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Washington State University
Dividend - Fall 2019 The Next Carson Coug

Boeing Scholars Cultivate
Professional Skills, Take Team-Based Projects to New Heights

Story by Eric Hollenbeck • Photo by WSU Photo Services

Pullman Boeing Scholars – From left back row: Ryan Fick, Ian Laursen, Alex Rodriguez, Erik Sandoval.
Front row: Camryn Pietila, Savannah Rogers, Kenneth Eversole, Shannon Spilker.

As education at the Carson College of Business evolves to meet the demands of business and industry in the twenty-first century, more emphasis will be placed on cultivating key skills—from critical thinking, communication, and ethics to leadership and teamwork.

One program that is already helping students become more adept communicators and collaborators—transforming the way they work in teams—is the Boeing Scholars program. The program, offered at several WSU locations, brings together students from business, communications, engineering, and arts and sciences to develop viable solutions, through multidisciplinary teamwork, for Boeing-assigned projects.

“It’s an opportunity for our very best students to truly get a leg up on what it means to be a professional in the working environment,” says Lynne Cooper, assistant clinical professor and faculty lead at the Pullman campus program.

Addressing Future Needs of Business and Industry

The Boeing Scholars program aligns with the Carson College’s mission to be responsive to the community, according to Mark Beattie, WSU Everett’s associate vice chancellor for academic affairs.

“For a long time, business and industry have been asking higher education to work more across disciplines and provide graduates who can work on teams,” he says. “We need to model that when we are in the academic setting.”

The program helps students master the core competencies of effective teamwork by assigning projects with real-world implications, faculty guidance and instruction, and mentorship.

Engineering 3-D printing capabilities on Mars, developing new methods for growing coral production to capture carbon from the atmosphere, or developing solutions for improving power distribution are just a few of the projects the students have worked on over the past couple years.

Developing Key Skills to Build Strong Teams

In academic environments, students often aren’t taught the skills for effective teamwork, according to Cooper. “We want them to collaborate, bring in different perspectives, and debate ideas, to create an integrated product. Instead, students grab a part of the project, work it on their own, then struggle to piece it together at the end, negating a lot of the value of working in a team,” she says.

The final product often reflects the lack of communication and collaboration amongst the team. It’s an approach that might earn a passing grade but doesn’t work well in high-tech business or other industries where true collaboration is crucial for success.

Effective communication is more than just what is said—it’s purposeful and helps advance the teams’ goals. “Students learn how to give constructive feedback, structure understandable messages, and recognize what valuable feedback looks like,” says Cooper, drawing on her 28 years of experience with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), working on teams assigned to elite, billion-dollar projects.

“Giving feedback is a critical component in real-world situations. If you’re launching a rover to Mars, for example, you can’t ignore problems and hope they go away,” she says.

Fostering Collaboration to Prepare Students for the Future

Boeing scholar Carl Johnson (MISE & Psych.) has been impressed with how engaged the Boeing mentors are with the students. “You can tell they are just as excited as the students about the projects,” he says.

“This is more than just a scholarship program,” says Johnson. “This is Boeing actually investing in students they believe in, and they put in the work and resources to guide and mentor. That’s when I knew this was a really cool program.”

As he begins his senior year, Johnson says he looks forward to learning from his mentor and working with his peers to solve complex problems. “I know I have so much to learn from each of these scholars from all across WSU. I am excited to prove ourselves as a team to Boeing,” he says.

It’s a sentiment that’s shared among many who have gone through the program.

“Working in this multidisciplinary team has challenged me to change how I communicate and how I assess problems that we are trying to solve,” says Emma Kilgore (’19 Comm.), whose team, Cora Leo, represented the WSU Everett Boeing Scholars program in the 2019 WSU Business Plan Competition.

Anthony Preston (HBM), another member of Cora Leo, says his involvement with the Boeing Scholars program has prepared him for future group projects. “There is no other project that has gone as in-depth as this one. At this point, any new project or presentation will feel pretty easy.”

Everett Boeing Scholars – From left, Kaitlyn Ferguson, Emma Kilgore, Anthony Preston, Matthew Atilano.

2018 – 19
Boeing Scholar Seniors


Kenneth Eversole
computer science

Ryan Fick
international business/innovation &
change management

Ian Laursen
mechanical engineering

Camryn Pietila

Alex Rodriguez
mechanical engineering

Savannah Rogers
political science/pre-law/strategic
communication/public relations

Erik Sandoval
finance/innovation & change management

Shannon Spilker
accounting/public relations


Matthew Atilano
mechanical engineering

Kaitlyn Ferguson
electrical engineering

Emma Kilgore

Anthony Preston
hospitality business management