Student Highlight: Jonathan A. Ruff

By Jonathan A. Ruff

Why would someone study international business in Portland, Oregon? If you would have asked me six months ago, I would have told you major companies like Intel, Nike, Adidas, Vesta and Daimler have large offices located here. However, ever since I started my new internship this summer, my understanding of Portland’s connection to international commerce has expanded. Starting in June, I began working for a company called U.S. Wheat Associates (USW). USW is an export market development organization that actively promotes the sale of American-grown wheat to more than 100 countries around the world. The company has offices in fifteen different countries and two in the U.S.

As it turns out, the Port of Portland is the largest export port for wheat in the country. In fact, 90% of the wheat grown in Oregon is exported. The variety of wheat grown in the Pacific Northwest, soft white wheat, is unique to the world. Soft white wheat is a type of wheat ideally suited for Asian style noodles and primarily imported by Asian counties. Historically, Japan has been the largest consumer of U.S. wheat and remains a major customer. Interestingly enough, there are a number of Japanese-owned grain elevators and laboratories that assist in exporting and verifying wheat quality located in Portland. It should come as no surprise that Portland exports a lot of wheat to Asia. Take a look at a map; it is one of the closest U.S. ports to the Pacific Rim and has a highly developed infrastructure for wheat exports.


It’s been an exciting and busy summer for me. Besides taking a full load of classes, I have been dedicating a lot of time to my internship. During the harvest, which takes place in the summer, a number of international buyers come to Portland and the Northwest to learn about the year’s crop. The USW office in Portland hosts many of those international trade teams, and I have had the opportunity to assist in hosting duties. So far we have met with teams of flour millers and food producers from Panama, Japan and Taiwan. Still to come this summer are representatives from China, Korea, and the Philippines.

Not only has the internship opened up new horizons, but it has also given me the opportunity to use many of the skills I have developed during my studies in the MIM program. The intercultural and language skills learned in the daily language classes have proven to be invaluable, as have some of the hard skills acquired in the accounting, finance, and supply chain classes. All in all, I am very happy I decided to study international business in Portland, and I am continuing to learn about our region’s connection to the rest of the world.


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My Experience in the SBA Mentor Program

By I-Ting Chen

The School of Business and Administration (SBA) Mentor Program is designed to help students increase their workplace savvy, gain clarity on their career interests, develop their networking skills, and successfully make the transition from college to the workplace through a mentor relationship with a business professional. As an international student in the MIM program, I really benefited from the SBA Mentor Program because my mentor helped me better understand my career goals and build connections with professionals in the US.

My mentor, Todd Ruberg, helped me edit my resume, gave me advice on choosing my specialization, taught me how to use LinkedIn, and helped me analyze my strengths and weaknesses. Most importantly, he did his best to help me build connections with his employees, friends, and even business partners.

Todd is Vice President of Customer Business Development at P&G, which is the company that I have always wished to work for. He arranged a P&G company tour for me and introduced me to many important employees. He also arranged three one-on-one meetings for me to have a deep conversation with some managers and specialists experienced in the Asian market. These meetings were extremely helpful because the people I met with have the careers I want in the future.

When Todd found out that I applied for the internship at Nike, he tried to figure out which connections he had at the company for me. Then he introduced his friend, Kevin, who is a Global CRM manager to me. We arranged a meeting at Nike, and I now finally have the chance to get into the Nike campus and learn more about this company. Next month, Todd will also introduce me to one of his important business partners, Franz Lazarus, the Executive Vice President of Costco. I am looking forward to this meeting as well.

As an international student, I am so grateful that I can have this amazing mentor who is willing to help me build connections with his employees, friends, and business partners. Although he is very busy, Todd always makes time to meet me in Portland. If I have any questions, he is always available. I feel like he really wants to help me find a good job, and I feel so grateful for him and this mentor program.

At the end of the mentor program, the SBA holds a Mentor Appreciation Event in the lovely Simon Benson House, which is located on the PSU Campus. This is the time for refreshments after finals and networking as we thank our outstanding mentors! I brought a special gift that I bought in Shanghai for Todd. It is a Paper Cut Art of the 12 Chinese Animal Zodiac. He was so happy, and we took a nice picture with the gift. This Mentor Appreciation Event will be the end of our mentorship, but a start of our friendship.

