Turning Business Students Into ‘Business Adventurers’


An artisanal wood sculptor in Baan Tawai, Thailand

When Chad Allred was 32, he was sitting in his parent’s New England house with his younger brother reading the newspaper. He read about an upcoming solar eclipse, and that the best place to view the eclipse would be Hawaii. Allred asked his brother if he wanted to go. The two packed up and flew to Hawaii immediately. They travelled out to a lava field where the view would be near perfect. One problem: when they arrived it was raining. Then for a few special moments the clouds broke and a hole formed in the absolute perfect spot to see the entirety of the eclipse. Allred and his brother stood in awe of the cosmos.

But Allred was about to experience a different kind of awe – the awe that is experienced when your eyes first find your someone. There was a woman on that lava field. The two spoke and hit it off immediately. Allred was soon smitten. He spent the next year flying to Hawaii and flying her to the mainland for dates. A year later, to the day of the eclipse, they were both standing on the same lava field, except this time they were exchanging their vows.

Fast forward a couple decades and the passion, spontaneity, and willingness to take risks still ooze from Allred’s actions and words. Now Allred is a marketing professor at Purdue University’s Krannert School of Management and he’s got a new project he is working on with his students. Allred calls them business adventures.


“I have a strong propensity to get students engaged,” Allred explains. “It’s like the difference between travelers and tourists. Travelers take some risks. They explore and go on some adventures. Tourists sit around and wait to be entertained.”

And if the courting of his wife is any indicator, Allred is not one to sit around and let things come to him. So it was on a family vacation a couple years ago that led to his current passion.

“We spent 10 weeks and wandered through eight countries in Southeast Asia,” Allred recalls. “The goal was to get engaged. I wanted to be embedded in the culture, get to know the people and look for service opportunities. We wanted to get there and beat the bush to find ways to help.”


Beat the bush, they did. The family worked with hill tribes and in hospitals and orphanages. And they didn’t use any online service to find the people to help. They wandered around looking for others in need.

Then they tramped into Chiang Mai, a town nestled in the mountains of northern Thailand. Soon Allred was rubbing elbows with the president of North-Chiang Mai University, Narong Chavasint. “He is a very enlightened individual,” Allred says. “He made his fortune early and wanted to give back to the community. So he founded and created this university for students who don’t often have the opportunity to go to college.”

Allred and the university president began to form a relationship and Allred asked Chavasint where he saw business problems and opportunities in the community. “There were several areas of need,” Allred says. “But here was one particular iconic village close to the university that the president felt responsibility in helping.”

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