Author Archives: MIM Student Ambassadors

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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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