The word retreat suggests backward motion, withdrawal or reflection.
That’s not the case with the Presidents’ Leadership Retreat. The annual summit of undergraduate leaders at the University of Washington Foster School of Business keeps the focus firmly on the future.
Over two jam-packed early autumn days at Warm Beach Conference Center, the prime movers of the Undergraduate Business Council and 25 other student organizations undergo a distraction-free crash course in communication, collaboration, cultural competency, decision making, event planning, conflict resolution and, as last year’s keynote emphasized, staying true to the Foster ideals of honesty, integrity and respect throughout life.
“It’s a packed 48 hours,” says Clay Schwenn, the Undergraduate Programs’ assistant director for student leadership and development. “It’s so important to take them out of their daily lives to immerse themselves in this.”
The participants emerge equipped and inspired to lead more effectively at and after Foster.
“The retreat gave all of us a real sense of what it means to be a leader within the Foster School,” says Kelly Phillips (BA 2015), last year’s president of Undergraduate Women in Business. “It has inspired me daily to be a great leader.”
Focus on the future
This indelible experience—in its 13th year—is made possible by the financial underwriting of Roy (MBA 1970) and Frances Simperman, who know a thing or two about leadership.
Roy is the longtime chairman and CEO of a computer network management firm called Semaphore Corporation, but an engineer at heart. He got his start at the Boeing Company in the mid-1960s, an era of grand adventures developing a space shuttle prototype, the lunar orbiter, and warhead integration (he once borrowed a 105-mm tank from the US Army and commandeered 15 oscilloscopes from Boeing to study shock physics on the site now occupied by the Tulalip Casino).
After adding a Foster MBA to his degrees in mathematics and physics, he created a sophisticated economic simulation to guide Weyerhauser’s forestry program, partnered in a stock photography company at the dawn of the commercial Internet, and has led Semaphore ever since.
Roy and Frances, who served as president of Printex Press for three decades, have become staunch supporters of education, and keenly interested in the development of Foster’s emerging leaders.
“Leadership requires trust,” Roy says. “And trust requires integrity, good judgment and common sense. I think a program that can intervene and instill these qualities in young leaders is well worth our support.”
“We need leaders who are educated, ethical and responsible to take the long view,” adds Frances. “The future of our country—our world—is at stake.”
This year’s Presidents’ Leadership Retreat takes place September 21-23. The keynote speaker will be Long Phan (BA 2006), the founder of Foster’s Undergraduate Business Council and Week of Service who left a career in finance and venture capital to work in K-12 education reform with the City of Seattle Department of Education and Early Learning.