Many times, members of our alumni network find themselves engaging with one another in a way that promotes personal and professional engagement. Glen Collins, c’98 , wasted no time after leaving KU to start his career as a marketing professional.
Now the marketing director and partner for Switch in Dallas, Collins sees the value of his KU experience weaving into his everyday work. Switch offers strategy, branding and digital assistance for a variety of companies: American Heart Association, Coyote Grills, Country Club Plaza, Maggiano’s Little Italy and Vim + Vigor to name a few.
We caught up with Collins to find out more about how he came to be a partner at Switch.
Tell us a little bit about your experience as a student at KU: things you were involved in, your favorite professor, your favorite traditions.
My experience at KU can be summed up in one word: transformative. The relationships, education, culture, the Midwest, Lawrence, the fraternity, live music and the cult religion that is KU basketball. It ran through my veins, and still does.
Growing up in Dallas, I knew very little about KU. Fortunately, the fraternity I joined, FIJI, on-ramped me quite well. My favorite experiences included directing Rock Chalk Revue, working at a brand new store called Hobbs on Mass Street, enjoying live music at Liberty Hall and The Bottleneck. But it’s all the filler in between that was the greatest—making friends from all over the country, reading the University Daily Kansan before class, and having awesome exchanges with professors and teaching assistants. I loved every minute of it. I had too much fun my sophomore year, and my GPA slipped so much my parents made me come home for a semester to straighten up. It was the best thing for me. I worked to save up enough money to go back, and it made me appreciate just how great it was. I never took KU for granted after that, and while I didn’t make the Dean’s List, my grades were significantly better until I graduated.
How did you meet your business partner, and how did that lead to your company?
I met my business partner, Kimi Dallman, through a friend I met at KU. That friend was Matt Dallman c’01, a great guy who was a few years younger than me in my fraternity. Matt and I originally bumped into one another at a KU Alumni Association watch party, then soon after that at an alumni happy hour. We were catching up on life and business, and he suggested that I connect with his wife, who was in a similar career as mine.
At the time, my company was a marketing consultancy supporting small to medium-sized businesses. Kimi’s company, originally Switch Creative, was a design firm focused on branding and web. A week or two later we all had lunch, and Kimi and I immediately connected and discovered the means to support each other’s businesses. We worked together for six or eight months on a number of successful projects before we started talking about merging our shops. A few months later, we merged and have grown more and more ever since. At the time of our merger, Switch had five total employees. Currently we have sixteen employees and have merged with another interactive development shop, Good Work, to grow our service offering even more.
We have had a blast running Switch, and KU is central to core of our business — both consciously and subconsciously. We’ve hosted multiple March Madness watch parties at the office, with the bell cow being Switch Sixteen (a pre-party/pep rally) that preceded KU’s sweet sixteen game in Dallas in 2013.
How do you stay connected to KU as an alumnus living in Dallas?
Fortunately I have several very close friends that I met at KU that live in the DFW area. The KU bond is real, and we often seek each other out. My best friend married a Jayhawk. One of my other best friends is on the alumni board and is very plugged in to the alumni events (watchers, happy hours, coffees). I attend as much as I can. Honestly, I would have to try to not brush up against KU friends past and present these days. And I like it that way. A lot.
What advice do you have for current KU students and graduates?
Never take it for granted. KU is a special place with a heartbeat all it’s own. It’s authentic and pure, and the relationships you develop there reflect that purity and authenticity.
For existing students: Enjoy all aspects of KU and Lawrence: slugging to class in the cold; the pageantry of game days; Day on the Hill; and the live music of Lawrence. Get a job if you can — I worked in restaurants, as an intramural referee and in a retail store. Those relationships are so meaningful to me as I was transforming from student to graduate and professional.
For graduates: Lean on the KU network. The trust tree is strong, and the reception is always warm and comfortable. Jayhawks look after Jayhawks — they really do. Seek out the community. You’re gonna watch KU hoops somewhere, so you might as well go to a watch party and do the Rock Chalk chant with strangers. Eventually some of those strangers will become relationships that are more than basketball buddies.
Tell us a little bit about the recent Dallas Network breakfast and what alumni can expect when they attend a KU event.
The Dallas Network breakfast is great. It’s very intimate and casual. You can expect to meet Jayhawks from a variety of different places, ages and careers. Often one or two Jayhawks are singled out to share their story, and specifically their business background. It’s a great time on a relational and business networking level. It will invariably lead to spin-off meetings, lunches, etc. Don’t miss it.
Roses are red,
crimson, not blue.
Matt Gowen loves his job,
and he went to KU.
Okay, let’s face it. Not all of us are gifted in poetry, romance or humor, myself included. But Lawrence native Matt Gowen used his KU journalism degree to land a pretty good gig writing for greeting card giant Hallmark Cards in Kansas City.
