Eller Buzz: Experience Eller

Introducing K Krasnow Waterman, Entrepreneur in Residence

By Sarah Mauet

K Krasnow Waterman introduced email to JPMorgan, reorganized intelligence at the FBI, served as assistant dean at the James E. Rogers College of Law, performed AI research on Tim Berners-Lee’s team at MIT and partnered with financier Lewis Ranieri to build a new private equity firm. She has brought together the diverse aspects of her education and experience to specialize in quickly building and revamping organizations in data-intensive environments, and creating new functions, products and organizations, both within existing entities and as new ventures. With a professional background in technology, law and operations, Waterman joins the McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship as its newest entrepreneur in residence and Entrepreneurship + Innovation lecturer.

K Krasnow Waterman

K Krasnow Waterman.

“What interests me about working with startups is the excitement of doing something new,” she said. “It’s that stage when people are organizing their thoughts and are really focused, working hard and full of enthusiasm.” 

Waterman will be mentoring student startup teams as an entrepreneur in residence in the New Venture Development Program, a year-long competitive-entry program in which University of Arizona students from diverse fields of study team up to build a new venture from the ground up. She is also teaching a section of ENTR 485: Innovating: Creating the Future, a capstone course for Eller College of Management students that ensures that they graduate with entrepreneurship experience and an innovative mindset. 

Deeply versed in the entrepreneurship world today, Waterman began her career in technology.

“I was hired by IBM when it was at its largest–I think it had 700,000 employees worldwide–and participated in the development of their early software-as-a-service business. For about 10 years, I was involved in the development and management of technology. “After IBM, I managed new tech at JP Morgan, where I introduced email, connected data centers around the world and managed a variety of other large-scale ($25+ million) technology projects.”

After a decade managing high-tech projects, she was ready for a new challenge. A lifelong interest in civil rights and First Amendment issues led her to law school.

“I grew up with a strong belief in the value of the Constitution and civil rights and civil liberties,” she said. “Early in my legal career, I did a lot of litigation around issues of employment, discrimination and the First Amendment.”

A judicial clerkship with the U.S. District Court’s Hon. William D. Browning brought her to Tucson in 1989, and she has lived here full- or part-time ever since. She was a litigation attorney at Brown & Bain (now Perkins Coie), a firm known nationally for high-tech cases, where she handled corporate, intellectual property, employment and media matters, including representing newspapers and radio and television stations in free speech and public records cases.

In 1993 and 1994, she served as the assistant dean of the University of Arizona’s law school, where she also spent several more years as an adjunct professor teaching federal jurisdiction, legal reasoning, employment and pretrial practice, even after she returned to legal practice as assistant general counsel of the FBI and a special assistant U.S. attorney.

“Then 9/11 happened,” she said. “I was working for the government at the time, and I volunteered to do whatever anybody needed. Overnight, I returned to my tech roots and became the chief information officer of the first post-9/11 counter-terrorism task force, at the direction of the White House. I was responsible for building a very large-scale data analytics facility that brought together data from 23 federal agencies. That was long before all the ‘big-data’ tools hit the market, so we had to be very resourceful. Shortly after that, I became the FBI’s interim deputy for Intelligence, responsible for realigning intelligence from the geographic verticals of the Cold War to the risk-based horizontals of today.”

The work she did gave her an unusual and highly-sought-after cross-agency view, and she continued to work as an executive consultant for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for seven years. During that time, she decided to return to private industry and returned to school while working.

She enrolled at Massachusetts Institute of Technology as a Sloan Fellow, where she completed coursework for both an MBA and a master’s in the management of technology, writing a thesis on data analytics over the Enron emails for compliance. She found the experience exhilarating.

“It was a great opportunity to work with people from around the world and look at everything that had been happening in the open while I had been in locked rooms,” she said. “That’s when I started working with people who were launching companies. I also joined a research group that is part of MIT’s Computer Science and AI (Artificial Intelligence) Lab.”

Since being a student at MIT, Waterman has worked multiple paths simultaneously. She has continued work on semantics and policy reasoning at MIT, she wound down her governmental work and returned to Wall Street roles and she has been involved with a number of startups.

While at MIT, she created a new interdisciplinary course called Linked Data Ventures, which was cross-listed in engineering and business. In the class, her students learned semantic web technology, built working prototypes and built business plans around the new technology.

“We spun out a few very successful companies,” she said.

In 2010, she joined Citigroup, where she managed a 1,500-person global organization, building a new global analytics function and a new data assessment mechanism. In 2014, she joined TIAA-CREF as the managing director of enterprise financial crime prevention, responsible for the retooling of anti-money laundering and sanctions and the buildout of a substantial counter-fraud capability. And in 2015 she was recruited to a new private equity firm focused on cognitive computing and infrastructure technology for finance, real estate and the capital markets.

