The UNC Bear Den

Posts tagged with 'alum interview'.

Alum Interview - National Health Investors CEO Justin Hutchens

Like many people, Justin Hutchens (BS-95) found his passion in college. In his case it was the healthcare industry—a part-time gig at a Greeley care facility ignited his interest in human rehabilitative services which led to internships and eventually his first post-college job.

19 years, 3 states, and 6 companies later he’s moved up quite a bit in the industry as the CEO of National Health Investors. In fact, he’s been featured regularly alongside business leaders like Mark Zuckerberg on Forbes’s lists of America’s most powerful young CEOs.

A Colorado native who gradually worked his way up the corporate ladder, Hutchens has a healthy skepticism about “secrets to success.” From his experience, success is gradual—the result of consistent effort, taking on whatever level of responsibility you’re afforded and, of course, finding a field that excites you. In many ways, that path began at UNC.

“College is a great opportunity to discover what you’re truly passionate about,” said Hutchens. “One of the things that was so exciting to me about student life at UNC was that if you had a cause you wanted to take action on you could always find people who would be willing to jump right in alongside you.”

One such experience occurred when his future wife, Tiffani (BA-95, MA-97), recruited him to get involved in her campus chapter of Best Buddies—an organization dedicated to outreach work with local people with disabilities. Combined with his internships in an intermediate care facility and a special education classroom, the skills he’d learned in his coursework began to take on a new significance.

“I started finding opportunities to execute what I was learning in school to help individuals and organizations realize their full potential,” Hutchens explained. “That’s when the field became really exciting to me and it’s remained a focus ever since.”

As CEO of NHI, Hutchens develops multi-million dollar investment partnerships with long-term healthcare facilities to help them expand their services for an ever-growing senior population. Though he no longer works directly with the people being served by long-term healthcare, he takes satisfaction in developing the number of quality resources available to them.

“I’ve found it very important to make sure we’re doing business with companies who are in this industry for the right reasons and have long track records of successful operations,” said Hutchens. “It makes strong business sense and at the end of the day we feel like we’ve helped good providers serve even more people.”

As for the factors that have allowed him to achieve such a high position so early in his career, Hutchens gives much of the credit to his family—Tiffani and their two sons—for allowing him the flexibility to move wherever the next big job opportunity required. For fellow Bears who’d like to follow a similar trajectory in their professional life, his advice is straightforward: never stop learning. 

“Your college education is a great foundation and ideally you’ll have many opportunities to keep building on it throughout your career,” said Hutchens.  “Lifelong learning is critical to staying competitive—both personally and in the industry as a whole—so keep taking those chances wherever you can get them.”

Many thanks to Mr. Hutchens for taking the time to share his expertise with us! 

To learn more about the range of programs offered by UNC’s College of Natural & Health Sciences and read amazing stories from current students, click here. If you’d like to explore opportunities to support further NHS student success, click here.

Alum Interview - Public Artist Armando Silva
Artist Armando Silva (BA-10) is constantly creating work in new and unexpected places—from staggering murals on your local street corner to original performance videos online. Over the past three years, Armando has made quite a mark on and around campus. He’s the mastermind behind the gigantic, multi-colored bear that stands watch over runners and weightlifters in UNC’s Campus Recreation Center.
“When I first came to UNC, I was actually a business major,” Armando said. “But it started to dawn on me that my passion lie elsewhere—I couldn’t stop sketching in my notebooks during class. Then I came across an art show on campus and it finally clicked that I had a lot to offer with my creative work.”
From then on, Armando focused on his Visual Arts degree and tailored his UNC experience to make the most of the opportunity.
“At UNC was I was able to talk to my professors about perspective and about art as a product—the design and the layout—the piece as a whole. That’s a great conversation to be able to have with people who have real-world experience.”
As he drew on his instructors’ expertise, he started to find a sense of empowerment and self-determination in the creative process.
“In art, it’s not like anybody is telling you what to paint or how to paint it, that comes from within. What good instructors do is help you refine the tools and techniques you need to execute your vision. Then it’s up to you to bring that drive, passion, and purpose you need to make it all happen.” Armando said.
During his senior year, Armando got his first opportunity to carry out his vision on a massive scale when he won a mural design competition held by a local business. Now, Armando’s artistic influence is evident throughout the region—he’s been commissioned to create public works in support of Colorado flood recovery and was recently named director of Greeley’s downtown beautification initiative, the Artist Alley Project.
“I love doing public work because it fulfills a need in a community,” Armando said. “It’s more than just a painting on a wall. As I’m creating the work, I get to engage with the people around me and hopefully provide an experience that makes them see things in a new way.”
Recently, Armando has found new outlets for his creativity: public speaking and creative collaborations with video artists.
“I’ve decided to take advantage of who I am—I’m a Hispanic male artist, first generation, bilingual. These are all factors that give me a context in which to give back to the community. I have something to share.”
“I always say three things when I’m speaking about my profession:  you’ve got to love what you do; you’ve got to put in the work; you’ve got to show up. That’s how you discover your passion.”
UNC gave Armando that space and time to find his passion and he works everyday to get better at it.
“As a student in the arts, UNC was the best experience I could’ve had,” he said. “It was very organic; it was conversations; it was life. And I’m still discovering where this path is leading me. Maybe that’s the beauty of it.”
Many thanks to Armando for taking the time to share his insights with us! If you’d like to see more of his work and keep tabs on his upcoming projects, Armando’s website and Instagram account are great sources of information and inspiration. 
If you’re an artist interested in collaborating with Armando on the Artist Alley Project, you can contact him directly at artmandosilva@yahoo.com for more information on the application process.

Would you like to help foster the next generation of incredible UNC artists? You can give in support of visual arts students and many other worthy causes here.
ZoomInfo
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Canon EOS REBEL T3i

ISO

1600

Aperture

f/3.5

Exposure

1/500th

Focal Length

27mm

Alum Interview - Public Artist Armando Silva

Artist Armando Silva (BA-10) is constantly creating work in new and unexpected places—from staggering murals on your local street corner to original performance videos online. Over the past three years, Armando has made quite a mark on and around campus. He’s the mastermind behind the gigantic, multi-colored bear that stands watch over runners and weightlifters in UNC’s Campus Recreation Center.