A former opinion editor for the University Daily Kansan and reporter for the Lawrence Journal-World and Kansas City Business Journal, Gowen, j’95, started to burn out on the grind of news journalism. In 2000, his career took a turn, thanks to the help of his Jayhawk connections and some thoughtful siblings who steered him toward Hallmark, where writing became fun again. And funny too.
We went behind the scenes at one of Kansas City’s most famous companies to learn how this Jayhawk journalist went from writing headlines to humor.
So if you care enough to send your valentine a card from Hallmark, don’t be surprised– it might have been penned by a Jayhawk.
Last year, we announced a brand-new benefit for members: a series of online networking events that allows Jayhawks around the world to connect and chat through an online platform. Members can log in from their computer, tablet or phone, no matter where they are—the office, the couch or the coffee shop—and meet fellow alumni in a speed-networking-style chat room.
Since the first event on Jan. 29, (Kansas Day!) which was a resounding success with more than 90 attendees, we’ve held 17 additional events: chats open to all members on the third Thursday of every month, as well as several smaller events tailored to specific degrees and industries, such as communications, business or healthcare. We even hosted an event designed for student members, which paired them with alumni during the chat.
We’re exploring even more ways to make this service valuable for our members, but in the meantime, take a look at the results of our efforts last year. If you’ve participated in an online networking event, your suggestions and feedback are valuable as we plan future chats. And if you haven’t participated, what are you waiting for? The next event takes place on Thursday, Feb. 18, at noon (CST), and registration is now open.
Recently I had the pleasure of speaking with KU students while serving on an alumni panel for the University Career Center. The topic turned to the proverbial “elevator pitch,” or how to sell yourself in 30 seconds or less and make a great first impression. Now, I was never any good at baseball, but as a marketing professional, I have learned a thing or two about pitches. This is what I shared with these future alumni.
“So, tell me about yourself.”
The opportunity to answer this question is everywhere, whether you meet someone on Wescoe Beach, the Wheel or in a professional networking setting. In each instance, you have the same opportunity to make a first impression. In an interview setting, however, the stakes are even higher. And so are the odds that this question will be asked. More than 90% of all interviews (probably) begin with this question, and while it might seem as if there is no “right” answer, consider the following.
A typical candidate will usually start by sharing where he’s from before reciting the progression of his career, in chronological order. Sound familiar? It should. This conversation is chronicling the candidate’s resume, which is typically what the interviewer is holding while asking the question! Where you’re from and what you’ve done is certainly relevant to the conversation, so that’s not a bad thing to share. But the goal of the interviewee–and the interviewer–is actually the same: to bring out the person behind the paper. To do this, you need to uncover the motivation behind your experience, and the passion that fuels your purpose. In other words, you need to answer “why.”
One student I met was majoring in math, but it was his passion for sports that motivated his ambition to apply his skills and interest in statistical analysis to understand how teams could improve. Another student hoped for a career in human resources, but it was her passion for working with people that peaked her interest in the field. They shared why they were interested in pursuing their chosen fields, and their experience backed it up. More importantly, I felt like I had gotten to know these students on a personal level.
Sharing what you love can feel like an act of courage, especially when you’re putting yourself out there in front of a prospective employer. But sometimes it takes bravery to just be yourself, and that’s the best advice I could ever offer.
“One thing we all have in common is our Jayhawk network,” Mark van Blaricum told students at the Student Alumni Association’s Networking Night event on October 20.
More than thirty members of SAA attended the popular event, modeled after “speed dating” events, to meet alumni, make connections and learn more about the business world.
Van Blaricum, b’99, l’02, g’08, gave the keynote address at the event, and reminded students that there are many different ways they can gain leadership skills. He has worked as an attorney in various healthcare settings since 2006, serving as the risk manager at a hospital, a compliance officer for a safety-net health insurance plan, as well as practicing law at a small healthcare firm. Van Blaricum is also a freelance ghostwriter for Inc.com and other outlets. He has a passion for health and wellness, and gives presentations on health-related topics to groups across Kansas City.
After the keynote, students had the opportunity to meet with alumni in small groups.
Other alumni who participated in the event include:
Kelli Calhoon, e’01, a senior Manager for Ramboll Environ US Corporation, who manages air quality and other environmental permitting and compliance projects for a variety of manufacturing industry clients, including power generation, oil & gas, cement, construction materials, and fertilizer manufacturing. She manages and prepares technical work and has extensive experience with business development and sales in the environmental services industry.
Mark Frutiger, b’01, an Account Manager II—Institutional Servicing for KeyBank, who manages pool loans in the Institutional Servicing group. He works with borrowers, lenders and other stakeholders to make sure loans are in compliance and operating within established guidelines. He is an advocate for the borrower and the lender.
