Erik (’00 Busi. Admin.) and Carmina Johansson, a professional couple with busy careers in California’s insurance and real estate industries, felt they had to do something positive when recent changes in the world unleashed a wave of negativity in how people communicate and treat others. As they examined their personal values of hard work, desire to achieve, and contributing to society, they decided a Carson College of Business scholarship supporting multicultural students in need would be the perfect way to make a difference.
The basis of their decision to give back has many roots, from the scholarship support they both received as undergraduates, to appreciation for the Carson College’s role in helping Erik get his first job, and generational influences of both their families.
Erik grew up in Spokane in a Coug-loving household. “I went to every home football game from age 6 through college,” he says. He studied insurance in the finance and management science department and credits Professor Mike McNamara for making the connections that led to an interview and offer to work at American Contractors Indemnity Company in Los Angeles, a position that launched his insurance brokering career. “Without that opportunity, my life as it is wouldn’t exist,” he says.
Carmina, a graduate of California State University, Fullerton, adopted WSU as a “second school” shortly after she and Erik married in 2010. “Erik’s love for WSU impressed me,” she says. “I started attending games with his family and grew to appreciate WSU’s welcoming community and culture. Those memories help me still feel close to Erik’s dad, who has passed on.”
“We weren’t flush with money in our 20s, but it was important to us to pay it forward however we could,” says Erik. He sought opportunities to speak to Carson College students studying risk management and joined the college’s Risk Management and Insurance Advisory Board. Their contributions grew over time. “Giving exists in all kinds of ways, and they’re all important,” he says. “We are excited to help the Carson College not only become the top tier business school in the Pacific Northwest but also in the United States.”
First-Generation Experience Drives Desire To Give
While supporting multicultural students is a mutual passion for the couple, Carmina’s background gives a deeper perspective into their motivation for establishing the endowed scholarship.
Both her father and mother grew up in Mexico in large families. At the ages of 16 and 20, they separately immigrated to the United States and worked hard throughout their lives to provide for themselves and their children. Carmina and her older brother both earned degrees, but she says college was never a priority in their family. “I had the drive to become something, but I was limited in family guidance beyond my older brother,” she says. “There’s so much more students can do if they have the right support.”
“We hope our scholarship helps change the thinking of similar multicultural households who don’t see college as a priority,” says Erik. “We encourage recipients to give back to WSU and invite others to consider giving Carson students a helping hand.”
We weren’t flush with money in our 20s, but it was important to us to pay it forward however we could.