Staff Spotlight: Tara Michael

Co-Founder & Director of Strategic Partnerships

What is your favorite travel memory?

Whenever I'm asked this, the first memory that comes to mind is of Jess (GP's other founder) and I traveling in Thailand in 2005.

We had dropped off our passports at the Vietnamese embassy to get visas prior to our flight the next morning. After dropping them off, we wanted to get in some last minute shopping. While in a little Thai shop, I glanced at the clock and it was after 5pm - the embassy would be closing/closed! Jess and I FREAKED OUT.

We waived down two Thai guys on mopeds and jumped on the back, backpacks and all. (How they knew where the embassy was is a mystery to this day?!) But lo and behold we get there and of course, it's closed. We sat on the curb outside and cried. Literally.

The gate next to the embassy started to open and a black sedan pulled up with tinted windows to go inside. I immediately started knocking on the window. The man inside kindly heard our [sob] story and decided to unlock the embassy and let us in.

He offered us a Coca-Cola to stave off the mid-afternoon Thai heat and processed our visas right then and there! Looking back, he was probably the ambassador or consulate himself, we were just too sweaty, shaken-up, and grateful to realize. And off we went to Vietnam on our fight the next day to continue the adventure...

How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?

I understand the undercurrents of cultural relevance. I'm still working on mastering them, but I know they are there, and awareness is always the first step.

I also understand more profoundly the needs, desires, and even unknown outcomes of our stakeholders: Coaches, Athletic Administrators, International Offices, Parents, and most importantly, Student-Athletes themselves.

What is the best story you've heard from a return student?

One of my favorite stories (because there are many) is the story of Meaghan Ross, our FIRST ever student-athlete to apply for a Global Players program. Meag had not even eaten ketchup, much less left the US, before going abroad with GP. She said she used to have Oreos for breakfast!

But she was FEARLESS in trying everything out of her comfort zone while she was abroad - from food to flying (i.e. bungee jumping in Innsbruk). Since studying abroad in Prague in 2009 Maeg has lived in Holland as an au pair, traveled to Cambodia and SE Asia as a photographer, come back to do her Masters (in Dutch), and is now traveling the world with her Dutch wife and documenting their journey through the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, and more.

Maeg was inspired personally, and she inspired everyone around her including our leadership team. It is students like these who are the fuel for our souls.

If you could go on any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?

RIO! I am so excited to go to Brazil on our Rio program - for the food, the people, the culture, the dancing! I dance salsa, bachata, kizomba, and Brazilian Zouk in Amsterdam, so to dance with Brazilians will be another level. I don't think I will come back!

What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?

Global Players is unique because all participants self identify as either varsity or intramural/club student-ATHLETES. There is a beauty to seeing people transcend language and cultural barriers through the vehicle of sport.

There is something humbling about being a DI field hockey player getting crushed by 14-year-old Dutch boys but LEARNING every step of the way - technically, athletically, personally, and culturally. The same happens across the globe. Or maybe you are the one crushing it in your sport but then you are also TEACHING and growing the game.

I am especially proud of our team every time they encourage our participants to challenge the status quo. For example, one summer we were having a small-sided women's lacrosse training on a tennis court in the middle of a park in Vienna, Austria.

On the court next to us was a game of pick-up soccer with all guys from Morocco, Turkey, and Pakistan. We took the female athletes over and asked if we could join. The girls brought their A game. They were unfazed by playing with and against the men; they played hard, smart, fast, and fierce. The guys were surprised and impressed, but more importantly, Moroccan, Turkish, and Pakistani girls and women from all over the park came to watch the competition.

It was inspiring to know how many people would be subtly effected by this afternoon. This is the true essence of Global Players, which always makes me proud.

What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?

A focus on MAKING MEANING first, not money.