Ethan White is a 26-year-old skier and overall outdoor enthusiast from Rochester, Vermont. He relocated to Utah to attend Westminster College, live out his dream of working in the outdoor industry and experience Utah’s world-class outdoor recreation.
“Almost instantly I knew he was going to be great at [marketing] so we developed a great relationship immediately,” said Nancy Panos-Schmitt, associate professor of Marketing. “He was just a cool kid, knew about lots of things, and was passionate about the outdoors and skiing and just really being involved.”
Panos-Schmitt was Whites advisor in the marketing program throughout his time at Westminster.
“I realized that [White was] not only personable but smart, capable, creative and fun,” Schmitt said. “He has built a successful career based on his passion, and that’s hard to do.”
White graduated in 2015 with a degree in marketing and landed an internship at Cotopaxi, a sustainable clothing and outdoor brand, that spring. This internship led to a field marketing position and later his current position as retail program manager.
“He comes to talk with my senior seminar each year and also helps with the alumni mentoring program,” Schmitt said. “I bring him back on campus whenever I can because he is a real inspiration.”
White sat down with The Forum to answer some questions about his experiences at Westminster and how those experiences got him to where he is today. His answers have been lightly edited for clarity and conciseness.
Q: Of all colleges and universities to attend, why did you choose Westminster?
A: After the end of my sophomore year of high school, I took a trip to Utah with a friend of mine that was looking at some schools here and we did a trip with our dads to ski. We were big skiers from New England. As soon as we got here, we realized Utah is the place to be if you want to go to school and ski. The goal for me was to get a good, solid education and be able to recreate outside.
Q: What are your top three favorite things about Westminster, from either now or when you were actively enrolled?
A: The first thing I noticed when I stepped on campus was that it was small. I come from a small town back east and Westminster was actually bigger than my hometown. It was a good little step up for me and the Salt Lake City valley is quite small as well, so it was very approachable. I felt comfortable at Westminster and the grounds made me feel right at home. It sort of looks like a little New England campus plopped in the middle of the desert, so it’s pretty sweet in that way.
Another thing was being close to my professors and develop long-lasting relationships. I needed that in my higher education and Westminster provided it. The third thing was broadening my horizons in terms of recreation. During orientation, we went down to the climbing wall one night and I ended up spending the next four years there, every night. Climbing and getting involved in the outdoor program, a small and intimate community and being able to get a good education are the three things that stood out.
Q: Do your experiences and the knowledge you gained at Westminster help you today?
A: When I got to campus I took a learning community my first year, studying a lot of advertising and marketing strategies and things like that. In that second semester, I dove right into the marketing department, simultaneously studying in the outdoor education and leadership department. Working at the climbing wall and in the outdoor program in tandem with my marketing courses, I fell in love with the outdoor industry and wanted to ultimately land there after school. On the marketing side, it was learning all of the basics of business and marketing strategy. On the outdoor side, it was learning teamwork and leadership, and those were huge components of that program.
I landed my first position at Cotopaxi as an intern in the April of my senior year. From there things kind of took off for me. We had a four-month internship program at the time, so I did that, took a full-time position at the end of summer and have been there ever since. I’m coming up on my four year anniversary at Cotopaxi, and we just celebrated our fifth year anniversary as a company.
I think the key components of what allowed me to land a position there and enjoy my job there was having experiences that taught me teamwork—Westminster is very team oriented—learning how to navigate group dynamics and the core curriculum, which gave me a solid background to transition into the business world.
Q: What other experiences and activities were you involved in during your time at Westminster?
A: I ran the ski and snowboard club and it involved a lot of event production, taking students on trips every year, throwing the Share-the-Shred event and just getting folks out skiing for the first time. Also, when I was at Westminster, don’t tell the administration, but I was the Red Bull campus rep at the time. Though [the administration] wasn’t super happy with what I was doing at the time, we would do some cool guerilla marketing campaigns around campus and get students stoked, and get them caffeinated for studying or skiing or whatever it was. Events and marketing is what I landed in right when I got to Cotopaxi.
When you’re doing a lot of things at the school, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what you’re going to come back to later on in your career and ultimately it turns out you come back to all of it in some format.
Q: As an alumni in the workforce, how do you currently interact with the college?
A: I definitely try to stay involved, and I’m part of the alumni mentoring program (AMP). It’s my second year doing it now, and it’s really fun. You get paired with a senior in the marketing program and sit down with them monthly, or as much as they need, and talk through things whether it be the project they are working on, or life, or business, or school. I give the little bit of perspective I have now, four years out of school, and it’s not much but throughout that transition period, you have to figure out how to be a self-sustaining adult and get a job and things like that. I try to share the little bit of wisdom I might have.
I still try to stay in touch with the outdoor program, and I speak with Nancy Panos-Schmidt’s senior seminar class each spring and pass along my story and try to encourage current students that it is possible to do exactly what you pictured when you started here.
Q: Do you have any final thoughts?
A: I don’t think I would’ve landed where I am now without the experience at Westminster. I could’ve gotten an education at any good college or university, or just the school of life I’m sure, but something I really appreciate about Westminster is their focus on allowing you to be you. You can take it as far as you want or you can let it take you, but if you truly grasp all of the opportunities it definitely pays off in the end.
*Ethan White was the president of the ski and snowboard club during his time at Westminster, and Davis Lentz is the current club president.