“When I first came to UNC, I was actually a business major,” Armando said. “But it started to dawn on me that my passion lie elsewhere—I couldn’t stop sketching in my notebooks during class. Then I came across an art show on campus and it finally clicked that I had a lot to offer with my creative work.”

From then on, Armando focused on his Visual Arts degree and tailored his UNC experience to make the most of the opportunity.

“At UNC was I was able to talk to my professors about perspective and about art as a product—the design and the layout—the piece as a whole. That’s a great conversation to be able to have with people who have real-world experience.”

As he drew on his instructors’ expertise, he started to find a sense of empowerment and self-determination in the creative process.

“In art, it’s not like anybody is telling you what to paint or how to paint it, that comes from within. What good instructors do is help you refine the tools and techniques you need to execute your vision. Then it’s up to you to bring that drive, passion, and purpose you need to make it all happen.” Armando said.

During his senior year, Armando got his first opportunity to carry out his vision on a massive scale when he won a mural design competition held by a local business. Now, Armando’s artistic influence is evident throughout the region—he’s been commissioned to create public works in support of Colorado flood recovery and was recently named director of Greeley’s downtown beautification initiative, the Artist Alley Project.

“I love doing public work because it fulfills a need in a community,” Armando said. “It’s more than just a painting on a wall. As I’m creating the work, I get to engage with the people around me and hopefully provide an experience that makes them see things in a new way.”

Recently, Armando has found new outlets for his creativity: public speaking and creative collaborations with video artists.

“I’ve decided to take advantage of who I am—I’m a Hispanic male artist, first generation, bilingual. These are all factors that give me a context in which to give back to the community. I have something to share.”

“I always say three things when I’m speaking about my profession:  you’ve got to love what you do; you’ve got to put in the work; you’ve got to show up. That’s how you discover your passion.”

UNC gave Armando that space and time to find his passion and he works everyday to get better at it.

“As a student in the arts, UNC was the best experience I could’ve had,” he said. “It was very organic; it was conversations; it was life. And I’m still discovering where this path is leading me. Maybe that’s the beauty of it.”

Many thanks to Armando for taking the time to share his insights with us! If you’d like to see more of his work and keep tabs on his upcoming projects, Armando’s website and Instagram account are great sources of information and inspiration. 

If you’re an artist interested in collaborating with Armando on the Artist Alley Project, you can contact him directly at artmandosilva@yahoo.com for more information on the application process.

Would you like to help foster the next generation of incredible UNC artists? You can give in support of visual arts students and many other worthy causes here.

Alum Interview - Entrepreneur and Educator Dave King
Like most entrepreneurial success stories, Triple Crown Sports was born out of a simple idea. Founders Dave (BA-81, MA-82) and Annette (Adams) King (BA-81) wanted to develop a high-quality sporting event that would be more than just a competition. It would be an unforgettable experience for everyone involved. 
This concept proved to be an incredibly popular one—what began with a single slow-pitch softball tournament in Meeker, Colo., has grown over the past 32 years into a portfolio of more than 300 events across the country with airplay on major networks like CBS Sports and ESPN. 
This fall, as Triple Crown prepares for the next big step in its development, King will be bringing his decades of CEO experience back to UNC’s campus as the instructor of a brand new course on the fundamentals of family-run business.
“I’m a development person,” said King. “It’s the coach in me. If I can equip someone with fundamental principles and repetitive behavior that will advance them toward their goals, I know I’m doing something worthwhile.”
That affinity for personal development is what drew King to UNC in 1977 to pursue his studies in recreation management. “I was a student-athlete and several schools were trying to recruit me for track, but only UNC offered the caliber of academic program I was looking for,” recalled King.
As part of his UNC curriculum, King secured a student internship with Grand Junction Parks & Recreation, a position that presented him with his first opportunity to oversee a national-level sports tournament. “That experience triggered several thought processes for me,” said King. “Two months later we were putting on our first Triple Crown event.”
Though Triple Crown has expanded far beyond its mom and pop origins, a supportive, distinctly familial ethos continues to characterize its day-to-day operations. Observant visitors may notice a map of the United States on his office wall—it has pins marking the location of every scholarship athlete he’s coached and advised through the college recruitment process over the past decade-and-a-half. There are more than 170 of them.
But family dynamics within the business world are not without their challenges, as King is quick to point out. Best practices for navigating the complex relationships that define a family business have been a continuous object of study for him since completing Harvard’s Executive Program in 2009.
“At least 70 percent of all businesses in the world are family-owned, passed from one generation to the next,” said King. “Without a strategic plan to maintain their structure during times of transition, it’s very rare that those businesses will simply luck into a smooth succession. That’s where you get power struggles and infighting—’Game of Thrones’ can be a surprisingly close point of comparison.”
Returning to UNC to share his years of expertise in family business with Monfort College of Business students is a crucial feature of King’s own succession plan—shifting his focus to the higher calling of education as he prepares to pass Triple Crown’s torch on to the next generation.
“I’ve been immersed in the psychological and strategic elements of sustainable family business for so long that I really feel I have some value to add to the curriculum,” explained King. “Experience also gives you the benefit of being able to help others learn from your past mistakes. The saying that’s served me best is, ‘If you weren’t humbled today, you will be tomorrow—so it’s best just to remain humble.’” 
Many thanks to Mr. King for taking the time to share his insights with us!
Are you looking to expand your professional skill set? In addition to Mr. King’s new course, the Monfort College of Business is launching its MBA program this fall. It’s an exciting new program designed to suit the busy schedules of working professionals. You can get more info here. 
ZoomInfo
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Canon EOS REBEL T3i

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400

Aperture

f/3.5

Exposure

1/30th

Focal Length

18mm

Alum Interview - Entrepreneur and Educator Dave King

Like most entrepreneurial success stories, Triple Crown Sports was born out of a simple idea. Founders Dave (BA-81, MA-82) and Annette (Adams) King (BA-81) wanted to develop a high-quality sporting event that would be more than just a competition. It would be an unforgettable experience for everyone involved. 

