Alaska Airlines Day: Foster celebrates steady ascent of longtime corporate partner

Balloons? Check. Giveaways? Check. Selfie station? Check. Husky Marching Band? Check. Dubs? Check. Alaska Airlines banners at each PACCAR Hall entrance? Check. A squadron of paper airplanes raining down on a massive scrum of students in the Garvey Family Atrium (each hoping to snag the one stowing a free roundtrip ticket to anywhere Alaska flies)? Check (and check).

Must have been Alaska Airlines Day at the UW Foster School of Business.

It was, indeed, on October 9, when Foster purple turned Alaska blue for the day to celebrate one of the school’s most loyal and lasting corporate partnerships.

Alaska Airlines CEO Brad Tilden and Foster School Dean Frank Hodge find a quiet moment to pose with Dubs.

With more than 70 alumni on staff, Alaska Airlines has Foster ties up and down the org chart, as was on full display in PACCAR Hall. The large contingent of company leadership on hand included:

Foster Executive MBA grads: Brad Tilden, CEO; Ann Ardizzone, VP of Supply Chain; Constance von Muehlen, SVP of Operations & Planning; and Shaunta Hyde, Managing Director of Community Relations.

Foster MPAcc grad: Brooke Vatheuer, SVP of Operations & Planning.

Also on board were Ben Minicucci, President and COO; Charu Jain, VP and Chief Information Officer; Kyle Levine, VP of Legal and General Counsel; Karen Wilkins-Mickey, Director of Diversity & Inclusion; and many others.

Something special

The event kicked off with the plane-throwing, band-blasting party in PACCAR Hall.

Then the day got down to business. Various combinations of Alaska senior management led panels on careers in executive leadership and IT management, and on corporate diversity, equity and inclusion. Others met with Foster’s MBA and undergraduate student leaders, and in “ask-me-anything” Q&As with Executive MBAs.

The EMBA conversation in the Seminar Room of the Bank of America Executive Center played out like a high-level corporate summit. Topics ranged from balancing the art and science of information security to forging stronger supply chain relationships as a competitive advantage over the buying power of larger carriers. Tilden touched on the challenges of combining cultures after the Virgin America merger, and of meeting the industry imperative to grow while maintaining the company’s own distinguishing imperative to provide the best customer experience and operate with a profound sense of team.

“There’s something special about the Alaska culture,” offered Ardizzone, who worked her way up the ranks during a decades-long career. “There’s a sense of caring that starts with the hiring process and builds because of the pride in what we do. When you step onto an airplane, it’s not like walking into a Target. There are thousands of things going on behind the scenes to make it all work that a customer never sees. That’s what drives a sense of pride that’s very different. It’s an almost emotional attachment to providing great customer service.”

Winners in the air

Alaska Airlines has been a tremendous success story for the Pacific Northwest. Tilden pointed out that it has grown from serving 63 destinations in 2001 (mostly clustered up and down the I-5 corridor) to a truly nationwide airline, serving more than 115 destinations reaching from Honolulu to Boston and from Anchorage to Cancun.

At the end of this bustling day at the Foster School, two lucky students walked away with a golden roundtrip ticket to any destinations on Alaska’s ever-expanding route map.

One caught the ticket in the paper air show. The other was EMBA student Samantha Sangrey, who won the #FosterFliesAlaska Instagram contest.

You can find more pics of Alaska Airlines Day and of Foster students’ travels abroad on Instagram. And for a student’s perspective on the day’s events, check out Annie Trieu’s post on the Foster Blog.

Corporate Days are offered as a benefit to Foster’s Chair Level Corporate Partners, who invest more than $100K in Foster in a fiscal year.

Alaska Airlines provides a wide array of support to the Foster School’s students, faculty and programs, including sponsorship of the Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge, hosted each year by the Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship.