NW Cougar Quarterly

Fall 2023 Issue

Table of contents

Chris Pacanins

Alumni Spotlight

Chris Pacanins
B.A. 2016 (WSU Vancouver), Digital Technology and Culture

Chris Pacanins attended community college off and on as he could afford it. After marrying his wife, Cori, in 2010, it was time to get serious. The couple was contemplating a move from Texas to Southwest Washington, and on a visit, he connected with Dene Grigar, professor and Vancouver campus lead of the Digital Technology and Culture program. “I was sold,” he said. “Within a year we packed everything in our car and made the move.” He finished his A.A. degree at Clark College and started at WSU Vancouver in fall 2013.

“A big selling point at the time was being able to take most classes at night and online,” Pacanins said. “This made it so much easier to work full time and work on my degree.” He also valued the CMDC program’s job placement rate of more than 90%—and found a job two weeks before graduating at Gravitate, a digital marketing agency in downtown Vancouver.

He left the agency briefly to work for HP in Vancouver and then a marketing consultancy in Portland, but seized an opportunity to return to Gravitate for the promise of work-life balance and a 1.5-mile commute to work. Plus, he added, “I have a huge heart for the downtown community, and I’m grateful to contribute to it every day.”

He has high praise for the CMDC program, which, he said, “has some of the best educators I know, and so much passion for their students’ success.” As an alum, he said, “I speak highly of WSU Vancouver and CMDC any chance I get. I love to recommend it to young people in the community and encourage them into higher education.”

Pacanins has a highly personal perspective on what it means to be a Coug—to him, it isn’t about the usual trappings of campus life. “Not being a college football fan, and as a graduate in my late 20s and someone who never experienced the massive college life, I still consider myself a Coug,” he said. “I’ve never been to Pullman but there are plenty of Cougs in Vancouver. I’ll give a, ‘Go Cougs’ when I see someone, and I know it’ll catch them off guard just enough and make their day.”

He has some practical advice for current students or future Cougs: “Enjoy the ride. No one way is the right way to getting your degree. Oh, and network.”

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Shaila Gomez-Vargas.

Cougar Business Alliance

Amor Sapphire
Shaila Gomez-Vargas
B.A. (WSU Pullman), 2022, Apparel, Merchandising, Design and Textiles

How long have you owned your company?

It was established June 2022, but after lots of renovations, I officially opened the doors in May 2023.

What made you want to own your own business?

I have had a passion for fashion since high school. I knew I wanted to be my own boss one day, and business was the first step to guide me in the right direction. Then I switched my focus from fashion to apparel. What interests me the most is the style of clothing.

On the side, I help my dad with his construction company, Pacific NW Plastering LLC. I take care of all things business-related: creating invoices, proposals/estimates/agreements, bidding, website, and handling all things banking, insurance and paperwork. As I learned and adapted to those needs, my dad’s business helped me grow professionally.

Previously, I worked in fast food but did not enjoy working for others or wearing uniforms. I also worked for a consignment store and learned about the clothing industry, what sells and what won’t. I really loved working there. I genuinely wanted to learn more about the business model so was always figuring out ways to grow my position there. When I left for college, they closed due to COVID. At the time, they were the only store in the area that sold women’s, men’s and children’s wear.

I wanted to bring back that one-stop family shop experience. Also, there are still not many consignment stores on the West Coast—it’s better known on the East Coast. We needed another consignment store in the area, which is why I decided to open my own. Not only do we offer all three options—men’s, women’s and children’s wear—but many stores don’t take lingerie or maternity wear. I do. I also take formal and athletic wear.

Tell us more about your business, goals, mission and community involvement?

The name Amor Sapphire comes from “Amor” meaning “Love” in Spanish, and Sapphire is my birthstone. The logo consists of a blue Sapphire rock in the shape of a heart, connecting with Amor/“Love.” If I ever have a daughter, I hope to name her Sapphire.

