Wednesday, June 27, 2018

SUU to Corporate Communications

Even though Karen Golberg Parker was born and raised in Woodland Hills, California, her ties to Cedar City and Southern Utah University run deep.

Both of her maternal great-grandfathers, Daniel Macfarlane and William Dix, were instrumental in the formation and early construction of SUU, and their names are listed on the founder’s plaque that hangs in Old Main today. Perhaps Karen’s destiny was to attend SUU all along.

SUU Founder's plaque inside
Old Main. Daniel Macfarlane
and William Dix were "hod
carriers" which means they
both carried supplies to the
bricklayers and stonemasons. 
In fact, she says today that she does not remember a time that she did not want to attend SUU. When Karen was just a little girl, her family would visit Cedar City often, primarily to attend family reunions on her mother’s side, and it was during those visits that her love of the campus and the idea of attending school here took root and began to grow.

Karen enrolled at SUU (then SUSC) in the fall of 1981 as an English literature major. While most of her friends assumed Karen would become an educator, she was not so sure. A chance job with The Thunderbird student newspaper showed her a career path that, ultimately, was perfect for her.

At the beginning of her junior year Karen’s friend Stewart Smith (’85), who was the editor-in-chief of The Thunderbird, mentioned that the newspaper was looking for a copy editor. The job entailed proofreading and editing the paper before it was sent to print. A self-proclaimed “proud grammar nerd,” Karen thought the job sounded fun and she was hired.

“This was another benefit of being a student at a smaller university,” she says. “I doubt I would have ever sought this out at a larger school.”

Karen gives a big shout-out to Larry Baker, the newspaper advisor, for teaching her so much about grammar and proofreading. She loved the entire student-newspaper experience.

After graduation, Karen began the process of finding employment. It was her writing samples and copy editing experience at SUU that landed her a job in the marketing department at a large bank in Beverly Hills, California, working in employee and corporate communications. After she had worked for the bank for a couple of years, it become apparent that her department needed more help and so the hiring process began. And who should happen to apply for that position?  None other than Karen’s friend from SUU, Stewart Smith! Karen hired Stewart (he was the most qualified for the position) and they enjoyed working together again for several years. A true example of T-Birds helping T-Birds!

Today, Karen works as a senior communications specialist in the marketing department at Loring Ward, a financial services business in California’s Silicon Valley that has more than $17 billion in assets under management. Her job entails writing and editing materials for her company’s financial advisors and their clients. The company is located in San Jose, California, but she works from home and travels to the office once a month.

Reflecting on her time as a student at SUU, Karen fondly remembers many wonderful experiences, such as attending the M*A*S*H finale party, participating in student dances, and working with the staff of The Thunderbird all night long, on many occasions, to get the newspaper to print by deadline. She keeps in touch with several of her SUU friends including Elyce Jones Schmutz (’85) and Tracy Dewsnup Page (’84), with whom she did once did a Saturday Night Live skit at a campus activity with Karen playing the part of Jane Curtin to Tracy’s Roseanne Roseannadanna. It was a hilarious and memorable college moment.   

When it came to academics, she loved her English classes, particularly those taught by Dave Lee and Sarah Solberg, along with business classes from Professor Gary Giles. Karen graduated from SUU in 1984 with a degree in English literature and a minor in business administration.

Karen married Matt Parker in 1990, and they have four children: Jessica (Gwilliam), Sarah, Will, and Alex. The family has lived in California’s Simi Valley since 1998 and will soon move to Denton, Texas, where she will continue to work from home for Loring Ward and looks forward to discovering what SUU connections await her in Texas. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Ron Bliss to Agriculture Export Manager

Ron Bliss, like a great many alumni, belongs to a strong SUU legacy family that through the years has been an enthusiastic advocate of T-Bird Nation. 

A graduate of Spanish Fork High School and transfer student from Stevens-Henager Business College, Ron graduated from SUU (then SUSC) in 1983 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. He was introduced to the institution by his father, Ferron Bliss, who attended the BAC from 1938 to 1939 and was student body president, a fullback for the Thunderbird football squad and a member of Adagio, a dance and performing group coached by LaVeve Whetten. In addition to his father, Ron’s aunt and several cousins are also members of the Thunderbird family.

