Kari Escobedo, senior SVP of information technology for the Seattle Mariners

Kari Escobedo at the Seattle Mariners ballpark in Seattle, Washington. Photo from Seattle Mariners

The Seattle Mariners on Feb. 25 named Cal State Fullerton management alumna Kari Escobedo ’95 senior vice president of information technology. This position involves leadership of all areas of technology for the Seattle Mariners Major League Baseball Club in the Pacific Northwest, including business operations technology, business intelligence and data, ballpark technology, baseball technology, and fan experience.

Escobedo played Division 1 softball for two seasons at Cal State Fullerton with an athletics scholarship as well as an academics scholarship as a CSUF Presidents Scholar. She has developed a 20-year career in leadership within a wide range of industries, including technology, health care, telecommunications, retail, and now sports and entertainment.

A Record of IT Accomplishment Prepares Escobedo to Lead the Seattle Mariners

Escobedo has served in senior technology leadership roles for Microsoft, Starbucks (while the coffee shop was hiring more than 1 million employees annually), T-Mobile, Kaiser Permanente Washington and, most recently, Bartell Drugs.

While serving as executive director of enterprise services and digital services for Kaiser Permanente Washington between 2015 and 2018, Escobedo spearheaded a revolution in virtual health care for members.

Kari Escobedo

Kari Escobedo

“Virtual appointments meant talking to a nurse over the phone. But we expanded this to include video-based and/or private messaging appointments with doctors and specialists,” says Escobedo. “Now, Kaiser Permanente regions all over the country are using the approach we developed as they provide care during the COVID pandemic.”

Escobedo notes that her professional journey began with a focus in human resources, but transitioned fairly quickly to technology. She encourages her fellow Titans to keep searching for the path that best suits their desires and interests, and what they excel in.

Tech on Display

With an increasingly strong fusion between high-tech and sports, Escobedo says, future experiences will be more firmly integrated with the wired world. For example, contactless technology makes fan interaction healthier and more efficient, biometric devices support safety and efficiency, 5G technology will ultimately connect fans through immersive experiences that wouldn’t have been possible just a few years ago.

Some of this technology was on display on April 1, when the Mariners played their first game of the 2021 season—and their first game with fans in the stands since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Mobile tickets were self-scanned via kiosks at all entry points throughout T-Mobile Park, where they also transitioned to a completely cashless venue this year as well to further cementing the transition to more seamless contactless experiences for fans.

As Escobedo and others lead major league sports into a high-tech future, the experience for fans, whether remote or in the stands, is sure to become increasingly personalized and interconnected.

For More on Sports Careers

Looking to the business-side of sports as a potential career path? There are many opportunities in such fields as IT, sports marketing, event planning, and entertainment and hospitality management.

CSUF’s Department of Marketing has information on careers in sports business. Reach out to them at marketingdept@fullerton.edu for more on how to prepare for such roles.

Nguyen and Vu at TasteaTwo decades ago, two Cal State Fullerton students, Ted Vu ’02 (finance) and Scott Nguyen ’04 (entertainment art/animation), visited the first boba tea shops in Orange County. Boba tea had just made its way from Taiwan to Southern California, and lines of customers were snaking out the doors of these boba tea shops. Vu and Nguyen sensed an opportunity.

“We decided at that moment, we would start a tea company focusing on a wide variety of creative drinks and delivering an exceptional customer experience,” says Vu.

At 22 years old, with no business experience or financial credit, the high school buddies turned business partners wrote their plan as part of a writing course at Cal State Fullerton that would result in the opening of their first Tastea beverage store in Garden Grove on Sept. 15, 2001.

“We immediately started looking for a location, but every landlord turned us down,” Vu recalls. “We finally found a landlord who was so impressed by our business plan that he decided to give us a chance. However, no banks would approve us for a business loan so we took out private loans with our cars as collateral. With a lease secured and capital in hand, we opened our first location.”

Girl serving boba

Adapting to Challenges and Staying Relevant

Vu and Nguyen are no strangers to adapting to external challenges in getting their business off the ground and thriving.

Their initial grand opening day was the Saturday after 9/11, when the last thing on many Orange County residents’ minds was trying out a new beverage business.

The pair opened their second location at The Block in Orange in 2007, just before the Great Recession. The downturn resulted in a huge financial loss and eventual closure of the location.

