Alumni Column: Get Involved! A Cautionary Tale from an Alumnus



If you are a senior you can stop reading this. Go back to doing things that seniors do, but don’t waste your time reading this.

A junior? Probably too late for you too, with just over two semesters left – read on if you like, but your time may be better spent studying.

This article is really targeted towards freshmen (oops, sorry, I mean “first-years” – old habits die hard) and sophomores. You still have time.

For the last several years I have had the privilege of coming back up to Hamilton and speaking to seniors at Real World. Real World is a great program designed to help ease seniors into their working lives after Colgate, and invariably I get asked what advice I would give to them to help them better prepare.

The answer is simple: get involved while you are at Colgate.

Unfortunately, giving this advice to second semester seniors is a waste of my time and theirs. I’ve always wished I could get in front of first-years and sopho­mores to preach my simple message: Get involved. Now.

What do I mean by getting involved? Basically doing anything outside of the normal classroom environment. Athletics, student activities, Res Life, volunteering, student government, outdoor recreation, Greek Life, etc.

Being involved in extracurricular activi­ties will give you life skills that will serve you for the rest of your life. Don’t get me wrong, classroom studies are a very impor­tant part of your Colgate experience, but don’t let anyone tell you that it should be the only part.

Getting involved in something that in­terests you now will give you time to learn the ropes and move up in the organization. Your goal should be to get into a manage­ment or leadership position with the group to help it grow and prosper.

To illustrate my point, let me tell you a little about my Colgate experience.

I did a lot of things during my time at Colgate – my GPA would probably say too many things!

But if I had to pick one thing that im­pacted my life after Colgate the most it would be CUTV.

The story is long and outside the scope of this article, but I ended up restarting Colgate’s TV station and running it for three great years.

Many hours were spent in the small studio in the student union and that time impacted my post-Colgate life greatly. By sheer luck I ended up in the television in­dustry once I graduated, the primary ben­efit I gained from CUTV wasn’t knowledge of the television business, but of working with people.

Being involved in an all-volunteer student organization gives you some great lessons on working with and managing people.

I can’t count the number of critical mis­takes I made trying to lead people while running the station. Fortunately I made these mistakes in college and not in the “real world.”

While I’m sure we didn’t produce the best shows we could, and I know for a fact I upset several “employees,” the lessons learned at CUTV have served me a lifetime.

I entered the working world years ahead of other people my age simply because I had already been in a management role. Critical mistakes that could have cost me real money, customers or employees were averted since I had already made those mistakes in a safe situation.

I also learned the importance of being able to make decisions and living with the various consequences of those deci­sions. Fighting for budget dollars and slim resources is another great skill that I learned at CUTV while battling for pre­cious student activity dollars (I still re­member trying to explain why we needed video tape…).

While not every extracurricular ac­tivity will give you direct management experience, they will all broaden your horizons and make you better prepared and well-rounded.

Additionally, having experience like this on your résumé will help you land a job. In the absence of significant real work ex­perience, which few of you will have when you graduate, the extracurricular activities you participate in at Colgate will make you more attractive to corporate recruiters. Having those experiences will also make the interview process better since you can relate your real life experiences.

I certainly am not advocating for every­one to work for CUTV, but rather to find your own path at Colgate that broadens your horizons and gives you a skill set that will serve you well once you graduate.

Your time at Colgate is limited, and you need to take advantage of every minute of it.

Hopefully the first-years and sopho­mores listen to my advice better than the seniors who – after being told not to! – are probably still reading this, and find their path at Colgate which lets them broaden their horizons and learn lessons that will help them for the rest of their lives