Plenty of students can tell you about how visiting the Koelbel Building, with its magnificent views of the Flatirons, helped them decide Leeds was the place for them.
Joe Constancia remembers his first time in the building, as well. But it wasn’t to look out the windows—it was to empty the recycling bins.
Joe called his time working with Facilities Management “the greatest job I’ve ever had in my life”—partly because it was a break from his work as a plumber and farmer, but also because it set him up for further professional opportunities and, eventually, coming to Leeds as a full-time student.
Leeds ‘put the clothes on my back’
Joe emptied the bins at half the buildings on campus, including the Administrative and Research Center, where his big personality and love of talking to people played a role in getting work as a receptionist, eventually rising to work in talent acquisition and leave. On his last day of emptying bins at Koelbel, the team in Leeds’ dean’s suite surprised him with a cake and “the nicest card I ever received, which had $64 and a whole bunch of kind words in it,” he said. “I went to every Salvation Army and Goodwill in the surrounding counties, and with that $64 I got two weeks’ worth of professional clothing for my new job. Leeds literally put the clothes on my back.”
While he enjoyed his responsibilities at work, being in a professional setting gave him a taste for bigger possibilities, which is what led him back to Leeds.
“I didn’t have a degree, and there were certain jobs I wanted that required one,” Joe said. “My wife and I talked about it and decided it was time to rip the bandage off and knock it out.”
Since then, it’s been an incredible ride. He was the lone Leeds student on the team that won the New Venture Challenge’s Cross-Campus Collaboration event in the spring, helping the engineers on the team refine their concept for a self-stopping braking system for four-wheeled walkers.
“Engineers definitely have their own lens of looking at the world,” Joe said. “For me, it was an opportunity to work with people who are incredibly smart and detail oriented, and be able to help them not let perfect get in the way of good enough. They’re smart, they have all the talent in the world, but are so hard on themselves. Instilling a little confidence was something my business education helped me do.”
Joe’s education also has helped him forge incredible friendships with students, who like to hear about “the old guy” in class and his perspectives on life and business.
“When I was their age, I had a lot of people telling me what to do—but not a lot of people encouraging me to do what I wanted,” he said. “I try to offer that perspective to help them navigate their way through life.
“Strategy and entrepreneurship, to me, is about freedom—my schedule, my colleagues, my ways of working,” Joe said. “I never had that before I came here. Before they let me answer a phone, I was content to work until the day I died. Now, I want to do something meaningful with my work, and retire one day. Leeds and CU have taken great care of me.”