Grant Kollman, c’10, associate director and investment sales specialist at Berkadia Real Estate Services who focuses on the acquisition, disposition, and advisement of multifamily assets throughout the Midwest.
Tom Larkin, a’09, vice president of development for Flint Hills Holdings Group, LLC, who oversees real estate development sourcing and project management for the state of Kansas and parts of the Kansas City Metro.
Mike Walrod, b’90, a consultant and business coach who helps business owners and executives gain clarity over what they want to accomplish. He collaborates with them on the critical next steps needed for success.
Jerry Younger, e’86, g’92, the deputy secretary and state transportation engineer who provides the executive day-to-day leadership for 2400 employees of KDOT. He is responsible for the effective and efficient management of a 10,000 mile state highway system as well as involvement in other transportation modes (bike/pedestrian, rail, transit, aviation). He also serves as the chief engineer for KDOT.
“As you climb the career ladder, you will be put in charge of people. Their success will depend on your success, ” explained Younger.
The second installment of the Kansas City Networking series took place Tuesday, October 13th, at Dimensional Innovations, an award-winning design, brand strategy and fabrication firm in Overland Park.
More than 40 Jayhawks, including a handful of current students, were treated to a tour of the company’s modern facility before the program. Mahesh Daas, dean of KU’s School of Architecture, Design and Planning, conducted a roundtable discussion with Dimensional Innovations’ CEO, Tucker Trotter, f ’97, and sports practice director, Justin Wood, c’93, who shared how their experiences led to their current roles and discussed the unusual structure of the company.
“It’s not a top-down leadership style,” explained Wood. “Our design teams, we’ve broken them into individual small pods. There’s not a single design director that oversees everybody, other than Tucker providing high-level leadership and guidance. The creative directors run very autonomously. We have these teams that get to build mini-businesses within themselves.”
Watch our short video below to hear more from the event. Click here to learn more about the first event in the Kansas City networking series, and stay tuned for news about future events.
Student Alumni Association members and sports management students attended Networking Night on March 31, 2015, to learn from Jayhawks working in the world of sports. Ten alumni came back to their alma mater to give advice to the students about how to gain leadership qualities while in college, how to separate yourself from others trying to break into the field and how to balance work life with family life. Read more here.
At last week’s Networking Night, hosted by the Student Alumni Association, students interested in the sport management field learned from ten alumni currently working in the industry.
After three rounds of networking in small groups with nearly 60 students, the panelists reconvened for a general Q&A session.
Is it hard to balance work with family life in sports?
Short answer: yes. The panelists agreed that working in the world of sports marketing and management is a lifestyle. “You have to organize your priorities and be willing to take breaks and time off in order to be successful,” Jennifer Allee said.
What’s the biggest piece of advice you have for us to separate ourselves from others? What are you looking for on paper or in person that helps us stand out?
Experience is important, but so is character and personality. Refine your communication style and make eye contact. Hand-written thank you notes are still important! People don’t write them enough anymore.
Anything you can do to show you’re a self-starter or that you take initiative helps—we want to know we can give you a task and you can go get it done.
What type of leadership qualities do we need to be successful, and how can a college student gain those qualities?
You need to be a team player; you’re only as good as the people around you. You need to be able to make a decision, especially now when things move so fast. Have an element of confidence—but don’t cross the line.
“In my office, it’s team leadership. Your success is my success; my success is your success,” said Allee. Flexibility and being able to adapt to the situation is extremely important.
Students can improve these skills through leadership positions in campus activities, internships, even group projects in class will help you prepare.
How do I go after an internship where I have no connections?
Start early! There’s nothing wrong with cold-calling someone you’re not connected to, as long as you do it the right way. Handwritten notes will stand out here, too. You can also volunteer for an event the company is holding to make connections.
Use LinkedIn to research the company and and your mutual connections. Chris Galle shared that when he was looking for an internship, he found that one of his LinkedIn connections was connected to someone at the company, and even though they weren’t close connections, that person was still able to make an introduction.
What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
“Getting to meet my clients in person after working so hard to make sales,” replied Beth Brittain. Allee concurred, adding that being able to touch the lives of the people she works for—the fans, student athletes— in an emotional way fulfills her.
Dr. Bernie Kish, lecturer and facilities director for sport management in the School of Education, thanked the panelists and students. “It makes me feel so good because there are so many people on this panel that I’ve had the privilege of teaching or working with in one capacity or another,” he said.
“If there is one nugget that you can take with you, it’s been a worthwhile evening,” adding that we are fortunate to be Jayhawks. He encouraged the students to use these Jayhawk connections, and to use the Student Alumni Association to help further alumni ties.
