Alumnus Profile: Mike Dallas
Every connection, every interaction has the potential for something great. While some may understand networking as a function of cocktail parties and stiff business attire, it often takes place in the small, unassuming moments of life. Many Aquinas students have found this to indeed be the case, whether on campus or out in the world at large. 2006 AQ graduate and communication major, Mike Dallas has made his way into a new position with the Meijer State Games of Michigan.
“I grew up really just hanging out on campus!” Dallas said. His mom was a professor at Aquinas, while he attended middle school. “I used to do all the children’s programs, see all the trees, and really liked all that Grand Rapids had to offer,” he said. “I’m from Rockford, so I thought that Grand Rapids was really neat as the ‘big city.’ But when I was finishing up in high school as a swimmer, I decided to go to Calvin.” After spending two years at Calvin - one year on the swim team - he decided to transfer to Aquinas. It was a decision he never regretted.
“It was really an accepting atmosphere,” he said. “The classrooms were awesome, I really connected with my professors, and I did a successful three years there! I learned a lot about the effectiveness of communication in mass-media, and found some strategies on how to capitalize on your message. So everything I learned in the communication degree, I’ve been able to apply to my work with Bustin’ Boards.”
Dallas’ college experience was punctuated by a new, growing phenomenon - longboarding. “I started at Calvin,” he said, “and when I transferred to Aquinas, I was ready to go! I boarded to class every day, and I’d get two to three comments each class. It was really foundational. Aquinas was very accepting of this longboarding movement, which was very young at the time. Professors were always fascinated, joking about it. But that could have very much been the opposite. Just the fact that there was a very accepting atmosphere, where I was able to translate this to something of substance, where I could start making them, and then providing them for others. So Aquinas taught me to keep my mind on my goal, and not to give up!”
After graduation, Dallas eventually landed in New York, where he was introduced to Bustin’ Boards - a grassroots company that designs and builds longboards across the country. As one of their initial employees, Dallas was completely dedicated to their mission. It paid off over time, and he eventually bought a 25% share in the business, and became the second majority owner of the company.
Through this work in New York, Dallas saw the importance of networking in action. He met Joner Strauss, an ex-Olympian swimmer, who ran a sporting program in Miami. They shared a common interest in longboarding, as Strauss had founded the International Distance Skateboarding Association (IDSA).
“We started hosting a lot of different marathon races, push skateboarding races around the world,” Dallas said. “When I moved back to Michigan, Strauss connected me with some representatives from the West Michigan Sports Commission. The Meijer State Games of Michigan is sponsored by the commission, which includes all sorts of sports. I talked with them, they found out that Strauss was working with longboarding, and next thing you know - they wanted to have longboarding as part of the 2014 Summer State Games.”
Excited with this new possibility, Dallas was given a year to organize and present a plan for the event. His idea for a downhill race was readily accepted, and was admitted as part of the State Games. “They said, ‘what hill do you need?’” he said. “Because of the State Games of Michigan, we were able to get permits to the Lyons Street, Ransom Street, and Fountain Street, and we had a pretty sweet race!” Dallas hopes that, after a successful first year, longboarding continues as a growing part of the State Games.
Reflecting on his time with Aquinas, and his experience with the longboarding community, Dallas gave this advice to students still finding their way amidst the hustle of collegiate life. “I was always taught to find what you like,” he said, “to find others who are inspiring you, and reciprocate that in your community. I really think that’s the fast-track to success, in a way -finding a positive model and putting your own spin on it. Also, take advantage of your ability to create clubs early on! We made a club for longboarding, and looking back it really became our foundation. So, always be true to your roots.”