By Steve Seepersaud
After graduating from Binghamton University, Mitch Gordon ’00 could’ve worked for a Big Four accounting firm in Manhattan. He had an offer in hand; it would’ve been a sure thing. At the same time, he was intrigued by the thought of teaching for a year in Taiwan.
Though it was scary to consider turning the offer down to go someplace new, it was more frightening to think about being trapped in an office. Gordon says his experience teaching English and learning Chinese in Taiwan helped him become a serial entrepreneur in the education and travel arenas.
“If I hadn’t spent a year abroad working hard, making mistakes and learning another language, I’m not sure I ever would’ve become an entrepreneur,” Gordon said. “It gave me a well of confidence I still draw from today. If everyone tried living in another culture, we'd have a world where we don’t want to build walls.”
Gordon’s current venture is Verto Education, which gives students an opportunity to spend a year abroad very early in their college experience. Following their first semester or year, students can matriculate to a Verto partner college — Binghamton University will soon join the list of partners — and still be on a path to graduate within four years.
“When Mitch first talked to me about recruiting the initial Verto cohort, I was immediately impressed by his conviction that engaging the world beyond our borders is a life-changing experience,” said Donald Loewen, Binghamton's vice provost for undergraduate education and enrollment management. “He has found a way to help students do that at the very start of their college experience and I think they will bring a very different perspective to campus. Not only will it shape the rest of their undergraduate education in important ways, but it will also enrich classroom discussions across the curriculum.”
Verto students take a full course load, along with taking part in service-learning opportunities, hikes and other activities that connect them to local communities in Latin America, Southeast Asia or the South Pacific. Gordon says the students arrive at college ready and able to meaningfully contribute to the campus community. They can also approach their education being more open to innovation and risk-taking.
“I majored in accounting because it's what my friends were doing,” Gordon said. “It wasn’t what I wanted to do, although it has provided me a very good foundation. I remember being scared of the real world, so I make sure to share with graduating college seniors that it's fine if you don’t know what you’re doing next. Try a number of different things.”
Verto has a growing partner list that also includes the University of Oregon, Bucknell University and James Madison University. Gordon wants that list to grow as he chases a long-term goal that he knows is aiming very high: to have the largest incoming college first-year class in the country.
“[I want Verto] to have a positive impact on higher education in this country and the world,” Gordon said. “In the short term, our goal is to positively impact each of our students. We want to help create engaged, critically thinking global citizens who have a positive impact on this world.”
November is National Entrepreneurship Month! Have you started a venture of your own? Want to get your brand in front of other alumni? Submit your information to the Binghamton Startup List, a portal of businesses and organizations formed by entrepreneurs including at least one Binghamton University graduate.