Voyage, 2024 | CWU College of Business


FUTURES IN FOCUS Giving students an edge as they enter the workforce.

INSIDE CWU sets students up for success through real-world experiences

ON THE COVER Senior Lecturer Ana Tonseth, right, shares some wisdom with students Juan Vargas and Olaf Camacho.

Dear friends of the CWU College of Business, As we reflect on the achievements and milestones of our learners, it brings me immense pride to share the remarkable success stories in the CWU College of Business. The spirit of dedication, perseverance, and innovation that they embody is truly commendable. Throughout the year, our learners have engaged in transformative experiences, both inside and outside the classroom, leading to personal enrichment and professional growth. They have also demonstrated exceptional leadership qualities, an entrepreneurial spirit, and a commitment to making a positive impact in their respective fields. With learner success at the heart of our mission, our faculty and staff have played a crucial role in nurturing their talents and ambitions. Their unwavering support, mentorship, and commitment to academic and inclusive excellence contribute significantly to the overall success of our College of Business. As we celebrate the accomplishments of our learners, we also acknowledge the collaborative efforts of the entire College of Business community — faculty, staff, alumni, and industry partners. Together, we create an environment that fosters learning, creativity, and success. I extend my heartfelt congratulations to each one of our learners for their dedication and hard work. Your achievements are a testament to the quality education and opportunities provided by the College of Business. May your success inspire future generations of learners to reach new heights. Faiza Khoja

One of my goals in joining the council was to engage with students because sometimes, even the smallest thing can move them in a direction they hadn’t considered. The members of the Advisory Council have an opportunity to provide young people with the knowledge and experience we have gained, and potentially show them a path they didn’t know existed. I have found that this is one of the most rewarding aspects of my position. The Advisory Council has provided me and our other members with opportunities to help students achieve success, however they define it. I look forward to working with Dean Faiza Khoja as she builds on all of the success that Central enjoys. Her vision for the College of Business and its students is inspiring, and she will provide the foundation to take us to the next level. Julie Back

Building Pillars for Student Success

Hello Voyage readers! I am pleased to be starting my first year as the Chair of the College of Business Advisory Council. For the past five years, I have been honored to be a member of this great group of people who are committed to making the CWU College of Business a place that helps students build the foundation they need to take the next steps in their journey. I initially joined the board as a way to give back to a school that gave me so much. As a young student, I didn’t have a lot of guidance from my parents or high school counselors. But, sometimes, fate smiles and puts you in the place you are meant to be. Central provided me with the strong education and the skills necessary to create a fulfilling career.

COLLEGE OF BUSINESS VISION To provide a transformative educational experience that enables learners to achieve their personal and professional aspirations, contributing to building a sustainable and equitable future in a rapidly changing world.

Chair CWU College of Business Advisory Council

Dean CWU College of Business



> 45

SUCCESS RATE 82 % Employed, further studies, or volunteer/military Top Cities 1. Seattle 2. Ellensburg 3. Kent 4. Bellevue


What’s Inside



18-19  Alumni Support 20-21 S olving Real-World Problems

Student Snapshots

Voyage Magazine is an annual free publication. Issue date: April 2024. Address: College of Business Central Washington University

In 2023, the College of Business graduating class piloted the First Destination Survey in partnership with Career Services. The survey asked graduates to report back on their post-graduation status, noting everything from full-time careers to internships in their field. (Data based on a small sample of alumni responses.) > 45 1

12-17 Experiential Learning

College of Business 400 E University Way Ellensburg WA 98926-7487 © 2024 Central Washington University. All rights reserved. Views expressed in Voyage do not necessarily reflect official policy of Central Washington University. EDITORS Faiza Khoja, Dean, College of Business David Leder, University Relations CONTRIBUTORS Robin Burck (’17), Rune Torgersen (’19), Noah Annett and Ryan Moreno CREATIVE DIRECTOR Hayley Harrell GRAPHIC DESIGN Rosario Naranjo PHOTOGRAPHY David Dick (’97), University Relations Central Washington University is an EEO/AA/Title IX Institution. Alternative format: COMMENTS: UPDATE YOUR INFORMATION AT: or Office of Alumni Relations 400 E University Way Ellensburg WA 98926-7508 Email: Call: 509-963-2552 TELEPHONE: 509-963-2930

U.S Military/ Volunteer organization 2%

Seeking employment 18% 5. Everett 6. Tacoma 7. Yakima

Top Cities 1. Seattle 2. Ellensburg 3. Kent 4. Bellevue 5. Everett 6. Tacoma 7. Yakima Top Cities 1. Seattle 2. Ellensburg 3. Kent 4. Bellevue 5. Everett 6. Tacoma 7. Yakima SUCCESS RATE 82 % Employed, further studies, or volunteer/military Seeking employment 18%



$ 6

Graduate program 5% Continuing education 4%


Remote 9%


> 45

Hybrid 22% U.S Military/ Volunteer organization 2%

In-person 70%

SUCCESS RATE 82 % Employed, further studies, or volunteer/military

Employed part time 10%

Graduate program 5% Continuing education 4%

Remote 9% JOB MODALITY AVERAGE SALARY TOP 1. Cen 2. Cos 3. Boe 4. Nor 5. Bak 6. Ente In-person 70% $ 61 K Employed full time 61% Employed part time 10%

