Nearly 200 students and community members filled the auditorium at the Lillis Business Complex to hear what two seasoned CEO entrepreneurs had to say about how great organizations are forged during the college’s first-ever Oregon Advanced Strategy Symposium on May 17.
The symposium featured Tim Boyle, CEO of Columbia Sportswear, and Scott Kerslake, founder and past CEO of Athleta and current CEO of prAna Living. UO Avamere Professor of Practice Michael Crooke, former CEO of Patagonia and current interim associate dean for academic programs at the Lundquist College of Business, moderated.
“I was excited about the symposium because only the University of Oregon is able to bring together such inspiring industry leaders to talk to us as students,” said Bret Merchant, a first-year Oregon MBA student in the Center for Sustainable Business Practices. “It is one of the reasons I chose to come to the Oregon MBA—access to speakers and guests like no other program in the country. It also helps that the program is in such a great location. There is so much going on sustainability-wise in the outdoor and athletic industries in the Pacific Northwest.”
Tim Boyle first told a story about himself as a 22-year-old “kid” who was definitely not at the top of his class in the journalism school at the University of Oregon. After his father’s untimely death, Boyle was called up to assist his mother in running the family business, a small hat company up in Portland. The small hat company is now Columbia Sportswear, a multibillion-dollar international business.
Next Scott Kerslake spoke from his heart about sustainability and the changing outdoor apparel consumer. He ended his presentation with a motivational “top six things to consider when moving beyond graduation” list:
- Align your values. Make sure you ask the right questions in the interview process.
- Get comfortable with no because you will hear it often when you go after your dreams.
- Play to your strengths. What do you love doing? What do you not love doing? What are you good at doing? What does the world need doing?
- Be careful whom you align with. You will understand who people really are when things get tough.
- Have a plan but be ready to change it.
- Get experience in any way you can in as many different ways you can. Don’t just wait for the perfect thing to come along. Go out and do something to move the needle.
The last hour of the symposium was devoted to audience questions. Topics included leadership, strategy, future trends, entrepreneurship advice, business model disruption, and the role of values in great organizations. Audience members seemed to appreciate Boyle and Kerslake’s straightforward answers.
Dayn Hardie, a 2015 law and MBA graduate, said he that was inspired by the genuine feeling both speakers brought to the symposium.
“My favorite part was when Tim and Scott spoke about challenges and failures they have had in business because it shows that our careers will also have lots of challenges and setbacks, but we can still be extremely successful.”
Oregon Advanced Strategy is a framework for adding value to an organization that combines a deep understanding of sustainability with strong leadership, creativity, and a systems-thinking approach to environmental stewardship, corporate citizenship, product/service excellence, new media marketing methods, and financial strength. Considered the capstone of the Oregon MBA experience, the Oregon Advanced Strategy course is taken in the last term before graduation. This is the first year programming included a symposium.