Earning degrees in international affairs and German, young alumnus is co-founder of a successful real-estate consulting firm
This is a not-atypical day in Alex Becker’s life: He launches a Catamaran from the warm white sand beaches of Tortola among the British Virgin Islands. He is first mate to a captain who is a retired CEO — someone he had just met on a trip to Cuba to stir diplomacy and economic growth between business leaders from both countries.
Becker, a 2006 International Affairs Program graduate from the University of Colorado Boulder, embodies a global-minded, entrepreneurial spirit. He says CU-Boulder opened introduced him to a host of new opportunities.
“But I never thought I would be doing anything like this,” he says in an email sent from aboard the ship.
CU-Boulder students “should seize the opportunity to go into the international world,” advises the alum, who double-majored in German. Whether it’s in business, politics, nonprofits, academics, social sciences or any field, studying, traveling and working abroad can “open up the world, and CU has an extremely strong international affairs program.”
Faculty and administrators say current students should listen to Becker’s advice. At 31, he is one of CU’s most unusual and accomplished graduates. He’s given back with his checkbook and much of his time, says Lauren White, a CU associate director of development.
“Alex has such a good heart,” she says.
The co-founder of a Denver-based commercial real-estate company, Real Estate Consultants of Colorado, Becker helps large real-estate investment groups and businesses make commercial real-estate acquisitions. He has committed to giving $10,000 during the next five years to CU-Boulder and its Global Grants Campaign, which helps current students afford to study abroad.
He serves on both the international affairs and the Alumni Association advisory boards. Other board members say Becker, who also holds a law degree and an MBA, inspires future grads by putting his world view to use beyond the classroom.
A New Perspective
“My experience at CU opened my eyes to a world of opportunities and raised the bar for my life goals,” says Becker, who earned his MBA from the prestigious Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. He worked in a law department in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia (and spent much of his free time as chauffeur to female colleagues, who were, by law, not allowed to drive.)
I want every international affairs student to be able to have real international exposure during their education at CU. I encourage CU alumni to support to this amazing cause.”
Becker’s “macro global outlook”, began during the fall of 2004, when he began his junior year at the University of Regensburg in Germany — America’s oldest German exchange program available to CU international-affairs students. While most programs overseas last only one semester, Regensburg remains an exception, he says, because applicants must speak German before going and will take a European entrance exam before taking any course at the university.
Becker’s passion for the language began with his father’s parents, who are both German; his grandmother to this day refuses to speak anything but German to her grandson,
Becker says with a laugh. “So when I dove into German, she was pleased.”Study abroad gives students a taste of real-world culture and language immersion that one can’t find on vacation, Becker says. For instance, German professors are not like those in Boulder:
“You go in, take notes, and they jolt out of the room because they don’t want to answer any questions or engage students.” In his first class, a study of art at the end of the 20th century, Becker and a peer from Boulder exchanged shocked glances after the first lecture.
“We didn’t know one word that our professor was saying.”
The challenges of life in the medieval city along the Danube River proved worthy, Becker says, and not only because the beer was “amazing” or that his host family was a lot of fun: “Having my host family pick me up for the first time to learn that they are hippies who drive a camper van complete with pots and pans hanging from the ceiling was one fun memory, and they were rocking out to ’80s Tina Turner on the radio.”
He skied in Zermatt, Switzerland, over Thanksgiving and attended the 450th anniversary of Trinity College Ball at Oxford University. “The ball was just as you would think, very regal and steeped in tradition with champagne and fireworks. A knight on a white horse greeted us as we entered.”
CU alumna Kristen Allen attended the ball and was on the same program.
“Alex is one of the most driven, thoughtful, generous, funny, joyful people I’ve ever met. And those qualities extend to the way he approaches friendship. Making friends with him was without a doubt the best part of that year in Regensburg. He’s someone who puts people at ease, and is just delightful to be around. We had such a great time exploring and joking around together,” she says.
At the end of their stay in Regensburg, she lost a bet to Becker and had to wear a traditional Bavarian Dirndl on the plane ride back to Colorado. “It was very uncomfortable.”
Another day, Becker was in Vatican City when he was approached by German TV reporters seeking comments on the pope, who had just died. “I was speaking German, and they thought I looked German.”
Beyond the adventures and lifelong friendships came a valuable perspective. “I gained a very macro-global outlook on life and in my business,” Becker says, “and this helps me today to reflect on a deeper level how I can do things better.”
For instance, Germans live in a very hierarchical and regimented society, but life is well balanced with work hours. “Everything shuts down after work and on Sundays,” he says. “Germans really protect their rest and their time spent with family.”
“I’m not saying one is better or worse,” he says, “just that I believe in the capitalist system and being regimented makes it harder to be innovative and become an entrepreneur. I would not have learned this difference without my study-abroad experience.”
Inspiring CU world travelers
Most students in CU’s International Affairs Program want to become diplomats, says program chair and history Professor Thomas Zeiler, but Becker is different, using his educational experience to build a business.
“I want to single him out as being a model student, the kind we want to attract to our program,” Zeiler says. And it’s not an easy program, requiring an extra third year of languages. “You have to be highly motivated.”
As a highly valued member of the program’s advisory board, Becker is helping to create an endowment for the Global Grants Campaign, Zeiler says. “Alex does a lot of work right now to get us outside corporate donors. He is so committed.”
To date, the Global Grants Program has given $1,000 individual grants to more than 60 students for study abroad, for programs in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America.
“I want every international affairs student to be able to have real international exposure during their education at CU,” Becker says. “I encourage CU alumni to support to this amazing cause.”
Julie Marshall (MA Jour’95) is the author of Making Burros Fly: Cleveland Amory, Animal Rescue Pioneer, and a former features writer/associate editor for the Daily Camera. She lives in Lafayette.