This concept proved to be an incredibly popular one—what began with a single slow-pitch softball tournament in Meeker, Colo., has grown over the past 32 years into a portfolio of more than 300 events across the country with airplay on major networks like CBS Sports and ESPN. 

This fall, as Triple Crown prepares for the next big step in its development, King will be bringing his decades of CEO experience back to UNC’s campus as the instructor of a brand new course on the fundamentals of family-run business.

“I’m a development person,” said King. “It’s the coach in me. If I can equip someone with fundamental principles and repetitive behavior that will advance them toward their goals, I know I’m doing something worthwhile.”

That affinity for personal development is what drew King to UNC in 1977 to pursue his studies in recreation management. “I was a student-athlete and several schools were trying to recruit me for track, but only UNC offered the caliber of academic program I was looking for,” recalled King.

As part of his UNC curriculum, King secured a student internship with Grand Junction Parks & Recreation, a position that presented him with his first opportunity to oversee a national-level sports tournament. “That experience triggered several thought processes for me,” said King. “Two months later we were putting on our first Triple Crown event.”

Though Triple Crown has expanded far beyond its mom and pop origins, a supportive, distinctly familial ethos continues to characterize its day-to-day operations. Observant visitors may notice a map of the United States on his office wall—it has pins marking the location of every scholarship athlete he’s coached and advised through the college recruitment process over the past decade-and-a-half. There are more than 170 of them.

But family dynamics within the business world are not without their challenges, as King is quick to point out. Best practices for navigating the complex relationships that define a family business have been a continuous object of study for him since completing Harvard’s Executive Program in 2009.

“At least 70 percent of all businesses in the world are family-owned, passed from one generation to the next,” said King. “Without a strategic plan to maintain their structure during times of transition, it’s very rare that those businesses will simply luck into a smooth succession. That’s where you get power struggles and infighting—’Game of Thrones’ can be a surprisingly close point of comparison.”

Returning to UNC to share his years of expertise in family business with Monfort College of Business students is a crucial feature of King’s own succession plan—shifting his focus to the higher calling of education as he prepares to pass Triple Crown’s torch on to the next generation.

“I’ve been immersed in the psychological and strategic elements of sustainable family business for so long that I really feel I have some value to add to the curriculum,” explained King. “Experience also gives you the benefit of being able to help others learn from your past mistakes. The saying that’s served me best is, ‘If you weren’t humbled today, you will be tomorrow—so it’s best just to remain humble.’” 

Many thanks to Mr. King for taking the time to share his insights with us!

Are you looking to expand your professional skill set? In addition to Mr. King’s new course, the Monfort College of Business is launching its MBA program this fall. It’s an exciting new program designed to suit the busy schedules of working professionals. You can get more info here

Alum Interview - Award-Winning Educator Jessica Cooney

Since second grade, Jessica Cooney (BA-99) never had any doubt that she wanted to be a teacher. But when the Colorado Department of Education named her their 2014 Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Educator of the Year, she was genuinely surprised—and honored.

To be recognized for doing what I love, for fulfilling my passion, is truly humbling,” said Cooney, a driving force behind Greeley District 6’s Newcomer Program which helps equip non-native English speakers with the skills they need to succeed in the public school system.

Cooney manages a classroom where 13 different languages are spoken. Her students come from all over the world—Burma, Kenya, Mexico—and from many different backgrounds. 

“The first thing I work on with each new group is consistency: establishing routines and clear expectations,” said Cooney of her award-winning teaching practice. “My students may be approaching their education from very different perspectives and levels of experience, but they always know what to expect when they walk through my door.”

Cooney’s path toward creating this unique learning environment began as an undergraduate at UNC. Drawn in by the reputation of the School of Teacher Education, she attained her ESL endorsement and discovered a deep passion for language learning. “The experience of acquiring a new language as I earned my Spanish minor made me excited about the prospect of teaching language to other people,” Cooney said. 

For Cooney, culturally and linguistically diverse education means empowering her students to teach others about their native language and cultural identity. To that end she founded El Teatro, a student-led theater troupe that’s toured across the country acting out stories from performers’ real-life experiences as first-generation Americans. 

In 2011, El Teatro’s activities caught the attention of Professor of Hispanic Studies and Director of Engagement Deborah Romero who began collaborating with Cooney to turn her students’ narratives into a series of self-published books. “The students write and edit their own stories and, with the help of UNC undergrads, learn how to create layouts and edit photos to essentially produce the book themselves,” explained Cooney. 

Having built up so many unique programs and earned the recognition of her professional peers across the state, Cooney says it’s the positive feedback from students and their families that keeps her excited about coming to work every day.

“Sometimes it comes from the kid you’d least expect to hear it from, someone you had to push really hard,” said Cooney. “But then I’ll receive a message from them saying, ‘Thank you for believing in me enough to hold me to those high standards. Because of you I learned English. Because of you I went to college.’ That’s when I know I’m succeeding in my work.”

Many thanks to Jessica for taking the time to share her insights with us! If you’d like to see samples from her students’ self-published stories, click here.

Speaking of culturally and linguistically diverse learning experiences, some incredible study abroad photos are being shared in our #BearsGo photo gallery on Facebook. Go here to see Bears around the world expressing their UNC pride and submit your own photo today. 

Photo courtesy of Greeley Unexpected.

