Umphress awarded UW Population Health Initiative grant to help small businesses weather COVID-19 crisis

Elizabeth Umphress

This week, the University of Washington Population Health Initiative awarded approximately $333,000 in COVID-19 economic recovery research grants to 18 different faculty-led teams.

One of those teams is a partnership between the Foster School of Business and the School of Law.

The initiative “Helping Minority-Owned Small Businesses Survive and Thrive Post-COVID-19” is co-led by Elizabeth Umphress, an associate professor of management (promoted to full professor in the fall) and Evert McCabe Endowed Fellow, and Jennifer Fan, an assistant professor of law and faculty director of the Entrepreneurial Law Clinic.

Their program will provide:

  • a COVID-19 resource listing for small businesses in multiple languages,
  • training in negotiations (a subject that Umphress teaches in numerous Foster programs),
  • one-on-one pro bono legal consultations for small business owners and entrepreneurs.

Umphress and Fan plan to provide these services through the existing infrastructure of the UW Entrepreneurial Law Clinic, the Washington Pro Bono Patent Network and the Seattle Public Library system. The Foster School’s Consulting and Business Development Center will advertise these resources to the vast network of minority business owners it supports, including people of color, women, LGBTQ people and veterans.

Sterling service

Umphress, a faculty member of Foster’s Department of Management and Organization since 2011, assisted in founding the Foster School Diversity Committee (which she chaired from 2014-2019) and is a representative to the UW Faculty Council on Women in Academia. She also co-leads the prevention group of the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine’s (NASEM) Action Collaborative on Preventing Sexual Harassment in Higher Education. The UW hosted the first national conference of this campaign, which was launched last fall by NASEM.

Among a long list of accolades, Umphress has received the Pacific Coast Banking School Dean’s Leadership Award (2016) and the Hybrid MBA Excellence in Teaching Award (2020). She has been named Professor of the Year in the MS in Entrepreneurship Program (2019) and Evening MBA Program (2014). And she has received Star Teacher Awards for her work in the Undergraduate, Full-time MBA, Evening MBA, Executive MBA and Global MBA Programs.

At Foster, Umphress teaches Dynamics of Negotiations and Ethical Leadership to MBAs and Executive MBAs.

Her research explores many facets of social justice, including ethical decision making, organizational justice and diversity. She has published 28 peer-reviewed research articles, many in the most influential journals in management and organization.

Creative solutions

The UW Population Health Initiative launched its COVID-19 recovery research grant program to support the UW research community in quickly responding to the vast array of economic-related challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Applications for awards of up to $20,000 were due May 31 and the 18 recipients were announced June 16, with related activities to begin July 1.

Photo by Nick Bolton on Upsplash

These teams are composed of individuals representing 13 different schools and colleges. Funding was partially matched by additional school, college and departmental funds, bringing the total value of these awards to roughly $495,000.

“The sacrifices our country has made during the pandemic is saving lives, but at a tremendous cost to our economy,” said Ali H. Mokdad, the university’s chief strategy officer for population health and professor of health metrics sciences. “We believe the 18 projects selected for funding will quickly help us to better understand, mitigate, or reverse the economic impacts of COVID-19, particularly for vulnerable populations that have borne the brunt of the economic losses.”