Throughout this period, Waterman her work with startups continued. She has served as chief technology officer, vice president of operations, chief executive officer and advisory board member at several new ventures. She has worked with companies in a range of fields, including semantic analytics, cybersecurity, cloud computing, privacy, compliance, finance, real estate, insomnia, food and agriculture. 

“The work in law enforcement and intelligence is necessary and it’s incredibly important, but your life becomes all about looking at the dark side of things,” she said. “Even a lot of the work I did for big financial institutions was focused on the risks. That’s part of why I enjoy working with new ventures, because the startup side has always been about the joy of things. I wanted to go back to the joy of building and making positive change.”

Waterman is now bringing that expertise and joy to her position at the McGuire Center. “I’m really excited about being here,” she said. “I love working with students. I love being able to help them find their way. I live for the a-ha moment.”

Learn more about the McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship.

Header photo of Business Certificate Program session courtesy McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship.


Eller College and China's Harbin Institute of Technology Form Joint College

By Sue Kern-Fleischer

Eller micro-campuses in Harbin and Shenzhen to offer MIS degree programs at undergraduate and graduate levels.

The University of Arizona Eller College of Management and the Harbin Institute of Technology (HIT) have established a joint college that will offer programs in China related to digital transformation, information technology, big data analytics and artificial intelligence applied to business. The joint management information systems (MIS) degrees will be offered at the bachelor’s, master’s and PhD levels.

Pending approval by the Chinese Ministry of Education, classes will begin in the 2018 fall semester. Eller faculty will teach classes at HIT’s campuses, located in both Harbin and Shenzhen, the innovation hub of China. 

Eller College dean Paulo Goes said HIT is widely recognized as an elite university in China, as part of the C9 select group of the top universities in China, along with Tsinghua, Beijing and Fudan Universities. The C9 League is an alliance of nine elite universities in mainland China, comparable to the Ivy League in the United States.

“Like Eller’s MIS department in the US, the HIT MIS programs are considered the very best in China, so this great collaboration is destined to advance knowledge and education in the exciting field of digital business,” Goes said.

Eller recently formed a partnership with the American University of Phnom Penh in Cambodia, creating its first micro-campus to offer a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration.

“We have had dual-degree programs with other universities in China, but for the most part, those programs offered the degree at either the undergraduate or graduate level. The scope of our partnership with the prestigious Harbin Institute of Technology is greater because it involves the three levels of degrees and our mission aligns strongly with theirs,” Goes said. 

Goes has been interacting with HIT on research projects and PhD student mentoring for five years. During his trips to Harbin, he began to discuss the idea of a partnership with HIT Dean Qiang Ye.

“The key to successful international collaborations lies in finding a partner that is compatible and accomplished,” Goes said. “The current leadership at HIT fits that criteria, and the Eller College is pleased to undertake this new partnership.” 

Qiang Ye, HIT dean and professor of management information systems, said the collaboration comes at a time when the world faces a shortage of digital business leaders.

“Training is critical now as there are millions of cybersecurity and MIS jobs that need to be filled,” dean Ye said. “This joint school will become a millstone in the collaborations between our two universities. We hope it will contribute to innovations in business education and research by leveraging abilities of both universities in the areas of big data, business analytics and artificial intelligence.” 

Eller College is the second UA college to offer a dual degree in China. The College of Law has one dual degree with Ocean University in the city of Qingdao. 

UA Eller College of Management consistently ranks high in leading studies of business education at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. According to the U.S. News & World Report 2018 Best Graduate Schools edition, Eller’s MIS program is ranked number 2 among public programs in the United States. In September 2017, U.S. News & World Report ranked Eller’s MIS undergraduate program as the number 1 public program in the U.S. in its America’s Best Colleges issue.

Learn more about Eller’s global micro-campuses.

Top photo: Eller College Dean Paulo Goes and HIT Dean Qiang Ye. Photo courtesy Harbin Institute of Technology.

Business Certificate Program Advances Local Business Owners and Community

By Sarah Mauet

140 Community Members Completed the McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship’s Spring Business Certificate Program

This spring, 140 current and aspiring small business owners gathered at the YWCA Southern Arizona to celebrate their completion of the Business Certificate Program, a community education offering of the McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship at the Eller College.

The Business Certificate Program is a six-week course that aims to improve opportunities for small businesses in Southern Arizona. Through six business classes, taught once a week for three hours by Eller College faculty and affiliated professionals, participants learn management, marketing, sales, accounting, finance, and legal issues. The certificate program is offered in English in the Fall, and in Spanish in the Spring. 

