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Mike Rushmore shares insights on his successes and philanthropy at the Davis School of Business Speaker Series

Colorado Mesa University's Davis School of Business, with support from Vectra Bank, recently hosted the third installment of its celebrated Speaker Series, featuring Mike Rushmore, an accomplished entrepreneur with a remarkable career journey. This event aimed to enrich intellectual engagement and encourage lively dialogue between students, alumni, faculty and community business leaders, offering valuable insights into the world of business.

The Davis School of Business itself is a testament to the profound impact of philanthropy and the power of education. The school was established with a vision to enrich the lives of young people through philanthropic efforts, driven by Ron Davis. His belief in the intrinsic value of every individual and his commitment to equalizing educational opportunities for all have made a lasting impression on the educational landscape at CMU.

In 1998, Ron Davis founded the Guardian Scholars program at California State University. Initially, the program predominantly supported former foster youth, many of whom lacked the necessary support to further their education and it has since expanded to serve many deserving student scholars. The name "Guardian Scholars" was chosen as it symbolized the need for guardianship and support for these students in their educational journey. The program covers the cost of a student’s education and provides crucial mentorship opportunities. Since its inception, Guardian Scholars has graduated more than 700 students and expanded to over 70 colleges and universities. Several Guardian Scholars were in attendance at the speaker series event, and Rushmore made a point of recognizing them at the beginning of his talk.

Davis invited Mike Rushmore, the visionary behind LoanX, to present at CMU to share his personal journey which is a testament to the opportunities that come to those who seek them. Rushmore grew up in small-town America and comes from humble origins. Driven by the allure of financial security, he enrolled in college and decided to go into engineering after a visit to the counseling office where he inquired about which majors led to the highest-paying jobs. This choice seemed pragmatic at the time, but Rushmore quickly realized that engineering was not suited to his strengths. He decided to enroll in business school and after landing a banking associate position with the Bank of America, he began looking for opportunities to learn more and move up.

“Your boss never wants you to leave. Your boss will always want you to stay and keep doing what you’re doing. Your job is to leave and stop working for that same person. Maybe it’s 24 months, 36 months, but you have to continue to move because those are those inflection points that you’re looking for,” said Rushmore.

A theme throughout Rushmore’s talk was recognizing these inflection points or "on-ramps" in one's career. On-ramps are the opportunities that appear when one actively seeks them, and that allow you to continue learning, growing and taking on greater responsibilities and enjoying their associated rewards. Rushmore's advice to young graduates is to look for these on-ramps early in their careers, often in the form of intensive training programs that offer valuable hands-on experiences and open doors to greater opportunities.

CMU Professor of Economics, Nathan Perry, PhD, asked Rushmore to discuss how students in this generation who value inclusivity and kindness can still be competitive and win in the marketplace.

“Some people are really focused on family life or community life, and they can probably find a way to have a very satisfying career in the community that they’re in. They can make all the softball games and make all the parent-teacher conferences – and that’s one way to go through life and have a career. It’s perfectly fine and probably what most people do. I had a bit of a chip on my shoulder, and so I wanted to be more competitive. For me it was a constant battle to try and find that next on-ramp, compete more aggressively and try to be one of the smartest people in the room,” shared Rushmore.

Rushmore also shared insights into his leadership philosophy. He stressed the importance of transparency, honesty, ethical action and critical thinking. In a corporate environment he explained, it's possible to tip-toe around the truth and maintain one's job, but in the entrepreneurial world, the truth is your greatest ally.

"As an entrepreneur, you don't care about what suit you have on; all you care about is the truth because if you're wrong, you're out of business. So you have to be right. It’s an intense crucible of willingness to debate ideas and conflicting ideas, knowing that you may not have the right answer, but you have to have this combination of transparency and critical thought," said Rushmore.

Rushmore's life took an inspiring turn when he transitioned from his successful business career to a philanthropic one. He and his wife moved from London to Colorado, where they became actively involved in initiatives aimed at addressing critical community needs like food insecurity in Eagle County.

Rushmore shared a touching story about a young child in the community who repeatedly couldn't afford to pay for their school lunch and came home with an IOU reminder stamped on their hand. It was a moment that profoundly impacted Rushmore and the entrepreneurial part of him saw a problem that demanded a solution, and an opportunity to make a difference. Through the Eagle Valley Community Foundation, Rushmore and his wife have now helped to establish the infrastructure and secure funding for programs that provide food and healthcare to vulnerable individuals and families in the community.

During the event, Rushmore was asked about the future of education and the role of higher education in the context of business success. He emphasized the importance of lifelong learning and staying updated with industry trends and encouraged students to embrace the vast array of resources available, from formal education opportunities, like MBA programs to more informal opportunities like reading newspapers, magazines, enrolling in online courses and the pursuit of advanced industry-specific credentials. Rushmore still regularly reads Barron’s, The Wall Street Journal, The Economist and the Financial Times in addition to several email newsletters and podcasts.

In his closing remarks, Rushmore encouraged students not to settle but to be uncompromising in their pursuit of success. He reminded them that their current circumstances don't define their future, and with determination, learning, and hard work, they can achieve greatness.

Rushmore's journey from engineering to entrepreneurship, from the corporate world to philanthropy, exemplifies the endless possibilities that await those who actively seek on-ramps in their careers and embrace lifelong learning.

Following the event, CMU Foundation CEO Robin Brown shared her perspective on the impact of the speaker series and the philanthropy of Ron Davis and Vectra Bank.

"The speakers that Ron Davis and Vectra Bank bring to CMU carry an important message for future business leaders including the idea that success is a vehicle for giving back and offering pathways to a better future,” said Brown.

Rushmore's visit to Colorado Mesa University served as a remarkable opportunity for students to engage with an individual whose journey embodies the values of the Davis School of Business. Through his insights and experiences, students were inspired to stay curious and embrace lifelong learning, courageously seek on-ramps in their careers, and make a positive impact on the communities they love.

The Davis School of Business continues to enrich students' lives through initiatives like the Speaker Series, where successful individuals like Rushmore share their wisdom and contribute to the legacy of education and philanthropy that the school represents.

To learn more about the Davis School of Business or to apply to the MBA program at CMU, visit the Business Department’s Program Page.


Written by Giff Walters