I’m a misfit and that’s okay: Inspiration from Alexa Clay on lessons learned from misfit subcultures

As a recent alum of The Portland MBA and staff member of Portland State’s graduate business programs, I got to attend PSU’s 2020 Elevating Impact Summit: The Edge Effect. This annual summit is a convergence of changemakers from the social and environmental sectors who are passionate about innovation and entrepreneurship, and want to make positive differences in their communities. The programming consists of back-to-back presentations, a pitch event, tabling by changemaking organizations, networking, good food and interactive artistic experiences.  I was especially moved by ethnographer Alexa Clay’s presentation on misfit economies, “Learning Innovation from Pirates, Hackers, and Other Informal Entrepreneurs.”

Inspired by Misfits

Alexa Clay

Alexa Clay, author of The Misfit Economy, gave her presentation on the potential and value of innovations created by misfits. She gave examples of gangs who created the concept of franchising, the porn industry leading to the birth of online video streaming and pirates developing economic structures for equal pay.

As I listened to Clay speak about the contributions that misfits have made to innovations that are now ubiquitous, I was awestruck by how people who were shunned by society had the drive and entrepreneurial spirit to create new systems that worked for their peers and commonly enabled their survival. Through her framing, Clay spun the oppression created by dominant cultural norms on its head, and gave misfits permission to own their power as innovators and positive changemakers.

Misfits and The Marissa Mission

When I was 20, I started volunteering for a program called The Marissa Mission (MM), which teaches bellydance and yoga to teens. A few years later, I took over as executive director. The students who came to MM typically stayed with us for years, and we saw incredible levels of personal and social transformation among them. Our visibility grew each year as we performed and forged partnerships with other organizations that serve young women, such as Girls Inc., Betties 360 and Girls Scouts of the Pacific Northwest. As we started serving more young women from increasingly diverse backgrounds, our students started asking harder questions, such as which genders we should include in our program and how to address the cultural appropriation of bellydance and world music. Additionally, we felt like the stigma and misconception that bellydance is a sexualized performance created friction that kept us from reaching more young women. Concurrently, members from the the expansive bellydance community in Portland were holding discussions about the oversexualization of the artform, and how bellydance had been appropriated by white women in the U.S. We ultimately decided to go on hiatus in 2017 because of these tensions, but I still continue to receive inquiries from past students, parents and community members asking when The Marissa Mission will return.

Rachel Shelton belly dancing.
Rachel Shelton, MBA ’19

I decided I had more to learn about managing a nonprofit, so I enrolled in the Public Administration and Nonprofit Management Certificate program at PSU. During the program, I learned how similar nonprofits are to for-profit businesses, that they need strong community support to survive and are increasingly dependent on earned revenue, in addition to donations and grants. Feeling like there was still much to be learned, I enrolled in The Portland MBA. I’m glad I did because the program helped me continue to grow my network in Portland, strengthen my leadership skills and give me a new point of view on earned income strategies that make positive social impacts. However, I found myself laughing nervously every time I told my professors and classmates about my background of teaching girls to bellydance. Here I was among financial analysts, supply chain professionals, and corporate managers; internally I felt like I was a long way from my cultural peers.

As I listened to Clay’s presentation, it dawned on me that I am an entrepreneurial misfit. The friction and complexities that I was facing at MM were not signals to stop, but catalysts to grapple with them more deeply and continue to innovate. Clay’s presentation inspired me to apply for a grant to hire dancers from a variety of disciplines to incubate and cultivate the community impact MM was built on and develop the mission to scale further.


Rachel Shelton

Rachel Shelton is Lead Ambassador for Portland State’s Graduate Business Programs and Operations Associate for the Women’s Venture Capital Fund. She earned her MBA from PSU in 2019, and is passionate about helping businesses make positive social and environmental impacts.

As I listened to Clay speak about the contributions that misfits have made to innovations that are now ubiquitous, I was awestruck by how people who were shunned by society had the drive and entrepreneurial spirit to create new systems that worked for their peers and commonly enabled their survival.

Portland State Graduate Finance Students Excel at Regional Case Competitions

PSU MSF Candidates at the ACG Cup

The School of Business at Portland State University recently celebrated a second-place finish in the Portland CFA Institute Research Challenge and advancement to the semifinals at the ACG Cup Northwest.

