Global Philanthropist and Humanitarian Bita Daryabari Will Receive Honorary Doctorate and Deliver Golden Gate University’s 2018 Commencement Address


Bita Daryabari will receive an Honorary Doctorate and deliver the commencement address at Golden Gate University’s Graduate Commencement Ceremony on April 27, 2018. A global philanthropist and humanitarian, she received a master’s degree in Telecommunication Management from GGU in 1996. After graduating, Daryabari joined GammmaLink, Inc., one of the early pioneers in the field of telecommunications. She later moved to MCI Communications where she received distinguished awards and recognition for her work on more than one occasion.

Philanthropist and Humanitarian

Daryabari has had a long-standing passion for increasing knowledge of the culture of her native Iran, as well as improving the lives of people from Iran and beyond. Her vast charitable work includes establishing the Unique Zan Foundation, whose mission is to promote health, literacy, and peace for women in and from the Middle East. She also launched the Pars Equality Center, a community foundation that supports the full integration of people of Persian (Iranian) origin in the U.S. — including refugees, asylees, immigrants, and the American-born — and to advocate for their perspectives in American society. She works to create a more just and compassionate community in which Iranians of all cultures and beliefs can participate.

In gratitude for her GGU graduate education experience, Daryabari established the GGU Bita Daryabari Endowed Fund for Middle Eastern Students, which supports a scholarship for graduate business students born in a Middle Eastern country, and a graduate law fellowship for lawyers who reside in a Middle Eastern country. She has also endowed GGU with the Bita Daryabari Scholarship Program for Women of the Middle East in Business and Law.

“Bita Daryabari exemplifies Golden Gate University’s mission to prepare individuals to lead and serve,” says GGU President David J. Fike, Ph.D. “She is an inspirational alumnus, not only for what she has achieved in her career but also for her rich legacy of giving back and helping others get ahead. Bita is at the forefront of supporting immigrants in the U.S., and her leadership in expanding access to U.S. education for students from the Middle East is unparalleled. Her establishment of the Bita Daryabari Graduate Fellowship and the Bita Daryabari Scholarship at GGU are only two of many examples of her generosity and commitment to higher learning. GGU is honored to have Bita share her wisdom, optimism, and enthusiasm for positive change with our 2018 graduates.”

I vowed that I would use my influence and resources to create positive change in the world, as I don’t believe any child should have to live in a war zone.

Bita Daryabari (MS ’96)

Awards and Honors

Daryabari’s awards and honors include the World Affair Council Honoree of the year (2015), Ellis Island Medal of Honor (2012), the United Nations Appreciation Award for Outstanding Leadership, Commitment and Support of the UN and Achieving the UN Millennium Development Goals (2011), PAAIA Philanthropist of the Year Award (2010), and GGU’s Alumni of the Year Award (2008). Gentry magazine also listed her among the Top 50 Bay Area Philanthropists (2015).

Creating Positive Change

As an immigrant who came to the U.S. at the age of 16 with virtually nothing to my name, I worked my way up through the telecommunications industry,” Daryabari says. “I was also fortunate enough to be part of the Google family during its inception, which resulted in my journey into philanthropy. I vowed that I would use my influence and resources to create positive change in the world, as I don’t believe any child should have to live in a war zone.”

She adds: “I hope to convey to this next generation: that anything is possible if one applies himself or herself; and I see my story is a living example. I also want to put emphasis on the importance of our daily intentions and relationships. These are the most important aspects that determine the outcome of our life stories.”

The Gig Economy: What is it? What’s It Mean, and What’s Ahead? Q&A with Tom Cushing, Senior Adjunct Professor at Golden Gate University


Tom Cushing, JD, MBA has operated within the evolving structural environment of work throughout his careers as an attorney, corporate executive, legal recruiter, and freelancer (As he says: “an Adjunct Professor, after all!”). Cushing is a Senior Adjunct Professor at Golden Gate University teaching employment law, negotiation, and Corporate Social Responsibility-related courses.

What is the Gig Economy?

It’s an environment in which work is temporary, done primarily by so-called independent contractors and moderated by the internet in several ways.

What can people expect to hear at your seminar on the Gig Economy?

The seminar will start with some big picture context about the evolving economy and then define terms. There’s a lot of overlap among non-traditional work types. We’ll look at the slippery numbers associated with the obvious growth of the Gig Economy, and the two primary types of gig workers. Then we’ll talk about the messy ways the law currently sorts workers, and why that’s so important to all concerned. Folks will get a chance to be the judge and try their hand at applying the current rules to an actual case. Then we’ll conclude with some reform proposals and takeaways for workers or next year’s budding (or is it “bro”-ing?) “Kalanicks.”


What has changed socially and economically that has birthed a Gig Economy?

In the very big picture, there has been a “war on overhead” (fixed costs) since roughly the 1980s. If major expense items like labor are made “variable” with the amount of business activity, then companies can be agile enough to stay competitive across the business cycle. US workers may be hired or shed “at-will“ — meaning that those individuals, rather than their companies, bear most of the risk in that business cycle.

Technology has also tended to replace human labor, and the jobs it does create are often lower skilled and lower paid. That, combined with a relatively abundant, inclusive workforce (as well as global outsourcing competition) has reduced workers’ relative bargaining power. They’re settling for fewer benefits and less security at work, making it possible to convert large numbers to contractor status (albeit with some legal risk). Contractors are “purely“ variable, as they are only engaged – and paid – when they’re specifically needed.