“Whether participants need help marketing their products, understanding financial analysis, or improving their negotiating skills, the Business Certificate Program will help them achieve their business goals and aspirations,” said Ildefonso “Poncho” Chavez, director of the McGuire Center’s Economic Development Programs. In addition to the Business Certificate Program, the Center’s Economic Development Programs include the Business Consulting Program, which helps grow local small businesses through consulting services offered by Eller undergraduate students under the guidance of faculty and volunteer local business professionals.

The emcee at the Business Certificate Program graduation in May knows these offerings well. Abel Leon, owner of Perfecto’s Mexican Restaurant, participated in the Business Certificate Program and received advice for his family business through the Business Consulting Program. Now he’s pursuing his undergraduate degree through Eller.  

This is the sort of success story Edward A. Altamirano, Vice President-Business Banking Area Manager, Arizona South, for JPMorgan Chase Bank, loves to hear. Chase is the main sponsor of the Economic Development Programs, and Altamirano provided the welcome remarks at the graduation ceremony.

“JPMorgan Chase realizes the importance of nonprofit programs like this one offered by the University of Arizona to help small business owners get the training they need to achieve long term success,” he said. “We are very proud to be here and to be a part of the Eller College Business Certificate Program.”

Leon shared his personal story next, and introduced each of the other eight panelists, two of whom were representatives of Wells Fargo Bank, which also sponsors the Economic Development Programs:

  • Jose Arias – Vice President, Relationship Manager III, Chase Business Banking
  • Ana Perreira – Founder and CEO of Yellow Brick Coffee.
  • Jose Vargas, CPA – Founder and CEO of Azteca Financial Services, and Co-Founder of the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
  • Cecilia Arosemena – Owner of Dish for Dosha, and former participant of the Business Certificate Program and the Business Consulting Program.
  • Sergio A. Acosta – Wells Fargo Business Tucson Regional Vice President
  • Damarice Martinez – Co-Owner of several small business, a former participant of the Business Certificate Program, and an Eller undergraduate alumna.
  • Ivan Gurrola – Owner of “Sky Harbor Express”, and Financial Advisor at Morgan Stanley Wealth Management.
  • Zulma Cardenas – Wells Fargo Business Branch Manager.

After the speakers, a musical group, AMIGOS, performed music from the Andes in honor of the McGuire Center’s new director, Remy Arteaga. Arteaga told his entrepreneurial story to the standing-room-only crowd, which was filled with people who had come out to support the graduates. Having started as the McGuire Center Director in December, this was Arteaga’s first Business Certificate Program graduation ceremony, and he was pleased to watch the participants’ faces light up as their names were called.  

“It’s clear that the McGuire Center’s Business Certificate Program is a catalyst for economic development here in Southern Arizona,” he said. “Being able to provide quality business training to underserved populations is so important to strengthening our community.”

Of the 140 participants in the Spring cohort, 138 were Hispanic and 107 were women. Five participants were between the ages of 18-24, and two were older than 65. About half of the participants already own a business of some kind, and the remainder aspire to do so. Completing the Business Certificate Program is a good way to take steps toward achieving their professional goals, said Chavez, but the benefits of a program like this extend well beyond the individual participants. 

“Giving back to the community through the Business Certificate Program is a win-win situation,” said Chavez. “When we help individuals achieve their business dreams, our community wins and our economy wins.”

Learn more about the Business Certificate Program.

Header photo of Business Certificate Program session courtesy McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship.


Alumni Profile: Gene Kansas, '95 Entrepreneurship

Gene Kansas, ’95 Entrepreneurship
Owner, Gene Kansas Commercial Real Estate

By Eric Van Meter

Gene Kansas’s career was and is about telling stories. That’s not how you’d typically characterize the work of a real estate developer whose name is synonymous with the innovative upcycling of some of Atlanta’s most historic properties. But then Kansas, who created and hosts the city-centric “Sidewalk Radio” and recently earned his master’s in digital media, isn’t your typical real estate developer.

Gene Kansas '17

Gene Kansas, ’95 Entrepreneurship, is spearheading the Fred Cox Memorial Scholarship fundraising effort. Learn more.
Photo courtesy Gene Kansas.

One way to understand his journey is through the lens of entrepreneurship and the chain of businesses he’s launched, starting with Bad Hair Day Publishing, which he conceived through Eller’s New Venture Development Program. Beginning in 1996, it sold some 10,000 copies of Kansas’ Police Beat, a book based on the long-running police reports feature in the Arizona Daily Wildcat.

That venture helped open the door to work as a content developer for TNT and freelancer for local publications and ad agencies, which in turn inspired Kansas to launch his own ad agency. In that venture, Kansas found the spark for his next: real estate development. A marketing project in Atlanta’s Inman Park neighborhood motivated both a physical move and a career move. Inman Park became his new home and real estate his new focus, culminating in the launch of Gene Kansas Commercial Real Estate, where his energies remain today.  

