Melpolder, '14, Reflects on Practical, Athletic Experiences

March 18, 2014: Read the Holland Sentinel feature on Brad Melpoder qualifying for the NCAA Division III Championships as part of Albion's 400-yard freestyle relay team.

Brad Melpolder, second from right, works with his group representing students from Albion and Ecole Superieure de Vente.
Brad Melpolder, third from right, works with his group representing students from Albion College and Ecole Superieure de Vente.

December 23, 2013

Albion College swimmer Brad Melpolder, '14, gets down to business in both his academic and athletic pursuits—and succeeds at both.

An economics and management major who is concentrating in the Carl A. Gerstacker Institute for Business and Management, Melpolder has completed practical experiences during the fall semester in each of the last two years to make him a marketable candidate when he pursues management jobs in the manufacturing industry after graduation. He has balanced these activities with the considerable investment of time and energy it takes to be a top performer in the pool.

Melpolder missed the first half of the 2012-13 swimming season when he shuttled between locations in southern Michigan and Wisconsin to intern with one of the nation’s largest manufacturers and distributors of wood and wood-alternative products. Despite not having access to a pool on weekdays during the second half of the internship—Melpolder ran and completed dry-land cardiovascular workouts to keep in shape and traveled to find pools during the weekend—he returned to campus for the spring semester and achieved all-Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association status in February with an individual league championship in the 500-yard freestyle. He was a member of Albion’s MIAA-champion 400 and 800 freestyle relay teams.

Understanding the competition—in and out of the pool

Knowing he would stay in good physical condition made it easier for Melpolder to approach Briton coach Jake Taber about an October trip to France. The weeklong visit with the Gerstacker Institute saw students working intensively on business plans with students from Ecole Superieure de Vente (SDV), a French business school.

“I had never done anything relating to international business,” Melpolder said. “As companies trend toward growing internationally, I thought I would be better off getting an experience like this. It was also a great opportunity to go overseas, something I had never done before.”

Started in 2008, the Student Entrepreneurial Exchange (SEE) brings the Albion and SDV students together for the development of business plans and cultural exchange. During the week abroad, Melpolder’s team finalized their fictional fitness tracking product for smartphones. The team will meet via Skype to work out marketing and financial details and to develop a launch plan for the project before the French students travel to Albion in April when the product proposal is presented during the College’s Elkin R. Isaac Student Research Symposium.

While in France, Melpolder and his Albion classmates attended class at SDV from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., a departure from the American college schedule. The Albion students presented the research they had already completed about the product's opportunities in the American market and learned how market research is conducted in France.

And, of course, there was time set aside for sightseeing and sampling French culture.

“We saw the Eiffel Tower, we were able to go on a riverboat tour and they took us out most nights—just walking around the city,” Melpolder said. “The French students liked to keep us out until 2 o’clock [in the morning].”

While Melpolder missed the MIAA Relays, the first meet of the season, and had to gear up for a dual meet against perennial league power Calvin College less than 24 hours after returning to campus, his coach was fully accepting of the opportunity from the start.

“It’s something I talked to Coach Taber about in May of last year,” Melpolder recalled. “I told him what it was, what I had to do, when I would be gone and we looked at the schedule. It really didn’t seem like a big concern for him. ... Last year I kept in pretty good shape, and he was confident I would take care of myself while I was away [in France]. Coach Taber was one of the most supportive people [about the opportunity]. I never felt like I was betraying my team because I chose to go on this trip.

“I normally set unrealistic expectations for myself,” Melpolder said of the Calvin meet. “I wanted to win a few races [as if] I had been training with the team all week. I can’t complain with the success I’ve had so far this year.”

Melpolder ended up winning the 200-yard freestyle and finishing second in the 500-yard event against Calvin, and he believes the week away from the pool continues to pay benefits.

“It has worked out really well for me, to this point, to get that week of rest,” Melpolder said. Since he swims events ranging from the mile to the 50 in relays, his training routine has included cardio work and distance sets as well as sprinting.

The balancing act continues

The Student Entrepreneurial Exchange was just one piece of Melpolder’s impressive fall-semester lineup. In addition to his course load and swimming, he worked 10 hours a week at Caster Concepts, a manufacturing plant in Albion. He is also active with the Delta Tau Delta fraternity.

“I can put these experiences on my résumé,” Melpolder said. “It’s something that’s going to benefit me in the future, and it’s why we come to a school like Albion—to make ourselves better in the future. Balancing all these activities shows I can do multiple things and be successful at them.”