Connectivity via the web has certainly accelerated these changes. It has also created whole new approaches to businesses like urban transportation, as just one obvious example.

It’s now good to be an investor or an owner, rather than a worker, as U.S. wealth-disparity problems demonstrate. As an aside, I’ve noticed that how various commentators weigh the relative importance of these factors, and whether they consider these trends to be problematic, seems to depend on whether the writer expects to profit from them.


Gig Economy: What is it? What’s It Mean to Me, and What’s Ahead?

Tom Cushing will be presenting a seminar on the Gig Economy on Tuesday, April 24 from 6:30-8:30 pm at GGU (Room 3201). You can attend the seminar either in-person or online (via ZOOM).

Register now >>

The seminar is open to GGU undergraduates and alumni. Graduate students have priority for registrations, but space is limited.

What about this phenomenon in California and the Bay Area?

The Bay Area tech industries are at the epicenter of these trends, as demonstrated by the likes of Uber, Task Rabbit, Upwork, Craigslist, and others. Tech firms are busily creating the future, and flexibility is an important element in their thriving. At the same time, it’s instructive to note that most of the California legal rules were established in the context of the ebbs and flows of agricultural work during the last century. There are similarities to today’s circumstances, but it’s not clear that those rules well-serve this fast-changing economy.

Can you give an example of career paths that are relevant to the Gig Economy?

“Path” is an interesting term, as it implies proceeding and building in some career direction. There is much to be resolved, as above, but “staying current” and “seeking growth sectors” (e.g., health care?) are relatively timeless good advice, if not comfort.

I think the term “career” is being redefined. “Thirty-years-and-out” is an artifact of a much more stable time and worker heyday. I think that today’s worker has to be ever-vigilant for the next new opportunity and accept the dislocations and turmoil that come with job-hopping. They also need to retain their own “agility” – meaning low, fixed personal costs, and high investment in retraining.

Does surviving in the Gig Economy have to do with transferable skills or building new skills?

“Yes.” We’ll see that there are those who dabble for some extra dough on the side, and many others who are treading water – only staying afloat by hustling among several ‘gigs,’ all of them insecure. Those latter are usually lower skill and lower paid.

/Rant on: As is typically American (and implied in the question), we tend to look at this as everybody’s individual responsibility –  to accept the system as it is, and to protect your own personal interests as best you can. But there’s a dawning, systemic public policy issue here – that nobody wants to address. What kind of society do we want to be – and what kind of social contract will there be among us? Is the Gilded Age really something we want to repeat? You know we’re a lo-o-o-ng way from constructively dealing with these issues when even Social Security, which we’ve paid into for decades, is labeled an “entitlement” for political purposes. /Rant off.

That said, in the short-run, micro sense, you are captain of your skillset. A significant trend in education is gaining specific vocational skills via certificate, rather than degree. You want to be among those higher-paid “giggers,” so tending that skill set by adding new capabilities in the programming arena, for instance, will be important.

How does one discover one’s secondary talents?

Learning to juggle?

You can register for the Gig Economy seminar or any seminar in the Innovation in Practice series on Eventbrite.

City of American Canyon Appoints EMPA Student as City Manager

The American Canyon City Council has appointed Jason B. Holley as its City Manager. He is currently pursuing an Executive Master of Public Administration degree from Golden Gate University and graduates next year. Holley decided to pursue the degree to augment his prior technical training in pursuit of broader city management roles. The City of American Canyon has a population of 20,000 and is located in the southern end of Napa Valley.

Holley had served as the Interim City Manager for the past six months and previously served as the Public Works Director/City Engineer since 2013. Holley is also California Registered Civil Engineer, an ICC Certified Building Official, and California Office of Emergency Services Disaster Service Worker.

Related image
Jason Holley (EMPA, ’19)

During Holley’s tenure as Public Works Director, the City of American Canyon implemented an award-winning response to the California drought. The “Zero Water Footprint” Policy facilitated $2.0M in private capital funding and resulted in a 25% reduction in water demand. He also oversaw the development the Long-Range Capital Improvement Program, the Traffic Impact Fee Nexus Study, and the Measure T Implementation Plan to improve street maintenance.

“We want to congratulate Jason Holley on his recent appointment,” says Dr. Mick McGee, Associate Professor of Public Administration at GGU. “He distinguished himself as the Interim City Manager during the North Bay Fires last October. We wish him the very best of success as he tackles the many challenges of his new job.”

Request information about the Executive Master of Public Administration program >>

Building Employee Engagement: Dr. Jeffrey D. Yergler Shares Expertise on U.S. and Global Stages


Jeffrey D. Yergler, Ph.D., is a leadership development scholar and consultant who is currently the Department Chair and Academic Program Director of Undergraduate Programs at GGU.

Last week, at the 2018 International Chair Academy Conference in Denver, Colorado, Yergler presented Building and Sustaining Employee Engagement: A Research-Based Training Approach with Diagnostic Survey. This workshop outlined a training model and diagnostic tool that can equip leaders and managers to build, sustain, and measure employee engagement.