For Kansas, that serial-venture story isn’t so hopscotch as one might think—it’s just a consistent application of his education via the McGuire Entrepreneurship Program. “In addition to honing an inherent ability, it taught me a framework and a process,” he explained. “I’m exaggerating just a little, but there’s not a huge difference between publishing a book and developing a building. It’s taking an idea and seeing it through from concept to completion.”

It’s hard to imagine a better endorsement of entrepreneurship, but to look at his journey through only that lens would miss a vital lesson: Kansas followed his heart, and in doing so, found his passion. Because for Kansas, real estate isn’t about buildings or land. It’s about the people that inhabit them, their connections to other people and other places and the stories those things create together.

To that end, Kansas has become as much a cultural developer as property developer, a social entrepreneur in the guise of a savvy businessman. His company’s award-winning work to revitalize properties in the blighted birthplace of the civil rights movement, Atlanta’s Sweet Auburn neighborhood, helped stay the destruction of the historic Atlanta Daily World building and attract big names such as Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) and President Obama, both of whom placed re-election offices in the area. This year, Kansas took his full year’s marketing budget and created A Giving Campaign, helping fund and build awareness for local nonprofits. Then there’s his latest venture, Constellations: a mingling of spaces for civically and socially oriented business, offering private offices, co-working, education and community events.

“My role as developer and founder of Constellations is to create a platform that supports other people’s goals and missions and dreams, not tell them what their goals, missions and dreams should be,” Kansas said. To that end, he struck a deal with the city to offer a portion of the building’s space for educators and nonprofits at no cost. “I wanted to make sure that we have a diverse group of stars,” he explained. “That if people want to be here, they have that opportunity, even if they might not otherwise be able to afford it.”

In that same spirit, Kansas, who serves on the advisory board for the McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship, recently joined forces with the UA Foundation and Eller College to spearhead a $100,000 endowment campaign for the Fred Cox Memorial Scholarship. The award honors his friend and former UA roommate, a McGuire Center alumnus who was killed in the attacks of 9/11, and since 2002 has annually recognized an outstanding undergraduate in entrepreneurship. “These students have a ton of talent,” Kansas said. “If by giving we can help maximize that talent, it’s to all our benefit: theirs, the university’s, the world’s.”

And therein lies the key to Kansas’ own story: an expansive vision for good in the world. “What I’m trying to do with our community-building projects is storytelling through the built environment,” he offered with a nod to his professional roots. “We’ve all heard someone say, ‘If these walls could talk.’ Abstracting that cliché, my belief is that if a place has a good story, it connects with people. Deeper connections create deeper values, and values motivate people to take action. Our cities and our surroundings inform individual and civic identity, so it’s vital to celebrate and support these places. You have to know where you are to chart your direction forward.”

Through real estate entrepreneurship, Kansas found his passion and purpose, seizing one opportunity after another to learn that opportunity isn’t always about profit: “The world isn’t just about business, just like real estate isn’t just about buildings.” In fact, for Kansas, it’s much more about stars past, present and future and the stories their constellations tell. Empowering them, he charts his own path forward, finding his way by their light.

Header photo of the Constellations building in Atlanta courtesy Gene Kansas Commercial Real Estate.

Alumni Profile: Trent Kruse, '04 MMF

Never a Typical Day: Five Questions on Managing Investor Relations
Trent Kruse, ’04 Master’s in Finance
Vice President (Treasurer)
Treasury, Investor Relations and Corporate Communications, JCPenney

By the Eller Finance Department, for MSF Connect: Alumni News

What type of professional experience have you had so far with JCPenney?

My experience has been good, bad and ugly over the last 12 years at JCPenney. The company has experienced highs, lows and everything in between. Despite that, I would not trade this experience for anything. I have learned so much, and most importantly I have learned just how critical culture is.

My first two years at JCP were two of the best years in terms of performance and profitability for the company, then the recession happened. Needless to say, that was a difficult time for retailers. As we exited the recession, an activist investor took a sizable stake in the company. His strategy took this 115-year-old retailer to the precipice. Since then, we have been working tirelessly to put JCP back in the ranks of world-class retailers and the progress has been exceptional.

One thing is certain about the people at JCP: we are a group of associates continuing to live by Mr. Penney’s ideals of honor, courage, service and cooperation.

What has surprised you most about investor relations?

The passion our customers have for JCP has been amazing. It has been so surprising to receive countless emails and phone calls from investors and customers rooting for us to turn things around, survive and ultimately thrive. I guess you don’t get to hang around 115 years as a retailer if you don’t create a lasting and enduring relationship with your customers… and Mr. Penney certainly did that, and it continues today!

