Stories of Impact

Amy Morales, '18, '19

First-generation siblings find success at PSU pursuing undergraduate and graduate business degrees

Value proposition: Passionate committment to diversity and inclusion

At first glance, Amy Morales seems like she had a clear path from day one. She’s a standout student in the Master of Taxation (MT) program and president of Beta Alpha Psi, an honor society dedicated to accounting, finance and tax students.

 

But not long ago, Amy was attending Portland Community College (PCC) and facing a tough decision — should she continue on to study journalism, an uncertain field, or explore opportunities with higher potential for financial stability and job security?

 

Her brother, Leo, played a pivotal role in guiding her next step. Then a PSU accounting student and now a graduate of the MT program, he had one suggestion: get a business degree from PSU.

 

“We are both first-generation college students,” Morales said. “So we help each other out.”

 

Morales’s parents are Mexican immigrants and are passionate about school, but they only completed the sixth grade due to financial limitations. Not wanting their children to struggle as they did, they always stressed the importance of education.

 

With the advice of her brother and encouragement from her parents, Morales enrolled in an accounting class at PCC. Then it all clicked. She transferred to PSU and graduated with her bachelor’s degree in accounting in 2018. She then followed in her brother’s footsteps by enrolling in the MT program.

 

Morales was often reminded by her instructors to find a job that fits her dreams and values. And that’s exactly what she did. She graduated in June and started full-time with Ernst & Young in Portland, where she’s been interning since 2017.

 

“It’s a perfect fit, and that feels good,” she said. “I will forever be grateful for my parents encouraging me and my siblings to attend school and make something of our lives. And they are grateful for our teachers and scholarship donors who’ve supported us along the way.”

 

The youngest Morales sibling, Manuel, is now studying marketing at PSU.

Lukas Robuck, '19

Out in Business Scholarship empowers LGBTQ+ community

Value proposition: Passionate commitment to diversity and inclusion

Lukas Robuck decided to pivot away from immigration law after they realized the field was focused more on earning money from clients than helping them pursue their dreams.

 

After spending most of their professional career in the closet, Robuck knew that if they earned their MBA and started their own business, they would have the opportunity to live authentically, be their best self at work and empower others to do the same. 

 

Robuck chose The Portland MBA because of PSU’s reputation as a progressive school and the program’s focus on stakeholders, not just shareholders.

 

“PSU’s student body and MBA cohorts are more diverse than most MBA programs,” they said. “Not only does PSU have thousands of LGBTQ+ identifying students, but the MBA cohort is a balanced mix of students of varying identities and backgrounds.”

 

Early on, Robuck wasn’t certain they’d made the right decision, but The School of Business demonstrated that it didn’t just talk the talk but walked the walk. 

 

“I started to notice a change in myself," Robuck said. "I was more confident and getting involved beyond just going to class. It was working alongside the Open for Business planning committee that I truly felt I had found my calling.” 

 

Because of their individual advocacy and work with Open for Business, a networking event for the LGBTQ+ community, Robuck was the first to receive the Out in Business Scholarship. 

 

“This scholarship recognizes LGBTQ+ identifying students for their work toward a more inclusive future, both at PSU and within the community at large,” Robuck said.“I hope it encourages other queer students to push the university to take action to be more inclusive and supportive of the LGBTQ+ community.”

 

Despite the progress that’s been made at PSU, there’s still work to be done to create a more inclusive community. Robuck believes The School of Business can be a catalyst for campus-wide conversations and actions around all-gender restrooms, pronoun usage, workplace inclusion of LGBTQ+ people of color and expanding opportunities for LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs.

 

Robuck and their partner are working to open a retail plant nursery that provides competitive career opportunities for queer, trans and nonbinary communities. 

 

“My time at PSU prepared me to open the nursery,” Robuck said. “The skills I gained pushed me to learn more about myself and how I show up and interact with those around me. It has given me the confidence to pursue my dreams.”

Luis Patron Diaz, '19

Making it count: Finding meaning and value beyond the classroom

Value proposition: Passionate committment to diversity and inclusion

Luis Patron was a 12-year-old boy living with his family in Mexico when his mother, suffering the recent loss of her husband and wanting to provide a better way of life away from violent drug cartels, moved the family north. They settled in Woodburn, an agricultural and heavily Hispanic community near Salem, and she did whatever she could to support them.