U.S Military/ Volunteer organization 2% U.S Military/ Volunteer organization 2% Hybrid 22%

SUCCESS RATE 82 % Employed, further studies, or volunteer/military SUCCESS RATE 82 % Employed, further studies, or volunteer/military

Seeking employment 18% Seeking employment 18%

7. Her 8. Mos 9. Sun

Graduate program 5% Continuing education 4% Remote 9% Continuing education 4% Graduate program 5%


Employed full time 61% $ 61 K Employed full time 61%

1. Central Washington University 2. Costco Wholesale 3. Boeing 4. Northwestern Mutual

Employed part time 10% Employed part time 10%

Hybrid 22%

5. Baker Tilly 6. Enterprise 7. Heritage Bank 8. Moss Adams 9. Suncadia

In-person 70%

CWU is proud to be accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), with only 6% of business schools earning this distinction globally.


$ 61 K $ 61 K


Remote 9%

1. Central Washington University 2. Costco Wholesale 3. Boeing 4. Northwestern Mutual 1. Central Washington University 2. Costco Wholesale 3. Boeing 4. Northwestern Mutual


Remote 9%

Hybrid 22%

5. Baker Tilly 6. Enterprise 7. Heritage Bank 8. Moss Adams 9. Suncadia 5. Baker Tilly 6. Enterprise 7. Heritage Bank 8. Moss Adams 9. Suncadia Karmelle Richards

In-person 70%

Hybrid 22%

In-person 70%

Julie Back

David Cobia

John Delaney

Andy Juarez

Jordon Kehus

Ryan Landon

Tommy Leong

Mike Luckenbaugh

Brandy Peters-Mayer

Nhan Pham

Steve Ricco

Jenn Schwope

Stacy Short

Julie Back, Chair CWU alumna, Senior Vice President at Wealthspire Advisors. David Cobia Principal at Clifton Larson Allen who has been providing auditing, accounting, and consulting services for more than 20 years.

John Delaney CWU Distinguished alumni who has served as President and CEO of CentralBanc Mortgage for 35 years. Andy Juarez Vice President of Operations for Litehouse Foods, with 24 years of experience in engineering and operations.

Jordon Kehus CWU alumnus, Vice President at Alliant Insurance Services. Ryan Landon CWU alumnus, business unit leader for Philips, with 30 years of management experience. Tommy Leong Recently retired after a 30-year career specializing in accounting, corporate finance, and treasury.

Mike Luckenbaugh CWU alumnus who manages sales, recruiting, and administration teams. Brandy Peters-Mayer CWU alumna, Senior Program Manager at Microsoft in networking infrastructure. Nhan Pham CWU alumnus, Senior Manager for Boeing’s Raw Materials organization.

Steve Ricco Enjoyed a 30-year career with PEMCO-affiliated companies, working in banking, insurance, and more. Karmelle Richards CWU alumna who now serves as the Controller at Tree Top Inc.

Jenn Schwope CWU alumna who leads human resources for Industry Solutions Engineering at Microsoft. Stacy Short CWU alumna who now works as the Vice President of Quality and Value-Based Solutions at Columbia Basin Health Association.





hen life presents you with a challenge, what matters most is how you respond. For some, it’s easier to just accept your fate and surrender to the adversity you’ve been dealt. But others, like CWU junior Adrian Rodriguez, refuse to roll over. They keep fighting until they find a solution. “After the first year of the pandemic, I was close to being homeless,” Rodriguez said, explaining that he couldn’t return to his parents’ home in Vancouver because his mom was immunocompromised. “I made my way back to Ellensburg and started working in construction. Fortunately, my boss at the time let me stay in his shop. It wasn’t heated and it didn’t have a bathroom, but it was a place to stay.” With an uncertain future, Rodriguez was forced to temporarily pause his education so he could earn enough money to live. He landed an apartment and found a job as an intake specialist with Prestige Post-Acute and Rehab Center in Ellensburg. A year later, he earned a promotion to his current position as a manager of staffing, scheduling, and patient transportation. But something was missing from Rodriguez’s life; he still wanted to pursue a degree. So, he told the company that he would like to enroll in business classes at Central while still working full time, and his supervisors were all in. “My bosses have been great,” said Rodriguez, a first- generation college student who started out in the CWU sports medicine program in 2019. “They let me go in for a couple hours early in the morning, then go to class from W