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For more information about the mentor program at PSU:

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MIM Alumni Interview with Joe Colistro

By Megan Nelson

Learning from former MIM students’ achievements and reflections can be a huge help for current and future MIM students. Sharing their reflections gives more people access to this information and to the success that these students are currently enjoying as a result of their time in the MIM program.

Joe Colistro graduated in 2013. When I spoke with Joe, he explained what he enjoyed and fondly remembers about his time in the program and where he is today as a result. Joe was able to use his connections and learning from the program to project him into a career that he truly enjoys and continues to grow within.

Can you tell us about your experience in the MIM program at Portland State University?

Going back to school and joining the MIM Program is hands down the best career choice I have made to date. I came to the program at a transitional period in the program’s history, but even with the organizational shakeups that occurred and the sudden changes to the curriculum, I can safely say that I had access to an amazing group of students and faculty. Sure, the international aspect of the program is great and all, but the real meat of the program is the connections that it enables, in terms of future business leaders (students), local businessmen, and amazingly knowledgeable and capable faculty.

What specialization did you choose? What motivated you to choose this specialization?

Interestingly enough, I did not choose a specialty. I began the program intending to specialize in supply chain and logistics, but after the Asia trip I snagged an internship doing marketing in the shoe industry that seemed like it had serious potential to turn into a career, so I opted instead to take extra marketing classes that would be more applicable to my career. The result was that I sacrificed my specialization tag on my diploma, but I netted seriously relevant knowledge and made tons of extra Nike and Adidas connections that continue to serve me in my career.

Can you tell us about your new job? What kind of responsibilities does it involve?

I am the Business Development Manager for the Asia Pacific at Brooks Running. At high level, this involves developing ways to grow and develop the business (retail networks, distributor relationships, supply chain and manufacturing issues) in several countries in the Pacific Rim. The nitty gritty of the job revolves around managing key distributor accounts, handling purchase orders, and aligning the business strategies of each country with those of our HQ. The role is broad because at this stage Brooks still has tons of growing to do in Asia. I also get to use my Chinese and Japanese on a consistent basis!

How does the MIM program benefit you in your new job?

The language skills are huge. Never underestimate the impression that being multilingual will have on prospective employers. DON’T NEGLECT YOUR LANGUAGE CLASSES!

Additionally, I can directly trace my career trajectory back to the internship that I had during the MIM Program, so that alone was worth the price of admission. The negotiation skills that I learned in Melanie’s classes and the Insights courses also play an almost daily role in my life.

Can you share some tips for fellow MIM students looking for jobs?

Get an internship. Nearly everyone I know from my cohort who ended up with a job they like did so through an internship in one form or another. If there isn’t one you like available, go out and make your own. Attend business forums on campus and straight up ask the employers there if you can work for them for free. The jobs aren’t going to come to you, at least not until you make that first step. Also, try to pick your Capstone project accordingly. If your project can serve as a relevant supplement to your resume then you are that much better equipped than the rest of the job hunters out there. Oh yeah, and stay in touch with your classmates. I promise you that they will go on to do big things, and you will be very glad that you met most of them.

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Women of Influence Awards 2014

By Gayathri Selvaraj

Megan Nelson and I got the opportunity to visit a very inspiring event in Portland on April 25, 2014. It was the Portland Business Journal’s 2014 Women of Influence Awards. The ceremony is about honoring female executives with special awards for their leadership. These leaders are some of the most highly successful women in their respective fields. Portland State University School of Business Administration, KeyBank, Comcast Business, Mass Mutual Financial Group, and Regence were the main sponsors for the event.

The award ceremony started with a welcome speech from our very own Erica L. Wagner, associate dean of Undergraduate Business Programs at PSU. After the welcome speech, there was the orchid awards ceremony, which was presented to women leaders from various organizations such as Umqua Bank, Daimler Trucks North America LLC, and Salt & Straw.

The next program that followed was honoring the women executives of the year. There were four award categories presented: Nonprofit, Small/Medium Company, Entrepreneur of the Year, and Large Company. The women executive of the year for the category Large Company was awarded to Wendy Collie, the new CEO of New Seasons Market. Wendy also served as a senior vice president at Starbucks before taking the new position as CEO of New Seasons Market, where she manages nearly 2,600 employees. The other women executives that were honored include Laura K. Lee Dellinger, Metropolitan Group, in the Small/Medium Company category; Nancy Stueber, OMSI, in the Nonprofit category; and Tara Kramer, Ri Ky Roofing & Sheet Metal LLC, in the Entrepreneurs category.