And, like all food service businesses, Vu and Nguyen have had to adapt to the coronavirus pandemic.

Thankfully, Tastea, which now has 23 stores, including franchise locations, began investing in an online ordering app in 2019. That was just in time for the pandemic closures that began in March 2020. Contactless delivery and the installation of pickup windows at physical stores provided a lifeline through COVID-19 in the last year.

Nguyen and Vu encourage aspiring entrepreneurs to be innovative, but also to learn from the successes and failures of others.

“Get out there and do it. Not all ideas will work, but you just need one that will,” says Nguyen.

Says Vu, “Learn as much as you can and never stop learning. We continue to look at what our competitors do better than us and how we can improve. It’s how Tastea has remained relevant with the times.”

Read more about Tastea in the spring/summer 2021 edition of Titan Magazine.

Students walking on the campus of Cal State FullertonCal State Fullerton’s Sales Leadership Center has again been recognized by the Sales Education Foundation (SEF) among the programs best preparing young people for careers in sales. The recognition is the third consecutive annual accolade for the program, which is housed at the Cal State Fullerton College of Business and Economics, but is open to Titans of all majors.

“We celebrate the courageous efforts of these sales programs as they have charted new territory to ensure that students are well served in spite of the pandemic,” says Sally Stevens, executive director of SEF, as she announced the 15th anniversary edition of the SEF annual magazine, which includes the rankings.

Among the factors involved in inclusion are having sales-related degree programs and certificates and supporting the sales profession.

The CSUF Sales Leadership Center offers a minor and certificate program in sales, competitions in which students present sales pitches to business professionals acting as judges, career fairs and opportunities for student leadership.

“This year, we offered an all-California State University Sales Competition in cooperation with four sister universities that elevated our programs to businesses seeking our students,” stated Brad Anderson, director of the Sales Leadership Center. The other universities involved in the competition included Chico State, Cal State Los Angeles and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

“We appreciate our sponsors who fund our events and activities to provide these services to our students interested in sales careers,” says Anderson. “We are proud our students are better prepared for sales careers with our sponsor companies and over 80% find internships and career opportunities with these sponsors.”

During the coronavirus pandemic, the center has continued its events virtually and looks forward to the return of in-person operations in fall 2021.

For more information on the Sales Leadership Center, reach out to them at slc@fullerton.edu or read our articles on sales education.

CSUF campus with trees in fallClimate change is not a future worry, but a present threat, and companies must assess their vulnerabilities and develop strategies to mitigate risk. That’s the assessment of Cal State Fullerton Assistant Professor of Management Chethan Srikant and Associate Professor of Management Atul Teckchandani.

In their article published in the Journal of Business Strategy, entitled “Climate Change and Business Planning: Solutions to Keep Disruptions at Bay,” Srikant and Teckchandani argue that the traditional competitive advantage framework used by businesses must be updated to include climate change resilience, in light of such concerns as California wildfires and drought and more frequent and stronger hurricanes.

“The resource-based view of business strategy has said that an organization’s resources have to be valuable, rare, not easy to imitate and organized to exploit in order to create a sustained competitive advantage,” Srikant explains. “Now, it is absolutely necessary to consider a fifth dimension: the climate change resilience of the resource.”

While clear examples include oil production in the Gulf of Mexico, which is acutely at risk from hurricanes, Srikant and Teckchandani are more concerned with less-obvious but no less serious impacts on companies and workers.

For instance, during extreme heat waves in the Desert Southwest, certain types of airplanes are grounded because they cannot withstand extreme temperatures. Or breweries have made adjustments because beer must be exposed to certain air temperatures to become infused with wild yeasts, and changing temperature patterns have shortened brewing seasons, impacting workers and company bottom lines.

Srikant and Teckchandani encourage businesses to recognize that climate change is broader than extreme weather events, and instead, understand the persistent changes over multiple years. The manifestations aren’t only found in warmer temperatures or wildfires, but in all manner of extreme or unusual conditions.

“Remember the snowstorm earlier this year that brought down the electrical grid in Texas? The grid can’t be moved, so it needs to be redesigned or reinforced to be able to weather the next big storm, whether that occurs in winter or summer,” says Srikant.

Read more in this CSUF News article.