Supported by PSU finance professors Michael DimondPiman Limpaphayom and Tony TursichMaster of Science in Finance (MSF) candidates Magali Davila Centeno, Tze Ken Teoh and Jose Bracho Zabala earned second-place honors in the Portland CFA Institute Research Challenge, an annual competition that supports students from around the world in financial analysis. Students work in teams to research and analyze a publicly traded company, and then present a research report with a recommendation to buy, sell or hold.

The CFA Institute Research Challenge brings together over 6,000 students from 1,000 different universities worldwide, in addition to over 150 CFA member societies and 4,000 member volunteers.

PSU’s team began to prepare early in the fall term, researching their assigned company, Schnitzer Steel Industries. According to Centeno, “The competition began by attending a luncheon to meet the other competing schools. We also attended an investor presentation at Schnitzer Steel’s headquarters downtown. During this presentation, we had the chance to ask questions about the company and industry to aid in our research and analysis.”

From there, the team met on a regular basis, utilizing the Bloomberg Finance Lab to support their research. Each team member took on a different part of the analysis and research. “As the competition approached, we met more often and had regular meetings with Professor Dimond every Friday morning to discuss our progress and any questions we had,” added Centeno. “We also met with Tony Tursich, who provided feedback on our written report and presentation.”

As a mentor to the team, Tursich provided feedback and suggestions and was there on the day of the competition to provide support. “My job was to provide a ‘real world’ industry perspective as the students’ work progressed and evolved into the final written report and presentation for the competition,” said Tursich.

In their report and presentation, the team recommended a sell position. Centeno said this was “based on various revenue risks we observed, including the effect of Coronavirus, emerging markets, imbalance of global supply and demand for recycled steel scrap and declining global steel scrap prices. Our target price at the time of the competition was $16.08.”

On March 6, MSF candidates Anna Mar, Anh Huynh, Thanh Nguyen and Andrew Clarkson competed at the ACG Cup Northwest. PSU Academic Director Daniel Wong and CFA Jake Shafer helped coach the team throughout the competition.

The ACG Cup is a case study competition where students tackle a real-world finance issue in a high-pressure setting. According to ACG Cup organizers, “After the teams analyze the case and agree upon a course of action, the students make presentations to a panel of judges comprised of successful corporate executives in the field of finance.”

The PSU team asked to analyze LaLuche, a Mediterranean restaurant chain. In the case, the team learned the company was adding plant-based protein to their menu and was experiencing challenges with internal management and leadership. Cliff Capital was attempting to buy LaLuche, but LaLuche leadership was considering the purchase of a small restaurant chain named Blue Moon to expand the business, leveraging the existing LaLuche supply chain.

According to Thanh Nguyen, the team’s recommendation was “to purchase Blue Moon with 40% equity and 60% debt. We will negotiate with Cliff Capital for the 40% equity fund.”

This was the fourth year of the competition, which includes both undergraduate and graduate students from universities across Oregon and Washington. This year, first place went to Seattle University.

“We all have an interest in finance, some of us want to go into corporate finance and others want to pursue security analysis,” said Centeno. “Competing in case competitions helps us work on teamwork and supports the learning outcomes and career goals of graduate business students, providing opportunities to practice tangible finance skills and work in a collaborative team.” 

The School of Business at Portland State University recently celebrated a second-place finish in the Portland CFA Institute Research Challenge and advancement to the semifinals at the ACG Cup Northwest.

Careers in consulting: A recap

By Catherine Parkay

Last week, The Gunter Group joined a panel of management consultants to speak to a group of Portland State University business students. We owe much of our success to the encouragement of mentors over the years, so we welcome any chance to pay it forward. The future business leaders and problem solvers we met at PSU represented an impressive and thoughtful group of engaged and motivated students. For those unable to attend, we wanted to capture some of the themes and advice from the panel and invite ongoing discussion with anyone considering a career in consulting.

