Twice the Benefit

Donor Support Strengthens Veteran Program and WSU Reputation

Nearly 20 years ago, the Rose Bowl game in Pasadena, California, united many supporters of Washington State University. While the game against Michigan ended in defeat for the Cougars, another type of victory was in the making.

Lisa and Tom Thompson

After attending the game, Tom (’84 University  of Washington) and Lisa Thompson (’84), a WSU hotel and restaurant administration alumna, became reengaged with WSU. Lisa became involved with activities and committees in the Bay Area, and the couple began learning more about where the University and the Carson College were focusing efforts for curriculum and skill development. From those conversations, the Thompsons learned there was a very large group of veterans and active military students at WSU but only one staff member to serve them.

Addressing the very unique needs and challenges for veterans transitioning into the University environment was a great opportunity to benefit a group of people to whom much is owed, and too frequently not provided, Tom and Lisa say.

In a recent collaboration with the Carson College, the couple committed to a significant five-year investment supporting a high impact service program that will help active military and veteran students in business be victorious in achieving their goals.

New boardroom curriculum salute to online MBA learners

The Thompsons worked with Cheryl Oliver, Carson College assistant dean for graduate and online programs, and Blaine Golden, WSU veteran’s affairs coordinator, to enhance Rucksacks to Backpacks, an existing elective course offered to WSU campus-based students to help them gain confidence and build networks. With the addition of “Boardroom,” the course became Rucksacks to Backpacks to Boardroom, supporting online MBA and Executive MBA military and veteran students to successfully transition into military leadership roles or the civilian workforce.

The couple believes veterans should have the same technical training and skills that any Carson graduate would require to have a successful career. By virtue of their military experience and training, veterans frequently bring to their employers maturity, discipline, and motivation that younger or less experienced university graduates may not always share. The couple says the program is intended to help vets successfully acquire those educational credentials even though they are starting from a much different spot in life than most students.

Staffing to facilitate military transfer to new career opportunities

As part of a five-year plan for the boardroom curriculum, the Thompsons’ investment will support a new staff member who will advise business students academically and support their transition to school and from school to the job sector. Additionally, their investment will enable other valuable programming and services, including a speaker series, coaching towards jobs and entrepreneurship, and a student support fund that will facilitate collaboration across undergraduate and graduate on-campus and online program offerings.

“Our long run goal is to create a framework that will endure and expand to provide more and better services to our veterans both online and in person,” say Tom and Lisa. “We feel it is important to give back to those who have protected our country and made many sacrifices in the process. Providing support to help ensure their success while at WSU allows us to contribute in a very meaningful way.”

Seeding inspiration to grow WSU’s rank

The Thompsons hope their seed capital will inspire others to recognize benefits of supporting veterans at WSU. By growing and improving the program, they look forward to the day WSU will be recognized as the number one choice for veterans for both on-campus and online studies.

While giving back is a good feeling, philanthropy is about more than just emotion, the couple says. They feel strongly that giving back to improve the lives of others is part of a national culture that makes the country stronger. “As a land-grant university, WSU is part of an educational ideal not found in many places in the world,” they say. “That we have the opportunity to help both veterans and strengthen WSU simultaneously is twice the benefit.”

Read previous Rucksacks to Backpacks to Boardroom article.