…the percentage of engaged employees remained the relatively stable at roughly 30% according to Gallup. A leadership gap is a contributing factor and it needs to be filled…

Along with Wayne Butson, Director of Service Industries and Transition Education at Victoria University (Australia), Yergler discussed the E6 Employee Engagement Training Process. The process springs from interviews of hundreds of adults and students that uncovered six components that fuel engagement: alignment, contribution, development, autonomy, recognition, and purpose.

“With the millions of dollars that have been spent by organizations to address employee engagement,” says Yergler, “the percentage of engaged employees remained relatively stable at roughly 30% according to Gallup. A leadership gap is a contributing factor and it needs to be filled.”

Yergler notes the same Gallup poll revealed that even fewer employees are engaged at a global level, which makes him all the more eager to contribute his expertise globally. Later this month, in Seoul, South Korea, he will serve as the Leadership Development Instructor in The Asia Foundation’s 2018 Development Fellows Program.

Dr. Yergler speaking at the 2017 Asia Foundation event

Each year, the Foundation selects an elite cohort as part of its commitment to identify emerging national social reformers and social entrepreneurs who are committed to the development of democratic values. This year, the group includes representatives from Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam.

“The Development Fellows Program provides a unique opportunity to learn with and from an exceptionally talented and visionary group of leaders who represent the vast diversities of Asia,” says Yergler. “My experience last year showed me the high priority that each Fellow places on justice, fairness, transparent governance, the environment, equal access, education, economic opportunity, job training, social equality, and respect for the rights of girls and women — and how all of these priorities inform the way they build, lead, and influence within and beyond their organizations.”

We invite you to read more about Jeffrey Yergler and explore Golden Gate University’s undergraduate degree programs.

GGU President David J. Fike Meets with Accomplished Business School Alumni in Hong Kong

The GGU alumni community extends all over the world. Recently, GGU President David J. Fike, Ph.D. met in Hong Kong with members of its business community and two prominent alumni of the Ageno School of Business: Pollyanna Chu (BS ’81, Management) and Stephen Chow Chun-kay (BS ’79, Management & MBA ’81). Both were international students who studied at GGU’s San Francisco Campus.

Chu is CEO and Executive Director of Golden Resorts Group. She is also an Executive of Kingston Financial Group, a publicly-traded company that focuses on IPO distribution and mergers and acquisitions.  Forbes Asia listed her as one of their Women In The Mix and called her, “Hong Kong’s most prominent woman entrepreneur.”

Chow is Chairman and Managing Director of Chow Electronics, Ltd. In addition to being a past member of the GGU Board of Directors, he is active in community, business, and, educational pursuits in Hong Kong. Its government has awarded him the Golden Bauhinia Star in 2017, which recognizes those who have given distinguished service to the community or rendered public or voluntary services of a high degree of merit.

In the photo above: Sylvia Rosales-Fike (5th from left), David J. Fike, Ph.D. (6th from left), Pollyanna Chu (7th from left), Mary Ellen McGillan, GGU’s VP for Development and Alumni Relations (9th from left), and Stephen Chow Chun-kay (far right). 


GGU Seminar Series Addresses Cryptocurrency, Business Analytics, Sexual Harassment, and Other Timely Subjects

The Ageno School of Business is offering Innovation in Practice, a seminar series that covers timely, interdisciplinary, and applied topics. All currently registered Ageno School of Business graduate students who take at least one in-person class are required to register for, and participate in, one of these seminars. Seminars are also available via ZOOM online conferencing. The sessions are open to GGU undergraduates and alumni as well. Graduate students have priority for registrations, but space is limited for each seminar. You can register for any seminar here.

Innovation in Practice Seminars

Speechless: “Improv” Your Way to Great Presentations!

Thursday, April 19, 2-4pm

Speechless, San Francisco’s renowned improv performance group, offers interactive, on-your-feet training combines improv, stand-up comedy, and storytelling to fuel its PowerPoint show. The Speechless mission is to make public speaking more fun and less scary for everyone — and also train corporate presenters to be more creative and persuasive in delivering presentations. The Presenter-as-Performer Philosophy and improvisation techniques encourage participants to find their voice, tell their story, and go public! This seminar will conclude with Speechless’ hilarious signature PowerPoint contest that will leave you laughing and thinking about your newly acquired skills. Speechless has trained some of the biggest and brightest companies in the world including Google, Adobe, LinkedIn, eBay, Microsoft, Salesforce, Zynga, and Twitter.

Register for in-person >>
Register for online ZOOM attendance >>

Intellectual Property in Marketing: Overview and Recent Controversies

Thursday, April 19, 4:00-5:30 pm

GGU Law Professor Bill Gallagher will present an overview of intellectual property principles — including trademarks, patents, copyrights, and trade secrets — with an emphasis on those of interest to marketing and new product development. The session will include a discussion of recent issues and controversies. Hosted by Blodwen Tarter, Professor and Chair of GGU’s Marketing and Public Relations Department.

Register for in-person session >>
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Storytelling Techniques for Interviews and Networking with Dave Collins

Thursday, April 19 6:30-8:30 pm

Award-winning coach, improviser, and strategist Dave Collins will guide you in how to apply the art of storytelling techniques to create lasting, positive impressions for interviews and networking. This interactive workshop will use improv and experiential skill-building to develop best practices for talking about yourself, your skills, and engage any audience in any circumstance.