 

“There were four kids in the family and Mom was determined to give us a better life,” Patron explained. “Mom did housecleaning, farming, factory work – you name it. She wanted us to have a roof.”

 

Now 29, Patron has taken everything from his upbringing and turned it into a mission for his future. And for him, education is the key.

 

Patron graduated in June and specialized in finance. Money was tight growing up, so he has a special appreciation for its value.

 

“When I realized I could learn about how money works, its impact on people’s lives and how to manage it, that was for me,” he said.

 

He also has a strong interest in law, and is applying to some of the top law schools in the country. He sees himself practicing corporate law or doing work in government policy. But what really piqued his interest was seeing the contrast between the legal system in the United States and what he observed in Mexico.

 

“The reason I want to go into law is because I really admire our criminal justice system in America,” he said. “The criminal justice system in Mexico is nothing. If you have a couple dollars, you buy them off; money gets to dictate who gets justice or not. When mom brought us up here, I saw how the system kept people accountable and safe.”

 

It took a while for Patron to get to this point in his education because he spent much of his time working to help his family, both during high school and in the years after graduating. He did customer service, landscaping and painting, eventually becoming a regional manager for Subway restaurants in Portland. He tried working full time while going to Portland Community College until he decided that education had to come first. He quit Subway, got his associates degree at PCC and transferred to Portland State.

 

He quickly got involved with student groups and served as the executive recruiter for the business school’s Financial Management Association. He also caught the attention of Erica Wagner, associate dean of undergraduate programs at The School of Business. On the recommendation of a former student, Wagner recruited him to be part of her Dean's Future Leaders Group – a select group of students who show great potential. The students receive mentorship from Wagner, and they in turn mentor current and prospective business students as well as get involved with service projects in the community.

 

“When I met Luis, he was honest, dedicated to finishing school, vulnerable, and is one of the hardest working students,” Wagner said. “He doesn’t have a lot of role models who look like him and come from his community who are attempting to go to law school. He is hungry for mentorship and he is eternally hopeful.”

 

Patron’s hard work included getting involved last year in PSU’s Explore the Law program. The program enabled him to be mentored by a practicing lawyer and meet prosecutors, judges and others in the legal profession. In his last year at PSU, he worked as an intern in Student Legal Services.

 

Shalini Vivek, program coordinator for Explore the Law, said Patron has a natural affinity for networking – an essential skill in the legal profession – but what really stands out is his curiosity.

 

“Every time he would come to a panel, he would ask a number of insightful questions and would be very engaged throughout,” he recalls. “He so impressed one of our panelists that he offered to be Luis’ mentor – which was in addition to the mentor Luis already had.”

 

Patron sees more to his college experience than just personal ambition. He said one of the reasons he’s pursuing an education is to be an example to his siblings and encourage them to go to college, but also to see beyond himself to some greater role. It’s that mindset that led him to minor in philosophy.

 

“For me, it’s about learning who we are,” he said. “We have a bigger purpose in this world. We should always try to help our surroundings and other people.”

Eunice Makinde

Eunice Makinde honored with President's Diversity Award

Value proposition: Passionate committment to diversity and inclusion

Diversity Recruitment and Retention Specialist Eunice Makinde was honored with a 2019 President's Diversity Award for Distinguished Staff. She was nominated by her colleagues in The School of Business for her hard work advising and making connections for students from underrepresented populations.

Makinde joined PSU's undergraduate business team in 2016. Her program oversight for over 2,000 students helped increase the first-time, full-time undergraduate business student retention rate by nearly 8% in just two years. 

Supporting all aspects of the diverse students’ experience — from recruitment and retention to job preparedness and placement — Makinde cultivates an inclusive and welcoming culture that sets students up for success. She's also an advocate with donors and other key constituents to elevate the social justice work being done at PSU and beyond. 