It Depends

The panel’s response to several questions was a resounding, “It depends!” As consultants, we sometimes chuckle at this answer because we share a common challenge of trying to explain what we do when it can be different things  from day to day. “It depends” points to one of a consultant’s most essential skills – adaptability. From the solutions we propose and the methodologies we employ to the language we use and the tasks on our to-do list, consultants must be able to think on their feet, read the room, and simultaneously hold theoretical best practices and practical realities in mind at all times.

How can burgeoning consultants develop this seemingly ephemeral skill set? Experience. 

Put yourself in situations that stretch your ability to lead a team, resolve conflict, apply data insights, and generally experiment. The world is your laboratory and you needn’t wait until you land your first formal consulting engagement to practice. Principal consultant, Matt Bader, shared how his military and athletic experiences prepared him for consulting more than anything else in his background. Consider hobbies, sports, volunteer work, and other extracurriculars not as boxes to check on a future resume but as playgrounds to gather lessons learned and examples to illustrate your ability to deliver on the job. Perhaps keep a list of these anecdotes and map them to the core competencies and strengths you most want demonstrate and practice talking about the value of these experiences.

Work & Life

The world of consulting is known for at times brutal hours and intense client demands. While the panel confirmed that client delivery is always top priority, they also shared how they approach work as part of a meaningful and enjoyable life. 

The notion of “work/life balance” is a bit misleading. Work comprises such a large percent of our adult life; the lucky among us are able to spend those hours in ways we enjoy with a sense of camaraderie that is not separate from but a part of life. Work/life integration is a more useful way to think about any career, especially consulting.

At The Gunter Group, we view our work as vehicles to build great lives for ourselves and our families. Yes, we love to work hard and deliver outstanding results – that’s part of who we are. The opportunity to serve others, solve challenging problems, and see the positive impact of our work in our own community drives us; so too does the ability to pick up the kids, step away for a family emergency, and take that vacation sooner than later.

Over time, the hours will ebb and flow but they always even out. Our ability to sustain our best effort over long periods of time enables us to show up at our best. The cumulative gains of steady, consistent, and sustainable effort are much greater than grinding away without any rest. Like an elite athlete, rest becomes just as, if not more, important than intense training. In our line of work a relaxed and open mindset facilitates creativity, curiosity, and flexibility that fuels our best work.

Most B-schools fail to equip students with the skills or perspective needed to manage their energy and build the mental and physical resilience to sustain decades of work. How you tackle assignments and manage commitments in school builds the habits you’ll bring to the workplace. Practice now how you want to show up for your life and living in alignment with your values. Increasingly, employers like us recognize the value of employees who thrive in this way. They are the colleagues we most enjoy working with, the consultants our clients trust and adore, and the employees who grow into the leaders our business needs tomorrow.

The Dreaded Case Study

Whether part of a class assignment or interview process, several students expressed concern about facing the business cases or whiteboard sessions so notorious in the consulting world. The entire panel unanimously said the most important thing is to remember there is never any one right answer. Case studies reveal how someone thinks and communicates – are they systematic and deliberate or do they struggle to conceptualize a clear process in the midst of ambiguity? Can they adapt to the personalities and balance competing priorities or do they blindly prescribe tools without considering the people who will use them?

One of our non-negotiables at The Gunter Group is “thrives in ambiguity” which often means stepping into apparent chaos and creating order for a client. One of the worst ways to approach a case study is with a one-size-fits-all approach or trying to be the smartest person in the room. It is possible to go through the motions of Agile or PROSCI and get to the end to find that key stakeholders are caught off guard by the end result, sending you back to the beginning and costing a client precious time and money. You might be a genius who proposes an elaborate plan that no one else can understand, let alone implement. Sometimes common sense is the best way to add value.

Think of any scenario as real people who need guidance to solve a problem. How will you know you’re asking the right questions, involving the right people, providing the right level of information at the right time, and marking progress? Even in highly technical environments, the amount of time spent flexing technical skills is relatively small. Success in any arena hinges on the ability to understand and manage people so think like a human being first before turning to anything from a textbook.

We hope these highlights from the panel serve to inspire and prepare some of our future colleagues. We’re always looking for talented people to join our team and welcome the chance to answer questions about our work.

Reach out today if you’re interested in learning more and would like access to the full panel on video recording.

