NW Cougar Quarterly

October 2018 Issue

Table of contents


Alumni spotlight

Monica Santos-Pinacho ’13, Business Administration
Jacob Schmidt ’13, English

Recently engaged Monica Santos-Pinacho and Jacob Schmidt met as co-workers in the Office of Student Involvement at WSU Vancouver in 2012. They continued working together in other campus groups, including the Associated Students of WSU Vancouver, Student Diversity and Student Media Board. Their shared passions brought them together.

Santos-Pinacho earned an A.A. degree in business administration while working in the Scholarship Office at Clark College. Schmidt started his academic career at Lower Columbia College. “Both my elementary and middle-school mascots were Cougars, so it’s only fitting that I would finish my B.A. as a Cougar,” he said.

Schmidt started at WSU Vancouver as a commuter student. “I rarely ventured outside of the classroom,” he said. “However, by my second semester, I saw the benefit of being involved and took an active role in student government.” They graduated in 2013—Santos-Pinacho as magna cum laude, and Schmidt as summa cum laude. “We’re always competing,” he said.

Since then, they’ve shared many adventures. “Stay close, go far always resonated with me,” Santos-Pinacho said. “Immediately after graduating, we jetted off on a backpack adventure through Germany, France, Netherlands and Spain. Then I kicked off my career at WE Communications—one of the largest privately owned integrated communications agencies in the world—where I worked on a range of global product launches for Microsoft brands.”

“I am a strong believer in the transformative power of travel, which has shaped both my personal and professional goals,” Schmidt said. “I am always planning my next trip—currently I have Southeast Asia on the mind.” They’ve already seen many corners of the world—from metropolises like Mexico City, Barcelona, Sydney and New York to historic treasures like Paris, Toledo and Teotihuacan to the Australian outback and Great Barrier Reef.

In Portugal, they spotted a Coug Flag high above a riverside promenade and made a friend when a man sitting on a nearby balcony hopped up and returned their “Go Cougs!”

Santos-Pinacho now heads communication efforts for the Columbia River Economic Development Council, and Schmidt is director of marketing and communications for Visit Vancouver USA, the nonprofit organization that markets Vancouver and the surrounding area to visitors. “I get to show the vibrancy of our community and remind aspiring travelers that you can find adventure in your own backyard,” he said.

WSU Vancouver remains close to their hearts, from the fall colors and views of Mount St. Helens and Mount Hood to the familial feeling you get walking across the quad. They love being part of the Coug family.

“It’s important to us that we continue to be involved and give back to a community that invested in us during our college experience,” Santos-Pinacho said. Both are involved with the Young Alumni committee and proudly share stories about the college at community events.

They especially treasure the relationships made at WSU Vancouver. “From long hours in study rooms trying to figure out how to pass stats to Mount Bachelor trips to lobbying in Olympia to happy hours after executing on-campus events to traveling through Europe after graduation, we created unforgettable memories that we reminisce on when we all get together—especially during our annual New Year’s party, where we fight over who wins the signature white elephant gift: a stuffed football that transforms into our beloved Butch!” Santos-Pinacho said.

They have a few words of wisdom to share with current and future Cougs: “Embrace risk,” Santos-Pinacho said. “Get uncomfortable and make your palms sweat a bit—that is how you grow! Take as many internships as possible—they are the best way to explore fields of interest, gain vital on-the-job skills and it could be your foot in the door to a permanent position.”

“Challenge yourself to be your own greatest champion, not your own worst critic,” Schmidt added. “It’s easy to sit around the classroom table and feel less accomplished or to apply for a job and undersell your skills. However, experience does not always equate to expertise. Don’t let doubt prevent you from sharing a valuable perspective or pursuing a worthwhile opportunity. “


Cougar Business Alliance Spotlight

Marie Pham Photography
Marie Pham ’99, General Studies

How long have you owned your company?

I started my business in 2007. Before that I worked in the Admissions Department at WSU Vancouver.

What made you want to own your own business?

I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit, and I love to be able to develop the spark of an idea and see it through to its success. Owning my own business gives me lots of flexibility, which is especially important to me as a single parent. It also lets me be involved in so many different facets of a business. Not only do I get to do the creative work of photography, I get to work in marketing, sales, research, accounting and community outreach. I love it all.

Describe your business, goals, mission and community involvement.

My company specializes in creative, quality portraits for families, businesses, school/sports groups, weddings and high school seniors. I photograph clients both in my downtown Vancouver studio and on-location all around the Vancouver/Portland area. I’ve worked with numerous community groups since starting my business, and I have a particular interest in supporting animal charities. I also work with PTO groups to do fundraising events for schools, which is a great way to make beautiful family pictures available to families who are unable to afford it.

What do you love most about your job?

When I work with clients over many years, they come to feel like family. For one client I took senior portraits, then did her wedding, then her maternity photos, and I just finished the newborn photos for her son. Another fun memory was when one of my fine art photos of the Milky Way over Haystack Rock went viral on social media. It was shared thousands of times, and I sold prints to people all over the world. It was so cool!

Do you have any Coug traditions?

We always fly our Coug flag during football season, and I’ve got more WSU sweatshirts and mugs than I can count! My daughter Bethany and I love to go for long walks on the beautiful trails around the Vancouver campus, and I’ve done several photo sessions in the golden fields on the property.

