October 2017 Issue
Mary Mendoza, '05 Education
Tell us about your journey to being a Cougar.
I was a single mom, raising a 3-year-old, when I married my ex-husband. I completed an associate’s degree in English at a community college in Illinois. Then we moved back to Texas. Jobs were scarce in our small town, so I decided to earn a paralegal certificate. After my graduation, we moved to Oregon, and I went to work for an intellectual property law firm in Portland. I continued to work full-time while attending Portland State University evenings and weekends to earn my bachelor’s degree in social science.
I could be a perpetual student. I came to WSU Vancouver as a grad student to earn my Masters in Teaching after my divorce. Since graduating, I have taken additional graduate school credits in administration, as well as at a theological seminary.
What are you doing now, and what are your goals?
After more than 11 years in education, I have returned to being a paralegal. I work for a law firm that I love in Texas. It allows me a great work/life balance and the ability to travel. This year, I have traveled from Dallas-Fort Worth to Austin, Boise, Chicago, Portland and Seattle. Three of these trips were to complete my Spartan Trifecta (a three-part endurance race). I try to get back to the Pacific Northwest as often as possible, since both of my daughters live there.
What did you enjoy about the Vancouver campus?
Die-hard Pullman grads may disagree as to who loves their campus more, but I loved driving up that winding hill onto the Vancouver campus each day and seeing the gorgeous views of Mt. Hood and Mt. St. Helens.
How has WSU Vancouver changed since you were a student?
It has definitely grown. This past May, I returned to see my daughter graduate with a bachelor’s degree in biology. There are some new places on campus, but as long as the fountain is there, it will still be home.
How do you support WSU Vancouver as an alum?
I am vice president of the Dallas/Fort Worth Alumni Texas Chapter, responsible for setting up football viewing parties for our members in that area. I also recently devised a survey that was distributed to our members to elicit feedback about how we can better serve the needs of Texas Cougs. I also donate when I can to the education and biology departments, as well as the Cougar Food Pantry.
How Coug are you?
Anyone who knows me would say I bleed crimson and gray. When I was in education, my classroom and/or office was always decorated in crimson and gray; had WSU flags, banners and decorations on the walls; and I even had a special “No White Flags” bulletin board in honor of former Coug Steve Gleason. I have been fortunate to fly Ol’ Crimson at least four times for ESPN College Game Day and had pictures in the classroom each time. The flag hung in my classroom for a day, and my students took pictures with it.
What is the strangest place you've met another Coug?
I see Cougs everywhere! But one of my favorite places was in April of this year in Snohomish, Wash. Although it is not far away, it is in “enemy territory,” so I made sure to wear a WSU Cougar tank top. I was running in the Spartan Super, a very wet and muddy race. Partway through, I took a pit stop. As I sat there pondering what I had gotten myself into, I heard voices coming over the hill and a loud, “Go Cougs!” It was just the boost I needed.
Do you have any advice for current students or future Cougs?
Take advantage of study abroad opportunities if at all possible. I did not have that opportunity , but my daughter studied in London as part of her criminal justice minor. Also, get to know everyone during your time in college. Your professors will become your mentors, and you will want them to know you very well by the time you graduate and require letters of recommendation. Your cohort members become family. I think I speak for all Cougs when I say that no matter what campus we attend, every Coug is now your family. When you leave WSU Vancouver and go out into the world, you have family waiting to give you a hearty, “Go Cougs!”
Staci Davis, Pullman '03, Communications
Staci Davis has owned her real estate office, the Vancouver office of a national real estate group called Real Living, for more than eight years. Before that, she spent seven years in advertising and marketing, managing large client accounts. “I worked with amazing companies and learned from great business people,” she said, “but after losing my job several times as we headed into a challenging economy, I realized how vulnerable my job was.”
In 2009, she decided to make the leap into real estate, feeling she’d be better able to control her job security and leverage her education, experience and strong work ethic. She loves owning her business and helping people with their real estate goals. “I plan to do it for many more years,” Davis said.
The challenge of helping people with one of their biggest decisions in life—buying or selling a home—appeals to Davis. Because emotions tend to be involved, she said, she gets to know people on a personal level. Each year she strives to sell at least one more house than the last. “The owners of the real estate company I work for, Real Living, The Real Estate Group, are like family, and we are all deeply involved in the community and local schools,” Davis said, “so I feel lucky to love the people I work with and the environment I work in. It helps me wake up and get excited to go into the office every day!”
Davis loves working with Cougs, “so each year I mail out WSU football pocket-sized schedules to folks I’ve met at previous WSU events,” she said. She tries to attend a football game in Pullman at least once each year.
She values the loyalty and comradery of being a Coug. “Seeing someone else wear Cougar gear invites you to say hello and ‘Go Cougs,’” she said. “The comradery truly helps strangers become friends.”
Several members of her family are Cougs, including her father, his two brothers and her sister. Her uncle Denny Davis is an emeritus professor at WSU’s Voiland School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering.
Davis has lived in Vancouver since 2004. “I think it is great to have WSU Vancouver as part of this community,” she said. “Not only does it bring jobs to the area, it helps our housing market. It has been crucial in getting Vancouver, Washington, on the map.”