Alum Interview - Author & Activist Dan Benavidez
UNC alumnus Dan Benavidez (BS-77) has dedicated his life to making a difference.
The author, mentor, and civil rights activist remains committed to the ideals of education and equal rights that have guided him through the past several decades. Last year he published a book about his journey.
For All the Wrong Reasons enlightens readers about all of the motivations that have driven Dan to affect change in education, politics, and his local community.
After serving in the Army, Dan returned to his family in Las Cruces, N.M., and seeing few educational opportunities, took a job as a meat cutter. With his cousin’s help, Dan eventually landed a job at White Sands Missile Range and enrolled at New Mexico State University under the GI bill. He didn’t finish his degree there, but did find an opportunity that would lead him to Colorado and then UNC—a job for the Federal Aviation Administration at the Longmont air traffic control center.
Dan enrolled at UNC and pursued a business degree, which he completed in 1977 as evidenced by the class ring he still wears today.
"I cherish it," he said. "I want everyone to know I graduated from UNC."
Although he’s written a book, served in local government, and run a successful business, Dan considers his education to be among his greatest achievements.
"It was so important to me to go to UNC because there was no way a Latino on the path I was on was supposed to graduate from college. And I made it." 
Civil rights became a real focus for Dan when he, his pregnant wife and young daughter moved to Longmont, Colo., in the early 1960s.
"We were told we couldn’t live on the west side of town because no people of color lived there," he said. "I couldn’t believe it at first. And then I decided I wasn’t going to take that for an answer."
Dan was politically active in his new community, running for public office on several occasions. In the mid-1980s, racial tensions in Longmont came to a head when two unarmed Latino boys were shot by a rookie police officer. Local leaders called upon Dan to help the community grapple with this tragedy and he responded by organizing a peaceful march on city hall that garnered national attention.
"Being a college graduate gave me credentials," he said. "I became a symbol and was very visible in the civil rights movement."
He was invited to lunches with U.S. and state politicians and finally elected to city council. All of this propelled Dan into the spotlight, which he ultimately realized was not where he needed to be.
"I don’t care if I make money selling my book," Dan said.  "I’m satisfied that it’s enlightened readers to the cost a lot of folks have had to pay to get here. I’m happy to be living with my people, helping others get access to the same benefits I got from my education at UNC."
Dan’s goal is to affect change for the good and motivate others to do the same.
"As people of color, we have a special incentive to be involved with our community and that begins at the local level," Dan said. "Don’t worry about changing the world, you can kick butt in your own little corner."
Many thanks to Mr. Benavidez for taking the time to share his insights with us!
Speaking of people who excel at what they do, the UNCAA has launched a new series of events to connect inspiring alumni from diverse personal and professional backgrounds with current UNC students: Success Looks Like Me. See photos from our first Success panel here and volunteer to be a speaker at one of our future events by emailing us at alumni@unco.edu.
Success Looks Like Me Schedule9/18/14 - Science and Math11/6/14 - Working with People2/5/15 - Creativity4/15/15 - Health Professions
Photo courtesy of Matthew Jonas/Longmont Times-Call
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Nikon D4

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200

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Alum Interview - Author & Activist Dan Benavidez

UNC alumnus Dan Benavidez (BS-77) has dedicated his life to making a difference.

The author, mentor, and civil rights activist remains committed to the ideals of education and equal rights that have guided him through the past several decades. Last year he published a book about his journey.

For All the Wrong Reasons enlightens readers about all of the motivations that have driven Dan to affect change in education, politics, and his local community.

After serving in the Army, Dan returned to his family in Las Cruces, N.M., and seeing few educational opportunities, took a job as a meat cutter. With his cousin’s help, Dan eventually landed a job at White Sands Missile Range and enrolled at New Mexico State University under the GI bill. He didn’t finish his degree there, but did find an opportunity that would lead him to Colorado and then UNC—a job for the Federal Aviation Administration at the Longmont air traffic control center.

Dan enrolled at UNC and pursued a business degree, which he completed in 1977 as evidenced by the class ring he still wears today.

"I cherish it," he said. "I want everyone to know I graduated from UNC."

Although he’s written a book, served in local government, and run a successful business, Dan considers his education to be among his greatest achievements.

"It was so important to me to go to UNC because there was no way a Latino on the path I was on was supposed to graduate from college. And I made it." 

Civil rights became a real focus for Dan when he, his pregnant wife and young daughter moved to Longmont, Colo., in the early 1960s.

"We were told we couldn’t live on the west side of town because no people of color lived there," he said. "I couldn’t believe it at first. And then I decided I wasn’t going to take that for an answer."

Dan was politically active in his new community, running for public office on several occasions. In the mid-1980s, racial tensions in Longmont came to a head when two unarmed Latino boys were shot by a rookie police officer. Local leaders called upon Dan to help the community grapple with this tragedy and he responded by organizing a peaceful march on city hall that garnered national attention.

"Being a college graduate gave me credentials," he said. "I became a symbol and was very visible in the civil rights movement."

He was invited to lunches with U.S. and state politicians and finally elected to city council. All of this propelled Dan into the spotlight, which he ultimately realized was not where he needed to be.

"I don’t care if I make money selling my book," Dan said.  "I’m satisfied that it’s enlightened readers to the cost a lot of folks have had to pay to get here. I’m happy to be living with my people, helping others get access to the same benefits I got from my education at UNC."

Dan’s goal is to affect change for the good and motivate others to do the same.

"As people of color, we have a special incentive to be involved with our community and that begins at the local level," Dan said. "Don’t worry about changing the world, you can kick butt in your own little corner."

Many thanks to Mr. Benavidez for taking the time to share his insights with us!

Speaking of people who excel at what they do, the UNCAA has launched a new series of events to connect inspiring alumni from diverse personal and professional backgrounds with current UNC students: Success Looks Like Me. See photos from our first Success panel here and volunteer to be a speaker at one of our future events by emailing us at alumni@unco.edu.

