Benevolent Dynasty

Foster MBAs secure fourth consecutive “Golden Briefcase” at the annual Challenge for Charity

The lexicon of sports has numerous terms to describe the rare feat of winning three consecutive championships. Triple crown. Triple. Treble. Three-peat.

But four straight titles? Now, we’re talking dynasty.

It’s certainly a benevolent dynasty developing at the UW Foster School of Business, whose MBA students claimed a fourth consecutive “Golden Briefcase” in this year’s MBA Challenge for Charity (C4C). Their sustained success is the product of a strong sense of community and a purpose-driven culture.

“This is a perfect example of living our purpose to better humanity through business,” says Frank Hodge, the Orin and Janet Smith Endowed Dean of the Foster School. “Huge congratulations to all involved in keeping the Golden Briefcase at Foster. I’m looking forward to seeing it back in the display case in PACCAR Hall!”

Leading by example

The annual C4C—now in its 39th year—pits the top West Coast schools against each other in friendly competition to volunteer the most hours and raise the most money in support of local nonprofits.

Foster MBAs pitch in with Washington Trails Association.

It’s a clever way of driving social good by harnessing the innate competitiveness of MBA students. The result: C4C chapters collectively raised $133,694 and volunteered 3,100 hours for Special Olympics and other charities during the 2021-2022 campaign.

In this year’s contest, though, the Foster School was in a league of its own. Foster MBAs volunteered 11 times more hours per student then the average of other C4C schools, and raised twice as many per-capita dollars as the competition’s runner up.

By the numbers

The massive volunteer commitment is the result of widespread participation across the Foster MBA Program, including 87% of the class of 2023 and 50% of the class of 2022.

In addition to monthly event coverage and recurring shifts supporting its core charities—Boys and Girls Clubs of King County, the University District Food Bank and Special Olympics of Washington—Foster MBA students also pitched in on three days of service supporting new community partners Farmer FrogRefugee Artisan Initiative and Black Farmers’ Collective. Other student clubs and associations organized volunteer events to support all manner of additional causes close to their hearts.

A Foster cleanup crew on the Burke-Gilman Trail.

The C4C fundraising total of $31,627 was achieved through a virtual auction, gear sale, bake sale, polar plunge, “Foster Idol” and a host of new events championed by students. Separately, they raised more than $1,300 to support Ukrainians displaced by and fighting against the Russian invasion through World Central Kitchen and the nation’s armed forces fund.

Finally, team Foster fought well above its weight class in the C4C’s culminating sports weekend, finishing third overall despite being one of the smallest programs in competition.

The Foster purpose

Alicia Howard (MBA 2022), the outgoing C4C board president, credits this sustained achievement to a strong culture of servant leadership at Foster.

“A huge part of our success comes from the way that volunteering is woven into the MBA Program itself, right from orientation, and is championed by the students as much as the administration,” she says. “I think prospective students are drawn by this energy, too… it is core to the fabric of the program.”

Foster MBAs put in a shift at the University District Food Bank.

This compulsion to roll up sleeves and get involved in the community extends well beyond Foster’s core C4C charity partners, too. Out in Business, for instance, hosted an event supporting Youth Care this year. The Outdoor and Sports Industry Club and Women in Business hosted trail maintenance work sessions with Forterra and Washington Trails AssociationDiversity in Business offered a resume workshop for young students of color. The Healthcare and Biotech Association ran blood and bone marrow drives. Other students organized a postcard writing campaign to encourage people to vote, and held trash pickups around Seattle.

Let’s go for five!

Of course, Howard says, even the most motivated group of students would be unlikely to land quadruple C4C wins on their own.

“We could not have brought home another Golden Briefcase without the outstanding leadership of our students, both on and off the board, and the ongoing support of our faculty and alumni,” she adds.

Foster MBAs bring home a fourth straight Golden Briefcase, and go for a fifth in 2023.

And she passes the torch, with confidence, to incoming C4C president Cindy Cocca (MBA 2023) and the next class up.

Howard, Cocca, the class of 2023, the incoming class of 2024, professors, program staff and generations of Foster alumni are already looking forward to defending the title next year, with a big fundraising boost in the return of an in-person auction and gale—which is already on the calendar.

So, save the date: February 11, 2023, at the Seattle Design Center.

Ed Kromer Managing Editor Foster School

Ed Kromer is the managing editor of Foster Business magazine. Over the past two decades, he has served as the school’s senior storyteller, writing about a wide array of people, programs, insights and innovations that power the Foster School community.