9 to 12, and then come back and work until 6. Then I go home and do homework and do it all over again the next day.” His schedule can be grueling at times, but everything is coming together. “I’ve had to sell some things along the way, but I’ve been keeping up pretty well,” said Rodriguez, a business administration major with a specialization in supply chain management. Thanks to the on-the-job experience he has gained at Prestige, he is also pursuing a minor in human resources management. Rodriguez feels like he owes a debt of gratitude to his employer for helping him stay on his feet while continuing his education. “Before I got this job, I thought I was going to call it quits,” he said. “I’ve had to grow up pretty quick over the past few years, but I finally feel like I’m on the right track.” As much as Rodriguez has enjoyed working at Prestige the past three years, he doesn’t plan to stay in the health care field. He envisions a future where he can help people in other ways. “I’m hoping to join the Peace Corps after I graduate,” he said. “There are a lot of opportunities to help in Puerto Rico and Mexico — where my parents grew up — and I could see myself going to both places if I have the time and the means.” Depending on how far his Peace Corps journey takes him, Rodriguez may try living abroad, using his CWU education to make the world a better place. “I just want to take all of the things I’ve learned at Central and apply them in different places around the world,” he said. “I’m really passionate about doing volunteer work, and I feel like I need to follow that path in some way.”

Our students come from a variety of backgrounds, and they’re all here with the same goal: to become versatile professionals who are well prepared to contribute in the 21st century marketplace. We have athletes, first- generation students, non-traditional learners, military members, and many more — even former refugees, as you will read in these pages. Discover who makes up the diverse cross-section of students in the College of Business.

I’m hoping to join the Peace Corps after I graduate. There are a lot of opportunities to help in Puerto Rico and Mexico — where my parents grew up — and I could see myself going to both places if I have the time and the means. —Adrian Rodriguez





W hen Hannah Stires first arrived at CWU in the fall of 2020, she figured she would pursue a degree in elementary education. After all, Central is known as one of the best teaching schools around. But after she took a few business classes for general education credits, the native of Nine Mile Falls decided to shift her focus and pursue a degree in business administration, specializing in finance. “It’s completely different than what

amount, it’s far more valuable than if you wait to invest it later, she advises. “The best thing I have learned in my CWU classes is that the long term is much more important than what you have now,” Stires said. “Financial advising isn’t just about managing money; it’s about giving your clients confidence that, even if they don’t know where to begin, there are people who can help.” Stires credits Edward Jones Financial Advisor Dave Fiske (’97 and ’99) with opening her eyes to how rewarding a career in personal finance can be. Fiske is a longtime volleyball program donor who has inspired Stires and her peers to consider the benefits of his field. She also appreciates College of Business professors Bill Provaznik and Thanh Nguyen for giving her the confidence she needed to keep going. Most of all, she owes a debt of gratitude to CWU volleyball coach Mario Andaya for unlocking her potential as a player and as a person. “I can’t thank him enough for giving me the opportunity to earn a college degree,” Stires said. “I never even knew I would have that chance because I didn’t know that I could afford college without a scholarship. He’s an amazing person, and the courage and confidence he has instilled in me is something I hope I can repay someday.”

ecil Samson has accomplished a lot in a short amount of time, and he plans to keep pushing himself once he completes his

“That was my favorite job with the DOH because it was so high-level,” Samson said. “We were working with state legislators and federal government officials on a daily basis to help the public understand vaccination policies. It was really important work.” From there, he joined the workforce support team for vaccination programs before assuming his current role with the Care-A-Van mobile vaccination team. He and his colleagues travel around the state every week to provide a variety of vaccinations, administer blood tests, and perform health screenings. “I never thought I would be working in public health before the pandemic, but it has turned out to be a pretty cool college job,” Samson said. It has helped that he could take most of his CWU classes online, which allowed him to fulfill his duties with the DOH and the National Guard on the west side. Samson said his CWU professors have been very accommodating, and he has come away with many positive experiences during his time in the College of Business. “A lot of my professors have been successful outside of higher education, and I have gained a lot from the real- world experiences they bring to the classroom,” he said. “That, and being connected with the ROTC, has helped me put everything into perspective.”

degree this spring. The 25-year-old business

administration major has already spent seven years in the National Guard and has filled a number of key roles at the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) since 2020. But Samson doesn’t see himself working in health care over the long term. Instead, he plans to use his business degree, with a specialization in leadership and management, to pursue a career in finance. “I figured I could do a lot of different things with a business degree, so that’s why I chose that route,” said the Pierce College transfer, who grew up in Bonney Lake and joined the military out of high school. “I’m hoping that, once I am done with my military service, I can use my degree to go into wealth management.” If he wanted to, Samson could very easily continue his ascent at the DOH. He started out as a contact-tracer when the pandemic started before transitioning into a position with the vaccine engagement team. The public messaging role required him to work closely with government and industry officials at all levels, disseminating vital information about the safety and effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine.

