Redefine and Transform Scholarship recipient spotlight

Launching in 2020, the Portland State University Graduate Business Program awards the Redefine & Transform Scholarships to support leaders who drive positive change in business and our communities. These leaders embody The School of Business’ vision to redefine business and transform lives. Students are invited to share their stories in several different categories: racial equity, out in business, women inspiring leadership, community visionary, global perspective and environmental steward. 

In 2020, five students were awarded scholarships for their work in business and their outlook on redefining business. Below, Fran Ritchie, Rowena Paz Norman, Mahlet Woldeabraham, Mark Spencer and Iranzi Ntihemuka share their vision for redefining business and driving positive change in business and our communities. 

Fran Ritchie

The Portland MBA, Part-Time

Scholarship awarded: Out in Business

My long-term career goal is to work with women, POC and LGBTQ people to have greater access and representation in non-profits and business. I am beyond thrilled to horizontally integrate my MBA learnings within OCHIN, Inc., a national nonprofit health IT organization. At OCHIN, we partner, learn, innovate, and advocate to close gaps in health care that are systemic, avoidable, and unjust, so everyone has a fair opportunity to achieve their full health potential. My vision for redefining and transforming business is to serve underserved communities, and to increase representation of unsung voices in leadership and decision-making. I believe that we are better together, or as our national motto states “E Pluribus Unum” — out of many, one. The Portland MBA program is developing leaders to redefine and transform business at every level. I am incredibly proud to be in the 2022 part-time cohort and excited to improve my work for OCHIN, which serves vulnerable populations. I think positive change in business and our communities begins with inclusion and scaling innovation to make indelible changes to improve health in the United States.

Rowena Paz Norman

The Portland MBA, Part-Time

Scholarship awarded: Racial Equity

My purpose is to bring joy to others and solve important problems as my authentic self. I would like to have and be known for the following attributes: visionary and resonant leader, innovative, results-oriented authentic and fights for equity, diversity, and inclusion. My vision is to own my own consulting and training company that focuses on the alignment between purpose, profits, people and partnerships. With my identity as a woman of color business leader, I address my client’s urgent and strategic business needs to drive both profit and purpose. I utilize my sales training, experience in technology and non-profit and the strengths that give me energy to inspire a vision where business is a force for good.   

Mahlet Woldeabraham

The Portland MBA, Full-Time

Scholarship awarded: Women Inspiring Leadership

Even if not the single best and only solution to bring about change, business is the way of bringing about a long-lasting and sustainable solution to the complex challenges that communities face in the most challenging places across the continent. Positive change is driven among businesses and communities by demonstrating the impacts that doing a fair, ethical and sustainable business will create a prosperous, self-reliant and resilient society. No matter the different types of shocks or stresses that communities face, markets will still function. We have proved this during our recent experience of COVID-19. Despite how hard businesses are hit because of the different support systems, companies are recovering and will recover, making them even more resilient and adding another level of response and adaptation mechanism to their risk mitigation and management.

Mark Spencer

MS Global Supply Chain Management, Full-time

Scholarship awarded: Global Perspectives

Currently, my team is bringing analytics, automation,high-velocity decision making, resiliency and complex change management to the transforming of procurement operations in Mercy Corps. Mercy Corps is an incredible global team of humanitarians on the front-line of some of the world’s biggest crises and is headquartered here in Portland. Previously, I was leading a team of twelve amazing people to transform the procure-to-pay operations of Zappos. As part of those efforts, we achieved carbon neutrality for corporate travel with carbon financing. The projects included deforestation prevention and reforestation efforts in the Mississippi Delta, Acre State in the Amazon and the Valdivian reserve in Chile. Human potential is the perfect natural resource.

Iranzi Ntihemuka

Master of Science in Finance, Part-Time

Scholarship awarded: Community Visionary

Growing up in a refugee camp, I never thought that I would ever be able to graduate high school, let alone going to university. For 20 years I lived in a refugee camp where we used to live off of twenty-four cents a day from the United Nations. This was equivalent to one meal per day. African children in refugee camps have very limited educational opportunities and not much hope of escaping poverty. My family was lucky to be selected for resettlement in the US through the refugee resettlement program. When we got here in the US, it was like a miracle — we were eating three meals a day, my siblings were going to school free of charge and I was working as an intern. With my salary, it was hard to pay bills and be able to support as many kids as I wanted to back in the refugee camp. I had a very understanding manager, and after I shared my story, he was so touched that we decided to start a nonprofit organization to help the kids back in the refugee camp to finish high school. We started the Refugee Education Project two years ago with only ten students. We continued to share the story and advocate for these kids, and this year we were able to add thirteen more kids to the program.

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