I was first introduced to Thought Into Action in the spring of 2013. As a graduate of Colgate (class of 1983) I have always tried to find a way to remain connected to the university in ways beyond giving to the annual fund. Each year I would make a donation, but I never felt like I had a particularly meaningful way to give back in ways that went beyond financial support. Having now spent a weekend on campus participating as a mentor in the TIA program, I have found an exciting, energetic, and very productive way to be involved in the Colgate community and to give real world experience to future Colgate alumni that will be business leaders of the future.
I arrived in Hamilton on Friday night and headed directly to TIA “world headquarters” at 20 Utica Street. Within minutes of meeting with Jean Schroder, Wills Hapworth, and Andy Greenfield it was extremely obvious that the passion for TIA starts at the top. Wills, Andy, and Jean enthusiastically welcomed me to the program and made it clear that their commitment to the program is genuine, relentless, and that they are totally open to new ideas to help make TIA better. Most impressive is that despite the level of accomplishment of the broader mentor group, the focus of TIA is singularly focused on the students that have been selected to participate in the program. It is extremely refreshing to be immersed in an environment in which very successful alumni business leaders are so willing to check their egos at the door and allow the students to be the focus of attention. The recurring theme of every conversation I had with other mentors over the weekend was how we can make TIA better for the students and what we can do to give the students more constructive feedback.
On Saturday morning we reconvened and, as a self-described “newbie”, I was not sure what to expect when the students showed up. I remembered back to when I was an underclassman and I could not have imagined getting up early on a Saturday, attending an all-day program for no credit, and listening to “old” people wax profound about their successes. Well I could not have been more wrong. The TIA program is very student-centric and unlike any other academic environment I have ever witnessed. The students were all very engaged, self-assured, and without exception, brought an attitude of wanting to learn, interact, and exhibited a clear desire to receive constructive feedback from the mentors. We broke up into smaller groups and did a much deeper dive into the specific business plans. The group discussion was focused primarily on the students sharing their challenges, accomplishments, and objectives for the next four weeks. Most impressive was that the mentors didn’t simply give the “answers” to the students, but rather asked the right questions that helped the students learn how to think as business men and women and develop solutions on their own.
I am very much looking forward to future TIA weekends. I only wish that this program existed when I was at Colgate. It didn’t, but I am convinced that it will help to fortify the outstanding liberal arts foundation that Colgate students obtain with real world, experienced-based mentoring for those lucky enough to be a part of the Thought in Action program.
Paul Cascio ’83, P’17 serves as the Managing Member of 3S Advisors, LLC in Cleveland, OH. 3S Advisors provides objective advice to entrepreneurs and business owners to help build shareholder value through a focus on strategy, scalability and sustainability of the business model.