Register for in-person session >>
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Returns with a Conscience: How Social Responsibility Impacts Investment

Monday, April 23, 12-1:30 pm

In a world of climate change, diversity, and gun control controversies, investing with an eye for social responsibility is becoming a higher priority for many people. While some believe that limiting a portfolio to “ethical” investments results in lower returns, others argue that strong ethics enhance value for companies and their investors. Explore how you might earn returns without sacrificing your moral compass from Sonya Hetrick (pictured), Sector Analyst at the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB), and Billy Hwan, Portfolio Manager at Parnassus Investments. The event will be moderated by David Kaczorowski, Academic Program Manager and Professor of Finance at GGU.

Register for in-person session >>
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Strategic Play with LEGO® Bricks: Building Corporate Social Responsibility

Monday, April 23, 4-6 pm

Did you create your own world when playing with LEGOs? Then you must join this hands-on workshop with artist and GGU professor Walt Stevenson! Participants will explore major contemporary practices of corporate social responsibility while building a model of society with LEGOs. Using state-of-the-art LEGO SERIOUS PLAY® methods for critical thinking, this session will explore the complex and dynamic relationships created by a pluralism-based society and government in our free market economy. LEGO SERIOUS PLAY methods are based on hand-brain connection research done by the LEGO Group.  Presenter Walt Stevenson is a Professor of Management and Communications at GGU, emphasizing critical thinking, business context, and interactive learning. He holds an AB in English from UC Berkeley and MBA and DBA degrees from GGU. He is a qualified MBTI facilitator and an approved LEGO SERIOUS PLAY facilitator. He is a Colleague and Distinguished Leader of the Creative Education Foundation.

Register for in-person session >>
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Protecting San Francisco’s Future: The Seawall Fortification Bond

Monday, April 23, 4-6:30 pm

This is a fascinating case study evolving in real-time for all student and professional PMI and ITMs. Tyrone Navarro, the Principal Administrative Analyst for the Port of San Francisco (and President of the Board of Directors of Project Management Institute, San Francisco Chapter) will discuss the facts and challenge of the Seawall Fortification Bond. Did you know that the Port of San Francisco is responsible for maintaining more than seven miles of City of San Francisco waterfront, including the three-mile-long seawall that protects it? The Seawall, from Fisherman’s Wharf to Mission Creek, will require billions of dollars over the next three decades to make it resilient to a major earthquake and combat sea level rise. This is a major planning and public outreach effort, as voters will need to be convinced to pass the initial $350 million bond measure this fall.

Register for in-person session >>
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Blockchain and Initial Coin Offerings: An Introduction

Monday, April 23, 6-7:30 pm

FinTech, cryptocurrencies, initial coin offerings (ICO), and digital wallets have been hot topics in the popular press. These terms are associated with “digital assets” that are disrupting financial services in the 21st century and changing the way the world does business. Blockchain is the software technology underlying these changes. This seminar is an opportunity to learn from industry expert, Patrick Baron, CEO of Ambisafe Financial Services and a Member of the Board of Directors of Among his many activities, Patrick is an Adjunct Instructor of Blockchain at the FinTech School, an advisor to UC Berkeley’s student-led blockchain group, and a frequent presenter of blockchain workshops for corporate executives.

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Creating a Culture of Respect in the Workplace

Tuesday, April 24, 12-1:30 pm

No doubt you have been following #Metoo and #Timesup movement. Dr. Marianne Koch, Associate Dean and Director of GGU’s Human Resource Management Department, has been interviewing HR managers about challenges and best practices concerning sexual harassment at work and how to end it. She will discuss the preliminary findings of her research into how to end sexual harassment and create a culture of respect in our workplaces. Attendees will have the opportunity to participate in small-group discussions focusing on questions and scenarios of workplace interactions. Short case studies will also be presented followed by debate as to the best ways to approach various situations. This is an important discussion for all employees, regardless of gender identity, who want to work in a shared culture of dignity and mutual respect.

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A Broad View of Cybersecurity

Tuesday, April 24, 4-6pm

According to Homeland Security: “Our daily life, economic vitality, and national security depend on a stable, safe, and resilient cyberspace. Cyberspace and its underlying infrastructure are vulnerable to a wide range of risk stemming from both physical and cyber threats and hazards.” Cybersecurity expert Thomas Overman will provide a review of the development of modern information system security frameworks and implementation guidelines. The framework will be used as a base for group discussions of specific security case studies. Overman has an extensive security background serving in military and civilian areas of cybersecurity, information assurance, system security architectures, and security management. He has taught at the National Security Agency National Cryptology School.

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Running a For-Profit Business as a Force for Social and Environmental Sustainability

Tuesday, April 24, 4-6pm

B CorpJoin Veena Harbaugh and leaders from three local, certified B Corporations® to learn about B Corps and the 170 Bay Area firms that have become certified B Corps. Harbaugh is a Development Associate at B Lab, where she helps aspiring and certified B Corporations become extraordinarily successful and aligned with the principles of a running a sustainable business. A nonprofit organization, B Lab is devoted to driving a global movement that rethinks how businesses are measured.  Through a unique and rigorous assessment process, B Lab audits companies that strive to be both the best in the world and the best for the world — so that they have positive social and environmental impact, organizational transparency, and legal accountability.