I started out doing, but I am so glad I chose the personal finance route,” said Stires, who selected CWU in

large part because she was recruited to play

volleyball. “I like it because I can use my education to help others — that’s the kind of work I want to be doing.” Stires knows what it’s like to live paycheck to paycheck, and her own personal experiences have shown her how important it is to start saving as early as possible. Even if you only begin with a small

I figured I could do a lot of different things with a business degree, so that’s why I chose that route. —Cecil Samson

Financial advising isn’t just about managing money; it’s about giving your clients confidence that, even if they don’t know where to begin, there are people who can help. —Hannah Stires






aria Torres Arrez sees herself as someone who has the power to

Torres Arrez, 30, is specializing in general business and is pursuing a minor in human resources management. She has an internship with an accounting firm in Wenatchee, and has gotten involved in the CWU chapter of the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM). She also joined the national Apple Valley Human Resource Association (AVHRA). “I’m hoping my involvement in these associations will pave the way for me to have a successful career right after graduation,” Torres Arrez said. “I’ve been able to grow my network and meet a lot of people outside of school. My mentors in the College of Business helped me understand how important these connections are.” Torres Arrez points to the mentors at CWU and Wentachee Valley College (WVC) who have guided her to this point. Now, she’s ready to take what she has learned and build a prosperous future for her family. “Being part of the College of Business has set me on a path that I never expected just a few years ago,” she said. “I want to keep going forward and I know the College of Business has put me in that position.”

inspire. But, just a few short years ago, the senior business administration major didn’t know what her future might look like. Like many first-generation college students, Torres Arrez didn’t have anyone to show her what she needed to do to create a better future for her and her two children. She did know one thing, however: she didn’t want to work in the fields like her parents, who immigrated to Wenatchee from Mexico when she was 8 years old. “I told my mother how much I respect her and how proud I am of her, but I also told her this is not something I want to do for the rest of my life,” Torres Arrez said. “I knew I wanted to provide a better life for my kids, and the only way to do that was to go to school. So, I applied to Wenatchee Valley College in 2020, and now I’m on track to earn a business degree from CWU.” Ever since she discovered the College of Business in 2022, everything has fallen into place for her.

It’s really satisfying when I can help people, and I kind of see myself as a role model — someone people can look up to. —Rodrigo Castaneda-Marin


s the oldest of five siblings, Rodrigo Castaneda-Marin has always felt like it was

He assists with recruiting, posting jobs on LinkedIn, and general office work — whatever the team needs. “I want to learn everything there is to know about HR, and this job has given me a good view of how everything works,” he said. The next step for Castaneda-Marin will be to find a summer internship. He explained that he enjoys setting goals for himself, often a year out. “This year, my goal was to find an internship so I can get some experience,” he said. “Then, hopefully, I can have a job lined up by the time I graduate. I don’t want to wait until after I graduate to get my foot in the door.” After three years living and working in Ellensburg, Castaneda-Marin is glad he decided to come to Central. He had considered going to Wenatchee Valley College to be closer to home, but he was

determined to earn a four-year degree so he could set himself up for the future. “I definitely feel like I made the right choice,” he said. “The College of Business has a lot of people who I can ask for guidance, and there are tons of resources whenever I need them.” Castaneda-Marin thanked former College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP) recruiter Juan Maravilla for opening his eyes to what is possible for students like him. “Juan coming to my high school is what made me choose Central,” Castaneda-Marin said. “He talked about how CAMP could help first- gen students like us, and that made me feel at ease. I didn’t know much about Central, but I’m really glad I chose to come here. I feel proud of how far I’ve come.”

his responsibility to help others. That instinct has stuck with him throughout his time at Central. Now, the junior human resources management major is hoping that his caring mentality will lead to a successful career. “I have that older brother trait where I’m always looking to help others,” said Castaneda-Marin, a first- generation college student from Wenatchee. “It’s really satisfying when I can help people, and I kind of see myself as a role model — someone people can look up to.” Castaneda-Marin is already on the fast track to fulfilling his career goals, working 16 hours a week in CWU’s Human Resources department as a member of the hiring team.

I knew I wanted to provide a better life for my kids, and the only way to do that was to go to school.

—Maria Torres Arrez





hen Yung Idow was growing up in the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya, his daily life was a mix of ordinary childhood and extraordinary struggle. Every day was a gamble, haunted by the notion that, at any moment, his mother could lose her son. “As a kid, I was just normal, going to school, playing soccer, but there was also a good chance of dying every day, and my mom was always worried whenever I would go out,” said Idow, a junior in the College of Business. “Reflecting back, I’m still processing all that she went through to get me here, and the main reason I want to do good in the world is to make my mom proud; to show her that the investment she made in me has been worth it.” In 2017, Idow and his mother managed to relocate to the U.S., first in St. Louis and then in Seattle about a month later. Faced with a new social structure in an unfamiliar country, Idow did everything he could to make the most of the life-changing opportunity he’d been given. “It was super challenging at first, but putting in the work and getting results taught me that I can do anything as long as I put my whole self into it,” he said. Idow was always fascinated by airplanes and aviation, so he joined the Museum of Flight’s Aeronautical Science Pathway aviation program. He went on to earn a private pilot certification through the program, and upon graduating from high school in 2020, he joined the U.S. Army. W