Thanks to our alumni panelists:
Jennifer Allee, d’04, g’06, assistant athletics director for marketing and fan experience, Kansas Athletics
Jason Booker, d’00, senior director of corporate partnerships and broadcast sales, Kansas City Royals
Student Alumni Association members and sports management students attended Networking Night on March 31, 2015, to learn from Jayhawks working in the world of sports. Ten alumni came back to their alma mater to give advice to the students about how to gain leadership qualities while in college, how to separate yourself from others trying to break into the field and how to balance work life with family life.
Jason Booker, senior director of corporate partnerships and broadcast sales for the Kansas City Royals, gave the keynote speech at the Student Alumni Association‘s Networking Night last Tuesday. He encouraged the students to find something they are passionate about. “If you truly find something you enjoy, you’re not going to ‘work’ every day,” he said, adding that who you network with professionally and who you associate with can make an impact down the road. “You never know when an opportunity will present itself.”
Case in point: Booker, d’00, was working at the University of South Carolina in 2007 when the Gamecocks hosted the KU men’s basketball team. He took the initiative to introduce himself to Lew Perkins, KU’s then-director of athletics, and discovered that Kansas Athletics had a position to fill. Two weeks later, Booker was on a plane back to Kansas to interview for a job he eventually landed.
Booker shared what he’s learned throughout his eighteen years in the sports marketing field, including these tips.
Eight Items to Consider in Your Career
1. You’ll be dealt obstacles; it’s all about how you handle them.
2. Don’t fall in line and be ordinary; be great for you. If you’re really passionate about something, figure out a way to do it.
3. Nothing will be given to you. If it has been, reality is around the corner. At some point, you won’t have someone there helping you.
4. Life is competitive, but compete for yourself, not the Joneses.
5. Do things the right way and it will pay off for you.
6. Knowledge is power. Stay up or get left behind.
7. There are two things you can control in your work life and personal life: work ethic and attitude.
8. Perception is reality. You are your own personal brand. If you aren’t willing to show it to your parents, it’s not worth posting on social media.
Booker’s current role with the Royals involves overseeing day-to-day functions of the corporate partnership sales and activation teams as well as the Royals Radio Network media sales and affiliate sales. He has served in the position since August, 2014.
Prior to joining the Royals, Booker served for seven years as the executive director and general manager for Jayhawk IMG Sports Marketing, where he oversaw the corporate partnership program and operation functions with the University of Kansas, including Jayhawk Radio and TV Networks, in-venue, digital, print sponsorships and endorsement rights for Kansas Athletics head coaches.
For more information about the Student Alumni Association, membership benefits and other upcoming events, visit www.kualumni.org/saa.
For our ongoing Proud Member Monday series, we are highlighting alumni volunteers who serve the University of Kansas across Kansas and around the world. Today we feature Scott Rehorn, c’86, a Life and Presidents Club Member who resides in Arizona. We asked Scott how his experience at KU has served him since leaving the Hill.
Tell us about your career path.
I interviewed at a KU career fair and was hired by a Kansas City real estate developer. I moved to Phoenix in 1988 because my wife and I wanted a change, and I got a job working as a leasing agent for a local real estate company. In 1994, I teamed up with my partner and started a new company, which also then evolved into partnering with Dan Lowe in Kansas City to create Red Development.
How did your KU experience help prepare you for your career?
When I attended KU, I had no money. I worked three jobs a day to put myself through school. I know that sounds like I walked barefoot in the snow, but I actually did! I worked at Saffee’s women’s clothing store, at the Chi Omega sorority as a waiter and as a bartender and bouncer at Bottoms Up and Gammon’s. I learned how to balance school, work and fun.
What is one fun fact about your company?
Though based in Phoenix, our company is led by Jayhawks and Cornhuskers.
What advice do you have for recent graduates in your industry?
Go back to school and get a law degree. Then, don’t become a lawyer. But a law degree is a great way to be prepared in whatever you decide to pursue.
Why should a prospective student consider becoming a Jayhawk?
There is no place like KU; it is just a special place. I can’t really define it, but if you’ve been there you know exactly what I’m saying.
Why are you a proud member of the KU Alumni Association?
KU is a great institution that I got to enjoy because someone else paid it forward. It’s our opportunity to do the same for the next generation. I’m also involved with the KU Medical Center in Kansas City, and it is equally impressive.
How do you stay connected to KU?
Through my friends and my connections with the medical center, and I try to stay updated through the newsletters that come to us.
Jayhawks who have stayed close to the nest in Lawrence gathered today at the Adams Alumni Center for the first in a series of networking luncheons.
A guest speaker panel included Wally Meyer, director of entrepreneurship programs for the School of Business; Cyndi Hermocillo-Legg, small business facilitator for the City of Lawrence; and Brady Pollington, c’02, vice president and secretary for the Economic Development Corporation of Lawrence and Douglas County.
The next networking luncheon for Lawrence-area Jayhawks will be held on Thursday, April 30. With a new volunteer board in place, the Lawrence network is excited to plan new events and programs for local alumni.