Why did you choose to work for JCPenney after graduating from the MMF program?

I am a native Texan and planned to head back to Texas to start my professional career. I interviewed at several companies, but one thing really stood out about JCP—the people. It seemed that everyone I interviewed with had been with the company for 10, 20, 30 or even 40 or more years. I remember thinking that has to be a sign of a company that treats its associates well and creates an environment for you to be successful and grow in your career. Twelve years later, that has certainly proven to be the case!

What does a typical day look like?

I think this is another reason I really enjoy my job at JCP: there are no typical days in Investor Relations, or Treasury. I often have a list of tasks to accomplish, and rare are the days that I actually check anything off that list. I spend a lot of my time advocating on behalf of JCP to the external community, both financial and media. The balance of my time is spent managing the team and interacting with company executives. One of the greatest benefits to IR and Treasury is the need for me to be intimately involved in all aspects of JCP, so I can “tell our story” to current and perspective investors and lenders. Having that type of exposure early in my career has been extraordinary and unexpected.

What advice do you have for current MS Finance students ready to start their careers?

My advice is simple, and it hangs on the wall in my office: Work hard and be nice to people. It sounds obvious, but hard work pays off and everyone can appreciate someone with a positive attitude and outlook. Being nice doesn’t mean you avoid confrontation or don’t make the tough decisions, but people will do more for you if they like you.

Of course, sometimes the “be nice to people” part can be difficult when you deal with hard-charging hedge fund analysts, the uninformed and frustrated shareholders! Best of luck to you all!

Top image of JCPenney storefront by Nicholas Eckhart, courtesy Flickr. Photo of Trent Kruse courtesy JCPenney.

Alumni Profile: Jessica Guan, '04 MMF

Five Questions on Quantitative Investment Strategy
Jessica Guan, ’04 Master’s in Finance
Vice President, BlackRock

By the Eller Finance Department, for MSF Connect: Alumni News

What type of professional experience have you had so far?

Jessica Guan

Jessica Guan, 04 MMF.

Most of my professional experience has been related to various aspects of portfolio construction process for quantitative equity investments. Mainly, the process involves mean-variance optimization, which is essentially risk-return tradeoff given the objectives and constraints. I spent several years working on the equity risk factors, and currently I am a product manager of the portfolio management system used by our quant funds.

What surprised you about portfolio management?

Apart from market insights, there are many dimensions to the success of an investment strategy. Execution and discipline are more important than you might think. In the context of quant investments, the ability to source and analyze information and the ability to gain desired exposures with minimum transaction costs, for example, differentiate asset managers.

How did the combination of education and experience lead you to your current role with BlackRock?

My job at BlackRock requires a thorough understanding of quantitative investment strategies and how to execute them. What I learned from school, such as economics, modern portfolio theory and valuation, is the foundation for everything else. The applied portfolio management course was particularly helpful. Earlier experience in my professional journey taught me how much more there is out there to learn. Ability to quickly grasp something new is more important than how much you already know.

What is the favorite part of your job?

The world of quant investing is facing new challenges and opportunities as technology evolves and the amount of data grows exponentially. BlackRock takes pride in being the technology leader in the investment industry. Big data and artificial intelligence are big themes for us. It’s exciting to be working in this area at this age and time.

What advice do you have for current MS Finance students ready to start their careers?

Keep an open mind and try different things. Stay self-reflective to discover your passion and strength. Your career is a very long journey so find something you enjoy doing is key to long-term success.

Top image by nattanan23, courtesy Pixabay. Photo of Jessica Guan courtesy Jessica Guan.

Internship Spotlight: Sonali George '17

By Ben Vijayakumar ’18 MBA

This summer, Sonali George ’17 MBA/MS MIS had the opportunity to follow her dreams working as an intern for Microsoft. After completing her MBA with a concentration in entrepreneurship from the McGuire New Venture Development Program, she is currently pursuing her second master’s, the MS in Management Information Systems.

Before arriving at Eller, Sonali volunteered for many nonprofit organizations in India. She aspires to one-day start her own NGO where she can leverage the best of innovative technology and management practices for the benefit of the community. She figured she would need to work for at least 10 years in a corporate setting before she could break into the social impact domain. As luck would have it, this internship brought her dreams into reality far quicker than she imagined.

Sonali George ’17 MBA/MS MIS.