Makinde's leadership has been instrumental in programs designed for students from diverse and marginalized backgrounds: 

Portland Professorships honor faculty passions and pursuits that are at the heart of PSU

Value proposition: Compelling and relevant research for industry and community

Portland Professors at The School of Business

  • David Caughlin
    The Daimler Trucks Professor in Analytics

  • Carlos Mena
    Nike Professorship in Supply Chain Strategy 

  • Amaradri Mukherjee
    The Standard PSU Professorship in Analytics

  • Kathleen Rupley
    The Tolopka Professorship in Accounting

  • Jacob Suher
    The Blount International PSU Professorship in Marketing


Recipients funded by anonymous donor:

  • Berrin Erdogan
    Professor of Management & Leadership

  • Ted Khoury
    Professor of Strategy, Sustainability & Entrepreneurship

  • Brian McCarthy
    Professor of the Healthcare MBA

  • Desiree Pacheco
    Professor of Strategy, Sustainability & Entrepreneurship

  • Lihong Qian
    Professor of Technology and Strategic Management

  • Erica Wagner
    Professor of Management of Information Systems

  • Kristi Yuthas
    Professor of Accounting & Analytics

PSU business faculty provide dynamic instruction, lead research projects with global influence and collaborate to find solutions to the world’s pressing challenges. At every step of the way, they provide real-life, real-world experiences for students.

 

To recognize and further the achievements of exemplary business faculty, The School of Business has awarded 13 Portland Professorships over the last two years, all made possible by individual and corporate donors. Janet ('88) and Stephen Tolopka kickstarted the designation in The School of Business when they funded a Portland Professorship in Accounting, held by Associate Professor of Accounting Kathleen Rupley. Soon after, an alum that wishes to remain anonymous made a $1 million gift to fund eight professorships across disciplines. 

 

Nike, Blount International, The Standard and Daimler Trucks North America recognize PSU’s strong sense of service to city and community. By funding Portland Professorships, they serve as an innovative conduit through which faculty can serve their industry; each company gains the expertise of faculty and students by collaborating on projects that benefit their business. 

 

Beyond deepening scholarly research, Portland Professorships are critical for recruiting and retaining extraordinary faculty — they reward excellence and elevate the prestige of The School of Business.

 

Portland Professors are changing what is possible, and they will change the game for PSU. Focused investment in these brilliant minds is ground zero for a future of limitless possibility for Portland and beyond. 

To create a Portland Professorship, donors provide awards of $25,000 each year for five years to support the activities of inspiring, high-achieving PSU faculty members. The resources are not endowed, so they can make an immediate impact on advancing faculty’s vital work. Portland Professors are named for a donor — or an individual a donor wishes to honor — for the duration of the award’s five-year term. PSU aspires to create 50 new Portland Professorships by 2021.

In a similar spirit to Portland Professorships, The School of Business is launching a new fundraising initiative for Teaching Fellowships that celebrate outstanding performance in the classroom and deep commitment to student success. For questions about Portland Professorships or Teaching Fellowships, please contact Senior Director of Development Lauren Clark at clarkl@psuf.org or 503.725.5039.

Meaningful research helps create more sustainable, thriving workplaces and communities

Value proposition: Compelling and relevant research for industry and community

The School of Business carries out a dual purpose to disseminate and generate knowledge. We do this through inclusive, transformative learning and meaningful research. Our faculty are passionate about mentoring the next generation of business leaders and are committed to generating insightful research that solves the business challenges of today and tomorrow.

 

The rich business community in Portland attracts professors and experts with deep-rooted industry connections. Our faculty is made up of curious researchers committed to exploring the most important topics affecting the global economy — research that redefines business and transforms lives.

Through compelling, relevant research, we offer practical answers and applications that guide the creation of more sustainable, thriving workplaces and communities.

Our faculty members regularly publish in top journals in their fields and present their work at national and international conferences.  In fact, for the last five years, our management area is in the top 50 TAMUGA rankings, a tool that identifies the most research-productive management departments in the U.S. based on the number of publications in top-tier management journals.

 

In addition to their discipline-based scholarship, our faculty members are also active researchers in the university’s areas of distinction: social and environmental sustainability, community and civic engagement, and innovative and humane organizations.

Here's a small sampling of research activity from the last year:

The School of Business at Portland State University
Redefine business. Transform lives.

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