She recalls meeting “a sweet couple” who were looking specifically for a WSU alumnus who was also a real estate agent so they could support a fellow Coug. “Luckily, they found me on LinkedIn and noticed I fit both criteria,” Davis said. “I was so delighted to get that call.”
See a full list of Cougar Business Alliance members here.
The award-winning Business Growth Mentor and Analysis Program is growing—and has a growing need for mentors. In this pivotal role, seasoned business professionals volunteer as mentors to guide students in learning how to consult with businesses. Businesses get customized analysis and action plans, while students get practical experience (and college credit) working on real business issues.
Mentors have an impact on students, small businesses and our local economy. If you have three hours a week to give to this great learning opportunity, please let us hear from you!
For more information, contact Mistie Josephson at (360) 546-9533 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The 2017 Scholarship Reception took place Oct. 10, with more than 225 scholarship donors and recipients in attendance. Two major awards were given.
The 2017 Notable Alumni Award went to 2013 Master of Nursing degree alumna Megan Ludeña. She said the Notable Alumni Award carries special significance. “I’m not the CEO of a startup company. I didn’t invent anything really cool. I’m not volunteering in a third-world country. But my efforts to work hard and love hard have been noticed. This award says to me that everyday people doing everyday things DO get noticed.”
The Notable Alumni Award is sponsored by Opsahl Dawson.
The Sunlight Supply Amphitheater received a WSU Benefactor Award, which is given to those who have donated more than $100,000. The amphitheater has an endowed scholarship that supports students who are at risk of dropping out of school because of financial pressures.
Altogether, the amphitheater has donated over $375,000 to scholarships.
A huge thank you to everyone who helped plant trees and shrubs at Columbia Springs. In a little less than three hours, we were able to get around 250 plants in the ground.
Mark your calendars for Nov. 6, when we will hold our next Cougs in the Community at the Clark County Food Bank. To register for this event, fill out the form. For more information, contact Liz Becker at email@example.com, or 360-546-9281.
Thank you to our sponsors.
From the colleges
Hospitality Business Management holds fourth mixer
The fourth mixer for WSU Vancouver’s Hospitality Business Management program took place on Sept. 20 at the Hilton Portland Downtown. It drew about 50 people, including current students, alumni from various campuses and industry insiders.
Pictured are Florian Zach, the Tod and Maxine McClaskey faculty fellow for the program and alumnus Terry Goldman, Pullman ’94, who holds the title of chief enthusiast at Canopy by Hilton in Portland’s Pearl District. They are surrounded by HBM students and graduates.
Accounting professor honored for outstanding service
Accounting Professor Debra “Debbe” Sanders received the WSU Foundation’s Faculty/Staff outstanding service award. The recognition took place in Pullman during the foundation’s fall meeting. Sanders has been a faculty member for more than 30 years, teaching tax accounting first in Pullman and now in Vancouver. She has helped students outside of her teaching expertise, including a Chinese student struggling with the English language. They set weekly appointments to give the student the opportunity to practice English conversation, writing and professional skills. The student got a job in Silicon Valley and now supports the accounting program at WSU Vancouver at a platinum president’s associate level.
Sanders has also been one of the driving forces and advocates for the annual faculty and staff campaign at WSU Vancouver and is one of the main reasons the Carson College of Business has reached 100 percent participation for a decade. She has also served as the WSU Vancouver member on the university-wide Cougar Colleagues campaign.
Kier joins entrepreneurship faculty
Please help us welcome a new faculty member to the Entrepreneurship program in the Carson College of Business at WSU Vancouver. Alex Kier, Ph.D., CPA, CFE, started this fall as assistant professor of entrepreneurship. He comes to WSU Vancouver from Indiana University in Bloomington. Kier joins Assistant Professor Rohny Saylors as faculty for the program, which is in its second year at WSU Vancouver. Entrepreneurship is a major offered to students earning a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration.
Augmented reality experience for Historic Trust
Students in the Creative Media and Digital Culture program are working with the Historic Trust (the new name of the Fort Vancouver National Trust) on an augmented reality experience. Twenty-one students will spend the fall semester working on this project, which will enable visitors to use mobile devices to take virtual tours and engage with historical figures at the Academy and along Officers Row. Visitors will encounter such historical figures as Mother Joseph, Gen. George Marshall and Ulysses Grant, and they can also hear stories from a nanny who worked for an officer’s family.
Undergraduate Summer Research Showcase
Engineering and Computer Science staff, faculty and students gathered Aug. 18 to kick off the new school year, welcome new and returning graduate students, and showcase the undergraduate research projects completed during summer break. Ten student research projects were on display, and three representatives from WaferTech LLC were present to see the projects that were made possible with their funding support.
Experimental Hybrid Rocket Competition
Twelve mechanical engineering students are designing and building a 12-foot rocket to compete in an international experimental hybrid rocket competition, known as the Spaceport America Cup, which will be held in Las Cruces, New Mexico, on June 22, 2018. The team has been designing and modeling parts for the last 10 months, and the project is being funded 100% through donations. Please contact Beth Cozzi in Development and Alumni Relations to make a contribution: firstname.lastname@example.org or (360) 546-9173.