Spring Break in San Francisco: Learning and Connecting

Over spring break, a group of 15 students traveled to San Francisco for an experience that brought them in contact with Silicon Valley tech entrepreneurship, the city’s struggles with homelessness, and a network of West Coast alumni eager to share and connect with them. This first-ever “alternative spring break” in the Bay Area was a resounding success.
Among the trip highlights was a two-day hackathon held at ArcTouch, hosted by the app design and development company’s founder and CEO, Eric Shapiro ’86. Shapiro spent the morning with the students talking to them about the creative process, ideation, collaboration, and narrowing the scope of an app from a “Swiss army knife” to a “steak knife.” Shapiro and ArcTouch co-founder Adam Fingerman encouraged the students to think of the process of creating an initial app as an “MLP,” or Minimum Lovable Product. They directed the group to focus and define the problem, present their solutions, identify the potential customer, and build the business plan, marketing strategy, and technical solutions. Students then broke into small groups that worked into the night, developing app ideas, preparing the pitch, and readying for questions at a Shark Tank-style presentation dubbed Arc Tank. ArcTouch’s entire team of marketers, developers and designers served as the judges.

Later, the group, along with several area alumni, attended a reception at the home of Ali Grabler Stein ’01. In preparation for the following day’s activities, T.J. Hill ’93 spoke about social entrepreneurship, philanthropy, and the value of simple acts of kindness.

The next day, students visited Glide Memorial Foundation, a leader in social-service programs, and then walked to historic City Hall, where they met with Rick Sheinfeld ’80, a lawyer in the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office, and his colleagues to discuss the many urban challenges they face, from homelessness, sanctuary cities, and transportation to the complexity of building a world-class basketball arena for the Golden State Warriors. They had the opportunity to spend time with Dennis Herrera, the elected city attorney of San Francisco, who told them their trip was exposing them to the key elements of the city: business, philanthropy, and the political system that brings all sides together to solve the problems.

There was also a meeting with Dylan Lockman ’07 and the team at Tableau Software; a visit to the campus of Stanford University; and an onsite gathering with Ken Friedman ’86, stockbroker and high-end home builder, who spoke about using success to fuel passion. The final day, Chris Ehrlich ’88 told the group about his journey from Rivers, where he shunned the sciences and math, to his current role leading a team in the biopharma industry. He was followed by Simon Walter ’89, who advised the students on navigating LinkedIn and helped lead the final reflection of the week’s experience.

In between meetings and projects, the group had a bit of free time to explore the City by the Bay on their own, getting to know firsthand the city’s fabled hills and shoreline—and its infamous traffic jams. Most important, friendships were cemented, connections were forged, and students gained powerful insights into navigating life after Rivers. To view more photos from the trip, visit our SmugMug gallery.