The board is comprised of 10-12 current and former family members/supporters of WSU undergraduate students, recent WSU alumni, and current WSU students, across all WSU campuses and on a volunteer basis. Please complete this CougParents Advisory Board Application if you would like to be considered.
Whether she’s with her Bunko group, a fantasy football gathering, or just hanging out with other parents, Erin Baccus always speaks about the virtues of Washington State University. As a proud 1993 WSU graduate, touting the WSU experience to anyone who will listen comes naturally to her.
When she noticed on Facebook that WSU’s Cougparents Advisory Board was seeking new members, she immediately thought it would be a perfect fit for her. Erin appreciates the opportunity to work with other parents and WSU graduates on the board to support students and give back to the WSU community that warmly welcomed her 28 years ago.
“Pullman is a perfect college town, you get a great education, and students have great careers after graduation,” Baccus said. “You can’t ask for a better college experience.”
Two weeks after she graduated from WSU, Erin married her college sweetheart Skip and the rest is history. Today, all three of their children, Austin, Morgan, and Lovee are attending WSU Pullman, and if that isn’t impressive enough, all three are majoring in computer science.
Erin uses her voice on the CougParents Advisory Board to help promote the quality of WSU’s education - especially in the STEM areas where her kids are thriving.
“My kids grew up loving WSU and we have pictures of them on campus since they were very young,” she said. “I want to do my best to help promote WSU so other students and parents can experience what a special place it is.”
When one thinks of a die-hard Coug, the kind that exudes crimson and gray in whatever they do and wherever they go, Mary-Jo Bradley immediately comes to mind.
Mary-Jo earned her marketing degree in 1987 from the College of Business at WSU, then went on to build a career as a respected event planner, serving Fortune 500 companies such as Weyerhaeuser, Microsoft, Boeing, Amazon, Pepsi, as well as many other businesses in the Pacific Northwest. Who is her favorite client you ask? The CougsFirst! Business Network, because she is working with passionate Cougs, of course!
Many in Coug Nation know Mary-Jo as the one who plans and implements CougFirst! events and sponsorship sales. CougsFirst! is a volunteer-driven initiative dedicated to encouraging WSU alumni to think "CougsFirst!" whenever they purchase a product or service. With events held annually in Spokane and Seattle, upwards of 2,000 alumni and friends attend the CougsFirst! tradeshows and other meaningful events where they reconnect, network and discover hundreds of Cougar-owned and managed businesses.
Mary-Jo’s tight connection with WSU is remarkable considering she had always planned on attending the University of Washington where two of her brothers went, and her father wanted her to go. A quick trip to visit WSU with a friend changed those plans and her life.
“I fell in love with WSU and never looked back,” she said. “I had the greatest experience there.” Her oldest daughter Lauren decided to strike her own path and went to UW. Her youngest daughter Savannah, however, made a last-minute decision to try WSU and is very thankful she did.
“Lauren appreciates the quality of education she received at UW, but doesn’t have the warm, fuzzy feelings about her school,” Mary-Jo said. “Savannah and I both feel an incredible bond with WSU. The quality of Savannah’s education at WSU is great, too, that message doesn’t always get out.”
One of Mary-Jo’s reasons for being a part of the CougParents Advisory Board is that she wants to help other parents feel more connected with WSU.
“Sometimes parents learn about what’s going on at WSU from social media sites and that can be a little risky,” she said. “Parents need to learn information from trustworthy sources, and I feel this group can help with that. “
When Terri Brewer was a student in the mid-1990’s, she didn’t think much about her role in Washington State University history. As a first-generation college student and a single mom, she had to stay focused on making progress towards her psychology degree.
Terri was a member of WSU Vancouver’s first class of 28 students. The campus was so new and undeveloped at the time that her classes and her commencement were held at nearby Clark College.
Since then she has watched WSU Vancouver grow into a beautiful campus and an important option for students on the west side of the state. Yet, it is WSU Pullman that mostly pulls on her heartstrings today. Her son Tyler earned his electrical engineering degree there in 2015, and her two grandchildren Emma and Evan are studying in Pullman now.
“I helped guide Tyler through his time at WSU and now serve as a resource for my grandkids,” she said. “One thing I want to do as part of the CougParents Advisory Board is help all students find their voice and know how to advocate for themselves.”
Self-advocacy is something Terri also promotes as a solution consultant for Ultimate Kronos Group (UKG), a software company specializing in human resources.
Whether she is traveling for work or for pleasure, she said fellow Cougs have an instant bond when they come across each other.
“I don’t see that happening with other universities,” Terri said. “Coug nation is like a family. It’s magical and very exciting.”
When Cassia Haft and her family travel to Pullman for a football game, there’s no mistaking which team they are rooting for. Their car sports Cougar license plates, and her husband Steve decorates all sides with Cougar magnets and signs.