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Gig Economy: What is it? What’s It Mean to Me, and What’s Ahead?

Tuesday, April 24, 6:30-8:30 pm

The Gig Economy is here to stay. But what does it mean for workers and organizations? Where did it come from, and why? How are workers best ‘classified’ and managed, and what are the consequences of employee mismanagement? Does the current legal system serve the interests of stakeholders and commerce well? What changes might be ahead? Whether you work for a Bay Area company or you are busy dreaming up the next big thing to replace Uber, this session will inform important choices in your working life. The seminar is presented by Tom Cushing, JD/MBA, a Senior Adjunct Professor at the Ageno School of Business, who teaches employment law, negotiation, and CSR-related courses. As an attorney, corporate executive, legal recruiter, freelancer (“an Adjunct Professor, after all”), he has operated within the evolving structural environment of work throughout his careers.

Register for in-person session >>
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Analytics in Sports

Wednesday, April 25, 4-6 pm

Sports Predictive Analytics is used to improve the winning records of athletes and teams, assess their strengths and weaknesses, and build a winning strategy. In this seminar of interest to business students and sports fans, Dr. Ash Pahwa, Ph.D. (pictured) will focus on team rankings and how to predict the winner of a specific game. Pahwa is an educator, author, entrepreneur, and technology visionary with three decades of industry and academic experience. He has founded several successful technology companies during his career, the most recent of which is A+ Web Services. Dr. Pahwa earned his doctorate in Computer Science from the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago. He is listed in Who’s Who in the Frontiers of Science and Technology. He is also a Google Certified Analytics Consultant. His expertise includes search engine optimization, Web analytics, Web programming, digital image processing, database management, digital video, and data storage technologies. The seminar will be hosted by Dr. Siamak Zadeh, GGU Visiting Assistant Professor & Data Scientist.

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Introduction to Ketamine with Dr. Raquel Bennett

Thursday, April 26, 6-8 pm

In a rare opportunity for psychology students and professionals, Dr. Raquel Bennett will be discussing ketamine: a medicine that is primarily used as a surgical anesthetic, but which also has rapid-acting antidepressant properties. Dr. Bennett has been studying the therapeutic effects of ketamine for over 15 years and lectures frequently on this topic. The presentation will describe ways of working with therapeutic ketamine: low-dose infusions, ketamine-facilitated psychotherapy, and psychedelic ketamine journeys. Dr. Bennett will also talk about which patients should or should not have ketamine treatment, and provide resources for finding clinicians who work with this unique medicine. She is the founder of KRIYA Institute and the organizer of the KRIYA Conferences, which is an annual and international event devoted to understanding the use of ketamine in psychiatry and psychotherapy.

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Register for any seminar >>

Women Lead at GGU

To honor Women’s History Month, we would like to acknowledge the accomplished women who make a large contribution at GGU. Women are represented at the VP and Dean level — and are well over half of the degree program chairs and directors.

Vice President and Deans

Barbara Karlin
Vice President, Academic Affairs 

Mary Ellen McGillan
VP for Development and Alumni Relations

Kayla Krupnick Walsh
Dean, Student Services

Associate & Assistant Deans

Jessica Bride
Associate Dean, Law Student Support, School of Law

Benedetta Faedi Duramy
Associate Dean for Faculty Scholarship, School of Law

Corey Farris
Associate Dean for Law Career Development, School of Law

Marianne Koch
Associate Dean, Ageno School of Business – Chair, Human Resources Program

Chairs & Directors

Ageno School of Business

Andrea Anthony, Chair, Financial & Economics Department
Jelena Ristic Kelleher, Director of the Undergraduate Experience
Judith Lee, Chair of Business Analytics, Operations, & IT Management
Marcia Ruben
, Chair, Graduate Management Program
Marie Spark, Director, Project Management Program
Blodwen Tarter, Chair, Marketing and Public Relations
Kendra Calvert, Director of Admissions and Recruitment
Cassandra Dilosa, Director of Administration, Graduate Programs
Karen McRobie, Director of Foundations for Academic & Professional Excellence and Director of Academic Integrity
S. Jamila Buckner, Head of Human Resources Department (Administration)

School of Law

Rana Boujaoude, Director, Bar Services Program
Teresa Wal Cyb, Director, Externship Program
Olivera Jovanovic, Director, Graduate Law Programs
Helen Kang, Director, Environmental Law and Justice Clinic
Reichi Lee, Director, Academic Development Program
Fiona McKenna, Director, Legal Writing and Research Program
Kaelyn Romey, Director, Litigation Program
Leslie Rose, Director, Advanced Legal Writing Program
Kimberly Staley, Director, LL.M. Tax and Estate Programs
Hina Shah, Director, Women’s Employment Rights Clinic

Braden School of Taxation

Kathleen Wright, Director of State and Local Tax

Undergraduate Programs

Nabanita Talukdar, Director of Math Programs

Associate & Assistant Directors

Academic Affairs, Student Life, and Wellness Services

Jennifer Carri,  Director, Student Life and Wellness Services
Regina Guerrero, Associate Director for Academic Affairs
Lori Granger, Assistant Director, Wellness Services
Neepa Parikh, Associate Director, Office of Career Services
Sandra Jimenez, Assistant Director, Student Life

GGU also supports the success of its female students with its annual Women in Leadership event. You can watch a video of the 2017 panel discussion, which was hosted by Ageno School of Business Associate Dean Marianne Koch.