CSUF Economics Anil Puri and Mira Farka.

CSUF economists Anil Puri and Mira Farka.

With an economy that is rapidly reopening as COVID-19 vaccinations increase, Cal State Fullerton economists Anil Puri and Mira Farka provided an updated outlook on the national, Southern California and Orange County economies on April 21.

Recognizing the resilience of the economy as workers return to offices and workplaces, students return to schools, and Americans go back to the recreational opportunities they once enjoyed, the economists provide a decidedly optimistic outlook in the near-term, despite fears of a potential fourth wave of coronavirus.

At the same time, they acknowledge that risks are greater than in a typical expansion, with the continued threat of potential vaccine-resistant COVID-19 variants and policy risks in the medium to long term, including possible inflation-driven interest rate increases.

“Our view is that while these risks are considerably higher now than at any point in the past, they are unlikely to materialize in the near term, at least not in the current year,” Puri and Farka predict. Read More

A coffee from The Coffee Tale

Coffee delights at The Coffee Tale in Old World Village, Huntington Beach. Photo from Instagram

When Huseyin Demircioglu ’17 was a finance student at Cal State Fullerton’s College of Business and Economics, he spent a lot of time studying at coffee shops in and around campus. It got him wondering, what type of coffee shop would he run? What do students desire when getting coffee? And how could he develop a concept that not only serves outstanding coffee, but is also a space for networking and study time?

In March 2015, Demircioglu put his plans into action with the launch of The Coffee Tale, an organic coffee shop in the heart of Huntington Beach’s Bavarian-inspired Old World Village district.

“I wanted to create a home away from home for people to come and experience a different story with our coffee shop,” he says. “I was 100% passionate about coffee, and I was motivated by wanting to be my own boss. I also wanted to provide a gathering place for people to come by, sit down and take study breaks or come together and get connected.”

Utilizing the SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis learned in his CSUF business courses, Demircioglu found a unique niche that sets his business apart from his competitors – integrating his native Turkish culture into the business model. Read More

csuf alumnus Kathy Ly poses with large heart shaped donut

Are you a huge fan of donuts? The Donut Life Museum brings all your circular-treat dreams to life at the Westminster Mall in Orange County. Alumni Kathy Ly ’15, Bryan Ross ’14 and Alix Luu ’14 co-founded the museum after Ly left the Walt Disney Company in 2018. With the difficulty of COVID-19, these three individuals had to change their business model to continue their entrepreneurship journey, but it all began with the love of sweets.

Ly has always been a fan of donuts. In third grade, she left her elementary school during break time in search for the sweet treat and was found with a dozen donut holes outside the donut shop by her parents. In college, she would wait hours for fresh blueberry donuts, so when she decided to leave Disney, her goal was “to combine food with art in a way everyone can relate to,” leading to the museum today.

“I wanted to create a unique and joyful experience for guests while tying back to a donut’s circular shape, which reminds me of the circle of life,” says Ly. “I chose to highlight life’s significant moments all told through the whimsical world of donut art installations and puns.”

With COVID-19 delaying their grand opening, the founders had to find a way to work through the challenge. The pandemic “led us to pivot our business model from a traditional experiential pop-up museum into a creative space specializing in private bookings, which allowed us to reopen,” says Ly. They expanded their merchandise, partnered with local businesses to bring safe events, such as paint nights and DIY classes, and served as a unique venue for content creators to visit while many other attractions were closed. Their efforts brought in countless guests to the mall, which helped their business stay afloat.

National Donut Day is on June 4, and the museum will host an exclusive donut carnival event with limited tickets as they also celebrate the Donut Life Museum’s first anniversary. In the future, they plan to add an interactive café within the museum.

There were quite a few obstacles in establishing a pop-up museum. “Opening a pop-up requires gargantuan work for a short period. Permitting and finding the location were the most difficult parts of this experience,” says Ly. “We had to move to multiple locations because the concept of pop-up museums is so novel that the city and shopping center kept forcing us to be a traditional museum in the process. We had to redefine our business model and find a location that understood our concept, which led us to Westminster.”

The Donut Life Museum will be open in Westminster until the end of the summer with permanent conversion plans still to be determined, but fear not, they have quite a few offers with shopping centers in San Diego, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Chicago.

