Six years ago, more than 1,000 people gathered in the Todd Atrium and the adjoining Fulmer plaza to be part of one of the biggest celebrations the then-College of Business had ever known. Students peered through open windows and doorways, lined the Atrium staircase and walls, and stood shoulder-to-shoulder to get a glimpse of a small staging area where the late President Elson S. Floyd and David Whidbee, College of Business interim dean, stood before a few rows of seated guests.
Among the guests were WSU regents and other University dignitaries, a mix of faculty and staff, alumni, and one very special family whose presence was at the core of the occasion. Surrounded by their adult children and several grandchildren, Scott (’72 Bus. Admin.) and Linda Carson humbly waited to be honored on stage as the reason for Floyd’s much anticipated announcement: the renaming of the College of Business to the Carson College of Business.
While a naming celebration is typically tied to one specific gift, the Carson College naming recognized Scott and Linda’s lifetime contributions to WSU and its business program. Over the years, their investments in the college have supported faculty endowments, student scholarships and programs, and the founding and evolution of the Carson Center for Student Success, the college’s hub for undergraduate services. In addition to their ongoing financial investments, loyal participation at college events, guest presentations, and advisory board engagement within the college are also part of the couple’s model of philanthropy.
New Identity Leads to New College Aspiration
A year later, Chip Hunter was appointed dean of the college. With the naming still fresh in everyone’s mind, it became a springboard to develop a new aspiration for the college—to become the model business school for tomorrow’s land-grant university.
“Being named after Scott Carson signaled we had support from our alumni community,” says Hunter. “It helped us create a stronger identity and culture that surpass just being known for the major. We joined ‘the club’ of our named peers that take business seriously, and that was a milestone for WSU.”
Recognizing the new college name could be a natural catalyst for progress, he began using it to start conversations with alumni and other stakeholders about taking the college to the next level. With the collective energy of alumni, faculty, staff, and student leaders, the college began to focus on strengthening undergraduate and online programs, research, and reputation—setting a benchmark of becoming the first choice for students seeking a business education in the Pacific Northwest.
Today, more students earn undergraduate degrees in business from the Carson College than from any other university in the Northwest.
Next Carson Coug Marks First Undergraduate Revision in a Quarter Century
Over the next four years, the Carson name became linked with the successful rollout of key initiatives, one of the firsts being the launch of The Next Carson Coug (TNCC) in 2019. TNCC is the first revision of the undergraduate program in 25 years. New courses and highly interactive classes focus on developing the knowledge, skills, and characteristics students need to be successful in their careers.
“Tagging initiatives with the Carson name creates new opportunities for dialogue and flags progress,” says Hunter. “In time, as we graduate students through the program, the TNCC identity will only strengthen the loyal ‘Coug’ brand.”
Another milestone: implementing TNCC across campus locations. “The approach isn’t exactly the same system-wide; it’s based on what is best for each location,” says Hunter. “What’s never been done before is raising resources for the program system-wide; support doesn’t just go to Pullman,” he says. Though degree requirements are the same across all locations, instructors across the system will be able to be more flexible in meeting students’ needs.
Because of this success, President Kirk Schulz recently appointed Hunter to lead a working group focused on structuring roles so the University works more effectively as a system.
Serving Pacific Northwest Business Communitites
Better serving Pacific Northwest business communities has been a focal point under Hunter’s leadership. The college began regularly participating in CougsFirst! annual tradeshows in Seattle and Spokane in 2016. CougsFirst! is a network of over 244,000 WSU alumni business owners. The relationship fosters business connections between the college and small business owners who hire Carson graduates and other Cougs.
The college also began producing two new annual reports, “WSU Holiday Retail Study” and “Business in the Northwest,” that help drive conversations to address some of the Pacific Northwest business community’s most pressing issues. And, after a ten-year hiatus, the college reinstated the Power Breakfast in Spokane in response to the city’s rapid economic growth and workforce needs.
“We are able to achieve these milestones through the commitment of faculty, staff, and those who collaborate with and support us,” says Hunter. “This makes it possible for us to create a culture where students are deeply engaged in their own success and communities look to us first for business and research insights.”