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A student, a professor and a professional, the trifecta of masterminding the college experience!

by TCM Creator, Frank Sardella

Screw the traditional bios… the story of this show is WAY more intriguing!

There is quite a bit that went into the very concept of The College Mastermind podcast, and it all begins prior to its inception, which never would have existed unless several signal events had occurred, including the number of majors I took up and abandoned, a 0.46 GPA (yes, this really happened to me), a 4.0 GPA (yes, this also happened to me), an undying passion strong enough to stand up to the forces of oppression and a project for which I was hired decades later to influence the results of a course curriculum. All of which culminated in a meeting of the minds and viewpoints, a decision that the way the world learns was in vital need of change and a demand that such an improvement come to pass. Hence, the Mastermind was born.

WTF? What’s in the Mind Behind the Mastermind? A not-so-brief history and summary…

While studying my bio will give a much more well-rounded understanding of the impetus behind the very concept of TCM, in summary, I denied my real passion in life, derailed plans to fulfill its destiny, pursued its antithesis, failed and came full-circle finding myself, not only in a position to attain my true purpose, but to help others define and fulfill theirs.

Further, through the six degrees of separation (which I not only believe but maintain there are fewer than six), as well as the fact that all occurrences in my life never seem to be “accidental” in nature, the contacts I made along the way, in all the places I should never have been, in ironic serendipity, became the path to getting on track with and fulfilling my creative destiny. And, to a much greater degree than I would have at the outset of my adult life.

Meeting my co-hosts in seemingly innocuous situations…

Michele Farrell and Sarah Goodwin are two of the people in this world whom, not only do I admire and hold in highest regard, but represent what I feel to be the best of all possible outlooks on life. I believe with extreme conviction that this observation is the best biographical representation of them, far beyond any resume of their accomplishments which, though I find equally impressive, are merely circumstantial to why I regard them as truly successful in the fullest sense.

The irony is in the fact that, when I met them, I saw their potential, but had no idea it would have anything to do with me or folded into my plans in any way. Contradistinctively, the only common denominators found were that of mindset.

Let’s start with Michele, since I met her first.

Michele Farrel is significantly more than just a 4.7 on RateMyProfessor…

I couldn’t be less interested in the ratings Michele has achieved as an educator, regardless of her success in imparting the curricula and student outcomes of Foundations of Communication (the course she currently teaches), the ravings of students’ reviews (not to mention the hot pepper status on RMP) or the details of her impressive resume of multimedia accomplishment and acclaim. It is the person and the outlook that caught my attention and interest, and maintain them to this day, 20 years later.

I met Michele at the pre-dawn of her impressive career and saw her future before she even had an idea beyond her wide-eyed dreams of being in radio and TV as a career. Sure, when we were first introduced by a client of mine and a mutual friend, despite our decade or so separation of generation, I could see her potential in her “humble confidence and swagger” (as I would best describe it), and knew she had some special x-factor recognized by fans and audiences, yet seldom known (in a self-awareness sense) by the greatest celebrities and public figures of the world, but I was surprised at her lack of self-awareness of any of it.

So, Michele’s superpower really is… envelope please….

As is par for the course in my life, synchronicity worked its way in, having met her again, only weeks later, where she was moonlighting in another of my clients’ offices (again, accidents never happen in my life!). It was there that I had the pleasure of working with her and becoming her friend. It immediately became clear that not only did she have the chops to be on radio and TV (despite her own humility and lack of confidence), she had a much deeper purpose in life than did the greatest of her idols on these platforms. (Side note: one of her idols was a radio personality named Cubby Bryant who hosted the afternoon drive on New York’s Z100, 100.3 fm, and to this day, Michele is a staunch follower and fan of Julia Roberts and Brad Pitt)

Yes, Michele’s most impressive attribute was her desire to study and improve the subject of communications. Though she had stars in her eyes of her own aspirations, what resonated with me was her fascination with them, not as the obsessed fan she hails herself to be, but as someone who is influenced positively by their presence, celebrity and skills, modeling herself after the best in them, or at least aspiring to be that way and take measures for self-improvement. These are the chops that Michele Farrel can call her superpower. This is what not only got her on the air as a jock and TV news anchor, not to mention a college professor, but which brings her to us as a TCM co-host, and a significant one at that, hand-selected for the work she has taken it upon herself to do, far beyond the call of duty of any professor.