Ly’s experience at CSUF greatly contributed to her entrepreneurship journey. “As I created the initial business plan for Donut Life Museum, I revisited my old notes and a lean canvas business model from management class with Dr. Robert Kovacev,” says Ly. “I held onto it for a good reason after taking his class; it helped me create an effective business roadmap. Building a business takes forward-thinking and strategic planning. The work is laid with a thorough business plan, SWOT analysis, projections, and a pro forma P&L statement.” Her final plan was more than 30 pages long.

In early 2020, Center for Entrepreneurship’s CSUF consulting group analyzed the Donut Life Museum with weekly Zoom meetings and helped with financials, pricing, merchandising and staffing strategies. The founders took the students’ recommendations and implemented them in their business plan. “It was great to give back to the school and provide a real-life project for the students,” says Ly.

The Donut Life Museum is an Instagram-worthy spot with a heartwarming story behind it. After all, Titan alumni are at the forefront of its creation, so if you have time over the next few months, check it out.

Learn more about the Donut Life Museum.

Sridhar Sundaram, the incoming dean of the CSUF College of Business and Economics

Sridhar Sundaram

When students return to in-person coursework at Cal State Fullerton’s College of Business and Economics in fall 2021, the college will be led by a new dean.

On April 12, university and college officials announced that Sridhar Sundaram will take the college’s helm on July 15. Sundaram is currently South Florida University’s Tiedemann-Cotton Dean for the Kate Tiedemann School of Business and Finance and campus dean for the Muma College of Business. Sundaram will replace Morteza Rahmatian, who is retiring from the CSUF business school’s deanship to focus on teaching economics.

A 31-year veteran of higher education, Sundaram has served as a faculty member in finance and has a strong background in academic and professional leadership. An MBA and doctoral alumnus of Southern Illinois University‒Carbondale, Sundaram earned his undergraduate and master’s degrees in accounting from PSG College of Arts & Science in Tamil Nadu, India.

Since the 1990s, he has advanced in a number of roles, including department chair, academic director, associate dean and dean. Sundaram has also consulted with regional businesses and served on several boards, including his present role as chair of the board of governors of the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce and a board member for Saint Anthony’s Hospital.

Sundaram’s wife is Suganthi Sridhar, an associate professor of biology. They have a daughter, Saranya, and a son, Sharath.

Recently, Sundaram helped the business community address the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic, undertaking a scholarly project examining the impact of COVID-19 on minority-owned microbusinesses. He is assessing government policies relating to these enterprises and the beneficial long-term implications of these programs.

Looking ahead to his new position at Cal State Fullerton, Sundaram plans to emphasize academic excellence and innovation, building the college’s reputation as a research hub, and expanding the college’s connections to the business community in Southern California and beyond.

“I am truly excited about the opportunity to lead the College of Business and Economics to its next level of development and excellence,” he says. “I am impressed by the college’s commitment to the academic success of its students and to regional economic development through its centers of excellence.”

Read more about Sundaram and the leadership change at the College of Business and Economics at CSUF News.

CSUF's Meng Hall With registration dates coming next month, we are near the timeframe to conditionally declare a concentration. Picking a concentration marks the halfway point to completing our degrees. Once we declare, we begin taking courses suited to our chosen concentration and learn more about our interests. CSUF has more than 15 different concentrations ranging from accounting to management, and you may join two concentrations together; with so many options, it can be difficult to choose. Business Undergraduate Advisor Brittany Lane provides guidance for choosing your concentration, how to change it, and other frequently asked questions:

What would your advice be for individuals completely unsure of their concentration?

The Career and Concentration Exploration resources through Business Career Services (https://business.fullerton.edu/Career-Services/CareerExploration) are a great place to start. As you continue working through your required core business courses, think about what subjects you enjoy most. This is usually a great indicator of what concentration would be a good fit for you.

What is the process to declare a concentration?

Students are eligible to declare a concentration once the lower-division business core courses are successfully completed with grades C (2.0) or higher. Reference your Titan Degree Audit for your lower division business core requirements. Once eligible to declare, complete the Business Ethics Quiz with a score of 12 or higher (https://business.fullerton.edu/Programs/Undergraduate/Advising/Ethics), then submit the online Major/Minor Change Form with the concentration of your choice.

What about conditionally declaring a concentration?