Success Looks Like Me Schedule
9/18/14 - Science and Math
11/6/14 - Working with People
2/5/15 - Creativity
4/15/15 - Health Professions

Photo courtesy of Matthew Jonas/Longmont Times-Call

Alum Interview - Agent of Change, Amal Gumbs      

Amal Gumbs (BS-12) doesn’t just strive for success, he wants to lead.  Having attained his degree in business administration at UNC, Gumbs entered the real estate industry and quickly won the respect and admiration of his professional peers. In 2013, he was honored for both his business acumen and his exceptional service to the community when the Loveland-Berthoud Association of Realtors named him their Rookie of the Year.

Now a Broker Associate with C3 Real Estate Solutions, he traces his community-oriented approach to success back to his days as a lineman on the UNC football team, “As a student-athlete, the responsibility of representing something bigger than myself became the foundation of my work ethic,” said Gumbs. “That philosophy has served me very well as I’ve started to establish myself professionally.”

An active volunteer, he is one of the founding members of UNC’s Young Alumni Council (YAC)—a dedicated group of recent grads who have made it their mission to create opportunities for alumni to put their UNC pride into action.

One of the programs that’s gotten Gumbs truly energized is the launch of the Alumni Association’s 10 Under 10 Awards. These awards, which are open for nominations through 7/1, were designed by the YAC to bring recognition to graduates of the past decade who have established themselves as outstanding representatives of UNC through service or professional achievement.

As Vice-Chair of Social Outreach and Networking Committee, Gumbs is excited to show the next generation of Bears what they can accomplish with their degrees. “The 10 Under 10 Awards are an opportunity for us to bring rising young professionals back to campus as an example to current students. It gives them a chance to see alumni from around the country who have really hit the ground running,” Gumbs explained. “Rather than waiting until the end of their careers to honor them, decades after graduation, we’re identifying people who represent the advancements UNC is making today.”

Looking forward, Gumbs expects the Young Alumni Council to keep pursuing new opportunities to connect passionate graduates back to the campus community. 

“Since I began my real estate career, I’ve consistently connected to clients through our shared passion for UNC,” said Gumbs. “They’re proud of their experiences and they want to get involved. The creation of the YAC and the 10 Under 10 Awards represents a huge step forward in our university’s culture, one that has the potential to harness that incredible level of enthusiasm.”

Many thanks to Mr. Gumbs for taking the time to share his insights with us!

Are you close to a young alum like Amal who is doing great things? Take a few minutes to nominate them for our 10 Under 10 AwardsDo you know a classmate, professor, or other UNC supporter whose work is changing lives? Recognize their accomplishments by submitting their name for our Honored Alumni Awards. This could be your last chance: nominations for both of these honors close on 7/1!

Alumna Interview - All-Star Golfer Carleigh Silvers
Starting June 17, alumna and former UNC women’s golfer Carleigh Silvers (BA-13) will compete in the U.S. Women’s Open, the LPGA’s longest running major championship tournament. Silvers will be one of 156 players from around the world to compete in the 2014 Open which will take place on the Pinehurst Resort & Country Club’s famous No. 2 Course.
Silvers first arrived on UNC’s campus from Martinsville, Ind., fresh out of her junior year in high school. Though technically accompanying her older sister Chelsea (BA-12) on a recruiting trip, Silvers was immediately sold on the strong team dynamic she observed between the players and coaching staff.
“I fell in love with UNC immediately,” Silvers said. “I told my sister, ‘I don’t know what you’re doing, but I’m coming here!’ Fortunately, she made the same decision.”
Silvers’s skills continued to improve while competing at UNC. She is the only women’s golfer in our university’s history to be named to the Big Sky Conference First Team twice. In her junior year, she helped lead UNC’s team to victory in the Big Sky Conference Championship.
“Every year, no matter how we performed in the fall and spring seasons, our team always did well at conference,” said Silvers. “Our win was a true team effort—everybody’s score counted. All of us on the team were so close and my sister and I got to bring her final season to a close on a major high note.”
As a student, Silvers flourished in UNC’s communication studies program, taking great pride in the practical abilities she gained studying under professors Melissa Donley and David Palmer.
“Communication is a lifelong skill. It’s something that’s going to be demanded of you in any profession, something I feel very comfortable doing because of my experiences in those classes,” Silvers said.
According to Silvers, her decision to pursue professional golfing after graduation was inspired by encouragement she received from her coaches and the steady improvement she experienced while competing for UNC.
“I didn’t start playing golf under the assumption that I would be able to to compete at this level. I just kept focusing on the games in front of me,” Silvers said. “But as soon as I finished conference my senior year, I knew I wasn’t done. I knew I wanted to go to the next level.”
Silvers qualified for the Open by taking second place in the sectional qualifier at Ranier Golf & Country Club in Seattle, Wash., after shooting rounds of 75-75. She describes the victory as hard won, requiring several long putts to maintain par on the final nine holes.
“Qualifying for the Open didn’t feel real, but at the same time it almost seemed like it was meant to be. If I had missed any of those shots, I could’ve been knocked out entirely.”
In preparation for the Open, Silvers has continued to compete in regional tournaments to keep her game sharp and prepare herself for the challenges of Pinehurst’s infamously complex greens.
“I’m working hard in advance so I can go in there feeling comfortable with my game, have as much fun as possible, and just take it all in,” said Silvers. “It’s not every day you get the opportunity to play at this level.”
Many thanks to Carleigh for taking the time to share her story with us! We wish her the best of luck as she takes on this next big step in her career.
If you’re a golf enthusiast in the Denver metro area, be sure to join us for UNC’s 40th Annual Roland C. Waterman Scholarship Golf Tournament on Monday, June 23. Not only will you get to spend a lovely day on the links with your fellow Bears, you’ll be supporting student success in the Monfort College of Business. You can sign up to play or sponsor the event here, but hurry! Registration is currently set to close on Friday, June 13.
ZoomInfo
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Canon EOS-1D Mark III

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100

Aperture

f/2.8

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161mm

Alumna Interview - All-Star Golfer Carleigh Silvers

Starting June 17, alumna and former UNC women’s golfer Carleigh Silvers (BA-13) will compete in the U.S. Women’s Open, the LPGA’s longest running major championship tournament. Silvers will be one of 156 players from around the world to compete in the 2014 Open which will take place on the Pinehurst Resort & Country Club’s famous No. 2 Course.