As a consignment shop, our goal is to build positive, long-lasting relationships with our consignors (sellers) and our customers, accompanied by honest and valuable services. Consignment shops, alongside thrift shops, envision becoming the most trusted retail sources in the fashion industry. You can trust we are staying true to the five Rs; Reduce, Reuse, Repair, Rewear and Resell.

Amor Sapphire will donate unsold items to partner donation organizations, such as Rose Haven, William Temple House, Q Center, The Giving Closet, Salvation Army, Goodwill and Dress for Success.

What is your favorite thing about WSU or being a Coug?

The culture for sure. When I started at WSU Vancouver a few years back, I loved all of the community engagement opportunities every week all around campus. After transferring from WSU Vancouver to WSU Pullman, I enjoyed how much the entire university would hype the football games and all things sports around campus. Aside from that, I had some amazing professors, and that is what made my learning experience enjoyable.

How many Coug family members do you have?

I am first-generation college student, and the only one to graduate from a university in Washington.

How long have you lived in the Vancouver area?

I lived in Vancouver during part of my elementary and middle-school years, then moved to Beaverton starting in high school. I moved back to Vancouver my senior year in high school.

What do you think about WSU Vancouver being a part of this community?

It’s so convenient to have a campus nearby. When I attended WSU Vancouver, I would just go back home to my family after being done with classes. What I was not so fond of was that there wasn’t any on-campus living or apartment homes. I had always wanted to have that college experience, and without actually living like a college student, I felt like I was missing out on that at the time.

What is the strangest or furthest place you’ve traveled where you randomly met a Coug?

What definitely caught me off guard was that my landlord for the space I am renting is a Coug alumnus! I guess that isn’t so unusual, but I wasn’t expecting it.

Please share a favorite memory working on the job.

Every memory is a good memory working on something that you truly have a passion for. I have always had a passion for fashion, and every day is different—a different conversation, a different customer, a new experience. I learn from it every day.

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Holiday kick off with butch

Kick off your holidays with Butch T. Cougar!

Get into the holiday spirit early this year by snagging a holiday photo with Butch T. Cougar! Join us Nov. 30 at the Hilton Vancouver for a free holiday photo shoot with Butch. While you’re there, be sure to stop by Crimson & Gray’s holiday popup shop. It’s the perfect time to grab the latest WSU gear and gifts for all the Cougs in your life. This event is pet-friendly too, so be sure to bring your four-legged friends to join in the holiday fun!

  • 5:30 – 6:30 p.m. photos with Santa Butch
  • 6:30 – 7:30 p.m. photos with Holiday Butch
  • 7:30 – 8 p.m. +pet photos with Santa Butch
  • 8 – 8:30 p.m. +pet photos with Holiday Butch

For more information, email Kymberly Heney at kymberly.heney@wsu.edu. We’ll see you there!

Presenting sponsers:


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Legacy square

Give the gift of a Legacy Square this holiday season

Looking for a memorable gift for a special Coug in your life this holiday season? Consider giving the gift of a WSU Vancouver Legacy Square. Each square contains a custom engraving of your choice and will leave a lasting impact on the WSU Vancouver campus. Whether you are shopping for yourself or a loved one, be sure to consider giving the gift of Cougar pride with a Legacy Square.

For more information, email Kymberly Heney at kymberly.heney@wsu.edu.

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WSU Vancouver team join

Come join the WSU Vancouver team!

Interested in starting a career with WSU Vancouver? We’re hiring! Check out our current job openings here.

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Giving tuesday logo

Giving Tuesday

Giving Tuesday – Nov. 28

Join a global movement of compassion and generosity this Giving Tuesday on Nov. 28! Giving Tuesday is a global day of giving fueled by the power of social media and collaboration. Participating in Giving Tuesday is a meaningful way to make a positive impact and promote a culture of generosity and giving. Learn more about Giving Tuesday priorities at WSU Vancouver here.

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