By Jacob Ashley
Since 2020, the Portland State University (PSU) School of Business (SB) has awarded Redefine and Transform (RTS) scholarships to support, promote, and inspire leaders who drive positive change in business and the community. These value-based scholarships invite students to share their stories as they begin their journey at PSU SB.
In 2022, 11 students were awarded RTS scholarships for their outstanding efforts in redefining business and transforming lives. A few shared their stories and told us their vision for creating positive change in the communities around us.
Roger Iwimana, a master of science in finance (MSF) student, was awarded the Community Visionary scholarship, which honors an incoming graduate business student who has positively impacted one or more of their communities. For 20 years, Roger grew up in a refugee camp in Rwanda, living on 24 cents per day (given to him by the UN, which was the equivalent of one meal). The UN provided education up to the 9th grade; beyond that, students were required to pay. This barrier was impossible for most. “This is still the case even today for refugee kids, including my siblings who are still living in the camps in Rwanda,” he says. “Even though I grew up in such a community, I got the chance to attend high school and university, so it was my challenge to use the skills and knowledge I learned to do something that can positively impact my community.”
These experiences gave Roger a unique perspective that still guides him. He says, “Life can be difficult, but many people find that one of the best ways to find satisfaction and happiness is by helping to make their community a better place.” This mindset drives him in his vision. He adds, “Education is one of the most essential necessities of a person and the community because, without education, we would not have the necessary skills and knowledge to impact our community. There are countless ways to offer your time to your community. In the camp was a school called Hope school. My elder brothers from the camp founded the school after attending the university in Rwanda on scholarship from a different UNHCR partner. Every graduate is responsible for supporting that school by teaching freely, with no reward. So, I taught math and economics there for over a year.” He concludes, “I would say volunteering at the high school impacted many people and opened doors for them because now there are more who have bachelor’s degrees in different fields.”
Roger began his journey in the MSF program at PSU with experience as an audit assistant and accountant in Rwanda. Last year, Roger attained a staff accounting position at Concannon Lumber Company in Portland, Oregon. He will graduate from PSU in 2023.
Out in Business
Rosa Garcia Arreola, a master in business administration (MBA) and master of science in finance (MSF) dual degree student, was awarded the Out in Business scholarship, which honors an incoming graduate business student who has demonstrated vision and leadership in advancing the voices and needs of LGBTQAI+ communities. She says, “When I was 17 years old and recently graduated from high school, I disclosed to my mom that I was in a same-sex relationship with my best friend. My mom could not properly process that information and kicked me out of the house.” At the time, Rosa was undocumented, unemployed, and had little to no money. “I was able to stay at my partner’s parent’s house as long as I did not disclose to them that we were dating,” she adds. “That was 21 years ago. The safety and wellbeing of our LGBTQAI+ communities are not just important, but crucial to be considered today.”
While she was an undergraduate student at PSU in 2010, she volunteered with Outside In, an organization that provides help for youth experiencing homelessness (which happens for a myriad of reasons, one of the most common is that they identify as LGBTQAI+). She concludes, “In 2018, I was granted asylum in the United States because I was part of the LGBTQAI+ community and the risk I would be in if I was sent back to my country of origin. I plan on taking that opportunity to be here in the United States due to my background as a jump-off point into helping others who have been in similar situations as I have been.”
Since graduating with her bachelor’s degree at PSU, Rosa currently has a role at Multnomah County’s Health Department as a budget analyst, a position she attained after working at the Joint Office of Homeless Services, where she is about to return as a senior contract specialist. She has volunteered (paid) at cooling and warming shelters within the county and spends most of her free time in her daughter’s PTA or as a member of Beta Alpha Psi (BAP) on PSU’s campus. Rosa’s long-term goal is to become a CFO in the public sector, with the goal of setting up scholarships for single parents pursuing higher education.
Andrea Brignacca, a full-time master of business administration (MBA) student, was awarded the Global Perspectives scholarship, which honors an incoming graduate business student who brings with them dedicated vision and leadership in promoting global perspectives in business. Andrea has career experience in Italy, Hawaii, and the East Coast of the U.S., giving him valuable insight regarding cultures while allowing him to promote his global perspective in diverse business environments. He used this insight in his work with American Savings Bank in Hawaii. He says, “I analyzed Asian-American psychographics by surveying customers, learning their global perspectives, and communicating improvement strategies to the bank. For example, many customers have relatives in Asia and frequently send funds internationally. I advised the bank to lower its international transaction fees to gain an advantage over its competitors.”
Working at Golden Set Analytics was also a fundamental step in his career. He writes, “I worked internationally during its expansion to the Italian market. Because of the cultural differences, I led them in understanding Italian clients. I intermediated client relationships through language translation and data interpretation. While working for Solinco Italia, I was responsible for international relationships within my projects as they faced a supply chain delay with their Asian suppliers during a high-selling quarter. I advised my supervisor to contact the German branch to borrow inventory. I connected with them and established an agreement that saved our branch from a product delivery delay.” Andrea concludes, “I have shared my global perspective visions throughout many regions of the world. As a Portland State University’s global perspectives scholar, I am eager to continue to promote global perspectives in business.”
Andrea recently enjoyed an internship at ATP Tour in player relations, examining television data and assisting players and agents in social media practices. He currently attends PSU full-time as a graduate student-athlete. He will graduate in 2024.
Beyond Community Visionary, Global Perspective, and Out in Business, the Environmental Steward scholarship honors an incoming graduate business student who has demonstrated vision and leadership in advancing institutional environmental sustainability practices. The Racial Equity scholarship and the Women Inspiring Leadership scholarship are awarded for advancing the voices and needs of people of color and women, respectively. Each scholarship is available to all master’s degree applicants who submit a statement of 250 words or less to one of the categories above by May 1.
Learn more about our scholarships.