out to some of my fellow MBAs! There was so much I had to figure out as I went — setting up an LLC, drafting my first contract, figuring out what to charge and how to negotiate. . . the list goes on! But with each new project and client, it all gets easier. And each step of the way, I gain more confidence. Now that I have a few projects under my belt (which all turned out differently than I expected, of course), I am now confident everything is “figureoutable,” as entrepreneur and philanthropist, Marie Forleo would say.

What skills and/or experiences gained at PSU have you found most valuable in launching your business? 

I was never really exposed to entrepreneurship in my undergraduate education or in my career as a CPA. I also felt that as a woman, it was not something that was available to me. Through the Social Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship Certificate, the MBA’s Pioneering Innovation class and various PSU Kickstart Weekends, I learned a ton about entrepreneurship — and was hooked! Winning two Kickstart Weekends also helped to build my confidence and prove to myself that I was capable of starting my own business. Additionally, my first client came through my connections at PSU, which has led to referrals to other clients. Don’t undervalue each and every person you meet! Lastly, the MBA Capstone was hugely helpful in giving me a framework for how to set up and manage a consulting project and its deliverables. The skills I learned through that process directly translate to the work I do now.

What advice do you have for current or prospective Graduate School of Business students who want to work as consultants? 

You’ll hear everyone tell you how important networking is, and it’s true. But real networking is not about meeting lots of people and getting hundreds or thousands of LinkedIn connections. That’s a start, sure. But meaningful networking is about showing up and bringing your best self to every situation. Always do your best work, continue to learn, listen and most importantly,be kind. You never know who may become a resource, referral, partner or mentor down the line. Be mindful of the person you are presenting to the world and make sure that’s true to you and your values. Your reputation will precede you, and you may be surprised how small Portland is. Find a way to build relationships in a way that works best for you — as an introvert, I prefer one-on-one coffee dates or happy hours over larger group settings. If you choose to go the independent consultant route, you’ll have to be okay with the ambiguity of not knowing what you’ll be doing in a couple months, but it’s also exciting. If you do good work, give back and stay true to your values, know that you will be successful. And happy.

 

Through the Social Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship Certificate, the MBA’s Pioneering Innovation class and various PSU Kickstart Weekends, I learned a ton about entrepreneurship — and was hooked!

How to make the most of mentor programs

PSU students shaking hands

When I was an MBA student at The School of Business, I had the opportunity to be matched with mentors as part of the business professional mentor program. What I needed most was someone who could give me a perspective on what I may be doing counterproductive to my goals.

I developed strong relationships with the mentors I was matched with as part of this program. I learned a lot about how I prioritize and what mistakes I may be making in my career that I could not see because I am so involved personally. Making a professional connection that becomes a more personal mentorship can be challenging, especially for someone who is more of an introvert but I found it to be a rewarding experience. 

Hearing my mentors perspectives and tips from their journeys helped me navigate the tricky post-MBA career trajectory. While individual mentoring needs and mentors will vary, I think you can learn something from any mentor, and sometimes the most unlikely matches are ones that teach you the most. Hearing their encouragement when I struggled with the job application and interview process, having a framework to outline my priorities and learning better networking strategies are just a few of the areas that I found most beneficial. 

Both of my mentors graduated from The Portland MBA and had specific advice from their journeys. For example, one is an engineer in the technology manufacturing industry and is becoming an executive coach as part of his career development. He recommended a book entitled Living Forward: A Proven Plan to Stop Drifting and Get the Life You Want by Michael Hyatt about defining priorities and living your life by not compromising on what is important to you. He talked about how if something is a true priority, you will not let other parts of life override it, whether it is family, exercise or community involvement.

My other mentor is a customer relationship manager in the financial services sector, and she gave me some strategies for ending conversations without being rude at networking events to maximize the time you have there. She also talked about how to continue outreach to through LinkedIn, internal networking and follow-up meetings. 

If your schedule allows participation in the business professional mentor program, I strongly encourage it. I had mentors prior to my MBA program, and knew that I needed to form new connections along the way. My mentors and I met either in person or over the phone once per month, communicating between meetings as needed.

Like most other parts of life, it requires effort to build the relationship to benefit from it, but if you extend the energy, it can be very rewarding for the mentor and mentee PSU provides a handout that helps facilitate forming the relationship, so even people new to mentorship have something from which to build.