“You can see us coming for miles.” Cassia joked. “We get lots of honks and thumbs up as we drive by.”
Both Cassia and Steve graduated from WSU in 1997, and their school pride is displayed everywhere from their Cougar themed home office to the Cougar flags they fly outside.
Interestingly, Cassia’s love for WSU didn’t start until her sophomore year of college. The Spokane native first went to the University of Washington, then transferred to WSU after her first year.
“When I got to Pullman, I absolutely loved it,” she said. “It’s hard to put in words what makes WSU so special.”
Cassia joined the CougParents Advisory Board to stay connected with WSU and help students have the same amazing college experience she had. Unlike most other schools, she said, being a Coug is a lifelong experience. It’s something you never lose.
It has been 25 years since she graduated from WSU, and Cassia joins 11 of her Kappa Alpha Theta sorority sisters every July to run in the Northwest Passage Ragnar Relay, a 276 mile stretch between Blaine and Langley, Wash.
“Getting together for the relay is more about maintaining our friendship than it is running,” she said. “We love being with each other and reminiscing about our days at WSU.”
Cassia’s and Steve’s daughter, Hailey, is a student in WSU’s Global Campus
At Mt. Baker Middle School where Jennifer Harlan serves as principal, it’s no mystery to the nearly 700 students and 100 staff members which university she holds in highest regard. Jennifer can be seen walking the school hallways sporting a Cougar lanyard or wearing WSU gear. Even the entrance to her office bears mention of WSU.
Harlan said the pandemic has been a very trying time for educators, and when she learned the CougParents Advisory Board was seeking new members, she thought it would be a great way to make a meaningful connection with something she loves, a connection with WSU.
“The advisory board meetings have given me something to look forward to,” she said. “I’m excited to be part of a group that explores ways we can make a lasting impact for students and families that are part of the WSU community.”
WSU has certainly had a lasting impact on Jennifer, who graduated in 1994. As a student, she was a leader in the WSU Greek community and served as an ASWSU senator.
“My experiences at WSU helped build a foundation so that no matter what pond I’m in, I can find ways to connect with others, build relationships, and push myself even when it is uncomfortable,” she said.
Jennifer’s son Lane is studying mechanical engineering on the Pullman campus and recently served as president of his fraternity, Phi Kappa Theta.
“It is really cool to share my memories and experience the excitement of WSU with Lane, who is enjoying his experience as much as I did, if not more,” she said.
Even though it has been over 30 years since he graduated from WSU, Greg Morris still gets that magical feeling he experienced as a 20-year old student when he visits the Pullman campus.
“I never get tired of walking around campus and it brings back so many good memories that I get to share with my kids,” he said.
Both his daughters, Haley and Nicole are students at WSU. In fact, Haley, a senior majoring in biochemistry, won a prestigious Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship in 2021. Nicole is just beginning her time at WSU and plans to follow in her dad’s footsteps by becoming a business major.
Greg credits his excellent education in accounting for opening the doors to a long and successful career in business. He is currently vice president and senior relationship manager at Banner Bank in Bellevue, Wash.
Through his involvement on the CougParents Advisory Board, he wants to use his network to help increase support for initiatives that foster student engagement. Recently, Greg helped review and select applications submitted by registered student organizations seeking funding for their activities.
“I enjoyed learning about the student organizations on campus, many of which I didn’t know existed,” he said. “It was cool to see how passionate students are about the activities they’re involved in.”
Greg was an active student himself. He enjoyed playing intramural football, basketball, and softball. He also participated in student clubs in the College of Business.
“I absolutely love everything about WSU,” he said. “Being a member of this board is a great opportunity for me to give back to the university for all it has given me.”
The first time Jennifer Prouse drove to WSU, she was struck by the miles and miles of wheatfields that make up Eastern Washington. Just when she thought the fields would never end, Pullman and WSU suddenly appeared on the horizon.
“It’s the small-town atmosphere in what feels like the middle of nowhere, that makes Pullman and WSU such a special place,” she said.” “You don’t have the distractions of a big city. It’s all about the special relationships you build with people and enjoying college life.”
Jennifer transferred to WSU with her then boyfriend, now husband, Rich. Both were students at Clark College in Vancouver, Wash., and became die hard Cougars. Jennifer graduated in 1995, Rich a year later.
Jennifer’s degree in food science and human nutrition set her up well for a long career as a dietician in the Vancouver area. She works in an outpatient clinic for Peace Health where she is a certified diabetes educator.
Now that her two children are older - a son in high school and a daughter, Lily, a junior at WSU -Jennifer has more time now for volunteer work. She welcomed the opportunity to serve on the CougParents Advisory Board.
“What I like the most about our meetings is that I learn so much about what is happening at WSU,” she said. “This allows me to pass along helpful information to other parents and even Lily.”
As part of the board, Jennifer also enjoyed reviewing applications from student organizations seeking CougParent funding for their activities.