During her Eller MBA Consulting Project, Sonali had the opportunity to interact with multiple Microsoft associates including Mike Miles and Bill Pardi. At the time, she was also president of the Eller Net Impact Association, when she approached Miles, general manager for cloud infrastructure and operations and datacenter community impact and guest lecturer at the University of Arizona, to discuss corporate social responsibility initiatives. She expressed interest in Microsoft’s Timmy Global Health initiative and joined the Microsoft fall 2016 volunteer effort with Timmy Global Health in Ecuador. This expedition helped her connect with many Microsoft associates and deepened her commitment to community development (Read more about the expedition here.) She is grateful to Miles for giving her the opportunity to participate in the Microsoft initiative, which in turn, motivated her to apply for internship opportunities. By spring 2017, she received an internship offer to work on the new Datacenters for Good initiative. This was the perfect opportunity to align her personal and professional interests.

Sonali worked on this project as a program manager intern at Microsoft HQ in Redmond, WA for the cloud and enterprise services team. The Datacenters for Good initiative is an offshoot from the idea of A Cloud for Global Good by Satya Nadella, CEO, and Brad Smith, president and CLO of Microsoft. Though she was the only MBA intern on her team, she worked among a hundred other Microsoft MBA interns and more than 1,300 interns in the Seattle area.

Her internship was served primarily with community development of datacenters, and included job shadowing, interacting with a manager and a mentor and participating in cloud engineering team operations. Over the course of three months, she assisted with developing “Theory of Change” and measuring impact for the socioeconomic environment analysis of datacenter communities. This internship was unique, she says, because her learning curve was steep. She had the chance to work alongside associates with more than 15 years’ experience and collaborate with colleagues like Director of Sustainability Tamara Dicaprio, Director of Community Development Tim Griffiths and Miles.

She is grateful to all the Microsoft associates whom she connected with before and during her internship. She felt at home working with Microsoft, where everyone cared about the community. She describes the work culture as more collaborative than competitive and a place that welcomes new comers and encourages risk taking. She benefited from their Elevate program, where she connected with mentors from different domains weekly.

The internship was also an avenue for an intern Q&A session with Nadella, watching the Chainsmokers at the internship signature event, micro-volunteering and matching contribution initiatives and receiving an Xbox as internship swag. Above all, she is happy to be among the few interns who had the chance to present and receive feedback from Suresh Kumar, corporate VP for cloud infrastructure and operations.

During her time in Washington, she travelled to Mt. Rainier and Olympic National Parks and the San Juan Islands, and enjoyed the waters around the Seattle area.

In her final semester at Eller, she looks forward to attending the Net Impact conference in October and eagerly awaits her second trip to Ecuador with Microsoft this November.

Sonali’s advice for students reading her story is to “share your genuine interests and passions to make strong connections.” She recommends students take part in experiential learning opportunities such as the Eller Business Consulting program to learn critical business and client management skills. Sonali also recommends an internship with Microsoft for those who wish to utilize technology and social enterprise for empowering people and organizations. She is happy to connect with other students who want to learn more about her internship experience.

Header photograph of Sonali George and her Microsoft business consulting team courtesy Eller College.

My Eller Experience: Alexis Young and Garrett Nelson on Excelling in Negotiation

Alexis Young ’18 and Garrett Nelsen ’18 Placed Third in the Baylor Business Negotiation Competition this Spring

Introduction by Dr. Barry Goldman
Associate Professor of Management and Organizations

The Business Negotiation Competition at Baylor University is a national, team-based challenge for undergraduates from across the country. Thanks to the support of Associate Dean and Undergraduate Programs Director Pam Perry and her team, we were able to send two teams of two students each plus myself to Baylor, Texas in April. I received a number of excellent volunteers from my two negotiation classes. From these, I selected Alexis YoungGarrett NelsenStu Francis and Claire Hughes plus two alternates.

I did not know how we would compare to teams from some of the best universities in the country, but knew we had a respectable shot at doing well given the ability and perseverance of these students. I was proud of their work and dedication; we met twice per week for more than seven weeks, and students also worked on their own. The students were extremely supportive of each other and we all were delighted that the team of Alexis Young and Garrett Nelsen placed third in the country—and a whisper’s breath from higher honors!

Alexis Young
’18 Business Management and Entrepreneurship

When I added the business negotiations course to my schedule I did not know that it was going to impact my life as much as it has. The first day of class Dr. Barry Goldman introduced the idea of participating in the Baylor Business Negotiation Competition, and I was immediately intrigued. He warned us that it was going to be a lot of work, but I had recently decided I might want to go to law school and so I thought this could be an invaluable experience.  

The preparation was much more challenging than I had expected, but I loved every minute of it. The whole team met two to three times a week outside of class to practice cases and to improve our negotiation skills. On top of that, my partner Garrett and I would meet for hours to prepare to negotiate our cases. Now, when I am in the Professional Development Center, all I can think about is sitting there with Garrett engaged in an intense conversations covering our roles, what we were going to say, secret signals and even outfit coordination. It is true that you can’t have success without hard work! 