Ferron Bliss, BAC Football Team
While a student, Ron was an active member of Phi Beta Lambda (PBL), a campus business club then under the direction of Professor Doris Williamson. He helped organize PBL’s Business Person of the Year Banquet, worked on homecoming floats, and decorated the organization’s Christmas tree for the annual Christmas Tree Walk. Through his PBL experience Ron created some of his closest friendships and today stays in touch with those friends. 

In 1983, Ron represented SUU at the Utah State PBL Convention/Competition winning first place in the business administration category, and was among five first-place winners from SUU that year, a record for the Thunderbirds at the time. All five individuals went on to represent the state of Utah at the national PBL convention in San Francisco that summer, and each finished in the top 10, with Ron and two others finishing in the top three in the national competition.

PBL Conference in San Francisco, CA
“It was a great way to end my college career at SUU,” he says of the experience. 

Following graduation, Ron decided to stay in Cedar City and took a job with the Leavitt Group, a step he credits for “turning him into an accountant,” which was a career path he had never anticipated. 

After several years there, Ron pursued another opportunity elsewhere but found that his heart longed for southern Utah, and so he returned, eventually landing in Enterprise, Utah, working for Holt farms in exports and, you guessed it, accounting. Ron oversees the exporting of agriculture products to the Pacific Rim, along with accounting, scheduling, safety, insurance, IT, and regulatory compliance.

Ron credits his SUU professors and their encouragement and care that taught him how to learn and how to study. Besides the aforementioned Williamson, among his favorite teachers were Richard Dotson, Dean Harold Hiskey, Vic Isbell.

He says that among the things he learned about himself at SUU is “that great things can happen when you step outside of your comfort zone and try something new and challenging.” He found that his empowering professors were ever supportive of him trying something new. 

His favorite place on campus, he says, was the War Memorial Field House (1950-1986), which held fond memories of SUSC basketball games and concerts. 

Ron Bliss Family
Ron and his wife, Trina, have two sons. His oldest, Cameron, lives in Enterprise, Utah, with his wife and three daughters, and his second son, Riley, continued the family legacy and attended SUU for his first year of college and currently attends the University of Arizona. 

An Enterprise volunteer EMT for 18 years, Ron loves serving in his community and has a special interest in amateur radios. He holds an Amateur Extra Class license that spun from a licensing class at SUU.

Ron comes back to campus often and maintains a strong connection to the University, cheering on the Thunderbird football team at both home and away games while proudly wearing his SUU red. For the last several years, he and his two college roommates Scott Johnson (’84) and John Reidhead (’83) make an annual pilgrimage to SUU for homecoming.

Monday, June 11, 2018

SUU to Public Service

Knowing she could make a difference in her community, Brooke Broadhead Christensen ran for public office and was elected last November to the city council in Sandy, Utah.

“I wasn’t happy with the direction of my city so instead of complaining and doing nothing, I decided to get involved,” she says. “I wanted to try and make positive changes in Sandy City.”

Brooke is focused on remembering that her job is working for the citizens of Sandy City and representing their best interests at weekly city council meetings. She spends ample time researching, presenting, and then voting on issues at those meetings, and also holds community meetings to stay accessible to residents in her district.

A graduate of Utah’s Jordan High School, Brooke enrolled at Southern Utah University in the fall of 1996. She was a double major in business administration and communication, graduated from SUU in 2000, and went on to earn an MBA from Westminster College in 2003. For 10 years she worked in supply chain management before becoming a stay-at-home mom for seven years. Now, she is proud to call herself Mom and Council Member Christensen.

“I loved my time at SUU,” she exclaims. “Being able to get involved in so many areas that were outside my comfort zone gave me confidence to try new things. SUU also taught me to work together with diverse groups of people and find middle ground. SUU also encouraged me to ask questions and explore options before making a decision. All of these things have helped me manage international supply chains for major companies and to navigate the interpersonal relationships on the city council.”

Brooke loves spending time with her husband Ben and their three children, and enjoys reading, and the whirlwind of carpools, PTA, girl and boy scouts, little league (of all sorts), LDS church service, the Arthritis Foundation (her daughter was diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis at age 3), and, of course, the city council.