Career, community, connections: Business Fellows piece all together in Seattle

Lindner Inclusive Excellence program goes west to close out fall semester

With final projects completed, exams submitted and dorm rooms cleaned out until January, 46 first-year Business Fellows from the University of Cincinnati delayed their journeys home for winter break to embark on a four-day excursion to Seattle with their peers. 

Engineered to resemble a "typical" business trip they’ll experience in their future careers, students were presented with a structured schedule of company visits, networking with Seattle-based entrepreneurs and alumni, and immersion in a new locale with sightseeing and cultural learning experiences. 

Nearly 50 students wearing sweats and outerwear stand and smile in front of three stalls with white tents and a large green roof with PUBLIC MARKET sign above them on a sunny day

Business Fellows in front of Seattle's Pike Place Market.

Established in 2011, Business Fellows supports African American, Latinx and Native American business students through curricular, scholarship and professional development opportunities. The program currently boasts more than 150 members — nearly 80 of them first-year students. This experience was made possible due to partners that support Lindner’s Office of Inclusive Excellence.

"I hope this trip is the first of many for our students," said Lindner Inclusive Excellence Assistant Director Victoria Regan. "The connections, community and real-world learning with our partners is meant to build a foundation that will last them a lifetime."

Career: Preparing for co-op

Students visited four companies during their time in the Pacific Northwest: Cintas’ Everett, Washington, location (#460); Ernst & Young; indigenous-owned yaupon espresso supplier Diaspora Espresso; and Theo Chocolate, North America’s first organic, fair trade certified chocolate maker. Each business offered a unique perspective on business, a presentation, a tour and a hands-on activity.

“This experience is an ideal catalyst for these students’ professional development journeys, as it opens up the possibility of co-ops not just in Cincinnati but across the country,” said Bella Gullia, assistant director, Lindner Career Services. "By learning how to travel to a brand-new city, master public transportation and gain exposure to various employers and alumni, Business Fellows are setting themselves up to stand out to employers, which will ultimately lead to a successful co-op search process.”

General Manager Josh Dietz and his team at the Everett Cintas location rolled out the red (and black) carpet to greet students for a half-day visit and tour. Talent Acquisition Manager Danielle Holmes briefed students on the location’s operations and introduced Cintas’ management trainee program and co-op opportunities. 

A young man in all black and a black hat stands on a plant floor speaking to a group of six students wearing professional attire

General Manager Josh Dietz, right, gives Business Fellows a tour of the Cintas plant.

Production Manager Rashaad Siddick and management trainee Karen Nguyen gave students an in-depth tour of the plant — from loading docks and the wash alley to the industrial dryers and garment inspection.

“Cintas was the company I completed my SWOT analysis for in project strategy, so it was cool to see the company culture up close at the Everett location,” said Grace Gehner, BBA ’27. “In talking with Karen on the plant tour, it was clear that Cintas is a place where the people around you can really make the job, and her perspective was important as I think about my future co-ops, internships and full-time jobs.” 

one woman wearing all black and a headscarf holds up a phone and talks to another woman in a black business suit in a large corporate meeting room

Teresa Christian, BBA '27, right, speaks with Ahlam Nur after EY's panel discussion.

EY’s downtown Seattle office wowed students with views of Puget Sound and Mount Rainier. A consulting company offering broad professional services, EY has more than 700 locations worldwide. Students heard from campus recruiter Amy Hildebrandt, as well as EY employees Ahlam Nur, Bryan Lopez-Vargas, Derek Lutt and Matthew Lockwood. As a panel, they took questions from students about the client projects they work, what a typical workday is like and how their employer offers work-life balance.

a young woman with long hair and a black coat stands and speaks to a man in a green coat on the exterior of a flea market

Mirsayah Wasnuk, left, speaks with Diaspora Espresso cofounder Hector Ayala at the Fremont Sunday Market.

Students connected with Diaspora Espresso cofounder Hector Ayala at the Fremont Sunday Market. With warm beverages in hand and surrounded by friendly patrons, house music and dozens of vendors selling unique handmade or vintage goods, students got to know Ayala’s story of founding Diaspora and how he weaves his passion to advance food sovereignty and sustainability into his business. At least one student saw some of themselves reflected in the budding entrepreneur. 