This is a repost of an article written by Catherine Parkay of The Gunter Group. You can access the original post by clicking here or visiting guntergroupconsulting.com.

By Catherine Parkay Last week, The Gunter Group joined a panel of management consultants to speak to a group of Portland State University business students. We owe much of our success to the encouragement of mentors over the years, so we welcome any chance to pay it forward. The future business leaders and problem solvers... Continue Reading →

How PSU students help companies get acknowledged for their social and environmental impacts

B Impact members talking at the Fall 2019 kick off event

As part of its commitment to sustainability, The School of Business partners with B Lab, a non-profit organization in charge of assessing corporations that want to become Certified B Corporations, a prestigious distinction that reflects a company’s passion for social and environmental sustainability. According to B Lab, B Corps (as the certified companies are called) “meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose.” Currently, there are 2,500 B Corps globally, including 129 in Oregon.

Becoming certified is an involved process. Companies must complete a rigorous assessment that evaluates their performance on a wide variety of environmental and social factors, including carbon footprint, employee wellness and charitable donations. Businesses must reach 80 points to obtain certification, and it’s common for companies to spend multiple years trying to reach that benchmark.

That’s where The School of Business come in. B Impact, PSU’s chapter of Net Impact, teams up with companies going through the certification process. Assuming the role of consultants, students meet organizations where they are in the process, and help them move forward. Businesses applying for initial certification might need assistance getting acquainted with the assessment or gauging where they currently stand in meeting the standards. Companies hoping to recertify —which is required every three years — often have a specific focus in-mind, such as supply chain.

For the fall 2019 term, B Impact students are serving a diverse company cohort that includes Laughing Planet, Wild Roots, Pacific Foods, Scout Books, Passage Immigration Law, Osom Brand, Modernist Financial and Stash Tea Company. Some of these companies are pursuing certification for the first time, while others are going through the recertification process. Students will meet with these companies at regular intervals until the spring to help them secure their certification.

MBA Candidate Matthew Gibbs

The partnership between a company and its student consultants is mutually beneficial. Matthew Gibbs, (MBA ’20) one of B Impact’s student leaders, explains that the consulting experience helps students gain important communication and client management skills, and creates valuable networking opportunities within the Portland business community. “Becoming a part of the network is such a great tool,” Gibbs contends, “because the community is tight-knit, but open to others.” For companies, Gibbs believes electing to go through the certification process should be an easy choice. “Customer demand is asking for transparent supply chains,” as well as “[better] treatment of people and the environment.”

Customer attitudes are indeed shifting. A recent Mintel survey revealed that 44% of millennial consumers (now the largest living generational demographic in the U.S.) said that they are more likely to support a company that has eco-friendly practices, and 58% said it’s important that businesses treat their employees fairly. Researchers concluded, “Brands that can highlight fairness at all levels of the supply chain might be rewarded as consumers prioritize spending toward brands that share their values.” Companies pursuing B Corp certification have taken this shift seriously, and are transforming their practices to improve their social and environmental impacts.are acting accordingly. B Impact positions students at PSU’s School of Businessat the forefront of this movement, offering valuable consulting experience in the process.

You can network with Oregon’s B Corp community and get involved by following, B Local PDX, by signing up for its newsletter.

If you’re a current student interested in participating in B Impact in spring 2020, email the student leadership team at bimpact@pdx.edu.

As part of its commitment to sustainability, The School of Business partners with B Lab, a non-profit organization in charge of assessing corporations that want to become Certified B Corporations, a prestigious distinction that reflects a company’s passion for social and environmental sustainability.

Event announcement: Open for Business

PSU Open for Business ad

The School of Business collaborates with Portland State’s Queer Resource Center to host an annual networking event for Portland’s LGBTQ community called Open for Business. The mission of this event is to serve and support LGBTQ leaders, professionals and community members through a forum on the social, environmental and economic business solutions central to the Portland community and beyond. We take pride in our inclusive and diverse student body, Portland State University ranked in the top 11 best colleges for queer women.