Following the award ceremony was a panel discussion, which in my opinion was the most interesting part of the program. We got to hear from four amazing women leaders about their career, family, and valuable advice for women who aspire to be future leaders. It was very inspiring to learn how strong they had to be when there were challenges in their way and what they did to overcome such barriers. For example, Tara Kramer is a single mom who got involved in the construction business in 2007. Even in 2007, for a woman to be in the construction industry was not seen very positively, but she fought against all the odds and emerged as a successful businesswoman.

In addition to managing their successful careers, these women also manage their time with their families and engage in social work, which is very striking. Some of the most important advice that was offered by these leaders was: 1. Be yourself no matter what. 2. Never give up even when everyone else says “you can’t.” 3. Do what inspires you the most. 4. It is not always about profits and self-interests. Social good matters too. IMG_7645

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MIM’s Spring Alumni Networking Event

By Terrence Donahue

On a rainy Wednesday, huddled in a private room at Trader Vic’s, Portland’s own uniquely Hawaiian lounge, a collection of unique world travelers had gathered. Despite the rush hour traffic and intermediary rain, a hearty bunch of Portland State’s own MIMs had rallied strong. This night marked the second happening of MIM’s newly resurrected Alumni Networking Series. The evening was extra special because it featured special Asia Trip presentations from our very own MIM class of 2014. The culmination of months of language preparations, cultural etiquette training, and pre-trip logistical meetings had prepared us, but the magnitude of the experience was something we all didn’t fully comprehend until we arrived. After four weeks of mind stretching, sensory testing, physically challenging experiences in Asia, we had returned back home to Portland—the stories still fresh in our minds.

Current full-time students Jon Ruff (2014) and Anna-Lia Barragan (2014) lead the foray into our MIM Asia trip, highlighting the unexpected surprises and touching on their main takeaways. Having just experienced the trip myself, I was just as eager to hear a thorough, insightful recollection from my classmates as to discuss my own. Thankfully with our special audience of fellow classmates and alumni, the reception could not have been more appropriate or well received. I hope that many of the alumni hearing the presentations were able to reflect back on their experiences on the MIM trip. As the pictures and stories from the trip circulated the audience, conversations and questions broke out. It was really rewarding to experience this with our MIM Networking friends and to see that level of curiosity between the different years of MIM alumni.

Several months had passed since our first Networking event at Rogue, and we wanted to keep the momentum going. Current full-time and part-time students joined a warm gathering of MIM alumni from over the last ten years. Eagerly awaiting the insights and recollections from the Asia trip experience, we restated our essential goal for the MIM Networking Series. The MIM Networking Series represents the opportunity to celebrate our program’s unique talent base and culture—the opportunity to connect once again and to provide the greatest resource available, ourselves and our own unique experiences.

One of the main lessons I have learned from the MIM program is that power comes from community. And without our MIM community, events like this could never happen. The night’s events were made extra special due to the efforts of our MIM Networking Series co-founders, Kim Morrison, Joshua Thorpe, and William Cohen. Thanks to these MIM networking “trailblazers” and our MIM networking community, we enjoyed an evening filled with raffle gifts, mai tais, business cards, laughter, and handshakes. Building from the evening’s successes, we of course still see room to grow and always appreciate more participation. We’ll keep searching for ways to bring the power of our MIM community forward, and we hope that you come to join us next time as well!


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My Favorite Things to do in Portland

By Lauren Loutzenhiser

Since moving to Portland almost a year ago to join the MIM program, I have had so many opportunities to explore the city and discover what it has to offer for both those who live here and those who are visiting. Portland is truly an amazing, quirky, beautiful and unique city. Here are a few of my favorite things to do in the city:

Enjoy a Local Brew

Portland is home to over 50 breweries! My frequented favorites are Hopworks Brewery in East Portland and Bridgeport Brewing in the Pearl District. Oregonians love their beer and Portland is home to some of the most unique and expansive collections of beer recipes, such as Bridgeport’s Chocolate Cherry Stout or Cascade Brewing’s Vlad the Imp Aler Sour. There are hundreds of interesting and delicious brews to explore in Portland. And, I can’t forget about the beer festivals. Portland has almost as many beer festivals as it does breweries! Almost every month, there is a beer festival somewhere in the city where you can taste all kinds of local brews from every corner of Oregon.