Idow enrolled at CWU in 2021 as an aviation major, but soon found his way to the College of Business. “Discovering business at CWU really changed my life,” he said. “They have the resources there for anything you want to pursue, and the opportunities that the College of Business provides have helped me grow a lot.” Idow soon decided to change tracks and pursue a double major in entrepreneurship and leadership — degrees that would allow him to help the people he cares about. “My goal in life is to help as many people as I can, especially people in Africa, who are suffering in a lot of ways,” he said. “I chose entrepreneurship to help their economy and help them advance in the world.” Idow has built an expansive network in the College of Business, while also chalking up some significant accolades. Among the highlights was earning second place in last spring’s Cat Tank small business competition, alongside friend and business partner Cole Smith. He also captained a CWU student team called Yung Starz at the 2023 Boeing Case Competition. Once he graduates in 2025, Idow plans to continue his education by pursuing a master’s degree in business administration. He believes an MBA will help him set a good example and maximize the impact he can have on the lives of others. “I want to keep pursuing my education so I can be an example for kids like me,” Idow said. “I work hard to keep good grades so that other kids can see someone like them who made it. I want them to say, ‘if Yung can do this with his background, I can do it, too.’”

I work hard to keep good grades so that when kids come from a refugee camp or a similar place, they can see someone like them who made it. —Yung Idow




College of Business Graduates Enter Workforce Well-Trained

Professor of Marketing Sayantani Mukherjee, right, enjoys mentoring students like Amneet Pawar and Brian Valencia.

Testing Their Skills in Real-World Situations

In the ever-changing world of business, the knowledge found in textbooks can only carry a college graduate so far. The pre-scripted scenarios and controlled environments found in the classroom lay an excellent foundation of knowledge, but classroom learning nevertheless needs to be supplemented by real-world experiences. Students need experiential learning opportunities to help them develop into the well-rounded business professionals that the shifting economic landscape of today demands.

In the CWU College of Business, we rise to meet this need on a variety of fronts, from internships to in-class consultation work to undergraduate research and beyond, so that our graduates enter the workforce ready to contribute from day one.

In Ana Tonseth’s Lean Six Sigma Practicum class, students are given the opportunity to spend 10 weeks working with real companies, offering consultation services and honing their supply chain management skills in the process. Tonseth, a senior lecturer of finance and supply chain management, reaches out to the College of Business’ extensive network of industry partners before each quarter, asking them about the issues they’re facing and where a dedicated team of students might be able to alleviate those shortfalls. “I tell my students that, while I’m coaching them through the project, the ones they have to impress are their clients,” she said. “Throughout the project, things may come up that we didn’t plan on, which helps students develop the flexibility they’ll need in the real world.” Lean Six Sigma is an approach to process improvement in which any use of resources that doesn’t create value for the customer is considered waste. A paradigm like that might seem daunting to implement at first, but Tonseth sees her students engage in the work with pride, especially after having the opportunity to practice in a real-life scenario.

“One of the main benefits of doing this work is the confidence that students get when they finish it,” she said. “They learn how to approach managers as well as front- line workers, and how to overcome the frustration that comes with things not going according to plan.” Professor of Marketing Sayantani Mukherjee runs a similar program, finding nonprofit and small business clients for her students to assist in marketing to the digital space. “Working with real clients is one of the fundamental pillars of our program,” said Mukherjee, who developed the digital marketing minor in 2020. “This way, students get vast exposure to what real life looks like outside the structure of a classroom, along with all the ambiguity and opportunities for problem-solving that it presents.” Students bring their effort and creativity to the table through programs like these, ensuring a win-win situation for themselves and their clients. “Our students are just awesome,” Mukherjee said. “They demonstrate so much resilience and ambition when they put their minds to it, and I’m glad to help provide them with opportunities to do so. We ask them to show up in a big way, and they always do.”

Here’s a look at how our faculty, staff, and industry partners go the extra mile to deliver for our students.


Senior Lecturer Ana Tonseth, right, guides her students through the manufacturing process at Tree Top Inc. in Selah.

Lean Six Sigma is an approach to process improvement in which any use of resources that doesn’t create value for the customer is considered waste. Professor Ana Tonseth sees her students engage in the work with pride, especially after having the opportunity to practice in a real-life scenario.



From Industry Connections to Faculty Mentorship BUILDING BRIDGES

FACULTY GUIDANCE LEAVES LASTING IMPRESSION One thing unites all of the high-impact, hands-on

UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCH GIVES STUDENTS AN EDGE Dacass has made a point of involving undergraduate students in research projects, to help move the field forward. This approach also shows them that the applications of their education are limited only by their imagination. “My passion for working with students is very much inspired by my own experience,” Dacass said. “As a first-generation college student, it helped me see the opportunities that my degree presented me with. Coming to Central, I knew that I wanted to pass on that experience to my own students.” Dacass has worked with a group of students from the Economics Association since 2021 to develop a Student Price Index, measuring the cost of student life based on the prices of goods students were likely to buy. The group presented their findings at the annual SOURCE conference, and gained a new sense of their own capacity in the process. “It’s very empowering for them,” Dacass said. “They are able to take what they’ve created and use it to build relationships and skillsets that will be very important in their careers.” Economics alumnus Zach Dowdy (’21) continues to work with Dacass in an unofficial capacity, having recently collaborated with her on a paper examining the student debt crisis. “The opportunity to do research prepares you for the messiness of the real world in a way nothing else can,” he said.