Silvers first arrived on UNC’s campus from Martinsville, Ind., fresh out of her junior year in high school. Though technically accompanying her older sister Chelsea (BA-12) on a recruiting trip, Silvers was immediately sold on the strong team dynamic she observed between the players and coaching staff.

“I fell in love with UNC immediately,” Silvers said. “I told my sister, ‘I don’t know what you’re doing, but I’m coming here!’ Fortunately, she made the same decision.”

Silvers’s skills continued to improve while competing at UNC. She is the only women’s golfer in our university’s history to be named to the Big Sky Conference First Team twice. In her junior year, she helped lead UNC’s team to victory in the Big Sky Conference Championship.

“Every year, no matter how we performed in the fall and spring seasons, our team always did well at conference,” said Silvers. “Our win was a true team effort—everybody’s score counted. All of us on the team were so close and my sister and I got to bring her final season to a close on a major high note.”

As a student, Silvers flourished in UNC’s communication studies program, taking great pride in the practical abilities she gained studying under professors Melissa Donley and David Palmer.

“Communication is a lifelong skill. It’s something that’s going to be demanded of you in any profession, something I feel very comfortable doing because of my experiences in those classes,” Silvers said.

According to Silvers, her decision to pursue professional golfing after graduation was inspired by encouragement she received from her coaches and the steady improvement she experienced while competing for UNC.

“I didn’t start playing golf under the assumption that I would be able to to compete at this level. I just kept focusing on the games in front of me,” Silvers said. “But as soon as I finished conference my senior year, I knew I wasn’t done. I knew I wanted to go to the next level.”

Silvers qualified for the Open by taking second place in the sectional qualifier at Ranier Golf & Country Club in Seattle, Wash., after shooting rounds of 75-75. She describes the victory as hard won, requiring several long putts to maintain par on the final nine holes.

“Qualifying for the Open didn’t feel real, but at the same time it almost seemed like it was meant to be. If I had missed any of those shots, I could’ve been knocked out entirely.”

In preparation for the Open, Silvers has continued to compete in regional tournaments to keep her game sharp and prepare herself for the challenges of Pinehurst’s infamously complex greens.

“I’m working hard in advance so I can go in there feeling comfortable with my game, have as much fun as possible, and just take it all in,” said Silvers. “It’s not every day you get the opportunity to play at this level.”

Many thanks to Carleigh for taking the time to share her story with us! We wish her the best of luck as she takes on this next big step in her career.

If you’re a golf enthusiast in the Denver metro area, be sure to join us for UNC’s 40th Annual Roland C. Waterman Scholarship Golf Tournament on Monday, June 23. Not only will you get to spend a lovely day on the links with your fellow Bears, you’ll be supporting student success in the Monfort College of Business. You can sign up to play or sponsor the event here, but hurry! Registration is currently set to close on Friday, June 13.

Alumna Update – Kayla Pierce
Back in December, we introduced you to Kayla Pierce (BA-14) a student entering her final semester, thrilled at the prospect of finally attaining her degree in Environmental and Sustainability Studies. But her mind wasn’t always on her school work.
She was thinking about her dad. Six months earlier he had been diagnosed with late-stage cancer.  His dream was to see Kayla graduate, but given his prognosis they weren’t certain he would be able to attend her commencement ceremony in May.
He did!
Kayla is happy to report that her father is doing well. He proudly attended her graduation a few weeks ago.
“He’s actually quite a bit better than expected,” Kayla said. “In August, when he was first diagnosed, we weren’t really sure he’d make it to Christmas. He’s still getting around and remodeling parts of the house in his spare time. My dad is stubborn and he isn’t going to let cancer or anything else bring him down easily.”
They say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, which seems a fitting description in this case—Kayla inherited her father’s tenacity. Last August, when her father was diagnosed, Kayla’s vision of the future was clouded with doubts and fear—her father was forced to quit his job.
"With my family’s loss of income, I didn’t think I would be able to afford my final semester," she said. The first person in her family to attend college, Kayla wondered if she would have to drop out.
That’s when the UNC community stepped in. A family friend told the Office of Financial Aid about Kayla’s situation and a special need-based grant was awarded to Kayla through the UNC Scholarship Fund. Thanks to the generous contributions of UNC supporters, funding is available to students like Kayla who find themselves in unlikely situations affecting their entire family.
Because of gifts from alumni, parents and friends like you, Kayla crossed the commencement stage and her father was able to fulfill his dream of seeing her graduate.
"I never really knew what happened to donor money before," Kayla said. "I just assumed it went into the school itself, for renovations and the like. Knowing it actually goes to help students makes me really happy. Knowing people out there care about someone they don’t even know is inspiring beyond words.”
We agree. And our alumni and friends prove to us time and time again how much they care through their generous gifts, volunteering, and more. Best of luck, Kayla, to you and your entire family!
If you’d like to make a gift in support of student scholarships or any of UNC’s other worthy funds, the UNC Foundation website has all the tools you need to make a donation online, by mail, or over the phone.
Here at the Alumni Association, we want all of our graduates to benefit from the knowledge and support of the Bear community. Membership is free and there are all kinds of ways to stay connected and get involved. There’s even a bundle of free perks like lifetime career services and discounts on interstate moving costs. Take advantage of your alumni benefits today!
-By Amy Dressel-Martin
ZoomInfo
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Nikon D7000

ISO

400

Aperture

f/7.1

Exposure

1/250th

Focal Length

34mm

Alumna Update – Kayla Pierce

Back in December, we introduced you to Kayla Pierce (BA-14) a student entering her final semester, thrilled at the prospect of finally attaining her degree in Environmental and Sustainability Studies. But her mind wasn’t always on her school work.

