Expand Your Borders with Jessica Hoffman

Jessica Hoffman

Accounting student Jessica Hoffman received the opportunity this summer to study abroad in not just one, but two different countries – Germany and Brazil. Her adventures and stories were incredible – certainly once-in-a-lifetime chances! I was especially interested to hear how Jessica came across both of these amazing opportunities, which she was more than happy to share with me. I left the interview feeling inspired to fly overseas myself! Below are some of her stories and memories, as well as words of advice for future SBA students hoping to study or intern abroad.

What initially attracted you to the PSU School of Business Administration accounting program?

The biggest asset that I think that we have is the city of Portland. To me, the city is so fantastic and such a draw that it’s a natural fit that I would want to stay here, not just to go to school but to work. And the partnership that the SBA has with the working, professional community is one that I think is very unique. To me, the hugest draw is that we can live, work, and go to school – and that this is one community.

Tell me about the internship that you did this summer.

I participated in the Deloitte Global Internship Program this summer, which means that once you go through recruiting for a [Deloitte] internship, you potentially have an opportunity to apply to be considered for the global program. June was when my internship in Portland started and then four weeks later I flew to São Paulo and worked the second half of my internship in the Brazil office. The internships are a lot of fun! They do a lot to really introduce you to the company culture, to help you network and meet people. While I was in Brazil, I was fairly comfortable with the corporate environment at that point and it was really a matter of being able to navigate an entirely new team with language barriers, a totally different industry specialty and different government regulations.

How did you overcome the language and cultural barriers?

The first week was the hardest for sure. I would always try to sit with different people on my team at lunch and ask them about their families and growing up and what their school was like. What has their experience been? And really try to learn from that and stay smiling, stay approachable, stay open. Laugh a lot! By the end of the second week, it was really easygoing and we had all become fast friends.

I felt like I was learning every second of every day. And even the uncomfortable times, it was really was a perfect opportunity to grow and to lean into the discomfort, and figure out how to take an awkward moment and embrace it.

How do you think that the PSU School of Business Administration program really prepared you for studying or working abroad?

We have a huge international student population here and we’re a really diverse campus. There’s no way that you’ve gone through business classes without working on an international team, even if you didn’t necessarily realize it. It’s really important, I think, to practice empathy and be open and assume best intentions. Working in international teams for SBA classes really gives you opportunities to practice those skills.

Tell me about your study abroad experience in Germany.

I participated in the SBA Innovation for Sustainability trip and it was a two week intensive in Germany. There were 21 students in the program; six from PSU, eight from a university that has multiple campuses in Mexico, and then seven from the university partner in Germany. But many of the German students were from other countries as well. We were really a diverse team. I tried to use some of the same approaches that I used from being in Brazil towards meeting everyone there, learning about their country and their culture. This was a great opportunity for me to understand the real impact you can have when you truly listen to someone, when you ask a question and are totally open to the answer.

What does fearless mean to you?

I think fearless is the only way to live. The best thing that we can do for ourselves is ask why we’re afraid and start there. And then think about where that fear really comes from. I think that so much of the fear is just not knowing. So if we care instead about the process and extracting value from the process, then the outcome and the variables that are outside of our control – we can just make peace with that.

If you put everything you have into making yourself better every day and you live that way – fearlessly – the outcome will be successful. But it doesn’t have to be to one specific goal. It’s about the process. If we’re fearless in our commitment to our own self-betterment and self improvement, and our care for others, then the outcome will always be successful.


After the interview ended, I realized how much some of Jessica’s stories related to my own. Having worked abroad in Spain after high school, I knew how isolating the first week could be. I could also understand how important it was to reach out to others and truly comprehend what their lives are like, what’s important to them, and what they care about. When studying or working abroad, empathy is one of the best tools that we can utilize. We need to be able to relate to others – especially those who are completely different from ourselves. It’s such an exhilarating feeling, though, to be able to relate to and empathize with people from diverse backgrounds. Studying or working abroad is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I would suggest to anyone who has the ability!

If you’re interested in learning more about the Innovation for Sustainability program or other study abroad programs that the School of Business Administration has to offer, just click the following link: http://www.pdx.edu/sba/study-abroad-0

~Mckenzie Miller ’15 Fearless Business Student

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Fearless Entrepreneur Travis Hoffman

Young PSU entrepreneurs can look to accomplished Travis Hoffman for inspiration. When he’s not busy with work or classes, Travis finds time to work on his start-up business, Appitimer, for which he recently won a competition.

What are some of your favorite parts about the entrepreneur certificate program?

I think it gives you a good, well-rounded idea of what it takes to be an entrepreneur. I think that the entrepreneur class especially was really informative on all aspects of [entrepreneurship]. It’s just fun, really.

Can you tell me a little bit about the e-club?

The e-club, it’s the entrepreneurship club here on campus. I went there in winter during their explorer event, and I just had no idea that they had a club that was dedicated to entrepreneurship. I think of it like a tool kit. You go there with a question and if they can’t give you an answer they’ll point you in the right direction. I think that’s a really great asset for any person who has any entrepreneurial aspirations.