opportunities that the College of Business offers: mentorship. Jones is able to work alongside her peers, benefiting from engaged faculty members who know when to give them space, and when to step in. “It’s a great experience where they chime in once in a while if I have questions, but otherwise they leave me to succeed on my own,” Jones said. “I know they’re there if I need them, and that has helped me keep going.” Lee agreed, attributing her professional success to the guidance she received alongside her formal education. “The hands-on work you do as a student is incredibly important, but so is the mentorship you receive,” she said. “Thanks to my faculty mentors at CWU, I graduated ready to take on the world.” The bridge between knowledge and experience, fact and function, is an engaged teacher who’s willing to take the time to get to know students and work with them to achieve their goals. Assistant Professor of Economics Tennecia Dacass, a first-generation college graduate, sees this as a continuous cycle of mutual support, paving the way for the next generation of business professionals. “I am a product of faculty investing time in students, and I also know that working with students can push my own research forward,” she said. “When we support each other, everybody wins.”

When Tara Lee (’20) first applied for her internship with Tree Top, she never suspected that, as a supply chain management major, her future might be found in food manufacturing. “I never saw myself going into agriculture, but everything I did at Tree Top tied directly into my education,” she said. “It showed me that my skills are applicable in many more situations than I was expecting. My managers gave me the freedom I needed to complete some cost-saving projects and really flex my expertise.” Through her internships, Lee unearthed a new passion for her studies, realizing that the experience had equipped her with more tools to apply in the classroom as well as in the field. After receiving her degree, Lee returned to Tree Top, where she quickly rose to the position of production supervisor after only a month and a half. She says the connections and impressions she made over the course of her internships, as well as her Lean Six Sigma practicum course, laid the groundwork for her immediate growth as a full-time professional. Senior Daizie Jones found similar value in her internship with Boeing. Thanks to a personal connection, as well as CWU’s long-standing relationship with the company, Jones was able to work alongside seasoned industry veterans to develop the flying machines of the future, all while putting her studies to the test. “It’s scary, because anything can happen, but it’s also exhilarating to try new things and rely on my education and instincts to see me through,” said Jones, a supply chain management major. “My classwork and extracurriculars have prepared me, and the connections I’ve made here at CWU have taught me how to ask the right people the right questions.” Following her graduation in the spring, Jones is headed back to Boeing to pick up where she left off, ensuring smooth production for the single largest exporter by dollar value in the United States.

Tara Lee

Assistant Professor of Economics Tennecia Dacass, left, enjoys giving her students hands-on research experience.

Daizie Jones




Students Emulate Industry Professionals in VITAL Lab

The best way for CWU students to prepare for what they will be doing as professionals is to use the same tools while they’re still in college. College of Business professors Han Donker (accounting) and Toni Sipic (economics) have fully embraced that philosophy over the past four years with the introduction of the Virtual Analytics Lab, more commonly referred to as the “VITAL Lab.” The virtual lab taps into the Wharton Research Data Service (WRDS), a Windows-driven portal created and maintained by the University of Pennsylvania. WRDS allows industry professionals and students across campus — not just in the College of Business — to access and analyze financial and non-financial market data. “Our students are getting a real- world look at how these processes work at firms,” Donker said. “We are teaching them to dissect actual financial market data, including environmental, social, and governance data, in the same way professionals do.”

Donker explained that most accounting graduates will work in a financial position, such as auditor, controller, tax advisor, or chief financial officer. Most of them will go to work for accounting firms, industry, banks, insurance agencies, government, and institutional investment companies, where they need to understand complex concepts, such as derivatives. Working in WRDS provides them with this incredibly valuable experience. This lab is a great example of a high- impact practice. These are advanced skills that our students can apply when they enter the job market.

“When Toni Sipic and I developed the concept for the VITAL Lab, our goal was to integrate more data into our courses,” Donker said. “With access to this software, we can create assignments where our students can research real-world problems and propose solutions.” Faculty now have the opportunity to engage in applied projects with students, focusing on sustainability, equity, and diversity by utilizing the data provided through VITAL. “This lab is a great example of a high-impact practice,” Donker said. “These are advanced skills that our students can apply when they enter the job market. “Analytics is becoming so much more important in today’s business world,” he added. “What we love about this lab is that anyone can use it from anywhere they are because it’s 100% virtual. But we also like that it is helping all types of students at CWU. As a result, they are going to be much better prepared when they enter the workforce.”

A group of Entrepreneurship 288 students put their heads together last spring to coordinate and execute a university-wide business plan contest called Cat Tank. The 2023 Cat Tank team was made up of five students from a variety of academic backgrounds: Jack Trombetta (industrial engineering and entrepreneurship), Bobi Vladimirov (computer science), Gerardo Castillo (apparel, textiles, and merchandising), Marianna Payne (business administration), and Miguel Gomez (accounting and marketing). Gomez is the CEO and co-founder of the organization and helped coordinate the inaugural event in 2022. Vladimirov won the initial competition and served as president of Cat Tank last year. This year, a new group of students is working together to plan an entirely new event. “Our goal for this competition was to find people who love what they do and want to take their business ideas to the next level,” Gomez said of the contest, an ode to the popular ABC television show, Shark Tank . “We wanted to convince people to follow their passion and structure a business plan they could pursue after the competition.”