“I have not met anyone outside my family who shares my two ethnicities — Native American and Mexican — so it was really good to see that there are more of us that exist,” said Mirsayah Wasnuk, BBA ’27. “In talking to Hector, I found we had similar passions when it comes to the planet and sustainable business, and to see him take the risks that he has taken and turn it into something beautiful, it inspires me to keep going with my studies.” 

a mix of six young men and women wearing sweatshirts and jackets stand around a white table with chocolate and toppings on it

Business Fellows make chocolate bark at Theo.

Students stepped into the role of creator at Theo Chocolate’s flagship store. Chocolate maker Aryana Valenzo walked students through her technique of tempering chocolate and expanded students’ taste buds through product samples.

After trying their hands in back-of-house making chocolate bark, they pivoted to front-of-house operations in Theo's retail space.

Community: Growing, together

Nothing forges a friendship quite like having to navigate somewhere new. Business Fellows trusted new friends to take their picture atop the Space Needle, blew off steam exploring Gas Works Park or the Fremont Troll public sculpture, and shared career ambitions over fresh-caught seafood at Pike Place Market. 

Expanding their comfort zone 2,300 miles from campus created an ideal amount of distance for students to process the last few months — a period of rapid change and growth. Students swapped anecdotes about the ups and downs from their first semester of college: getting used to a new schedule, living with roommates and balancing schoolwork with a social life.  

four young women huddle and smile for a photo on top of the Seattle Space Needle with the city skyline in the background

Business Fellows and Lindner Business Honors students on top of the Space Needle: Kyla Ward, BBA '27; Ava Hassel, BBA '27; Grace Gehner, BBA '27; and Olivia Burr, BBA '27.

As a community, Business Fellows also had the chance to learn about Seattle’s Chinatown-International District through an immersive walking tour led by the Wing Luke Museum. Museum representatives guided small groups around the neighborhood to present the storied, yet complex, history and culture of Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander populations creating a home in Seattle.

Connections: Laying the foundation for future engagement

More stories were swapped and ambitions were shared as Seattle-based Lindner alumni joined Business Fellows for a meal at the students’ hotel. Alumni included:

  • Abigail Armstrong, BBA ’21, finance manager at Microsoft
  • Jacob Blizzard, MS ’19, consultant at phData
  • Devin Lampe, BBA ’18, MS ’22, data integration specialist at Cooler Screens
  • Luke Lampe, BBA ’20, MS ’22, Costco team portfolio insights leader at Procter & Gamble
  • Brian Macke, BBA ’08, strategic accounts demand gen leader at Amazon Web Services
  • Matthew Manibusan, BBA ’16, MBA ’20, senior product manager at Amazon 
seven people sit at a round table in a hotel meeting room wearing casual clothing

Matthew Manibusan, front left, speaks with Business Fellows about their career aspirations.

On the last night, Lindner Inclusive Excellence Assistant Director Brienne Blair spoke with students to gain their reflections and takeaways from Seattle and Business Fellows to-date. Many felt that the opportunity to travel and get to know their classmates better was the icing on the cake to a successful first semester. One student shared that they had an evening class that fell on the same night as meetings, but that she got to know everyone better through the trip.

First-year Business Fellows meet through class and general body meetings, but the class doesn't continue after fall semester. Blair reiterated the importance of continuing to show up to general body meetings and making Business Fellows a priority throughout the students’ college career. 

“The students made this an experience that I know needs to be relived annually,” said Blair upon reflecting on the trip. “I am proud of their professionalism, endurance and keenness throughout. It has tied us all together and created a true fellowship.”

Featured image at top: Business Fellows in the Everett Cintas location conference room. Photos/Suzanne Buzek

Supporting Career, Community and Connections with Business Fellows

Since 2011, Business Fellows have found a strong sense of community and have benefited from the curricular, scholarship and professional development opportunities offered at Lindner and UC. Support our students as they grow into rising business leaders and develop into empowered problem solvers by giving to Business Fellows.

Related Stories