The theme for this year’s event is inclusive urban growth, addressing the future of housing, development and real estate in Portland. Lukas Robuck, an MBA alum and member of the event planning committee shared how the theme was chosen: “We approach committee meetings through the lens of equity and inclusion, choosing events that are timely and relevant to our community. As a community, we have the ability to set an example for other cities that are also facing pivotal moments in their urban growth. Through this event, we will be ethically addressing gentrification and displacement in urban areas.”

This year’s event will facilitate a greater opportunity for open dialogue by allocating more time for Q&A and networking. Robuck explains that the committee has a unique way of selecting panelists, including professionals from multiple perspectives of the urban development and growth topic. This year’s panelists are Reyna Gillet, cameron whitten and Percy Wise. Our hosts for the evening will be Miles Allen and Gavin D’Avanther.


Panelists

Reyna Gillet
Reyna Gillet
Organizer at Neighborhood Partnerships

Reyna Gillet has been an activist and organizer for two decades. She started grassroots organizing around homeless issues while still in high school, and then later moved into labor organizing. Now Reyna works to engage Oregon residents of affordable housing communities to have their voices heard at the legislative level. Working with the Oregon Housing Alliance, a coalition of 90 different organizations who believe every Oregonian should have a safe, stable, affordable place to call home, has been empowering, and they have seen first-hand how organized people can win over organized money.  Meeting people with lived experience across the state, has furthered Reyna’s commitment to social justice and fighting for equitable outcomes.When not working, they like to explore Forest Park where the fire lanes intersect and you can get great views of the St. Johns bridge.


Cameron Whitten
cameron whitten
Executive Director of the Q Center

cameron whitten is a proud, 28-year-old, queer and black activist who has lived in Portland since 2009. They first arrived in Portland as a homeless youth, and their drive for self and community improvement led them to become a prominent civic entrepreneur, storyteller, and community advocate. They have almost a decade of leadership with nonprofit, civic, and political causes, such as Occupy Portland, Know Your City, and Portland’s Resistance. cameron currently serves as the Executive Director of Q Center and as the Lead Advocate of Brown Hope.

Favorite Portland gem: Personal memories


Percy Wise
Percy Wise
Senior Loan Officer at Two Rivers Mortgage

Percy Wise is an independent residential mortgage broker with Two Rivers Mortgage, LLC where he helps people buy and refinance homes.

He is a graduate of Lewis and Clark Law School and was one of the first transgender attorneys admitted to the Oregon State Bar. He serves on the OSB Diversity Section Executive Committee and is the co-chair and co-founder of the Oregon Trans Law Caucus.  He regularly trains attorneys and real estate professionals on concepts of transgender competency, LGBT population demographics, and LGBT and racial wealth and housing disparities.

Favorite Portland gem: The Columbia and Willamette river floating home communities.


Hosts

Miles Allen
Miles Allen
Associate Director of Partnership at Friends of the Children 

Miles Allen is a transgender man with a passion for helping the LGBTQ community in Portland. He has been working with youth in the in various capacities for 10 years. After graduating from University of Oregon with a Bachelor’s degree in History and Political science, Miles went on to become a teacher. He received his MEd from Portland State University in 2010. Miles worked in the Parkrose School District and then move into the non profit world by becoming a Professional Mentor at Friends of the Children Portland. Miles had the privilege of being a mentor to youth experiencing significant barriers to success for 5 years and was then promoted to Program Manager. Miles is now working as an Associate Director of Partnerships at Friends-Portland and is also a second year MBA candidate at Portland State. In his free time; Miles plays with his cats, hikes in the gorge, watches Baseball, and spends time with his friends and family. 


Gavin D'Avanther
Gavin D’Avanther
Senior Business Advisor at Livelihood NW

Gavin D’Avanther has been with the Livelihood NW (formerly the PSU Business Outreach Program) for 7 years. At Livelihood NW, our mission is to foster business sustainability and growth for historically under-served entrepreneurs within local communities. We provide exceptional business development support services to promote lifelong learning, empowerment, and positive economic impact. Gavin provides one-on-one business support and facilitates various community workshops. Gavin has worked with over 100 small local businesses in a wide range of industries, from food makers to leather workers to tree trimmers, supporting them to grow their business skills and their dreams. “Every Entrepreneur has to continually expand their mental tool box in order to keep growing their businesses.”

Gavin also provides private consulting through her own business, Flying Squirrel Consulting Partners, LLC.

