Bret Giles ’87 B.S.

Which groups or activities were you most involved in at ASU? What did you gain from that involvement?

I decided early on at ASU that I would learn both in the classroom and through hands-on, practical experience. I started a business while living in the dorms, something I didn’t realize was not permitted 25 years ago. While the business thrived, I had to pivot quickly and focus on moving away from campus. At the time, it was a hard lesson. As the years progressed, it became obvious the experience was all part of the learning process, however accidental.

While I was active with the American Marketing Association and a handful of other student organizations throughout my time at ASU, it was really these more serendipitous experiences that taught me how to respond when faced with adversity, how to identify smart risks, how to take ideas and execute upon them, and how to change quickly when it’s needed. … Now that entrepreneurism and innovation are at the forefront on campus, it’s truly overwhelming to consider the opportunities available to a current student.

How did your education at ASU prepare you for your current job or business?

ASU taught me the power of conversation, of working effectively in group environments and of drawing out strengths inherent in others. Whether l liked it or not at the time, I was thrown into group settings throughout college. In some instances, I was expected to lead while in others I followed a host of leader types, from dominating ones to highly collaborative ones. Every single setting was a profound learning experience for me that prepared me for my future career.

How did ASU help you achieve your dreams?

My time as ASU was truly transformational. I came as a shy, easily intimidated individual who had more potential than confidence. I knew becoming a business owner would be satisfying to me and I always had a deep appreciation for the role of marketing, but didn’t feel comfortable in my own skin and let doubt cloud my decisions. Within one year at ASU, I had truly changed, and that transformation continued throughout my undergraduate career. I cannot pinpoint what led to that change, but I can tell you it was built into the environment I experienced during my college years, both inside and outside of the classroom.

When my business partner, Margie Traylor (also an ASU grad!) and I decided to build our own business, we went back to a place of comfort to create our business plan, develop our financials and create an offering memorandum to raise funding. That place was the Memorial Union, lower level, and it still holds significance to us to this day. In fact, when we celebrated our 15th anniversary, we looked no further than Old Main on the Tempe campus as the location for our celebration. 

Tell us about your involvement with the ASU Alumni Association's board of directors.

I have been part of the National Alumni Council for a number of years and more recently became part of the Alumni Association’s board of directors. I take away a tremendous amount from my involvement, most notably the opportunity to regularly meet with key academic and athletic personnel, as well as other committed alumni, all of whom are focused on advancing higher education and advocating on behalf of ASU. A personal goal of mine is to help uncover ways the university can create more lifelong ties with those who walk its halls, instilling a strong network that extends well beyond college years, well beyond Arizona and well beyond any specific discipline.

What are three “can’t miss” ASU experiences every Sun Devil should participate in?

Wow, that’s the hardest question you’ve asked me. I think I’d have to go with these three experiences:

  1. Participating in Pat’s Run or a shadow run across the U.S. I’ve run it eight times and have watched it grow over the years. I love what it represents and love how much energy ASU and the Pat Tillman Foundation put in to make it something special.
  2. Going to the Chuckbox. The day I moved into Manzanita, my roommate from North Carolina thought we would all die when he looked out the window and saw an approaching monsoon. I bet him a burger at Chuckbox that it would pass within 30 minutes without issue. My love affair with that place started the minute I won that bet (P.S. Never bet a native on weather patterns).
  3. Hanging out for Homecoming festivities. ASU puts on a great event at Homecoming, from the parade to the tailgates, from the booths at the block party highlighting colleges and groups to the game. And for the past several years, this weekend kicks off with the always-inspiring Alumni Association’s Legends Lunch on Friday.