New gift will give College of Business Career Management Center new opportunities to innovate

Bob and Linda Isaman
Bob and Linda Isaman have committed $250,000 to help the CSU College of Business continue to innovate.

From micro-internships to mock job interviews using virtual reality, the Career Management Center team at the Colorado State University College of Business wants to pave the way for using new technology to help prepare graduates for a dynamic job market.

Bob and Linda Isaman want to continue to give the team the tools it needs to keep innovating, even if that means some ideas don’t stick. 

“From a technology standpoint, we want to help launch a thousand ships and see which ones come to shore,” Bob Isaman said. “Let’s give this team an opportunity to try as many things as they possibly can and see which ones really, really resonate. After all: If you find one that works best in the business school, there’s nothing stopping it from also being applied to engineering or agricultural sciences.”

That’s why the Isamans have committed $250,000 to the Isaman Technology and Innovation Fund, which will help the Career Management Center expand its existing digital programs and mentorship opportunities in new, unparalleled ways. 

“We want to use innovative technology to help open more doors for our students and help them make career decisions even sooner,” said Andrea Karapas, the Career Management Center’s director. “This will help students engage in experiential learning opportunities earlier, so they can be more competitive and more successful when they look for internships and jobs.”

‘It’s probably fate’

The Isamans may never have been involved with CSU if multiple people weren’t in the right place at the right time. 

The couple met at the University of Maryland, and over the course of their 38-year marriage, have lived all over the world – from Russia to China to everywhere in between.

In 2010, Bob Isaman was hired as the CEO of Stolle Machinery in Centennial, Colorado. That’s where he mentioned he wanted to get involved at a local university, and a friend introduced him to Ajay Menon, the former dean of the College of Business who happened to be in the building at the time. 

“He said, ‘You’re coming with me,’” Isaman explained. “Some people say me getting involved with CSU was happenstance, but it’s probably fate.”

Bob Isaman later worked with Dean Beth Walker as chairman of the Global Leadership Council, where he had the opportunity to mentor students in the College of Business and learn about CSU’s mission.

“One thing I truly love about CSU is its vision as a land-grant university and what it means to lift people up in society, to give them the experiences higher education offers and all the life-changing things that come with it,” Bob Isaman said. “CSU said: If they can pass the academic criteria for success, then we’ll find a way to get them in and pay for them.”

It’s something that resonated with both him and his wife, who both attended the University of Maryland because it was a great state school but also the only school they could afford. 

“We didn’t start out with anything,” said Bob Isaman who met his wife during their freshman year, “Everything that we have we built together.” 

 When they were able, they looked for ways to give back.

Educating next generation of leaders

Linda Isaman said they didn’t immediately plan on supporting the technology side of the College of Business, but that the opportunity presented itself through quite a bit of research.

“We’re pragmatic, analytical and take things one step at a time,” she said.

They ultimately chose the Career Management Center because they wanted to impact as many students as possible in a practical way. For Karapas, this will mean implementing new technologies and programs that had been outside her budget. 

Some of the ideas include flash mentoring opportunities, where students can make quick connections with people in various fields from all over the world. The college is also working with Parker Dewey, a micro-internship platform that will allow employers to post shorter gigs that students can use for experience and connections.

“This will increase access to experiential learning opportunities outside of the traditional internship model that many students might not be able to complete because of the time commitments involved,” Karapas said.

Her team is also using the Isaman Technology and Innovation Fund to integrate what’s known as a “design thinking model” into the career development approach – something Karapas said will “help students explore and prototype more quickly and earlier in their academic careers to set them up for a successful and competitive career path.”  

Finally, they’ll be looking into using virtual reality to help students with career development. 

“That could involve simulations of company culture to mock interviews,” Karapas said.

Bob Isaman said he knows that not all of these ideas will work, but a career spent in private equity and corporate leadership has made him used to betting on businesses and new ideas. 

“That’s a piece that’s critical for success: probably not everything’s going to be a home run, but as long as we don’t strike out and we hit a lot of doubles and triples, that’s pretty cool,” he said.

And, if it goes well, Bob and Linda Isaman said they’ll continue the technology fund for as long as it’s useful.

“This is an experiment,” Linda Isaman said. 

It’s an experiment that the College of Business is grateful for as it continues to innovate into how to best prepare its students for a changing world.

“The Isaman Technology Fund provides our renowned College of Business Career Management Center with the support it needs to offer game-changing, career development opportunities to our students,” Walker said. “Bob and Linda have created an innovative approach to student preparation and are helping us ensure our students are career-ready and able to use business for a better world wherever they go after graduation.”

About CSU’s College of Business

The College of Business at Colorado State University is focused on using business to create a better world.

As an AACSB-accredited business school, the College is among the top five percent of business colleges worldwide, providing programs and career support services to more than 2,500 undergraduate and 1,300 graduate students. Faculty help students across our top-ranked on-campus and online programs develop the knowledge, skills and values to navigate a rapidly evolving business world and address global challenges with sustainable business solutions. Our students are known for their creativity, work ethic and resilience—resulting in an undergraduate job offer and placement rate of over 90% within 90 days of graduation.

The College’s highly ranked programs include its Online MBA, which has been ranked the No. 1 program in Colorado by U.S. News and World Report for five years running and achieved No. 16 for employability worldwide from QS Quacquarelli Symonds. The College’s Impact MBA is also ranked by Corporate Knights as a Top 20 “Better World MBA” worldwide.