PULLMAN, Wash. — New vice president of sales for Boeing Commercial Airplanes Scott E. Carson and his wife, Linda, are investing with their family $275,000 to create and build the innovative Professional Development Center at the Washington State University College of Business and Economics.

The facility will provide students with unique resources and opportunities to put critical, nonacademic finishing touches on their education as they prepare for internships and careers in the “real world.”

The Carson gift brings total funds committed to the center to $375,000. WSU Provost Bob Bates allocated $100,000 in university minor capital improvement money to the center project in the fall. The Professional Development Center is expected to open its doors this August at the start of fall semester 2005, following several months of demolition, construction and equipping.

“The center is designed to provide students with professional- and leadership-development opportunities that will supplement their academic programs and prepare them well for the best internship and career placements,” said CBE Dean Len Jessup. “Thanks to the vision and continued generosity of the Carsons, this new facility will help us to prepare the thousands of future leaders that are our students today.

“The provost and President V. Lane Rawlins see the center as a much-needed offering for our students that helps us to achieve goal number one in the WSU strategic plan,” Jessup said. One of four, that goal is to “offer the best undergraduate experience in a research university.” The goals were implemented about four years ago and complement the WSU tagline of “World Class. Face to Face.”

“Linda and I remain committed to helping students prepare themselves for a graceful and effective transition from the academic world to the professional world,” Scott Carson said.  “It is critically important that students receive the tools, coaching and resources they need to begin a productive and fulfilling career. The Professional Development Center gives us an excellent opportunity to make that happen and help WSU students achieve success.” 

An alumnus of the WSU business college, he joined Boeing just after graduation and moved steadily through a series of leadership positions. Most recently, he was named vice president of sales for Boeing Commercial Airplanes in December. Just prior to that, he had served as president of Connexion by Boeing, which brings high-speed, in-flight Internet services to market with airlines in Europe and Asia.

The Professional Development Center will be located on the Pullman campus in an area of Todd Hall that was once the site of a student computing lab that had become outdated due to wireless technologies; students who need a computer lab have access to numerous other facilities around campus.

After the room is rebuilt and furnished, the new center will feature two fully-equipped, simulated corporate board rooms where students can practice making professional presentations and two simulated executive offices where students can participate in mock interviews. There will also be a central area where they can meet and network with visiting executives, and where members of student teams and clubs can collaborate.

The center will provide services such as the videotaping of mock interviews with faculty and visiting corporate recruiters to help students perfect their presentation skills. And, students will also have coached exercises to help them build their strengths in leadership and teambuilding.

The staff of the center, led by Janel Lang, CBE director of placement and recruiting, will coordinate with the WSU Career Services office to optimize actual interview and job opportunities on campus.

The Professional Development Center will be physically located next door to the Boeing Wireless Classroom of the Future, another facility that became a reality in 2003 thanks to the work of Scott Carson and contributions by the Boeing Co. That room has become very popular with faculty and students alike, and provides active, hands-on learning and teaching experiences. It is acclaimed for its stimulating and unique blending of a casual “living room” atmosphere with the use of wireless computers and high-tech equipment.

“The new center will be a physical testament to the leadership Scott and Linda Carson and their children have shown the university and the impact they have had on our students,” Jessup said. Scott Carson chairs the CBE’s new National Board of Advisors and the WSU Foundation’s Corporate and Foundation Relations Committee. He is a member of the WSU Foundation Board of Governors, the WSU Foundation Board of Trustees and the College of Engineering and Architecture Advisory Board.

Four of the Carson children have been leaders at WSU: Kristina Carson Gutierrez (1996, human development); Kelly (1999, hospitality business management); Shelley (2004, marketing and human resources); and Steven, currently studying accounting. A fifth child, Sandra Carson Francis, graduated from the University of Washington (2002, accounting).

“Scott and Linda have always been first about students, advocating and insisting on applied learning opportunities that will make each student more marketable, give each the skills to add greater value to future organizations, and ultimately position each to be more successful personally and professionally,” Jessup said. “The new professional development center will go far to help every student realize those benefits from their education and experiences at WSU.”

Jessup and the CBE have been charged by President Rawlins and Provost Bates with leading the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Initiative on campus. It is aimed at infusing the benefits of entrepreneurial thinking and actions into all 245 fields of study on campus. Students throughout the university who participate in initiative will be able to use the new center.