She was thinking about her dad. Six months earlier he had been diagnosed with late-stage cancer.  His dream was to see Kayla graduate, but given his prognosis they weren’t certain he would be able to attend her commencement ceremony in May.

He did!

Kayla is happy to report that her father is doing well. He proudly attended her graduation a few weeks ago.

He’s actually quite a bit better than expected,” Kayla said. “In August, when he was first diagnosed, we weren’t really sure he’d make it to Christmas. He’s still getting around and remodeling parts of the house in his spare time. My dad is stubborn and he isn’t going to let cancer or anything else bring him down easily.”

They say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, which seems a fitting description in this case—Kayla inherited her father’s tenacity. Last August, when her father was diagnosed, Kayla’s vision of the future was clouded with doubts and fear—her father was forced to quit his job.

"With my family’s loss of income, I didn’t think I would be able to afford my final semester," she said. The first person in her family to attend college, Kayla wondered if she would have to drop out.

That’s when the UNC community stepped in. A family friend told the Office of Financial Aid about Kayla’s situation and a special need-based grant was awarded to Kayla through the UNC Scholarship Fund. Thanks to the generous contributions of UNC supporters, funding is available to students like Kayla who find themselves in unlikely situations affecting their entire family.

Because of gifts from alumni, parents and friends like you, Kayla crossed the commencement stage and her father was able to fulfill his dream of seeing her graduate.

"I never really knew what happened to donor money before," Kayla said. "I just assumed it went into the school itself, for renovations and the like. Knowing it actually goes to help students makes me really happy. Knowing people out there care about someone they don’t even know is inspiring beyond words.”

We agree. And our alumni and friends prove to us time and time again how much they care through their generous gifts, volunteering, and more. Best of luck, Kayla, to you and your entire family!

If you’d like to make a gift in support of student scholarships or any of UNC’s other worthy funds, the UNC Foundation website has all the tools you need to make a donation online, by mail, or over the phone.

Here at the Alumni Association, we want all of our graduates to benefit from the knowledge and support of the Bear community. Membership is free and there are all kinds of ways to stay connected and get involved. There’s even a bundle of free perks like lifetime career services and discounts on interstate moving costs. Take advantage of your alumni benefits today!

-By Amy Dressel-Martin

Alumna Interview - Restaurateur Delores Tronco

Her Work
Even before opening her new restaurant, Work & Class, in Denver’s Ballpark neighborhood four months ago, alumna Delores Tronco (BA-05) had made a big name for herself in the metro dining scene.

Tronco dove headfirst into Denver’s culinary world in 2010, managing and directing human resources at such stylish eateries as Steuben’s and Euclid Hall, all while organizing a highly successful series of food truck-themed celebrations known as The Justice League of Street Food. Now, after three years of hard-earned managerial experience, planning, market research, and fundraising, Tronco’s dream of owning and operating her own restaurant has been realized. And it’s been met with waves of public support and stellar reviews from the press. Work & Class was named Denver’s “Hottest Restaurant” by Zagat ,and Tronco was recently honored by the Denver Post as one of their Top Thinkers of 2013.

A Greeley native, Tronco traces her love affair with the restaurant industry back to waitressing jobs at UNC-area hotspots like Roma’s. Not only did these positions help her pay her way through college, she found the work immersive, fully engaging both her creative and logical faculties.

“I discovered at a young age that joy of just totally throwing yourself into the tasks that make up a restaurant workday,” Tronco said. “Now, as an owner, I get to crunch numbers, develop strategies, lead my staff, and by dinnertime I’m on my feet engaging with my customers out on the floor. That, for me, is a perfect day.”

Her UNC
Tronco, took a similarly well-rounded approach to her education, pursuing an English major on the recommendation of longtime faculty mentor Dr. Marcus Embry.

“He told me, ‘Delores, this degree isn’t going to lock you into one particular profession, it’s going to teach you how to think critically and express your ideas clearly. With those skills, you can sell your talents in any field.’ How could I argue with that?” Tronco said. Despite the rigorous course load it entailed, Tronco also pursued a minor in business administration through MCB. “I always used to joke that I took calculus and creative writing back-to-back, but the practical skills I took away from those courses have been invaluable to me as a business owner,” Tronco said.

Her Reality
After graduating cum laude from UNC and completing a prestigious non-profit management fellowship through the El Pomar Foundation, Tronco found work in a number of high-profile public relations positions. But in spite of her success, she found herself staying up late most nights, researching the restaurant industry and longing to return. 

“I came to the realization that nobody but me had to wake up every day and live my life,” Tronco said. “So I decided to give it a shot. I lost all my benefits, took a big pay cut, and started my work life over again in restaurant management. I never dreamed I’d be in a position to open my own place four years later.”

And yet, with the help of a seasoned team of restaurant professionals including co-owners Tony Maciag and Dana “Loca” Rodriguez, Tronco has accomplished just that. Its down-to-earth approach to sophisticated dining (motto: “A square meal, a stiff drink, and a fair price.”) has continued to set Work & Class apart from its high-concept, high-cost peers in the metro area. For Tronco, this isn’t just an expression of her belief that good food should be affordable. The restaurant’s winning philosophy was borne out by the scrupulous market research she performed in its earliest planning stages, an attention to detail she recommends to all aspiring entrepreneurs.

“Ask all the hard questions when you’re formulating your business plan,” Tronco said. “If research suggests your current strategy isn’t viable, you need to rework it until the project is something you can believe in wholeheartedly. As an entrepreneur, that is your responsibility to everyone you approach for support: a sincere belief in your business and total dedication to its success.”

Her Inspiration
“I feel privileged to create the space that people live their lives in,” said Tronco. “There are so many reasons why people come to restaurants. I’ll never forget the moment when this lovely woman, a mother whose family I had been serving at Roma’s nearly every week, confided in me that dining out had been their way of coping with the painful process of her chemotherapy treatments.

‘And today is the first day my hair is long enough for me to get a haircut. So tonight, we’ve invited friends to come out and celebrate with us.’