For me, the best part about this experience has been getting to know the people. Going into this I knew only one person out of the six people who participated, but now I consider everyone a great friend. It has been so amazing to see how much everyone has grown as negotiators and as people.

I am still not sure what I want to do when I grow up (maybe start a film production company!), but I know I will continue to develop my negotiation skills because this experience taught me how valuable and important it is to be a good negotiator. I am so thankful we were given this opportunity, and I am so proud of everyone in our team because Garrett and I could not have achieved third place in the nation without such great support!

Eller students and faculty at Baylor Business Negotiation Competition

Eller participants at the Baylor Business Negotiation Competition (left to right): Stu Francis ’18, Claire Hughes ’17, Dr. Barry Goldman, Garrett Nelsen ’18, Alexis Young ’18 and Ed Gutierrez ’18.
Photo courtesy Barry Goldman.

Garrett Nelsen
’18 Business Management

The weekend of the competition had finally arrived. The months of training and preparation Alexis and I undertook was all for this upcoming weekend. We got the opportunity to fly to Baylor together, which brought our team even closer.

The final preparations were completed Friday night before the big day on Saturday. The day’s schedule was long and strenuous. We all arrived at the Hankamer School of Business at 7 a.m. to eat breakfast and review rules with the other competitors. Our first round of negotiations began at 8 a.m. This round consisted of 45 minutes of negotiations followed by feedback from the judges. Our first round competitors came from Southern Methodist University, and they were extremely skilled and ready to respond to our positions for the case. It was a very hard fought, back-and-forth negotiation that ended in our favor.

Immediately following the negotiation, our two teams and Dr. Goldman anxiously talked about how we thought we did. The results were posted, and Alexis and I were moving on! Although it was a first round victory, it was still exciting to advance to the next round of the competition. The celebration was short lived, however, because we quickly approached the start of the next round against a team from the University of Connecticut.

Six teams had moved on to the second round, and only two would advance to the final round. Alexis and I felt very confident going into the second round, and felt our preparation and work with Dr. Goldman would help us succeed. The round consisted of another tough team and a hard fought negotiation. Alexis and I were able to catch a slip-up from the other team, and used that to gain leverage in our negotiation to help with our final outcome. After the conclusion of the second round, the results were read aloud. We had beat the team we competed against, but the other two winning teams had a better overall score, thus putting our team as third place and finishing our day. We were disappointed and frustrated that we weren’t able to move on the final round of the competition, but we were happy with how well we had done.

I am extremely thankful that the Eller College and Dr. Goldman gave Alexis and me the opportunity to partake in such an amazing experience. The art of negotiation is a lifelong skill that is always a work in process, and because of this experience, I have grown as a person and a future businessman. 

Top photo of Garrett Nelsen and Alexis Young courtesy Alexis Young.

Student Profile: Niah Curry, '18 BSBA Marketing

Six Questions with Niah Curry
’18 BSBA Marketing

By Talia Sabbath, ’19 BSBA Marketing

University of Arizona senior Niah Curry (’18 BSBA Marketing) came to Tucson from Rancho Cucamonga, California. She is the manager of the UA men’s tennis team and a front desk receptionist for Eller Undergraduate Programs. Recently she posted a video resume on LinkedIn that resulted in more than 300,000 views, an array of comments, including from LinkedIn’s CEO, and several job interviews with Fortune 500 companies.

Niah Curry, ’18 BSBA Marketing.
Photo courtesy UA.

Why did you choose Eller?

The Eller College of Management was a perfect fit for me because it allowed me to grow and mature into the business woman I am today. I truly believe that Eller is one of the strongest undergraduate programs at the University of Arizona. The fact that Eller has its own advisors allows each and every student to create their own personal career or academic paths. I entered Eller as a marketing major.

Marketing caught my interest because I love the idea of branding, especially personal branding. Eller turned out to be a great undergraduate career move because it provided knowledge outside of the classroom and developed my idea of collaboration.

What professional experience have you had so far?

During my junior year, I balanced three part-time jobs: student worker for Eller, athletic recruiting intern for the UA football team and an athletic team manager for the UA men’s tennis team. These roles have allowed me to gain cross-functional skills, be disciplined and thrive in fast-paced environments.

This summer, I was a public relations associate intern for American Honda Motor Company in California, where I provided customer outreach, processed data through the Salesforce customer relations management software tool and compiled marketing recommendations research for different market segments. The internship taught me how to be a leader and when to be a listener.  

What has been your biggest challenge so far?

The biggest challenge I have had has been balancing multiple part-time jobs and handling a full academic schedule. While challenging, the schedule increased my time-management skills, allowing me to execute different tasks and set goals for the future. In the end, I am glad I took on these challenges because I believe adversity builds character.

How do you overcome challenges?

