‘Seeing these students succeed gives me hope’

Scholarship recipient Malku Cruz prepares to launch his supply chain career
Story by Frances Badgett
All an opportunity takes is someone opening a door.
Karen Chaudiere in profile aboard a sailboat, looking through a acope
Karen Chaudiere looks at the way ahead aboard a sailboat in 2022.

Alaska-born Malku Cruz credits his hardworking parents for his work ethic and sense of fiscal responsibility: His father, an Ecuadorian immigrant, was one of 14 siblings and the child of a single mother. His mother is a white-collar worker from Michigan who believes deeply in the value of higher education and who, like Cruz, worked hard to get her degree.

Both parents worked several jobs to fund Cruz’s school trips, soccer games, and, eventually, his college tuition. They also made sure Cruz connected with his heritage through trips to Ecuador, trips that left a lasting impression on Cruz, who promised himself that he’d pay forward the immense privilege he would have as a college graduate.

Today Cruz, who graduated in June with a bachelor’s degree in manufacturing and supply chain management, just started as a global supply analyst at Tesla. He’s adamant that none of this would’ve been possible without many individuals opening doors for him.

One of those people is Karen Chaudiere, ’81, B.S., industrial technology. She worked exceptionally hard for a good education, starting in high school. She took a loan from a family friend to pay for private school and worked at a Winchell’s Donut Shop and cleaned real estate agents’ offices to pay him back. She worked every summer and holiday during college to pay for Western.

After a successful career in everything from telecommunications to pharmaceuticals, Chaudiere decided to support other under-resourced students so they could really engage in campus life, stay in school, and not have to work so many jobs.

She was delighted that the recipient of last year’s Karen Chaudiere Scholarship for Manufacturing and Supply Chain Management went to an incredibly hard worker, Cruz, whose goal was to graduate from WWU debt-free.

The experience of meeting the recipients of the scholarship she established has motivated Chaudiere to include Western in her estate plans. She arranged to permanently endow her Manufacturing and Supply Chain Management scholarship with a percentage of her estate, further benefiting Western students.

“My support is an investment in the future,” she says. “Seeing these students succeed gives me hope.”

Chaudiere is also generous with her time. She has served on the Manufacturing and Supply Chain Management advisory board for 15 years.

“Karen is phenomenal,” says Manufacturing and Supply Chain Management Professor Peter Haug. “She has dedicated so much financial interest, time and energy to our students, and we’re so grateful.”

Haug is a big reason why Western’s Manufacturing and Supply Chain Management Program has garnered a stellar reputation, including its top-20 ranking of undergraduate supply chain programs in North America, according to Gartner, Inc.

During his 35-year career as a professor and mentor, Haug has placed WWU students in corporations all over the world. So when a former MSCM student and Tesla employee emailed Haug about a highly coveted internship position, he was sure to let his students know.

To Haug, Cruz seemed like the perfect candidate, with his stellar academic record and commitment to the community. Cruz had been involved in many campus groups, including the Association for Supply Chain Management and the Black and Brown Male Success Collective, which offered him the opportunity to travel to Alabama to learn about the history of the Civil Rights Movement directly from those who participated in it. Cruz visited the Civil Rights Museum in Montgomery, walked the Edmund Pettus Bridge, visited Martin Luther King Jr.’s memorial, and reflected on racial and social justice.

After a successful internship, Cruz returned to Tesla this summer and will work with Global Supply Manager Alex Stoneham, ’21, B.S., manufacturing and supply chain management. He’s beyond excited to start this new chapter, and hopes to pave the road for others.

“Going to Tesla is really exciting,” he says. “All an opportunity takes is someone opening a door. I hope to be that person opening the door for another student one day.”

I hope to be that person opening the door for another student one day
Karen Chaudiere holds a golden retriever
Karen Chaudiere with her dog, Cedar.