I look forward to being a mentor in the future, giving my time to help PSU students who may need a little guidance along their paths of business school and post-graduation life.


Alyssa Phillips

Alyssa Phillips graduated from The Portland MBA in 2018.

I developed strong relationships with the mentors I was matched with as part of this program. I learned a lot about how I prioritize and what mistakes I may be making in my career that I could not see because I am so involved personally.

Student ambassador spotlight: Mei-Mei Wang

 Mei-Mei Wang

Program Name: Master of Taxation
Year of Graduation: 2019

What is your background?

I studied marine biology and entomology at UC Berkeley and briefly worked as a journalist after college before working as a criminal investigator. Initially, I mulled over going to law school and tried investigations first. Being an investigator is much more fun. This is no different than when I switched from studying accounting to taxes. Tax laws involve the array of human behavior — good or bad — and the intersection of our culture, morals, and history. Like Judge Henry Breithaupt told our tax class, “tax laws and litigation are much like criminal laws.”

Away from school, I like to travel and help other students. I hope to get FAFSA night going at Oregon high schools every October with financial aid workshops. I’ve mentored teens with the United Negro College Fund, and these students have inspired me for the past four years. Through them, I’ve learned about getting scholarships and what it’s like being a teenager in the 21st century. I’m also a parent to a teen who plays varsity sports and takes Arabic classes.

You have a wide diversity of industry experience. What drew you to accounting and taxation?

In my cohort, I’m the “mid-career,” aka “older” student, and I consider myself lucky to have been open to non-conventional paths.

In my former career as an investigator, I started with street crimes and quickly moved within a year to major felonies, including homicides. Then I started to work on cases involving billings and fraud and realized these crimes aren’t always financial —  I saw cases of fake credentials, forged identity, and fraudulent prescription drugs and rogue medical treatments.

I was the victim of a terrible car accident, and while recovering, I didn’t want to languish mentally. So I took up studying accounting and then taxation. I realized that I prefer the field of taxation and enjoy reading about tax cases, which, surprisingly, are based on constitutional rights. In June of 2018, The Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling in the South Dakota v. Wayfair case. This case, along with the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, showcase how taxation is anything but static or boring.

I personally support the movement to shift the tax deadline to fall, because then I can resume going to Coachella — I’ve gone 12 times, but new bands always surface!

How has your experience at Portland State University been?

Accessible, inclusive, and engaging — that’s my trifecta description of PSU. I wish I had more time to partake in the campus activities and food cart offerings.

The diversity here is vast — backgrounds, ideas, needs, demographics, and passions of students, staff, and faculty.

How is your internship going at Schwindt & Company?

Schwindt & Co is a boutique CPA firm that specializes in homeowner associations in the Pacific Northwest, so I’m learning much more than just taxation. As a condo owner in a nationally registered historic building near Portland State University, it’s been eye-opening for me.

The firm’s clients include investors, retirees, partnerships and S corporations. These associations run small to large, from a dozen condo units to an entire island. Most high-end vacation resorts and high-rise urban dwellers seek out this firm because of its tenure and track record of quality niche services. The firm’s founder established this specialty of homeowners association financial services and helped advise legislators on adopting regulations to protect residents. He authored “The Condo Book,” the go-to guide for newbies and savvy investors.

Tax season may be over, but I’m staying on to complete a financial investigation and to learn more about audits and formal financial reviews. It’s always a good sign when my colleagues relish coffee and snacks as much as I do. And, my tax director and supervisors are patient and funny. Three other PSU accounting students intern with me, so I lean on them for accounting insights.

What advice do you have for prospective graduate business students who are interested in your field?

Come to campus to visit and participate with a campus tour, even if you are interested in an online program. Being on campus gives you insight into the culture and values of the community. The online Master of Taxation program fosters students having a career and family.

The Business School and its ambassadors welcome any interested students. Do talk with a professor, academic advisor, or admissions officer. Most professors mentor students, so that is key to your engagement and success.

What inspires you?

My unofficial motto is never stagnate. And it’s corny but true that the students in the Master of Taxation program inspire me. They are amazing — graduating in one year, working full time, being a parent and studying for CPA exams. Some even go through this program with a new baby or a toddler.

