When I joined Thought Into Action as a junior, our seminars were in a single Coop conference room with about eight students led by Andy Greenfield, Wills Hapworth, and Bob Gold. Despite its modest beginnings (befitting any entrepreneurial venture), this talented alumni trio stoked a fire in me that continues to burn today. Their devotion to TIA, wealth of real-world knowledge, and high expectations for the students really rubbed off. Maggie Dunne learned to flex her previously unknown philanthropic muscles, shaping her social venture into the outstanding program that is Lakota Children’s Enrichment while I took my meager landscaping business “Collegiate Greenscaping” and bolstered it with market research, hiring strategy, sales effort, and off-season management planning.
Albeit an unglamorous venture, this business taught me scalable skills and TIA motivated me to grow it in ways I never would have on my own. I felt a true devotion to the program, even sending in video updates from France while on my study abroad for our mid-month calls. Collegiate Greenscaping tripled in size that summer, and then tripled again the next year as I expanded from a summer-only to a three-season, remotely managed operation. Without TIA, Collegiate Greenscaping would have remained a single-season venture. Instead of learning how to manage and grow a profitable business, I would have experienced only self-pity while laboring over rake and spade in the hot summer months.
My second year in TIA saw a vastly expanded cast of alumni mentors, a bigger space in the Ho Science building auditorium, and a sea of student ventures. This growth further expanded my opportunities to learn, motivate, and network. This networking turned out to be particularly important for my career – an introduction by Andy Greenfield got my foot in the door at an exciting action sports start-up. I began full-time a week after graduation and sunk my teeth in deeply and quickly. The dynamic challenges and learning opportunities at this start-up fueled (and continue to fuel) the entrepreneurial fire stoked by Andy, Wills, and Bob years earlier. TIA provided an invaluable element to my Colgate education – the opportunity to apply liberal arts-style critical thinking to a profit-earning venture in a real-world setting. It offered a bridge from the classroom to my career; I just had to put in the sweat and lay the stones. For this I feel deep appreciation to TIA. When asked if I’d join as a mentor, the answer was an enthusiastic “yes!”
As a mentor I feel uniquely suited to bolster this program from which I so benefited. Understanding its real world value, I can help invigorate the current students’ efforts and more effectively recruit new members. My start-up experience is less than most mentors’ but still relevant to young students’ ventures. By liaising between the two groups, I hope to help make the program more valuable for both. I understand what information the students want and what knowledge the mentors can provide, and every seminar is an opportunity to both learn and teach. I’m delighted to have the opportunity to give back to Colgate in a meaningful and reciprocal way so soon after graduation!
Mike Girard ’12 is the Director of Board Sports at G-Form in Providence, Rhode Island. Mike is an avid longboarder and is the founder and organizer of the largest longboarding event on the east coast. He graduated Magna Cum Laude from Colgate with a double major in Environmental Economics and French.