I believe if you change your mindset, you change your life. I welcome adversity in my life because I know these events will make me stronger in the end. Members of the undergraduate programs staff, like Academic Advisor Cassandra Ott, Career Coach Tremain Ravenell and Associate Director for Professional Development Jeff Welter, also assisted in my career and academic development. I would like to give them special thanks. In addition, I have made personal sacrifices so I can accomplish my long-term goals.

You recently put together a video resume. Why did you decide to do that and how did it turn out?

I made a video resume to be different from everyone else. I am convinced that the old-fashion paper resume is not as exciting anymore. If I was a recruiter, I would want to see an exciting, new and dynamic approach to resume writing and viewing. By taking a different approach, I hoped to stand out to employers because they would be able to put a name with a face. After posting my video resume on LinkedIn, I received more than 300,000 views and 7,000 likes. The CEO of LinkedIn commented on my video and LinkedIn reached out to me with media opportunities and possible employment. The video resume also helped me obtain interviews with top Fortune 500 companies.    

What are your plans after graduation?

After graduation, I plan to work full-time at an innovative company. My long-term goal is to attend law school one day so I can infuse my love for business with my passion for law. 

Top and interior photo courtesy of Niah Curry

Faculty Profile: Gautam Gowrisankraran

Eight Questions with Gautam Gowrisankaran
Arizona Public Service Professor of Economics
Department of Economics

Ph.D. in Economics, Yale University

“Two of my biggest areas of research are the economics of healthcare markets and environmental and energy economics. The research questions help inform the impact of policies on some of the most crucial challenges of our time.”

What brought you to the Eller College?

The economics department has a strong research presence in my field of industrial organization.

How long have you been at Eller?

Over ten years now. I moved here in 2007.

What is your current research, and what most excites you about that area of focus?

I’m working on lots of topics. Too many topics to be honest! But, I’m excited about all of them (which is why I’m working on so many).

Two of my biggest areas of research are the economics of healthcare markets and environmental and energy economics. Specifically, I’m working on research questions such as understanding how narrow network health plans help lower healthcare costs and the productivity impacts of pollution regulation in China. These research questions are all super important, as they help inform the impact of policies on some of the most crucial challenges of our time.

What are you currently teaching, and what do you most enjoy about teaching?

I am currently teaching an Executive MBA class on strategy and a doctoral class on the econometrics of dynamic industrial organization models. They are such different classes and I love teaching them both! EMBA students are (very talented) consumers of the knowledge that we create while PhD students need to understand how to further develop this knowledge. Helping on both dimensions is really fun. Much of my PhD teaching involves helping students learn how to use frontier methods and data to better answer research questions. There has been an explosion of the availability and use of data in economics over the past 20 to 30 years and I am happy to be part of this emerging area of inquiry.

How do you bring your research into your teaching?

Broadly speaking, my research is about how policies and firm decision making affect outcomes. This research is hugely important in both the classes I mentioned. E.g., if I am teaching EMBA students a case about Coke and Pepsi, I am trying to develop the concepts of when competitors might be helpful to a business. This in turn requires understanding models of competition, advertising and experience goods, all of which relate to my research. In a PhD class, I focus on the methods that students will need to learn to become independent scholars at the frontier. It goes without saying that if I did not know frontier research methods, I could not effectively teach this class.

Gautam Gowrisankaran’s daughter shows off her father’s top hat and sword from the honorary doctorate ceremony.
Photo by Gautam Gowrisankaran.

You were awarded an honorary doctorate this summer. Tell us about that.

Yes, I received a doctorate honoris causa  from the University of Oulu in northern Finland this spring. The honorary degree is the highest honor of the University of Oulu and is given to people whom the faculty feel have contributed significantly with their scholarship or other work and who also have a connection with the university. In my case, I am working with them on understanding how hydroelectricity adds to the value of renewable energy, along with my colleague Stan Reynolds. Incidentally, the University of Oulu’s business school is one of only four AACSB accredited business schools in Scandinavia; it was an impressive place to visit.
I was truly honored to have my work recognized in this way. The ceremony was also fantastic. My whole family came. The graduation party ended at sunrise at 3 a.m. In Finland, they give doctors a sharpened sword to represent the fight for truth. However, I’m still waiting for mine to get shipped to Tucson as U.S. customs doesn’t like swords being mailed. It will soon be in my office, hopefully.

Beyond research and teaching, what are your passions?

I have three kids which limits my time for other passions besides work! However, I love skiing, as does the whole family. I also love biking and running, reading, playing and listening to classical music, traveling, and learning languages.

What does the Eller Experience mean to you?

It means that we must engage students by integrating our core competencies of research and teaching to add value to our students.

Learn more about Gautam Gowrisankaran on his faculty page.

Photo of Gautam Gowrisankaran by Eller College of Management.