Executive Q+A: Cougar Goals

The dean of WSU’s Carson College of Business is intent on creating new undergraduate opportunities.
Larry W. “Chip” Hunter, a scholar of human resource management and industrial relations, became dean of Washington State University’s Carson College of Business in March 2015. He aims to make Carson College the premier place in the Northwest for an undergraduate business education.
EARLY YEARS: I was born in Kansas, lived in Minnesota during grade school and moved west to Moscow, Idaho, when I was 12. My father was an administrator at the University of Idaho. My mother opened a children’s clothing store. My first paying job was washing dishes at Allino’s Hoagie Shop in Moscow. The place has been remodeled and is now called Gambino’s and is owned by Nancy Swanger, the director of our School for Hospitality Business Management! 
WHY BUSINESS: I was curious about workplace conditions and how money creates opportunity. As a professor, I began to wonder if we could get students thinking about how they, as managers and leaders, can create opportunities for others.
EDUCATION: I got my master’s at Oxford University, where I worked for legendary professors of economics, politics and philosophy. I also learned to play cricket. While working on my doctorate at MIT, advisers encouraged me to get out from behind my desk and understand the world, focusing on questions that matter. 
U.S. BUSINESS EDUCATION: We are very good at training students in technical business skills, and by encouraging them to take courses in liberal arts and sciences, we help them develop critical thinking and communication skills. At research universities, professors also do research and inspire rigorous ways of thinking about problems. That said, we don’t always do the best job of training students to translate their technical skills and abstract thinking into defining and solving real problems. We also don’t do a good job of teaching them to confront their mistakes and learn from failure. 
CARSON COLLEGE: Employers want students who have all the required technical skills in things like finance and accounting and who are analytical, but they also want students who can communicate, collaborate, take initiative and be entrepreneurial. There isn’t enough time to teach all that separately, so one idea is to infuse a lot of that thinking into existing courses. Accounting students, for example, might use online “adaptive learning” technology to learn technical skills, but then work in groups in class explaining the concepts to each other and working on issues they don’t understand. That encourages collaboration. We have a task force looking at these kinds of approaches and how to diffuse it into the faculty. 
WORKFORCE READINESS: We need students with strong entry-level skills, but we also need to shape their ability to learn. One approach is to work closely with employers to structure great internship opportunities, and encourage students to engage in global experiences, networking events and business-plan competitions. The best predictor of getting a job is having an internship. All studentst should have an internship as part of their education. 
PULLMAN: Having our main campus in Pullman can make it difficult to bring in experts and attract a diverse group of students. But we are creating diverse campuses across the state. Our Tri-Cities campus has a deep expertise in wine business management, our Everett campus works with experts in senior living management, and in Vancouver, our students do hands-on consulting with a local business in their senior year. We’d love to work with alumni to raise a fund to invest in innovative ways of teaching business.  
ONLINE EDUCATION: We are learning more and more about how to work in the online environment. I’d like to use more “adaptive learning” technologies to guide students through their more technically oriented courses, identify areas they have trouble with, and have facilitators and instructors there to help students get through challenging bits. 
DEVELOPING LEADERSHIP: There’s interesting recent work that shows introverts and extroverts are equally likely to be effective leaders. Self-awareness is a common theme among successful leaders. How do you play to your strengths? How do you compensate for your weaknesses? And how do you discover what those strengths and weaknesses are? Many leaders are really good listeners who know how to strike the balance between listening and acquiring information and not waiting too long to make a decision.
FIVE-YEAR GOALS: We want to make our online programs the best in the Northwest for the price. We also want to provide a lot more business education to non-business students, including courses in financial literacy so they know what to ask if they’re buying insurance or taking out a loan. When I was [associate dean] at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, we offered a one-week immersion course in entrepreneurship for scientists.
TEN-YEAR GOALS: To be among the top 25 public undergraduate business programs in the country — the first place students choose for an undergraduate business education in the Northwest. We also want to become the place that the business and policy community goes to for critical thinking about the Northwest. 

Get to Know Chip Hunter

  1. DIVERSIONS: “I’m a trivia nut and went on Jeopardy! in the ’90s. I lost.”
  2. BOOK SHELF: “David Allen’s Getting Things Done is a great guide to personal productivity and effectiveness at work. Between the World and Me [by Ta-Nehisi Coates] is a deeply moving book about the reality of black experience in America. I just started reading Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals.” 
  3. FAVORITE DRIVE: “From Seattle to Pullman, with its changing geography, over the Cascades, into the high desert, and then finally into the Palouse.” 
  4. ADMIRED LEADER: “I am in awe of Lincoln — an amazing combination of steel spine and flexibility in approaching problems, of deep unwavering principles combined with pragmatism.” 
  5. DREAM VACATION: “A golf trip to St. Andrews, Scotland, with a group of my buddies.”


Off the Clock Profile #3: Kevin Marcus

Off the Clock Profile #3: Kevin Marcus

Cofounder and CTO, Versium Analytics

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is one in a monthly series of miniprofiles featuring local executives “off the clock.”

Kevin Marcus, cofounder and CTO, Versium Analytics

I started working with data in the early 1990s and discovered that I really enjoy it. Data is a lot of fun! It’s rewarding for me to find new ways to use big data and connect the dots in order to derive actionable insights from it. Ever since then, I’ve been deeply entrenched in the big data and analytics space. From launching some of the first online directory services to running AOL’s classifieds at scale, I have constantly been surrounded by data.

Versium got off the ground a few years ago, when my founding partner, Chris Matty, and I received a request from a former colleague to help with an analytics project involving social networks. This project helped us see an opportunity to fill a gap in the analytics market by creating a self-serve analytics solution that helps marketers like our former colleague, who have no formal data science training, to automatically build predictive models themselves without enlisting the help of data scientists.

So many companies are just sitting on these enormous piles of data today, but they’re often unsure how to derive actionable intelligence from it. We wanted to make data intelligence accessible to everyone, not just those with a Ph.D. in data science. When Chris and I started designing Versium’s platform, we focused on making it simple and easy-to-use for marketers, period. From day one, Versium’s mission has been about taking complex, technical information and making it accessible to a wide variety of people, where they could use it in their current environments, without complicated or specialized training.

Versium is working with more than 300 companies that include marketing agencies, technology and service providers, and educational facilities. In 2015, we saw our revenue increase by more than 100 percent year over year — and we’re projecting that to increase to 157 percent year over year for 2016.

I do a lot of my reading online, but my favorite book is A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson. I love it because Bryson explains complicated areas of science in a way that’s easily understandable to the general public. I’m a big proponent of making science accessible to more people, and Bryson does this really effectively. The same holds true for people like Carl Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson; they’re both great.

As for TV shows, I like watching Bates Motel [on A&E] because initially it seems like a horror show but once you get into it, you realize the show is mainly about the leading character Norman’s upbringing, which is a really interesting story line.

The Pacific Science Center. I think it’s really important to make science more accessible, and the Pacific Science Center does a great job of making science fun, cool and interesting for everyone.

I drive a Ford Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid. The battery lasts for about 25 miles, but there’s also a gas engine, so I don’t get “range anxiety” if the battery is low.

I raced closed-wheel cars for a couple of years. I’ve always enjoyed cars, and the rush I got from racing was pretty exhilarating. I stick to highway driving these days, though.

I love astronomy. I saw Saturn through a telescope when I was a kid, and I’ve been fascinated by outer space ever since. I have an observatory-class telescope weighing 400 to 500 pounds that I roll in and out of my garage for stargazing.

Tell us about your Off the Clock activities. Visit seattlebusinessmag.com/clock-seattle-executive.