A lifelong Girl Scout, Gavin is a lover of wild things and places, a gardener, a parent of both 2- and 4-legged children, and shows a strong preference for cooking over an open flame.


Robuck is involved in Open for Business because they are an advocate for “helping people reach their dreams.” They first became involved with Open for Business during their time as a graduate student at The School of Business, explaining that they chose The Portland MBA for the diversity of the student body, stating that “the class profile is comprised of more women than any other MBA program in Oregon.” After being enticed by the programs diversity, they were sold on the Certificate in Social Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship.

The Portland MBA led them to start their own business with their partner, a retail plant shop named Stingray Botanicals in Eugene, Oregon opening within the next six to eight months. This shop will provide employment opportuntities for the LGBTQ community with livable wages and usable healthcare benefits with low deductibles. Robuck explained that they grew up in an intolerant region, and in high school plants served as a respite from the negativity around their sexual orientation and gender identity.“I want to share this message and use plants to help others heal.” Join Lukas Robuck, the panelists and the Portland LGBTQ community for Open for Business on Thursday, October 10th. 


Interested in getting involved in PSU’s LGBTQ community? Learn about upcoming events and news through PSU’s Queer Resource Center.

Follow Stingray Botanicals on Instagram at @stingraybotanicals.

The mission of this event is to serve and support LGBTQ leaders, professionals and community members through a forum on the social, environmental and economic business solutions central to the Portland community and beyond.

Students take their business idea to the Oregon New Venture Championship

Graduate business students Sky Curtis (MIM), Matthew Mellinger (MBA), Qiwu Zhu (MSF/MBA) and Tracy Burridge (MBA) took their business idea, HeatBuddy, a vent attachment to create your own personal hotspot to the Oregon New Venture Championship (NVC). The NVC is an annual six-round graduate student business competition held at the University of Oregon Lundquist College of Business. The NVC has a mission to educate, inspire and empower future entrepreneurs. This interview with HeatBuddy founders covers the inspiration for their product and how The School of Business aided in their success:

PSU Graduate School of Business students and founders of HeatBuddy at NVC
(From left) Sky Curtis (MIM), Tracy Burridge (MBA), Qiwu Zhu (MSF/MBA) and Matthew Mellinger (MBA) holding HeatBuddy at the New Venture Championship trade show.

Where did the idea for HeatBuddy begin?

Our idea for HeatBuddy originated from an idea Matt had as a child. On cold mornings, Matt would race to the heat register to find the quick satisfaction and comfort that only a heat vent can bring. However, the heat vent was never located in a convenient location when it came to breakfast or wanting a little boost of heat on the couch or bed. After identifying the need, we did a little do-it-yourself home depot engineering and competitor research, and we realized that this could be an invention we could feasibly bring to market to make something simple even better.

HeatBuddy Prototype
A prototype of HeatBuddy, a simple addition to your vent that brings soothing heat through a retractable hose to improve your heating experience.

What was the biggest challenge you encountered during development?

There are many challenges we have encountered and still are working through. They vary from safety, demand, logistics, materials, to being taken seriously!  

How was your experience at the New Venture Championship?

We are incredibly grateful for the opportunity to attend NVC. We tip our hats to all the competitors we faced. We gained incredible insight, advice, and encouragement on how to move forward with our business.

In what ways was The School of Business helpful in facilitating the success of your company?

We owe a huge thank you to Bill Newman and Charla Mathwick, our advisors, who helped us every step of the way. Without their teachings and advice, we would not have made it as far as we have in only a couple months.

What’s the future for HeatBuddy?

We are planning on raising money and testing marketing validation with our Kickstarter this summer! We will still be developing our product everyday. If you want to stay updated on our progress, you can find us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @heatbuddyvent or visit our website at heat2you.com. We have a sign-up sheet for alerts about our Kickstarter.

Our idea for HeatBuddy originated from an idea Matt had as a child. On cold mornings, Matt would race to the heat register to find the quick satisfaction and comfort that only a heat vent can bring.