The Cat Tank finals were held last May at The Foundry in Ellensburg, featuring 10 contestants and a total prize purse of nearly $6,000. The contest was adjudicated by a panel of 10 industry representatives from Starbucks, Microsoft, Wheatland Bank, BWT Pharma, CWU, the University of Washington, CenterFuse, and others. Mechanical engineering student Boden Parrish won the $3,000 grand prize with his invention for a technology upgrade to mountain bike suspension forks. Cole Smith and Yung Idow teamed up for second place and a $2,000 prize with the Dress In software application, which allows people to see how clothing items fit their individual measurements using a virtual model of the human body. Total prize purse $6,000 10 Industry representatives

Accounting Professor Han Donker helped develop VITAL Lab.

• Starbucks • Microsoft • Wheatland Bank • BWT Pharma

• University of Washington • CenterFuse • and more

$3,000 Grand prize



Accounting Alumna Proud to Give Back BY DAVID LEDER


From CWU to Tech Trailblazer

Richard Wang delivers coding education to underserved populations

n the ever-evolving landscape of technology and programming, leaders who envision the future and

Coding Dojo with the thought of giving everybody an opportunity in this digital age, because coding is really the language for economic building in the 21st century. This is what I saw as a way to hack the system and give everybody an opportunity.” At age 13, Wang was the first member of his family to immigrate from China to the United States. As a young adult, he became the first member of his family to attend a university. Having not prepared for the SAT, Wang got rejected from many of the colleges he applied to, but one gave him a conditional acceptance for being a first-generation student: CWU. “The generations before me really sacrificed everything for me to be able to come to the United States,” Wang said. “Coming here was one of the lottery tickets I won in life.” Wang taught himself English after witnessing firsthand how English literacy could create economic mobility for individuals in China.

He believes digital literacy could offer the same economic lift for those around the world, and he strives to create opportunities to help others transform their lives. With a passion for empowering individuals through coding skills, Wang has not only led Coding Dojo to new heights; he has also become a notable figure in the tech education sector. He was the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year in 2021, and he was recently included in Puget Sound Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 Awards. Now, he can add a CWU Distinguished Alumni Award to the list. “Receiving this award was a testament to all the work and also my appreciation to the College of Business for the recognition,” said Wang, one of CWU’s 2024 award recipients. “It gives first-generation immigrants a spotlight and shows that if you put your hard work into practice and dedicate yourself, there are still opportunities to make it in this country.”


ichelle Quisenberry (’90) knew she wanted to come to CWU before she ever

Quisenberry’s career success and commitment to giving back have earned her national recognition. Among her accolades, she has been named one of the “Top 40 Under 40” and a “Woman of Influence” by the Puget Sound Business Journal. She was also recognized by the Points of Light Foundation for the impact she has made on her profession and her community. Quisenberry looks back fondly on her time at CWU, where she received a well-rounded education that was complemented by hands-on experience through internships and leadership roles. “The close-knit community at Central enabled me to form genuine connections with both faculty and peers,” Quisenberry said. “These connections — along with the focus on critical thinking, leadership, and communications skills — provided me with a solid foundation for my career.” Over the past two years, she has found new opportunities to give back to her alma mater, including a partnership with Distinguished Professor of Business Andy Parks on the Reaching New Heights grant. CWU was one of only five institutions nationwide to receive funding from the KPMG U.S. Foundation in 2022, and Quisenberry proudly serves as the Partner Champion. “Doing this work has inspired me to continue working to support Central’s mission,” she said. “Being able to help our students prepare to enter the workforce and land incredible jobs is something that is very important to me, and I hope we can continue to work together to improve the lives of young professionals.”

drive innovation play a pivotal role. Business administration alumnus Richard Wang (’08) stands out as a visionary leader who has been instrumental in shaping the coding education industry. Wang is the CEO of Coding Dojo, a virtual software development coding bootcamp that covers programming basics, web fundamentals, Python Full-Stack, JavaScript Full-Stack, and more. As a leading education and technology executive, Wang is committed to creating economic mobility for underserved communities and increasing opportunities for individuals to reskill or upskill so they can participate in the digital economy. “Coding Dojo is about transforming lives through digital literacy,” Wang said of the company he founded in 2013. “Talent is evenly distributed but opportunities are not. I started

set foot on campus. The accounting program came highly recommended, but the Port Orchard native was also drawn to the Ellensburg community. “Having grown up in a small town, coming to Central just felt like a natural transition for me,” said Quisenberry, who now serves as a partner at KPMG, one of the Big Four global accounting firms. “I loved the small class sizes, and I had an opportunity to bond with my peers and professors alike.” Over the years, Quisenberry has stayed in contact with her former mentors and classmates, including retired Department of Accounting chair Gary Heesacker. “Gary’s mentorship played a significant role in shaping my career journey,” she said. “His guidance and personal investment in my development not only enriched my academic experience; it also helped me navigate important career decisions.” Quisenberry spent her early career serving as a controller for three Seattle-based tech startups before joining Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s executive leadership team to open the Museum of Pop Culture (MoPop). She then ran her own consulting firm for 10 years, serving clients in the biotech and technology industries. Today, she leads KPMG’s risk consulting practice for the Northwest, guiding the delivery of consulting services to a diverse client base.



