When I made the choice to attend the University of New Hampshire, I never imagined that my four years would be as rewarding and life changing as they have been thus far. I am surrounded by dedicated and passionate individuals who challenge me to be a better student and young professional; my horizons broaden more and more with each passing day. After two and a half years as a student, I am still amazed by the amount of opportunities that the Peter T. Paul College of Business and Economics fosters.
On campus I have the pleasure of being a Peer Advisor for the First-year Innovation and Research Experience (FIRE), the President of the Atkins Investment Group, and an Ambassador to Dean Merrill-Sands. My involvement in these organizations has allowed me, and continues to allow me, the opportunity to not only receive a stellar business education, but also to gain experience that reaches far beyond the classroom.
The Dean’s Ambassador Program unites 12 Paul College students from a variety of backgrounds and academic interests to act as liaisons between the student body and the Dean while working to enrich Paul College, as well as, carryout the college’s goals. The program has not only allowed me to meet like-minded and caring students, but it has also paired me with two mentors who I cherish, and overall has provided me with unparalleled experiences. I was fortunate enough to join Dean Deborah Merrill-Sands and her colleagues, Tamara Rury and Sean Stewart, as well as the other 11 Dean’s Ambassadors on a 4-day trip to San Francisco, CA to meet with Paul/WSBE Alumni who helped us explore the business ecosystem on the West Coast.
Before I begin sharing the amazing experiences and lessons learned, here is a small disclaimer:
It is incredibly difficult for me to share details about this trip without sounding as though everything about it was sunshine and rainbows, because for me, it really was! After all, we did see a rainbow every day that we were there!
While my primary educational focus is accounting and psychology, I have received a great deal of exposure to the equity markets and finance as a member of the Atkins Investment Group. Prior to the San Francisco trip, however, I had little to no exposure to Venture Capital and Angel Investing. The Dean’s Ambassadors were fortunate to visit Andy Pelletier at Silicon Valley Bank, and John Demaio at Bridge Bank. There we learned about the Venture Capital Ecosystem, the changes that this Ecosystem has undergone in previous years, and what it may endure in the future. My knowledge was later expanded when we met Rick Marini, co-founder of Dragonfly Partners, serial entrepreneur, and active angel investor in over 45 start-ups. It was truly remarkable for me to be given the tools to piece together the process that companies go through before the equity markets are even introduced. Understanding the underpinnings of a business and the entrepreneurial thought that goes into building the foundation of a company has allowed me to add additional depth to my research and has encouraged me to think about business facets that I had no previous knowledge of. I am so grateful that we have engaged alumni who shared their knowledge and time to allow us to experience this in person. Without them I may not have been exposed to this space.
Another area that I had almost no exposure to is the food and beverage industry; thanks to the generosity alumni Chris Fehrnstorm and Peter T. Paul, I was able to gain a understanding of the wine industry from farm to table. We were hosted at different wineries as a part of a Napa Valley tour. Throughout the day we were introduced to the wine production process, including the fermentation process in both stainless steel and oak barrels. We were also exposed to the marketing and sales side of the business. This experience made me appreciate the science behind winemaking and the expertise that the industry requires.
The knowledge expansion that the trip brought the Dean’s Ambassadors was equally matched with advice and life lessons:
- John DeMaio shared the importance of working towards a core competency in our careers. He emphasized that it is equally as important to align what you love to do and what you’re good at, with that core competency which will enable success. He told us that it is important to be vulnerable, ask questions, identify areas for growth, and to always, and I repeat always, wave your UNH flag.
- Jeff Moore at Google taught us to give more than we ever receive, and discussed the importance of building our network before we need it, so that it is there when we need it most.
- Rick Marini reminded us of the value of people and the importance of acknowledging that a company’s most important and treasured asset walks out the door at 5:00pm every night.
- Kristen Schultz Markworth at GoPro advised that we be humble and grateful in our careers; that it is ever important to understand the impact that we have on others.
I am excited to share this knowledge and advice with my peers, and I know that I will carry it with me as I finish my degree and start my professional career.
Beyond the knowledge gained, and the lessons learned, I will never forget the feeling that I had every day that I woke up in San Francisco. The culture made me feel as though not even the sky was the limit. I found myself energized (even while jet lagged), curious, and unwilling to stop learning. People don’t stop in California. They use their lunch breaks to bike 10+ miles, attend launch parties to celebrate innovative products on Tuesday nights, and if they work at Go-Pro, they might use their weekly 2 hour break to jump out of a plane! To put it simply, in my eyes, our Bay Area alumni are practically superheros!
I am incredibly grateful for everyone who made this trip possible, and am truly touched by the generosity of our alumni. To Dean Merrill-Sands, Peter T. Paul, Tamara Rury, Sean Stewart, and our esteemed alumni on the West Coast, thank you so very much for a once-in-a-lifetime experience!
About Alexys Gilcreast ’18:
Alexys Gilcreast, from Hudson, NH, majors in Business Administration with a concentration in Accounting and a minor in Psychology, and will graduate in 2018. At UNH, Alexys is the President of the Atkins Investment Group, a Peer Advisor for the FIRE Program, and a Dean’s Ambassador. During the summer of 2017 she will intern at Pricewaterhouse Coopers on their Transaction Services: Valuation team. Outside of the classroom she enjoys reading, hiking with her dog, spending time at Lake Winnipesaukee, and running half marathons. https://www.linkedin.com/in/alexysgilcreast