Alumshares: How to Benefit From Your University Beyond Your Degree

Universities offer more than just an education — they also serve as one of our greatest sources of innovation

I’ll never forget my first day of college. I arrived for my first class a half-hour early, maybe a little too eager to get started. Other students trickled in, but I didn’t see the professor yet. Even after the room filled up, it still looked as though our teacher hadn’t arrived. Then, someone I had pegged as a student stood in front of the class and began teaching.

Wait a minute, I thought, Who is this guy? He couldn’t have been a few years older than me. I was baffled.

The rest of the class was just as surprised as I was. We had no idea what a graduate assistant was before class began; and yet, most of my courses would be taught by graduate assistants throughout my four years as an undergrad.

Where were all the professors? And what were they doing that was more important than teaching?

They weren’t teaching undergrads who were just learning the fundamentals of their field. They weren’t grading papers or passing out midterms. Those professors — many of whom were preeminent leaders in their fields — were busy in their labs, completing experiments and preparing research for publication. And that’s exactly what they should’ve been doing.

It took me another 10 years to realize that there’s so much more to our universities than the degrees they issue.

While I worked toward my diploma, my professors were pushing the boundaries of technology, developing world-changing innovations. These professors, as well as their colleagues at other universities across the country, were coming up with ideas that have shaped the way we live our daily lives. These ideas have turned into products that have affected literally millions of lives — in some cases, billions.

At University of Florida, a sports drink formula turned into Gatorade. At Northwestern, a pharmaceutical became pregabalin, which you likely know as Lyrica. At Stanford, two PhD students kicked off a company that would eventually become Google. (Yes, that Google.)

University-led research has also given us:

  • More than 200 new medical treatments and 1,000 startup companies in 2016 alone
  • Insulin, penicillin, ultrasound, pap smears, the pacemaker, the seatbelt, PET/CT scanners, the meningitis vaccine
  • More than $591 billion in US GDP during the last 20 years, by way of technology transfer to the public and private sectors

These weren’t the first university innovations; they won’t be the last, either.

While I was in college, my tuition helped pay for the research and development happening at my school. Your tuition funded research at your alma mater, and current students are funding new innovations inside labs, incubators, and centers of research right now at universities across the country.

The thing is that this kind of research and innovation just doesn’t happen for research sake; universities are part of a bigger economic machine that powers the economy at large. Along with the development of novel technologies, universities are a macroeconomic force — and a powerful one at that. While your head is down studying, earning your degree, the institution issuing that degree is fulfilling major commercial, and even government, contracts.

The little-known truth in academia is that our tuition fees help experts fund research, much to the benefit of the university, its attendees, and society at large. We understand the value and purpose of universities as knowledge centers. But we grossly underestimate how commercially valuable their research programs are, too — if we even understand that they’re in place at all.

Universities create immense economic, scientific, and societal growth. What if we, as alumni, could also participate economically in these successes?

We should be able to. It’s a matter of investing in the technology of the future, investing in the value of our own degrees, and investing in our own financial futures. At Alumshares, we’ve built a platform for people like you and me to invest in our alma maters’ most promising innovations. By pairing former, current, and future classmates’ investments with the groundbreaking work of college professors, researchers, and entrepreneurs, we can power a revolution that will transform universities economically, politically, and socially.

Sign up now to find out when Alumshares becomes available at your university.