A hands-on experience

Graduating senior reflects on busy but worthwhile college experience


Photo by Submitted

Story by Katy Macek, Currents Editor

School isn’t for everyone. Sometimes chasing dreams doesn’t require a college degree.

That was Nick Anderson’s thought when he stepped onto the UW-Eau Claire campus his freshman year. He wanted to follow his musical passion, join a band and become a rock star.

His parents, college graduates themselves, struck a deal with him.

“If I went for one year, then I could drop out and go to music,” he said. “But I loved college so much that I was like I’m going to stay and get my degree. I realized how important it was and how much I loved the education.”

Now just a few months from graduation, Anderson, a business major with an emphasis in entrepreneurship, still has dreams to be a rock star, but has a better understanding of the business aspect behind music and has given himself opportunities to use the education he received.

A pocketful of sunshine

After taking an introduction to entrepreneurship class, Anderson said he was inspired by a TED Talk video he watched about thinking more optimistically. Shortly after this, he had a thought he wanted to put into action.

“It’d be cool if there was some sort of program,” he said. “Like a workout program, for your mind.”

 And so he began working on a book: a guided journal that would lead its readers to happiness.

The idea of the journal was to get positive thoughts flowing, either through optimistic thoughts or drawing funny pictures.

The book/journal, “Sunshine 29,” was published in February 2014.

“Sunshine being happiness and 29 being the amount of days that it takes to get there,” he said.

Justin Gardner, a management and marketing professor, taught Anderson’s introduction to entrepreneurship class, and said Anderson was unique in classes because he was always engaged in classroom discussion and volunteered his own experiences.

While he couldn’t say for sure, Gardner said he thought the tools Anderson has learned from his business major are going to help him make the most out of his skills and follow through with his ideas.

“Nick is extremely positive and energetic,” he said. “He is also someone who balances his time well. He is engaged in classes and involved in campus initiatives, pursues his own business ideas and makes time for his music.”

Learning from mistakes

It hasn’t all been uphill, though. Anderson said he has had several ideas that haven’t gone how he planned.

“I realize now that some of the ideas I pursued were not ideas that needed pursuing, but I wouldn’t have realized that if I didn’t do them,” he said.

While he said he doesn’t regret anything, he does realize he is busier than most of his peers. He said he believes this has affected his college experience.

There have been many weekends he’s been on tour with his band, and he has less money to spend on entertainment and nights out, but he said he sees it as an investment into his future career.

With everything going on, he said there have been times he’s felt busy, but making a schedule and sticking to it has really helped.

“I’ve definitely been gone a lot of weekends and spent a lot of time that I could have been studying working on other stuff,” he said. “At the same time the entrepreneurial endeavors that I’ve done have really helped with my studies as well.”

And if none of these entrepreneur ideas work out, Anderson can always fall back on his original plan, his passion for music.

Rock star status

Since the formation of Granite Rose in 2011, he said band members have changed and the music style has altered, but it is still the biggest part of his life.

“The band is a lot different now, but I like the direction we’re going a lot,” he said. “The new music we have is definitely more of the kind of music that I like, which is good.”

Granite Rose consists of Anderson on lead vocals, Galen Keily on lead guitar, Trevor Peck on percussion and Jeff Durow Jr. on bass.

In addition to a mini-tour they are doing this week, Anderson said they are going into the studio in April to record an 8-song album, which is where he will put his entrepreneurial skills to work.

“I really hate the way albums are put out now because no one ever wants to buy a disk, which is fine,” he said. “But I think that if you do buy a disk it should be an experience to have that disk.”

To combat this, Anderson said he has thought of ways to make Granite Rose’s next album more than just a CD, including taking a lesson from a pop star.

“I think Taylor Swift did it really well, actually,” he said. “When you open it you first get the CD and then the pictures of her drop out, and there’s just so much stuff for you to look at.”

Throughout the process, Anderson has been keeping a journal of band practices, backstage conversations and his thoughts on these. He said he hopes to include sections of these in each album they release.

Where it began

Mary Anderson, Nick’s mother, said she wasn’t surprised at all when her son decided to stay in college and pursue a business major because all his life she’s seen him dealing with business.

When he was younger, she said he asked his father to buy a pack of Yu-Gi-Oh cards, not to play but to sell. He would pay his father back for the pack of cards and save the rest for himself. Once, he sold a card for $80.

However, she said she knew he was always into music. She thought Eau Claire would be a good fit for him because he could put his entrepreneurial skills into a business major and still follow his musical passion.

“My husband and I have never thought that he couldn’t be a rockstar, we’ve always encouraged him to do that,” she said. “If he really wants to do it, he certainly can. I’ve never told him to have a plan B.”