My PSU professors are equally amazing and compassionate. Besides knowing so much about their fields, world travels, and people in general, they are dedicated to public education. Nowadays, public education is so vilified, especially campuses like PSU that welcome single parents and students on financial aid.

What are your future goals?

I’m taking a break to visit Seoul and hopefully Tokyo. I’ll be rooting for Tiger Woods at the US Open at Pebble Beach. Then back to studying, as I hope to pass the IRS Enrolled Agent exams. Right now, I don’t have enough accounting courses to sit for the CPA exams, but you never know down the road.

And it’s corny but true that the students in the Master of Taxation program inspire me. They are amazing — graduating in one year, working full time, being a parent and studying for CPA exams. Some even go through this program with a new baby or a toddler.

Student ambassador spotlight: Rachel Mattenberger

Rachel Mattenberger

Program Name: MBA
Year of Graduation: 2019
Program Schedule: Full Time

What is your background?

My background is in the transportation sector. I hold a BA in Spanish from the University of Oregon as well as an MS in Transportation Technology and Policy from UC Davis. I spent the first five years of my career managing sustainable commuter programs for Stanford University, where I collaborated across departments such as HR and procurement, managed vendor relationships, and supervised administrative staff for program development and implementation. Following my move to Portland in 2015, I led business development and collaborated closely with marketing and strategy teams at a commuter rideshare startup. Through that experience, I saw an opportunity to leverage the private sector to advance sustainability, and this is what led me to The Portland MBA.

How has your experience been at The School of Business at Portland State?

My experience with The Portland MBA has provided me with a unique perspective around sustainability in business. A strong sustainability orientation is embedded into the core curriculum of the program in a way that is unparalleled in other MBA programs. Almost every class has incorporated engaging conversations around stakeholder theory and the evolving role of sustainability in capitalism. I have had plenty of opportunities to apply these theories around corporate sustainability outside the classroom.

What is B Impact and how you are involved in the PSU chapter?

B Impact is a free consulting service for companies engaged in the B Corp certification or re-certification process. The program is a project of PSU’s Net Impact chapter and operates with the support of Impact Entrepreneurs. Clients of the B Impact program are matched with teams of two to four graduate students, and these teams work with the clients to develop a path to fulfill the 80 points necessary for a B Corp certification. The teams research and recommend process and system improvements, compile necessary documentation, and prepare their clients for the final assessment.

I participated in the B Impact program as a consultant during my first year of The Portland MBA. I had the opportunity to support Brew Dr. Kombucha and Roam Oatmeal on their journeys toward certification. In my second year, I stepped up to codirect the program with fellow B Corp enthusiast, Jacob Taddy. He and I are working to establish a more robust framework for tracking program metrics and capturing client testimonials. I’m looking forward to handing off the program to next year’s leadership team and seeing how it continues to grow and evolve.

Will you continue to be involved with the B Corp movement after you graduate?

Yes. I feel so fortunate to have been able to tap into the growing energy around the B Corp movement within the Portland business community. My involvement with B Impact led to a capstone consulting project with B Local PDX and a position on the B Corp Leadership Development 2019 conference committee. In the future, I hope to continue contributing to the B Corp community either in a leadership position within a B Corp or as a consultant. I plan to do some consulting work over the summer and take a little space from academia before deciding what’s next for me in my career.

What inspires you?

I am inspired by imagining what’s possible. I see climate change as the defining issue of our time, not just because we’re on the brink of catastrophe, but because we are presented with a unique opportunity for humanity to work together to confront a shared challenge. If we could overcome our differences and harness our collective potential, we could do great things together. That’s the vision that inspires me and gives me hope.

What advice do you have for prospective graduate business students who are interested in your field?

Just go for it! There is never a “perfect” time to go back to school, and it can feel daunting to try to find the time to do your research and submit your applications. But once you start the process of thinking through your motivations and connecting with others about the process, it gets so much easier. You’ll learn a lot about yourself in the journey and those first steps that seem so intimidating will ultimately pay off.

My experience with The Portland MBA has provided me with a unique perspective around sustainability in business. A strong sustainability orientation is embedded into the core curriculum of the program in a way that is unparalleled in other MBA programs.

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