“It made me reflect on when I was a student and my roommate and I were co-presidents of the student nutrition awareness club,” she said. “I’m not sure if CougParents funding existed back then, but it sure would have helped our club.”
It has been less than a year since Edgardo Quiroz-Moreno graduated from Washington State University Pullman with his undergraduate degree in strategic communications. So, he was surprised when he received a call from the Division of Student Affairs inviting him to join the CougParents Committee. Especially since he doesn’t plan on becoming a parent anytime soon.
His lack of parenting experience aside, Edgardo relishes the opportunity to serve the university he loves and help his fellow committee members, some of whom graduated from WSU in the 1980’s, gain a better understanding of what it is like to be a student today.
Quiroz-Moreno grew-up in the small agricultural town of Tieton, Wash., where his mom, brother, aunts and uncles have worked in the fruit packing warehouses. He now works as a bilingual communications specialist for Virginia Mason Memorial Hospital in Yakima, about 30-minutes away from his hometown.
Edgardo’s job is to help the hospital reach out to the area’s large Latinx population to educate them about the dangers of COVID-19, protect themselves from wildfire smoke or the flu, whatever the season brings. He credits his education at WSU for preparing him for the challenge, but also speaks highly of the leadership training he received while working as a building manager in the Chinook Student Center, an academic success coach in the Academic Success and Career Center, and a Student Ambassador in the Division of Student Affairs.
Edgardo envisions many roles for the CougParents Committee and thoroughly enjoys participating in one of its original tasks—allocating funding to help student organizations implement events and activities.
“No matter if it’s a sorority or the space club, these activities are really important to students, and as a committee, we have to take their funding applications very seriously,” he said. “Our goal is to make our decisions as impactful as possible and it is an awesome feeling to be part of it.”
Edgardo says it is important to remember when working with students, they represent more than their grades. The committee needs to take into consideration everything about them.
“No one knows more about them than their parents, or in my case, a recent graduate of WSU like me,” he said with a grin.
Coordinator of the CougParents Advisory Board
Kari Sampson is the coordinator of the CougParents Advisory Board and the director of development for Student Affairs. During her 16-year tenure at WSU she has served in a number of roles within the university, including the assistant men’s and women’s golf coach, coordinator of career development and community service for WSU Athletics, and director of recruitment and retention in the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences (CAHNRS).
Her professional journey at WSU is firmly grounded in the student experience. She loves connecting with people who see the value of higher education, especially passionate Cougs – current students, alumni, families, and friends alike.
“WSU is a special place where you can obtain an amazing education and lifelong connections. At WSU, acquaintances become friends and friends also become family. Not every institution has this feel, and I take pride in helping create this atmosphere for our current and future Cougs,” she said.
Her current role as the coordinator of the CougParents Advisory Board, which serves as an ambassador for WSU and has a vested interest in supporting the success of WSU students through outside-of-the-classroom leadership opportunities, allows Kari to connect with amazing parents and supporters of current students. Additionally, the board lets Kari see the parental and familial perspective, providing valuable feedback that enhances the WSU experience for both students and families.
“Being a part of this advisory board gives me the opportunity to connect with amazing supporters of current Cougs who are passionate about WSU and the student experience,” she said. “Reflecting on the ways WSU is deeply impacting students’ lives through various programs, services, and experiences and identifying areas where improvements could be made for future Cougs is my happy place!
Few people have a deeper connection to Washington State University than Mike Seely. Mike made his way to the Pullman campus in the late 1970’s to study electrical engineering. As it turns out, attending WSU was sort of a tradition in his family as all three of his brothers and a sister are also Cougs. If that isn’t enough, three of his four children, Warren, Robin and Alayna, are also proud WSU alumni. Mike even earned a master’s degree in Business at WSU Vancouver.
Even though Mike studied engineering as an undergraduate, he has always had a passion for farming. In fact, Mike bought his farm when he was a junior at WSU. Today he works with a couple of his children to manage a spearmint and peppermint farm near Clatskanie, Oregon. Chances are you’ve tasted Seely-brand peppermint patties handmade on Mike’s farm. They are sold in thousands of stores across the United States and Canada.
Between the people he and his children have met at WSU and in the farming industry, Mike has developed a strong network of friends, something he is tapping into to help spread the word about the CougParents Program.
“I bring lots of energy to the table,” Seely said. “I also have the business acumen gained from operating our farm, how to manage cash flow, how to do marketing, and develop a vision for where we want to be in 5, 10 or 20 years.”
Mike said the potential for the CougParents program is unlimited. It can serve as an important advocate for students, support fundraising efforts to bolster student programs, and even help recruit new students to WSU. Regardless of what it does, Mike wants to be part of it.
“I’ve always been an advocate for WSU,” he said. “This is a way for me to give back to the university for everything that it has done for my family.”