MIM students complete Nike men’s running apparel capstone

MIM students at Nike for Men's Running Capstone
(From left) Eric Schindler (Nike), Charlie Yemm (Nike), Xue Leng (MIM), Lisha Li (MIM), Citlali Rodriguez (MIM), Gabrielle Walti (MIM), Kimberly Allchurch-Flick (Capstone Advisor), Allison Nopper (Nike) and Joshua Thorpe (Nike)

The capstone consulting project gives students the opportunity to work in small teams with a local, regional or international company to solve a meaningful problem. The capstone is part of the hands-on curriculum, and students commit hundreds of hours on the project over their last two terms. Master of International Management (MIM) students Xue (Iris) Leng, Lisha Li, Citlali Rodriguez and Gabrielle (Gabby) Walti advised Nike Men’s Running Apparel on succeeding in the Chinese market.

The scope

To begin, Nike provided an overview of the project and connected students with the key stakeholders involved. Then the students identified the scope of their project and worked with the Nike team and faculty advisor Kim Allchurch-Flick to finalize the parameters of the project. Because PSU is a third-party, students were not given access to Nike’s databases — instead they collected data from secondary resources and compiled these insights to provide recommendations.

The final deliverable

Months of late nights, team meetings at KMC and several hundred cups of coffee culminated in a concise yet effective 20 minute, four-slide presentation. The team shared their key findings and recommendations for Nike Men’s Running Apparel, then led a 40 minute discussion with 12 Nike executives of the Men’s Running division.

The valuable takeaways

When asked about the most valuable things learned from the project, team captain, Li responded, “I improved my leadership skills.As a team, we learned real-world business presentation skills to present our work to Nike. I anticipate this skill will come in handy in my career. We also learned lessons in teamwork — we had open team standards and clear duties — and he importance of understanding your audience.”

How the curriculum prepares students

The graduate business curriculum provides students with the academic experience and tools to take on a large-scale consulting project like this one. Li said,

“The whole MIM program is instrumental, however, public speaking, global strategy and marketing were especially beneficial. As part of the MIM program, we completed many team projects with team members who come from different countries and professional experiences, therefore, we knew how to work with a diverse group of people and kickoff the project effectively.”

The team also credited much of their success to Allchurch-Flick, who attended every Nike meeting with the team and provided direction for the team when necessary.

What’s next?

The Nike Men’s Running Apparel team is planning on implementing recommendations provided by the capstone team in entering the Chinese market. Li expressed how excited the team is about the result of this project. Since the content of the project is highly confidential, that’s all they can tell us for now! To learn more, we’ll just have to keep an eye on Nike Men’s Running Apparel and their global markets in the future.

Months of late nights, team meetings at KMC and several hundred cups of coffee culminated in a concise yet effective 20 minute, four-slide presentation. The team shared their key findings and recommendations for Nike Men’s Running Apparel, then led a 40 minute discussion with 12 Nike executives of the Men’s Running division.

MBA students win Propeller’s Case Hack Day

On Friday, May 1, MBA students Jason Bruderlin, Jesse Harding and Kaitlyn Rich won Propeller’s Case Hack Day. For the past two years, management consulting firm, Propeller Consulting has hosted a Case Hack Day — one in their San Francisco office and one here in Portland. At this event, graduate students from around the state work in teams to create an innovative solution to a business case.

PSU MBA students at Propeller's Case Hack Day 2019
(From left): Jason Brudelin (MBA), Tynan Gable (MBA – Willamette University), Kaitlyn Rich (MBA) and Jesse Harding (MBA) at Propeller’s Case Hack Day.

Cross-university collaboration

This year, 9 of the 18 students who participated were from Portland State University. Other participating schools included University of Oregon and Willamette University. Bruderlin, Harding and Rich worked with Tynan Gable, an MBA student from Willamette University. Rich described the event as a valuable chance to learn from other schools:

“It was a great opportunity to connect with MBA students from other programs, it helped me to see how other MBA programs are teaching problem solving and what pieces I could bring back to incorporate into my own studies. Also, everyone there was so smart and friendly. That gave me a lot of pride in our region’s business community.”

How the MBA curriculum prepares students

The School of Business leverages business cases and case studies across the graduate curriculum. Whether they be accounting cases in Managerial Accounting or marketing- focused cases in Pioneering Innovation, analyzing business cases equips our students with the skills necessary to critically evaluate a business or project and provide viable solutions.