Having the opportunity to play a role in significant moments like that—that’s why I know for certain that the restaurant business is the only thing I’d ever want to do.”

Many thanks to Delores for sharing these insights with us! If you want to get a sneak peek into Work & Class and make yourself really, really hungry, be sure to check out Zagat’s gallery of their "Must-Try Dishes."

Do you share Delores’s entrepreneurial spirit? UNC BizHub, our university’s new small business incubator, offers a free lecture series and direct mentoring opportunities that will allow you to draw on the expertise of successful alumni and other local industry experts. Connect with active Bears in the business world today!

Already established your career but want to expand your skill set? The Monfort College of Business is preparing to launch its new MBA program in fall of ‘14. This exciting new program is designed to suit the busy schedules of working professionals. Get more info here

Photo courtesy of Adam Larkey and denver.eater.com. The Work & Class team from left to right: Executive Chef and Managing Partner Dana “Loca” Rodriguez, Co-Owner and UNC alumna Delores Tronco, Co-Owner Tony Maciag. 

Alum Interview: International Aid Worker Matthew Kennedy

With a double major in Economics and International Studies, and minors in Chinese, Asian Studies and Spanish, Matthew Kennedy (BA-11), was well prepared for an international career. Today, he’s thrilled to have landed in the Peace Corps, serving as a health volunteer in the small village of Mahasoabe, Madagascar where he trains local community health workers on issues such as sanitation, nutrition, malarial care, and HIV prevention.

Matthew recently visited campus and spoke about how his studies at UNC and abroad put him on target to achieve his professional goals. His presentation was coordinated by the Department of Modern Languages and sponsored by the Center for International EducationCareer Services and the Alumni Association. In conjunction with his visit, Matthew took the time to reflect on his career and on how UNC helped him prepare for it.

What drew you to pursue your studies at UNC?

As a graduate of Northridge High School in Greeley, I initially thought I’d have to move far away from home in order to truly experience the world. But it turned out attending college at UNC, so close to where I grew up, gave me the opportunity to expand my horizons in all kinds of ways. UNC’s Center for International Education offers a variety of study abroad opportunities including an exchange program that allows students to study at other schools in the United States and abroad for the same tuition one would pay at UNC. Through the CIE, I was able to study in Spain, Taiwan, and China. UNC turned out to be a great place for me. I had great teachers, made many new international friends, and—thanks to the scholarships I received—graduated with very little debt.

Were there organizations and instructors at UNC who were particularly influential in setting you on this professional path?

A variety of great language courses and study abroad experiences I had early on motivated me to get involved with UNC’s International Ambassadors Club, an organization geared toward helping international students feel more at home in their new surroundings. My first mentoring assignment was with a Taiwanese student and as the semester went on, I met other Taiwanese students and eventually got involved with various cultural groups at UNC including the Taiwanese Student Association and the Chinese Language and Culture Club. As I got more and more deeply involved, I decided to take a Chinese class so I could communicate better with my new friends. All of this ultimately put me on path toward pursuing a Chinese minor with an eye toward living and working in Asia—a decision that’s changed my life.

I also had an amazing instructor in Dr. Michelle Low. Not only was she a great Chinese professor, she worked tirelessly with me as an advisor to ensure that I could complete a double-major in Economics, and International Studies within a five year period all while studying abroad on multiple occasions. She truly embodies UNC’s commitment to student success.

After graduation, how did you use the language (and other) skills you acquired at UNC to succeed as a health volunteer with the Peace Corps?

I learned from my study abroad experiences at UNC that the key to learning a new language is to just jump in and keep trying to speak it. At first you can only communicate simple thoughts at a very basic level which can be frustrating and a little scary, but eventually persistence always pays off.

When I got dropped off at my site in Madagascar after only two months of training and language classes, I was alone. No other volunteers were assigned to this site. It was hard just buying the essential items I needed for everyday life. You have to really keep at it and not give up. At first, I worked with local health care professionals giving simple presentations on good nutrition and hygiene. I learned pictures are worth a 1,000 words and used lots of posters and props in my presentations. After about six months I began to feel more comfortable with my language skills and I’m at a point now where I am beginning to work with some local leaders on a project to enhance sanitation by creating a system of latrines. 

What were some of the biggest challenges and rewards of your work with the Peace Corps?

The true foundation of Malagasy culture as I’ve experienced it is personal relationships. Professionally, this means balancing your mission to educate others on public health issues and influence their actions with an obligation to be respectful of their perspective and individual dignity. Even the most practical-seeming projects have that very real emotional component you have to navigate. The connections you naturally make as part of your work are extremely meaningful. When a particular family asks me to spend the holidays with them because “I helped them a lot,” I know that they really mean it.

While I may not change the world during my two years of service, I know that I did change the lives of a few individuals. Personally, one of the biggest rewards I have gotten from Peace Corps has been discovering what my strengths and weaknesses are. I have defined my life’s path and discovered what my main priorities are. I feel more confident than ever in my ability to help people achieve their goals, even when they’re not quite sure how to get there. 

Are you interested in language, culture and international travel? Visit UNC’s Center for International Education. There are literally hundreds of opportunities to get involved and to TRAVEL! Through student exchanges, visiting scholars, cross-cultural events, intensive English programs, and more, the center works to enrich the education of all UNC students by providing an enhanced awareness of our interconnected world. Be sure to visit the Department of Modern Languages homepage for details on all of UNC’s linguistic course offerings.

Are you close to an accomplished, recent alum of UNC like Matthew who deserves some special recognition?  The Young Alumni Council is currently accepting nominations for its brand new awards program - 10 Under 10! Follow the link to submit the name of your favorite go-getter, mobilizer, or game-changer.

Do you know a classmate, professor, or other UNC supporter whose work is changing lives? The Alumni Association is also seeking nominations for its longest running, most prestigious distinction, the Honored Alumni Awards. For specifics on eligibility and the nomination process, please visit the Honored Alumni homepage here.