Announcing GGU’s Corporate Fellows Scholarship for the Executive MBA Program

GGU’s Executive MBA (EMBA) is a demanding, transformative experience. Unlike many other “executive” programs, it is not a spin-off from a traditional MBA for full-time students. The EMBA is geared specifically for real-world success.

We’re pleased to announce a Corporate Fellows Scholarship of 50%.

  • Covers 50% of EMBA tuition
  • Limited to 15 recipients
  • Cannot be combined with any other grant or scholarship offered by GGU

To qualify for consideration for the Corporate Fellows Scholarship, EMBA applicants must:

  • be employed by a company operating in the U.S.
  • have at least 5 years’ experience managing people, projects, or businesses.
  • apply to the EMBA program by the August 3, 2018 deadline.

About the Executive MBA

The EMBA program at GGU is based on more than 115-years of proven success developing and delivering programs for working professionals, and it was designed to leverage the real-world professional experience and knowledge of the EMBA participants with GGU’s renowned active and practice-based learning methods.

As you complete GGU’s 16-month EMBA program, you will gain confidence not only from advancing your knowledge of business and leadership concepts, but also from mastering and applying what you learn to boost your professional performance.

More than 80% of EMBA faculty members
are scholar-practitioners.

From day one, you will have the opportunity to connect with a peer group of accomplished, high-energy professionals, in the heart of San Francisco’s thriving business district. You will join an active alumni community that is 68,000-strong, and you will benefit from a network of corporate partnerships and entrepreneurs that GGU has forged for over a century in the center of this world-changing business hub.

As a participant in the EMBA program, you will collaborate with and learn from executive coaches and instructors who are influential business leaders and who transform GGU classes into dynamic learning laboratories. More than 80% of EMBA faculty members are scholar-practitioners, and they will constantly challenge you to enhance your business knowledge and hone your leadership skills by solving real, meaningful and practical business problems.

Again, we invite you to apply for the EMBA program by the August 3, 2018 deadline to be considered for the Corporate Fellows Scholarship of 50%.  Winners will be notified by August 10, 2018.


GGU Students Reach Finals of Regional CFA Institute Research Challenge

A student team representing Golden Gate University reached the finals of the regional CFA Institute Research Challenge, which attracted undergraduate and graduate schools from across Northern California.  The competition required teams to create a written report and deliver a group presentation to a panel of financial services professionals. Using fundamental analysis of Salesforce, the team offered a recommendation of sell.

GGU’s team was comprised of (pictured above): Quyen Le (MBA, Finance, ’19)  [far left], I-Chang (Tony) Lai (MS Finance, ’18) [second from left], Junjie (Stan) Liu (MS Finance, ’18) [second from right], and Gurpreet Singh (MS Finance, ’18) [far right]. The team was sponsored and led by David Kaczorowski [center], Professor of Finance & Program Manager at GGU, who has experience in the finance industry that spans both academic and industry practice–in both equity research and portfolio management.

Request information about Master of Science in Finance program >>

§199A Qualified Business Income Deduction: A Quick Primer

By Fred Sroka, Dean of the GGU School of Accounting & Bruce F. Braden School of Taxation

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) was signed into law on December 22, 2017. It dramatically reduced corporate tax rates, from 35% to 21%. The small business lobby fought this change because it shifted the competitive balance from local businesses (that tend to be sole proprietorships, partnerships or limited liability companies) to big corporations.

To address this, new §199A reduces the tax rate for individuals or trusts on “qualified business income” (QBI). The law was drafted hastily without the usual public hearings. As a result, we all need guidance from IRS or technical corrections from Congress before we can be confident in how this new law will be applied.

  1. §199A Tax Benefit: The new law is designed to reduce tax rates on business income. Rather than create a different tax rate chart, Congress instead created a 20% “QBI deduction.” This approach gives a very favorable result, since it reduces tax at the highest tax bracket. For individuals in the top tax bracket of 37%, a full QBI deduction will reduce tax on business income to 37% * 80% = 29.6%!


As pointed out in the above slide, tax deductions generally impact many tax attributes other than tax calculations. To avoid this, the law specifies that the QBI deduction does NOT affect other tax attributes like the net operating loss (NOL), tax basis or Adjusted Gross Income (AGI). The law also specifies that the QBI deduction can be claimed regardless of whether the taxpayer itemizes deductions, claims the standard deduction, or is subject to the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). In short, the deduction just lowers your tax!

  1. How does the QBI deduction work? Calculating the QBI deduction is complex. Let’s begin with a “road map” of the calculation.


  • Business Activity: The first step is to determine whether income comes from a business activity, as opposed to an investment activity. The law also excludes foreign business income from the calculation.
  • Compensation for Services: The second step is to determine whether the income represents compensation for the taxpayer’s services.
  • Taxable Income Test: If your taxable income (before any QBI deduction) is under $315,000 (for a joint tax return) or $157,500 (for an individual tax return), you’re done! Simply deduct 20% of the QBI that isn’t treated as compensation. If your taxable income is above these amounts, you must pass through two more hurdles.
  • Specified Service Business Income: The new law denies some or all of the QBI deduction for doctors, lawyers, accountants, and many other professional service providers if their income is above the taxable income test.
  • Wage Limit: The new law limits the QBI deduction for all businesses if the business doesn’t employ enough people (or, as we’ll see, buy enough depreciable property). Again, this limit only applies if you exceed the taxable income test.
  • QBI Deduction: If you make it through the above tests and limits, you are entitled to deduct 20% of your QBI in computing your federal tax!
  1. Business Income: Let’s begin with an exploration of the business income test. Happily, QBI can come from a sole proprietorship, a partnership, LLC or even S corporation. The only business entity which prevents this flow-through is a corporation which pays its own tax under Subchapter C (fittingly called a C corporation).