Rainbow Farms, an upscale grocer

The case involved providing business solutions for Rainbow Farms, a fictitious upscale grocer facing challenges in adapting to trends in the grocery industry. These trends include the rise of meal kit services, superior technology and personalized shopping experiences.

Brian K. McCarthy, marketing and managerial communication instructor was in attendance at the event. He shared, “I was extremely impressed with the way the students worked with their teams to develop a solution to the challenging case study. The presentations to the panel of Propeller judges were clear, informative, and professionally presented.”

The solution

The team had four hours to become familiar with the problems in the case and develop a solution to present. When asked about how the team navigated this challenge, Harding said,

“I think the biggest challenges were not from the case itself. We had a small amount of time with a group that largely did not know one another. Creating an efficient and dynamic team under those circumstances is difficult and unlikely. I feel that we benefited greatly from the collective assertiveness and mutual respect we established from the very start. Having experienced and sharp-minded teammates made all the difference. I was very impressed with everyone in our group.”

Consulting as a future career path

The Portland MBA equips students with the necessary skills to pursue a career in consulting. We’ve witnessed many of our alums pursuing careers in management consulting after graduation. Rich and Harding are both interested in consulting as a career path – we’re excited to see where this may take them in the future!

The case involved providing business solutions for Rainbow Farms, a fictitious upscale grocer facing challenges in adapting to trends in the grocery industry. These trends include the rise of meal kit services, superior technology and personalized shopping experiences.

MSF students advanced to the CFA Institute Research Challenge in New York City

MSF students at CFA Institute Research Challenge in New York City
(From left) Duygu Nazlibilek (MSF), Travis Royce (BS, finance), Yuxuan Luo (MSF), Viet Tran (MSF) and Aaron Cole (BS, finance) at the Americas Regional CFA Institute Research Challenge in New York City.

Master of Science in Finance (MSF) students Yuxuan Luo, Duygu Nazlibilek and Viet Tran, and undergraduate finance students Aaron Cole and Travis Royce earned a place in the Americas Regional CFA Institute Research Challenge in New York City on April 23-24, 2019 after winning the Portland CFA Institute Research Challenge.

The Americas Regional CFA Institute Research Challenge

The Americas Regional CFA Institute Research Challenge is a regional competition that takes place annually, providing university students with hands-on mentoring and intensive training in financial analysis. Each research challenge season leverages the efforts of over 140 CFA member societies, 3,500 member volunteers, and more than 5,000 students from over 1,000 universities.

During the challenge, students work in teams to research and analyze a publicly traded company—Nike, in this case—and then create a research report with a buy, sell or hold recommendation. When asking Tran about the most valuable thing he learned, he responded, “For me, it was how to structure a perfect pitch/presentation. There are lots of aspects to consider including the balance of the content (business, finance, accounting, risk, etc.), appealing visualization and storytelling, communication skills and professionalism.”

How the MSF program prepares students to compete

PSU Finance Professor Michael Dimond coached the team with the support of fellow finance faculty Bruce Nisker. Tran attributed the team’s success to the rigorous curriculum and support from faculty, including MSF Academic Director, Julie Hackett who helped the team by organizing dry-runs prior to the New York City trip. Tran described how the MSF curriculum is extremely relevant:

“Three classes that helped me a lot with this competition were Investment Analysis & Portfolio Management (FIN 573), Financial Statement Analysis (ACTG 553) and Financial Management (FIN 513). They were helpful in providing the knowledge needed for this competition. Portfolio Management also gave me many opportunities to practice pitching and presentation skills in a professional manner.”

What’s next?

Luo, Nazlibilek and Tran are all graduating in spring 2019 and are eager to apply their finance skills in professional settings. Luo is interested in investment banking, corporate finance or venture capital jobs, while Tran is planning on interning in the financial services industry. We are proud of this important achievement and are excited to witness all the things they will accomplish in the finance world post-graduation!

During the challenge, students work in teams to research and analyze a publicly traded company—Nike, in this case—and then create a research report with a buy, sell or hold recommendation.

Create a website or blog at WordPress.com

Up ↑