Faculty Engages in Critical Research


Management Professor James Avey’s research is all about giving managers the tools they need for themselves and their teams to flourish in organizations. He has published approximately 50 empirical peer-reviewed articles and has delivered research presentations across the world with one mission: for managers to exhort what is right, working, and effective about their teams so they can become even better. This work represents an integration of the real empirical science from positive psychology, and how it is applied to the workplace. Avey’s research moves beyond economic and human capital to develop leaders to build employees’ positive psychological capital for sustainable and resilient performance across context, industry, and culture. He emphasizes that he does “not deal with the challenges of economic capital or technology, in general; only people, strategic leadership, and implementation.” STUDY: TAX DIRECTORS’ DEPARTURES, GENDERS AFFECT STOCK VALUES Assistant Professor of Accounting Mengyu Ma’s research has revealed that the stock market values tax directors’ departure and gender. She and her colleagues have identified positive market reactions to the announcement of tax director departures. “Our results further show lower cumulative abnormal returns for female tax directors than for male tax directors,” she said, adding that the study has implications for practitioners in terms of the selection of tax directors. In a different study, Ma and her co-researchers found companies that hire auditor tax experts engage in a higher level of tax avoidance. The results also show that this association is more pronounced among firms that have subsidiaries registered in tax havens. BECU’s strategy for the post-secondary philanthropy program is to focus on underserved populations, including rural residents, women, Black Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC), and the LGBTQIA+ community. The primary objective, Held said, is to increase financial literacy among underrepresented groups so they will see the value of staying in school. BECU and CWU share the belief that education in any form improves people’s lives over the long term. “We want students to realize the value of financial freedom, and education is one of those crossroads in life that helps determine if they will have that freedom,” Held said.

ANALYSIS SHOWS PROGRAM LOWERED TUITION FOR IN-STATE STUDENTS Assistant Professor Tennecia Dacass’ research focuses on the impact of labor market regulations on immigrants and the influence of public policy on children and families. Since 2022, her research has spanned diverse topics, including the sustainability of rare earth mineral markets, the intersection of gender and ethnicity in corporate governance, and the relationship between tuition and student loans. Dacass and her co-author have studied the impact of Washington State’s College Affordability Program, initiated in 2015, on the student loan burdens of undergraduate students. The program lowered tuition for resident full-time undergraduate students at public colleges and universities over two consecutive academic years. Their goal was to provide policymakers with insights on how to prevent potential future student loan crises. Assistant Professor Tennecia Dacass was named as one of the nation’s Top 200 Black Scholars in the economics profession in a research study that appeared this winter in The Review of Black Political Economy. BECU Program Aims to Help Students Stay in School

FEMALE, MINORITY BOARD MEMBERS LEAD TO HIGHER ESG SCORES In another recent research project, Dacass explored the influence of women and minority corporate board members on a company’s Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) ratings. Using director-level data and instrumental variables regression analysis, she and her colleagues discovered that the presence of female board members results in an improvement in a firm’s ESG rating. They also learned that both male and female minority board members are linked to firms with relatively high ESG scores.

Associate Professor of Management James Avey


Associate Professor of Accounting Fabio Ambrosio’s research attempts to explore and explain the ever- increasing presence of local option sales taxes and “special purpose” local option sales taxes in the composition of the tax portfolio of local governments. His recent research has shown that the stated “special purpose” does not meaningfully influence a county’s decision to impose an extra local sales tax. Instead, local sales tax rates are on the rise simply because a county can afford to do so — because it has the population, the income, and the market activity. As a result, sales tax revenue is flowing to market- dominant counties, not necessarily counties that need that extra revenue for those special purposes.

Assistant Professor of Accounting Mengyu Ma

The CWU College of Business is always looking for ways to provide higher education pathways to as many people as possible. But we can’t do it alone. That’s where BECU’s post-secondary philanthropy program comes in, contributing funding to colleges and technical schools around the state. “Our commitment is to help underserved, low-income students build financial literacy and stay in school,” said Tisha Held, Philanthropy and BECU Foundation Manager. “We’re always looking at how we can support rural students and those from migrant communities. That’s been a major focus of this program, and we want to continue to build upon the progress we have already made.”

Held explained that the post-secondary philanthropy program was introduced about five years ago, and the funds are distributed to institutions on both sides of the mountains based on specific needs. BECU doesn’t like to assign a dollar figure to its contributions; instead, the organization determines funding amounts annually, based on each institution’s individual needs. “Every school is very specific and nuanced with regard to what their needs are for a particular academic year,” Held said. “We try to build relationships with our partners to find out what their students need and what their communities need. As long as the money is going toward educational needs, we try to support those efforts.”



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