If you are taking your last lower-division core courses in the fall semester, you may conditionally declare your concentration in October. If you are taking your last lower-division core courses in the spring semester, you may conditionally declare your concentration in March. Conditional declarations are contingent upon the successful completion of your required courses at the end of the semester. Conditional declarations are not available in the winter and summer.

What if students are interested in two concentrations? What are the best strategies for managing those class schedules?  

You may pursue more than one concentration so long as there are a minimum of 18 unique and distinct units earned for each concentration, and the concentrations are from separate disciplines; for example, you cannot concentrate in general management and human resources management. The best way to manage scheduling is to mix courses from both concentrations each semester for the most variety of subject matter.

Is it too late to change your concentration as a senior? What would be the best advice to an individual at that point?

No, it’s not too late. After you have declared your concentration, you may change at any time. Just note if you have already completed courses for the previous concentration, the change may set you back a bit.

What is the process to change concentrations?

After you have declared your concentration, you may change at any time by submitting an online Major/Minor Change Form (http://records.fullerton.edu/resources/majorminorform.php). Be sure to meet with a business advisor if you have any questions about the requirements of your new concentration.


What are the benefits or drawbacks of joint and double concentrations?

Completing two concentrations will allow you to learn the full depth and breadth of each area of business but will take longer to complete. A joint emphasis blends a few courses from each area of study. It will not be as many classes as a double concentration, but will not encompass the full study of both areas. We recommend checking in with Business Career Services to see if these paths align with your career goals.

As you go through your concentration process, be sure to meet with a business advisor to work out your next classpath. It is OK to change your mind, and you can do so at any time, just make sure to work with an advisor to help craft your schedule.






CSUF business college students work on an investment project at the Titan Capital Management lab

Photo by Matt Ulfelder

Cal State Fullerton finance students in the applied investment program, Titan Capital Management (TCM), recently demonstrated their prowess in managing actual financial portfolios. On Feb. 26, a TCM team defeated their counterparts from top-level Southland schools, including USC, UCLA and Pepperdine University, in the Chartered Financial Analysts (CFA) Institute Research Challenge. The competition tasked students with a detailed financial analysis of a major company before a panel of professional judges.

It’s the second year in a row that students of the Cal State Fullerton TCM program have won this competition, which is hosted by the Chartered Financial Analyst Society of Los Angeles.

This year’s victory was particularly impressive when considering that the Titan team rarely, if ever, met in person, due to the virtual environment wrought by COVID-19.

A Program of Challenge and Success

Acceptance to the Titan Capital Management program is indicative of true financial talent. Before getting an opportunity to manage the real-funds investment portfolio, which benefits the CSUF Philanthropic Foundation and student programs, the aspiring financial professionals must undergo a rigorous selection process. This includes a written essay, development and defense of a company research report, panel interviews with faculty and student board members, and assessments on problem-solving and analytical abilities.

The process ensures that students, who manage equity, fixed income or mixed portfolios, have what it takes to thrive in today’s competitive and high-tech investment management and financial analysis fields.

“The key to the success of TCM is that it’s a highly experiential program,” says Jeff Van Harte ’80 (finance), chairman, chief investment officer and co-founder of Jackson Square Partners, and the donor responsible for the TCM program. “The students are applying theory that they’ve learned to real-world money situations.”

Two or three students are assigned to each of the 11 S&P 500 business sectors. Currently, a total of 22 investment students manage more than $2 million in overall assets.

Since March 13, 2020, the program, which had previously been in person, moved to a virtual format. That meant a temporary end to in-person visits to investment companies; although, Zoom meetings with industry professionals continued.

Still, the student-managed portfolios have seen strong returns as stocks have soared in a surprise bull market, and student learning curves haven’t been impacted as society seeks to flatten the curve of COVID-19 cases.

“The students have missed the human connection, but they’ve done a great job with the portfolios,” says Kelly Ko, finance lecturer and TCM’s director of equity.

Pre-pandemic, TCM donated $30,000 annually to support President’s Scholar and Business Tutoring Center programs. During the pandemic, the donation increased to nearly $80,000, with the Center for Economic Education, the Guardian Scholars program for former foster youth and other university centers and programs as beneficiaries.

Read more about the TCM program and the CSUF students’ successes in this article in The Orange County Register. Or read more of our articles on the TCM program.