What is your favorite thing about being a Coug?

First is the confidence I have from knowing I got a fantastic education. My time at WSU and my degree have truly prepared me for so many challenges and opportunities in life. Second is the amazing sense of camaraderie and community among Cougs. I’ve never met a more supportive, friendly group. We’re all 100 percent rooting for each other’s success!

What is the furthest place you’ve traveled where you randomly met a Coug?

I meet Cougs everywhere, but probably the farthest from home I’ve been is on a tour bus in Edinburgh, Scotland, where I met a super nice couple who were both WSU alumni, and their daughter who had just graduated from high school and was heading to Pullman in the fall.

How do you think WSU Vancouver fits into this community?

I think it’s fantastic to have a world-class university right here in Vancouver. It brings great opportunities for the economy and job market to the area, as well as community-university collaborations on research and public outreach. Having a beautiful campus in Vancouver is a fantastic option for all types of students wishing to stay close to home but get a great education.


Veteran Statue Donated

WSU Regent Scott Carson has a heart for Cougar veterans. A veteran himself, Carson is a 1972 WSU Pullman alumnus. He enjoyed a distinguished career with Boeing, retiring as CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes in 2009. This past summer, Carson hosted four veteran students at the Wing of the Heroes Gala at the Museum of Flight in Seattle. Carson bid on and won a bronze statue, which he has donated to the WSU Vancouver Student Veterans Center. The art is located in the second floor stairwell of the Classroom Building.

Carson’s legacy goes beyond a bronze statue. Carson, and his wife, Linda, recently endowed the WSU Vancouver Carson Veterans Scholarship Fund, which creates veteran scholarship support in perpetuity. The first scholarship will be awarded in 2019.

To support the WSU Vancouver Carson Veterans Scholarship Fund, make an online gift (select the WSU Vancouver Scholarship Fund and include “WSU Vancouver Carson Veterans Scholarship Fund” in the comment section), or contact the Office of Development and Alumni Relations at 360-546-9281.


Scholarship Recognition Reception

More than 250 scholarship donors, recipients and alumni celebrated together at the 2018 Scholarship Recognition Reception on Oct. 9. WSU Vancouver Chancellor Mel Netzhammer and WSU President Kirk Schultz welcomed the guests. Chancellor Netzhammer said WSU Vancouver awarded 170 scholarships in the 2018/19 academic year, totaling more than $275,000.

Ashlyn Salzman ’15, B.A. public affairs, received the 2018 Notable Alumni Award and talked about the importance of staying connected with your alma mater. “Maintaining a relationship with WSU Vancouver after graduating can lead to wonderful opportunities for personal and professional growth,” she said, “whether it’s by attending an event on campus to help students prepare for interviews, by giving back to a scholarship program or the Cougar Food Pantry at alumni events, or welcoming students to campus on the first day of school.”

Scholarship recipient Akilah Johnson described how scholarships have impacted her education experience. “Donors like you make it possible for people like me and my husband to invest in their education, invest in their future, reach their dreams and make careers a reality that they otherwise may not have had a pathway to.” (Her husband, Fernando Horner, received a Veteran Scholarship last year.)

Thank you to our attendees who made the night a success, and special thanks to Opsahl Dawson for sponsoring the Notable Alumni Award.

To support scholarships at WSU Vancouver, visit the giving site.


Upcoming events

Cougs in the Community

Thanks to the Washington Trails Association and volunteers, the WSU Vancouver campus’s Mill Creek Trail looks better than ever! Volunteers spent four hours restoring tread, clearing brush and making the trail safer and more beautiful for the community to enjoy.

Want to get involved? Volunteer for the upcoming Cougs in the Community event:

5:30 – 8 p.m. Nov. 5
Clark County Food Bank

Help sort and repack food to be distributed to people in need in Clark County.

RSVP today

For more information, contact Jessica Wells at 360-546-9600 or jessica.r.wells@wsu.edu.

Career and Internship Fair

1:30 – 4 p.m. Oct. 16: General Business
1:30 – 4 p.m. Oct. 17: Engineering and Computer Science

Firstenburg Student Commons, WSU Vancouver

Alumni are invited to attend the fall 2018 Career and Internship Fair Oct. 16 – 17 on the WSU Vancouver campus. The two-day event will feature careers in general business on the first day, and careers in engineering and computer science on the second.

Tips for the Career Fair:

  • Confidence and professionalism stand out! Arrive dressed to impress with copies of your polished, updated resume.
  • When introducing yourself, make eye contact, smile and offer a firm handshake. Feeling nervous or need to warm up? Consider starting with an employer who isn’t at the top of your list.
  • Many employers will encourage you to apply for positions online after you have connected with them; follow through and take the next steps the employers encourage. Once you have done so, reach back out to those you spoke with at the fair to let them know you have applied. This will show you are seriously interested in their organization and often can lead to you moving up higher in the candidate pool.
  • Register online in advance. Doing so allows the Career Services team to share valuable tips and the employer list directly with you before the fair. It will also save you time at the door.

Register today

For more information, contact the Student Resource Center at 360-546-9155 or van.career@wsu.edu.


Join the Alumni Association today.