CU Boulder alumna Sharron Land Gegenheimer endows scholarship to help students study abroad and connect with the world
For Sharron Land Gegenheimer (Econ’83), living and studying abroad was life-changing—and now she wants other students at the University of Colorado Boulder to have the same kinds of experiences.
Growing up in a small town in Oregon, though, this wasn’t something Gegenheimer thought possible. Instead, her family was in the lumber business and introduced her to the workings of stocks at a young age.
“I have been managing my own stocks since I was 10 years old. I became more and more interested primarily because my parents wouldn't allow me to cash a dividend check. So I had to log everything by hand in my stock ledger,” says Gegenheimer.
However, she became an emancipated minor at 16 and, less than a year later, packed her bags and moved to Germany.
“I ended up living in Viersen, close to the Netherlands border, and I just loved it! After coming home from Germany, I had the travel bug.”
Gegenheimer’s desire to step outside her comfort zone and try new things led her to the University of Colorado Boulder, where she majored in economics.
“Boulder was such a beautiful campus, and I wanted to go to university away from my hometown. I wanted to experience something new.”
She never gave up on the opportunity to travel abroad, though, and ultimately established a brand new exchange program as a student herself.
“They didn’t have a foreign exchange program in Tübingen, so I pitched to the university that I would help them establish one,” said Gegenheimer, adding:
“I went over, and the German government ended up giving me a stipend to study. I interviewed a lot of professors, lived in a dorm with other German students, and I loved it.”
Spending one year in Germany reinforced Gegenheimer’s passion.
“It totally influenced my career. I knew I wanted to do international sales and marketing. I couldn’t have imagined having a domestic base career.”
After graduation, Gegenheimer worked with a small consulting company with clients in Somalia and Kenya. Soon after, she continued to move up in the international sales arena.
“I went to a company called Super Flight, which was a sporting goods manufacturer. There, I worked myself up to international sales manager. We had clients in about 30 countries.”
After eight years of working at Super Flight, Gegenheimer was recruited by Revo Inc., a division of Bausch & Lomb, to work as their international sales operations manager.
At Revo, she managed 34 countries. Her work involved meeting with business partners from all corners of the world. “I’d meet them all at trade shows and had to learn a lot of foreign mannerisms. I had to learn what to do, what not to do, how to dress, etc.”
Gegenheimer admits this was a great learning opportunity to continue expanding her global knowledge.
Towards the end of her career, while working as director of partnership services for ImproveNet, Gegenheimer saw the value and benefits that came from her global experience.
“A lot of people who rise to these ranks with these large global companies have some kind of international background. When you start chatting about this, it turns out this person had gone to Spain to study abroad for college and, all of the sudden, you’ve got this connection,” she says.
Connecting with others, expanding students’ global mindset and giving back were Gegenheimer’s main priorities when she established the Auf geht’s scholarship.
I wanted to help CU Boulder students become better global members of society. It’s enriching when you can connect with people, and I want to encourage that Colorado student to think about something beyond Colorado.”
“There’s a point in your life when you say, ‘I’ve been taking so much these years, it’s time for me to give back to my community.’ I wanted to help CU Boulder students become better global members of society. It’s enriching when you can connect with people, and I want to encourage that Colorado student to think about something beyond Colorado.”
In 2021, Gegenheimer endowed $25,000 to the Auf geht’s scholarship fund. In her criteria for student eligibility, she was inspired by her own college journey.
“I wanted it for the average kids with average GPAs. The ones that are going to do fine, the ones that are not going to Harvard Law School. I wanted to encourage them because that's the kind of kid I was.”
Gegenheimer wants to award students who are already wanting to be part of those global and cultural opportunities.
“I want it to go to someone who's really passionate and wants to further their language skills. I think often, these students are already willing to look beyond their four walls. They’re yearning to get out there.”
Gegenheimer has lived, experienced and, she says, reaped the benefits of living in a different country, learning about different cultures and growing a global mindset. The Auf geht's scholarship aims to provide the next generation of CU Boulder students an opportunity to experience living abroad.
“I can't end world hunger. I can't stop children being abused. But hopefully, in the next 20 years, the students who have gotten the scholarship are a little more globally minded when they come back to the U.S. That to me is the end goal. To make sure these American kids from small-town Colorado have a chance to experience how wonderful it is to live somewhere else.”