QBI has some immediate limits on the types of income that qualify. First, the income must come from a domestic business. If a business has operations in a foreign country, the income attributable to foreign operations must be separated and disallowed. Second, the income must be ordinary business income. This means that capital gain, dividend income, interest income (except for business interest paid by customers), and a few other exotic types of income (net of related expense) are disallowed.


Perhaps the greatest challenge in defining QBI is determining whether income constitutes a business. For many years, taxpayers have been afraid of calling an activity a business. Business income is subject to self-employment tax and it generally exposes us to tax in other states or even other countries. TCJA has shifted this balance dramatically. First, investment expenses incurred by individuals (previously deductible under §212) will no longer be deductible starting in 2018. Second, only business income qualifies for the 20% QBI deduction.

What does it take to be a business? In general, the amount of income isn’t important. Instead, the Courts tend to focus on the level of involvement of the owner. If the activity is substantial, systematic and continuous, Courts have considered the activity to be a business. Under this standard, merely renting your house to a relative, or renting a warehouse to an unrelated tenant under a triple-net lease do not rise to the level of a business.

Do we want all our activities to be treated as businesses? Maybe not. First, TCJA has also introduced very liberal cost recovery rules, allowing for immediate write-offs of many purchases of new and used property. If you expect your activity to run at a loss, you might prefer to limit your activities to prevent the loss from offsetting other business income in the computation of the QBI deduction.

  1. Compensation: Compensation for services is also ineligible for the QBI deduction. Thus, any wages that are reported to you on a form W-2 do not qualify. A number of blogs have suggested that employees should simply quit their jobs and ask their boss for a form 1099. Please beware of any advice that sounds too good to be true. To be in your own business, you must control the “manner and mode” in which you do your work. The IRS applies 20 common law factors to decide whether the taxpayer’s classification as an independent contractor makes sense.


Even if you are in your own business, a portion of your income may be treated as compensation for services. §199A(c)(4) excludes any W-2 wages paid to the owner by an S corporation. The statute also disallows QBI deductions for compensation paid by a partnership to a partner if the amount is determined without regard to partnership income. The law does NOT specify other types of income that will be treated as “reasonable compensation”, raising significant questions about the choice of entity in running our businesses.

  • Sole Proprietorships: Curiously, the statute does not explicitly include any portion of income from a sole proprietorship as compensation for services. This seems odd, particularly where the business is itself a service business. Absent future technical corrections or guidance from IRS, most sole proprietors will qualify for the QBI deduction.
  • Partnerships: Partnerships can pay partners a “guaranteed payment” under §707(c), or make very similar payments under §707(a). Both of these are ineligible for QBI. As a result, many partnerships may change their economic terms, reducing any partner’s right to fixed compensation, instead increasing the partners’ share of “bottom line” income. Like sole proprietorships, the statute does not state that these allocations of net profit will be treated as compensation, even if the partnership provides services.
  • S Corporations: Prior law has firmly established that S corporations must pay “reasonable compensation” to shareholders, or else any distributions to the shareholder will be recharacterized as salary. This salary is not eligible for the QBI deduction. As a result, many S corporations may feel that they are at a disadvantage compared to other forms of business entities. Before precipitously changing away from S corp status, taxpayers should consider other factors:
    • IRS only forces S corp shareholders to recognize compensation income if they actually take money out of the business. As a result, if the profits of an S corp are retained within the business for growth, the statute appears to allow for full QBI deduction.
    • Before changing from an S corporation to any non-corporate form of business entity, owners should be VERY concerned about the tax impact of liquidating the corporation. Liquidation of any corporation (C or S) triggers gain on the appreciation in all corporate assets. Even a small service business likely has substantial value in its trade name and goodwill. The tax cost of liquidating a small service S corporation can be devastating.
    • Finally, shareholders in an S corporation benefit from a glitch in the “Net Investment Income” (NII) rules of §1411. If the shareholder “materially participates” in the business (meaning works over 500 hours per year) and receives reasonable compensation for services, then any residual income allocated to the shareholder on the form K-1 likely escapes both the 3.8% SE tax and the 3.8% NII tax. TCJA failed to close this obvious gap between the SE and NII taxes. As a result, S corp shareholders may prefer to give up the 7% QBI benefit on their salary if the 3.8% benefit on distributions is substantially larger.
  1. Taxable Income Test: We now know what income meets the definition of QBI. The next step is to determine whether any limits apply to the QBI deduction. This is based on the taxable income (including income from all sources, not merely the one business) excluding only the QBI deduction itself.


If your taxable income (before the QBI deduction) does not exceed $157,500 on a single return, or $315,000 on a joint return, then you are not subject to any further limits. You simply multiply your QBI by 20%, and that’s your QBI deduction.