I also saw that you were involved in some sort of contest. Could you tell me more?

I won the Battle of the Start-Ups, which is the year finale of everything. It’s really cool, you’ve already won it within your class, and now you get to step it up a little bit more. You put a lot more work in within just a couple weeks, and just go for it. It’s a pitch competition basically, with a PowerPoint and a one-page business summary. You pitch it to the judges like they’re investors, like if you’re really going to start a business.

Have you started your new business?  

I’m in the start-up stage. My idea was a kitchen app that synchronizes your kitchen processes as you’re cooking and meal-planning with a special aspect of timing, taking the timing trial and error out of it. Right now, I’m in the very early development stages.

What’s been one of your favorite memories or experiences through the PSU School of Business entrepreneurship program?

Probably winning that competition, that was really cool. Working within the entrepreneurship class, I think I had really good experiences too. It was cool to get feedback every single day from every single student in the class. We had these notecards and there’s a plus on one side and a minus on the other, what you’re doing good and what you can improve on. Having that feedback from the class I thought was a cool experience.

How has the PSU School of Business helped you to become a stronger entrepreneur?

Ushering me in the right direction, and support. All of the instructors are awesome. That sounds kind of corny, but they really are.

How do you think that PSU and this program in particular has really helped you to set you on the right path?

Directly, the coursework definitely sets you up for success. And within the classes, there’s lots of networking that goes on and those connections are really important as well. It kind of breaches the difference between academia and the real business world.

Do you have any advice to give to future PSU School of Business entrepreneurs?

Any opportunity that you have to pitch, take it. Because practicing, and in front of multiple audiences ­- you’ve got to do it. And if you face something that becomes difficult, just hit it head on. I keep hearing this a lot about entrepreneurs, that they’re “jacks or jills of all trades, master of none,” and that’s so true. You have to be a little bit good at lots of stuff. Just become comfortable with being uncomfortable all the time. If you do that, then you know you’re in the right place.

What does it mean to you to be fearless?

Fearless to me means going off the path and just making your own, and believing in yourself when no one else does. I didn’t win all of the competitions in that class. There were many that I was probably in last place and it’s hard getting that criticism, but if you just keep persevering you’ll get there.

To learn more about the entrepreneurship certificate, the e-club, and other activities at the School of Business, just click the following link: http://www.pdx.edu/sba/entrepreneurship-certificate

~Mckenzie Miller ’15 Fearless Business Student

Welcome to Fearless Business!

SBA Blog Post 1 Photo

Fear is a natural part of our lives. It’s healthy for us; often it pushes us to exceed in ways that we never knew was possible. For me, college has produced many fearful moments – fearful moments that I’m positive that you have also experienced. Where should I go to school? What should I study? How will I afford college? And how will these decisions affect my future?

I initially did not want to go to college right after I graduated from high school. I was unsure about which school I thought was a right fit for me and in which direction I wanted to go. So, instead, I took a gap period and worked abroad in Madrid, Spain. These 6 months were some of the most tumultuous, fearful times of my life. I was living in a place that I was unfamiliar with, speaking a language that I was not entirely fluent in, and meeting and experiencing so many people and things that were new to me. My time abroad helped me to learn many things about myself, and I realized that I am capable of just about anything. So, when 6 months had passed, I felt that it was time to come home and work on building my future.

Not to say that I wasn’t fearful. Deciding to come back home and start school, and leave all of my new friends that I had made behind, was one of the most difficult decisions of my life. And although it was a hard choice to make, I knew that I was more motivated than ever to continue my education and build my future. I wanted all the possibilities that I knew a college degree could give me.

After moving home from Spain, I attended Portland Community College for 2 terms. My classes were great – my teachers were awesome and I became friends with many of my classmates – but I still felt like I wanted more. And so I applied to Portland State University. Having grown up in Portland, I was very familiar with PSU. I had walked through the park blocks what felt like hundreds of times and even had a few friends who attended PSU. But after my first week of classes at Portland State, I realized that I really had only known a very peripheral view of the school. I loved my classes, my teachers, my classmates – almost everything about it.

And then it came time to decide upon a major. What to do?! Which should I choose? And a little bit of the old fear and anxiety that I used to feel about college came creeping back. So I took a deep breath and did what every college sophomore hates to do – ask their parents for advice. And my dad suggested that I take an introductory business class. At first I thought, “No way.” I equated business and stodgy suits with poorly matching ties. But I took his advice and signed up for BA 101. And I liked it, I really liked it. It felt like something that I could be good at and that I could really, truly love to do.

About a year after I took my first business course, I signed up for MKTG 340 – the first advertising class in the business track. Sitting in class, I felt my eyes open wide; I was truly inspired. And I knew that this was something that I could spend the rest of my life learning.

And I liked PSU’s School of Business Administration so much that I even decided to help write a blog about the school, its teachers and students, and all of the opportunities that SBA can provide. And, over the coming months, I hope to share some of my experiences and the experiences of other SBA students and alum. Read on!

~Mckenzie Miller ’15 Fearless Business Student