Hike in Forest Park

Between studying and class, sometimes it can be hard to get outside and enjoy seeing all the green that Oregon is famous for. Luckily, Portland is home to Forest Park, one of the country’s largest urban forest reserves. With over 70 miles of trails to run or hike on, it is the perfect place to get away from the downtown bustle and to get out and enjoy nature. It is also just west of Downtown Portland, less than 10 minutes from Portland State University, making it really easy to catch a run after an afternoon class or to explore on the weekends.

Eat at a Local Restaurant

Portland is known for its breadth and quality of food choices. From the food carts around the city to happy hour at local restaurants, it’s easy to try new foods in Portland. You may be surprised how fresh everything is! Portland relies on local farmers, food artisans, and chefs to create a unique and incredible blend of local cuisines. Besides food, most restaurants in Portland have incredible and unique drink menus. Don’t be surprised if the place you try has specialty cocktails you’ve never heard of. I have enjoyed trying many new drinks and dishes while out with friends and family in downtown.

Hike in the Columbia River Gorge

The border between Oregon and Washington, or the Columbia River Gorge, has over 80 miles of beautiful canyon and tons of hikes for sunny days in Oregon. I love to get out and enjoy the beautiful summer weather, so I try to take every opportunity to hike in the Gorge during the summer months. My favorite hike is Dog Mountain, located just a little ways out of Portland.

Visit the Saturday Market During the Summer

Not only can you enjoy Portland’s beautiful weather during the summer, but also take advantage of shopping for local foods, art, and crafts at Portland’s summer Saturday market by the Waterfront. This has been one of my favorite places to ride my bike to during the summer, visit the vendor booths, enjoy street performers, and my favorite—people watching! There’s a reason why you see bumper stickers and signs around the city with the slogan “Keep Portland Weird,” and you will be sure to understand this after a day at the Saturday Market. In addition, if you want to experience some amazing views of Portland’s bridges and the Willamette River, take an afternoon walk up and down the Waterfront right next to the market.

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A Small Fish in a Big Pond

By Megan Pardee

When I first started at Sierra Pacific Crafts (SPC), I had little knowledge about what being an import coordinator meant. SPC is a co-op for independent craft stores across the U.S. My job centered around product from our international vendors. This included coordinating the seasonal buying trip every October and April, organizing the offering to members, consolidating the orders from members, and then working with the vendors to solve any minimum order quantity (MOQ) issues, availability issues, style changes, or shipment delays.


Because I was the import coordinator, my responsibilities were with our international vendors who were located primarily in China. At that time, I had very little understanding of Chinese business culture and would take a very direct route when solving an issue. On more than one occasion, I found that somehow the issue became even more complicated than it originally was. I had to learn as I went how to communicate with the vendors on an individual level. Some vendors I could take a more direct route with, while there were others I had to be much more indirect with. Looking back, I am very thankful for how patient the vendors were when working with this American who clearly did not know how things worked in China.



Although my office represented over 100 retail outlets across the country, all the stores were independent and therefore did not order the same items. Over the last several years, the MOQs in Chinese factories has grown substantially. This meant that I faced MOQ issues on an almost daily basis. This combined with the fact that we would often compete for production capacity against giants like Target, Lowes, Michaels, and JoAnns meant I had to get creative to find ways of avoiding or fixing these situations. I now have a new understanding of what it means to be a small fish in a big pond.

An obstacle I faced on an almost daily basis was time management. Trying to find a balance between taking care of the immediate issues while still staying proactive on future events was a daily challenge. What I discovered was that I had a different way of managing my time than my coworkers. There were pros and cons to all three methods, but at the end of the day, what I feel is important is that we accomplished what we needed to. Everyone works differently. Learn what works for you and recognize that it may not work for someone else. I think this is one of the biggest lessons to learn when working in groups.

Now that I am in the MIM program at PSU, I have been able to look at situations with a new outlook. I am excited to see how this will help me make better decisions and have a successful international career.


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