Conversely, if your taxable income is over $207,500 on a single return, or $415,000 on a joint return, you are fully subject to the “Specified Service” and “Wages” limitations. As explained below, this wipes out any QBI benefit for Specified Services, and limits the benefit if the business does not pay sufficient W-2 wages.

The taxable income limits phase in gradually between the above floor and ceiling. For a joint return, every $1,000 of taxable income over the $315,000 floor results in an additional 1% of the limits being applied, so that fully 100% of the limits apply once your income hits $415,000. Single taxpayers increasingly are limited by 1% for every $500 their income exceeds the $157,500 floor.

  1. Specified Service Business Test: If your taxable income is below the above limits, then it doesn’t matter what business or profession you are in. However, if you are over the limit, then a portion of your QBI from certain service businesses will be limited.


Which businesses are specified? To begin with, most licensed professionals (doctors, lawyers, accountants, etc.) are specified. Curiously engineers and architects were removed from the list of specified businesses shortly before enactment. In addition to licensed professionals, artists, consultants, and athletes are considered “specified.”

A separate category of specified business involves financial services. Bankers, stock brokers, investment advisers, and dealers are all treated as specified.

One final category of specified service is any business where “the principal asset of such trade or business is the reputation or skill of 1 or more of its employees.” This category comes from the “Qualified Small Business Stock” rules contained in §1202. Sadly, there is little case law to interpret how reputation or skill of an individual is measured as an asset of the business.

  1. Wages Test: If your taxable income is below the taxable income limits discussed above, then it doesn’t matter how much you pay in W-2 wages. However, if you are over the limit, then your QBI deduction may be limited. The purpose of the limit is to restrict the §199A benefit to those businesses who create jobs. However, pressure from the real estate industry created a secondary test, which measures a combination of wages paid and depreciable property used in the business.


  • Wages: The basic limit is 50% of the amount of wages paid and reported on form W-2 for the current tax year. The statute does not exclude wages paid to the owner, though as explained above these wages will not themselves be eligible for the QBI deduction.
  • Wages and Property: The alternate test includes 25% of wages, plus 2.5% of the “unadjusted basis” of tangible depreciable property used in the business. The property must be held in the business at the end of the year, must have been used in the business during the year, and cannot be fully depreciated AND more than 10 years old. The term “unadjusted basis” is unclear. IRS Pub 946 states that unadjusted basis of property is the purchase price reduced by any “bonus depreciation” under §168(k) or expensed under §179. §199A(b)(2)(B)(ii) uses the term “unadjusted basis immediately after the acquisition of all qualified property.” It is possible (but not certain) that the QBI deduction will face greater limits if §168(k) bonus depreciation or §179 expensing is elected.

The impact of the wages limit is complex. Let’s assume that Ann’s QBI is $100,000, but she only paid $10,000 in W-2 wages and doesn’t have depreciable property.  If her taxable income is under $315,000 (mfj), Ann escapes any limit and her QBI deduction is 20% * $100,000 = $20,000. If Ann’s taxable income is over $415,000, then her QBI deduction is limited to the LESSER of 20% of $100,000 QBI or the $10,000 wages. As a result, Ann’s QBI deduction is only $10,000. Finally, if Ann’s taxable income is $365,000, then she is subject to half the limit—so she gets $15,000 of QBI deduction.

Finally, it is worth noting that a specified business may be subject to a second limitation if taxable income falls between the floor and ceiling amounts. The calculation first disallows a percentage of the specified QBI, and then separately applies the wage limit to QBI and wages reduced by the same percentage.

  1. Special Rules for Losses: What if Ann makes money in one business but loses money in another business? The law requires that she reduce the income from the first business by the amount of loss in the second. If the result is an overall business loss, that loss carries forward to reduce Ann’s QBI deduction in the following year.

Two additional special rules regarding losses have been introduced. First, if a taxpayer has an overall business loss that exceeds $250,000 on a single return ($500,000 on a joint return), that loss is disallowed and carried forward to future years. This prevents large business losses from being offset by large investment income.  Finally, the passive loss limitations of §469 are applied before the computation of QBI, so any net passive losses do not offset income from active businesses.

CONCLUSION: §199A provides a substantial tax benefit for non-corporate businesses and businesses operating through S corporations. However, uncertainty remains on the definitions of business, compensation, and specified businesses. Along with this uncertainty, the new law imposes a complex series of limitations which may reduce the benefit. Finally, taxpayers will not know how to compute their benefit until their taxable income is finally determined, which may not occur until after the end of the tax year.

About Fred Sroka

Fred Sroka, JD is the Dean of the GGU School of Accounting & Bruce F. Braden School of Taxation. Fred Sroka received his JD from UCLA, practiced as a tax lawyer for 18 years, worked as a tax accountant for 18 years, and managed a couple of years as a management consultant! He has been a member of the GGU adjunct tax faculty since 1983, and a member of the tax advisory board. Fred retired from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) in 2014 and has served as the Dean of the Bruce F. Braden School of Tax since October 2014.

He holds an active CPA license in California and Colorado and is an inactive member of the California State Bar. Fred and his wife Ronda have two kids (both off in grad school), who provide constant coaching on the world from a millennial student’s perspective. Fred loves to play tennis and golf and is constantly puttering around the house with his tools.

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