Springboard Fellows leap through Denver
The yearlong Springboard Fellowship program culminated with a three-day networking trip to Colorado's capital.
On a chilly February morning, Fort Lewis College students, staff, and administration embarked on a much-anticipated event: the Springboard Fellow’s annual trip to Denver.
The Springboard Fellowship is a one-year program for ambitious, career-driven students who want to jumpstart their post-college careers. Launched in September 2022, the program is a collaboration between FLC and Colorado Mesa University. The inaugural class of Fellows—35 students from both institutions—were hand-selected and given funding from the Wend Collective and a private foundation.
“My role is to think about how to help youth and young adults thrive,” said Charles Dukes, the educational strategist at Wend. “These students have the skills but need to learn to develop a network. There’s more to it than that, though. We want to put humans at the center [of networking] and teach them how to foster quality relationships.”
During the Fellowship, students participated in nearly 150 hours of workshops, trips, and events designed to support personal and professional development. The Denver trip allowed students to put their new skills to work through networking events, informational interviews, a legislative breakfast, and a city tour.
“I think everyone has been looking forward to this trip for a long time,” said Alana Romans, FLC’s director of strategic initiatives, at the welcome dinner later that evening. “This program provides opportunities for students to gain the social capital and knowledge to advance their careers. We coordinate networking events, skill-building workshops, and informational interviews with industry leaders.”
Romans added that the most crucial part of the Fellowship is the opportunity for one-on-one mentorships. The Fellows meet with local mentors to strengthen students’ networks and provide insider knowledge of their industries.
The trip to Denver was the hallmark event of the academic year, a bustling three days of travel across the city. On the second day, the Fellows traveled to the Colorado State Capitol, joined by FLC President Tom Stritikus and CMU President John Marshall.
“FLC and CMU have a great deal in common,” Stritikus said. “When [CMU] President Marshall and I discussed the program and possible collaboration, we were excited about doing something on the Western Slope highlighting what great talent our students bring.”
“We were looking for a way to take the time to identify opportunities for our students,” Marshall said. “These Fellows see members of the Colorado State Legislature and industry leaders in action. I think they’ll walk away from this trip thinking, ‘I could do that.’”
The Fellows visited the Colorado Chamber of Commerce, the CSU Spur campus, and a joint alumni networking event on the second night. Fellows and alumni closed out the night with tickets to the Colorado Avalanche game.
“Networking is a funny thing,” said Alden Butzke an FLC Fellow (Economics, ‘23). “It makes something so natural, like a conversation, into something forced. At least, that’s what I thought. In Denver, I shifted my idea of networking from this very transactional process into a vehicle for sharing stories. Because of that, I followed up on a financial analysis opportunity from Lockheed Martin, which I'm considering now.”
On the trip's final day, the Fellows were granted early access to Nordstrom Rack, where they shopped for professional attire they could use for their informational interviews during the trip and in their future careers.
“I think the best part of the program was seeing other career-driven students,” Butzke said. “We’ve created a support system of ambitious people constantly pushing to get interviews, jobs, and opportunities that will take us to the next level.”
In addition to providing financial literacy, public speaking, mentorship, and professional development resources, each Fellow receives a $5,000 Springboard Award upon completing the program. These funds are designed to offset expenses associated with starting a new career. With that investment and robust support system, the Fellows can emerge from the program ready to achieve their full potential.
“I am in awe of our inaugural cohort of Fellows. Every student demonstrated an unparalleled work ethic, strong core values, and an unwavering commitment to being the best version of themselves,” Romans said. “Watching our Fellows challenge themselves was so rewarding. I have no doubt they will all accomplish big things after graduation.”