Mike Allenby, award-winning student leader,
is also a top student
May 4, 1998
Bring some really cool bands to campus. That was Michael Allenby's motivation for becoming involved with SUBOG (the Student Union Board of Governors) as a freshman. By volunteering for the concert committee, he hoped he could get some of his favorite bands to play at various campus events and maybe even meet a few of them along the way. Four years later, Allenby is wrapping up his term as SUBOG president and receiving accolades for his leadership. It wasn't a path he'd anticipated, but he has certainly enjoyed the journey and its benefits.
"I tell people that SUBOG makes leaders out of people who thought they had no business being leaders," he says. "Being involved with SUBOG opened my eyes to so many different areas. It was like running a small business with a $250,000 budget."
Allenby adds that exploring different options is part of what a college career is all about. "College is about challenging yourself, finding new things to get involved with and seeing what you can do."
Allenby's SUBOG activities have included serving as a member of numerous committees, as concert chair, vice president for programming, and this year, president. He's also been an orientation leader and is active in the Tau Beta Pi honor society.
Yet his involvement in so many extracurricular activities has not had a negative impact on his academic performance. In fact, Allenby is a University Scholar.
Allenby entered UConn intending to major in mechanical engineering. But he also has a passion for music. A self-taught musician, he plays both guitar and drums. He spent much of his early academic career trying to find a way to bring together his interest in music with his studies in mechanical engineering. This crystallized into an idea that he thought he could use both for the senior design project that is required in mechanical engineering and for the thesis required of University Scholars.
"I came up with an idea about engineering guitars, about studying how they are created and finding ways to improve their design, sound, and construction," Allenby says.
An engineer at the Ovation guitar company, a respected manufacturer of acoustic guitars in Bloomfield, was enthusiastic about the project but at the last minute, Allenby's project was halted by restructuring at the company.
So for his senior design project, he decided instead to work with the Cannondale Corp., a Connecticut-based bicycle company that has a long-standing relationship with the University's department of mechanical engineering. His project was to explore whether one of the most basic components of a bike's gear system - the front derailleur - could be eliminated in favor of a shifting system that required only one chain ring.
He worked with Cannondale engineers to create a prototype with a differential shift that could be controlled with grip-shifters mounted on the handlebars of typical bikes. The company will soon try it out on their Raven model, a high-end racing mountain bike.
As for his University Scholar thesis, Allenby adapted his interest in music and engineering to education, assisting George Gibson, an associate professor of physics, in the creation of a new undergraduate course that uses music to teach the principles of physics. Allenby helped create and test the labs, and was able to integrate his ideas about testing sound wave measurements with wood and other materials into his work with Gibson.
At the same time, Allenby continued his involvement with SUBOG. "Going in, I never thought I would do more than the concert planning," he said. "But I had a lot of great advisors along the way, including Kevin Fahey and Tank Floyd. They challenged me to push myself and explore new opportunities. As I did, my sense of responsibility and accountability increased, and my leadership skills developed and grew."
Those skills received recognition last week when Allenby, and Alyssa Benedict, were selected from more than 80 nominees to receive the Donald L. McCullough Student Leadership Award..
Allenby says his SUBOG experience and his education have been a good preparation for his next assignment - as a staff consultant with a consulting firm in McLean, Va., where his job will be to look for ways to improve business processes.
"I feel like all the things I've done since I came to UConn - all the activities and organizations I've become involved with and all the courses and independent studies I've done - have really prepared me well," Allenby says. "I think being involved and stretching yourself is the ultimate definition of education."