Testament to this was that, during a crucial time in her teaching career, she came to me after fall semester finals letting me know that, after years of teaching her course, and though she ranked just fine with the college, she was personally dissatisfied with the results she was getting in the classroom. And, at her own expense (both financially and time over winter break) she retained me as the person she felt could help her straighten out the situation. And, together (as you can hear in our pilot episode) we changed the course of her personal teaching approach and style, as well as interpretation of her materials to the class in the realm of application.

The work we did on that project not only revolutionized her teaching style and statistically and noticeably improved upon the fullness of student outcomes, it spawned this idea for this podcast having ignited a flame in me to take things to a global level. I would have never known this was even a purpose of mine without Michele having been the type of person who teaches not out of arrogance or self-improtance and expert status, but someone who desires positive influence, something that has burned inside of me for ages. And, in having created the show, whole-cloth, out of having worked on this project, I recognized Michele as part and parcel to my plans to see it through. And so, 4 years later, we launched and here we are.

And, we would have launched much sooner except for one thing…

Sarah Goodwin has the best bullshit detector I have ever seen! (but that’s not why I selected her as a co-host!)

I’m going to be honest. Sarah Goodwin was just a kid when I met her, but I never found her to be anything less than an adult, merely “doing time” as an adolescent, held back only by the fact that she wasn’t a legal adult by society’s standards.

There. I said it…

Sarah and I have kept tabs on each other over the years since first having met. As a teenager, she had often looked to me for some guidance and friendship, especially during times she was conflicted, even calling me her “Uncle Frank” which she fondly calls me, at times, to this day – a status I have always taken seriously to live up to being a good example and sounding board for her. But none of it matters in the face of the fact that I recognized her superpowers since the beginning, having known she would do great things, no matter what adverse situations in which she may have found herself.

Sarah was not your typical teenager, nor is she your typical adult. She is a cut above, but with a high degree of humility and interest in and respect for others, not to mention a passion to make the lives of those around her in life, better.

Though she is inspiring as hell, her real superpower is BS!…

No, she isn’t bullshit. It’s her bullshit detector to which I am referring. Sarah’s superpower is the ability to wade through tremendous amounts of bullshit, even that which aggravates or challenges her in the extreme and can see through and find the truth of matters, the real facts, and confront, face them and put them to the best use possible. I have never seen anything like it and she is an inspirational example to follow.

As she stated in our pilot episode, and as is very apparent when speaking with her, Sarah does everything deliberately. Whether it’s working in her corporate job or approaching a study group, she is in it for experience she can use, even if it is in learning a required subject for her degree. This is what actually got her recruited to the show. She was the missing component for which I waited three years to launch. It’s pretty intense but it comes off as requiring little effort to attain.

Sarah got my attention over lunch we had last summer in Orlando, where she was discussing her college experience with me, a discussion in which it quickly became apparent that she was not just studying, learning and applying, but innovating as well. In disclosing one of her ingenious ideas to improve “studenting” in a particular subject (in her rich, radio voice, no less, of which she was most unaware), I knew instantly she was the missing link which would get my project launched, and recruited her on the spot.

Sarah is witty and in-your-face, but with a respect and interest that makes you love her. She brings joy to people around her, no matter their station in life and is someone you just want to have as your friend, that one in the group that grounds everyone else. And perhaps the most interesting thing about her is her interest in everything and everyone. Coupled with a great set of pipes for radio (which she didn’t know until I pointed out) Sarah brings the ultimate component to the table.

As a student in college and holding down a career job, Sarah is the embodiment of what TCM is all about. She is studying to improve her career and using what she learns, in real time, to ensure her success. She is not looking to the certificate she will earn to do it for her, but to mark and validate the fact that she has gleaned all she can out of the requirements for that certificate and has applied it to her career and life to her ultimate betterment and, most admirably, to the betterment of others.

While this is impressive in and of itself and is an example for all of us to follow, it is EXACTLY what we need as part of masterminding the “earning from your learning” concept on which the show is based. Sarah is living what our show is all about.

A student, a professor and a professional dedicated to you earning from your learning, no matter where you are in life, college or no college!

Honestly, the purpose of this podcast, at its inception, began an evolving idea which started as just plugging some application into classroom learning and eliminating the “I don’t use anything I learned in school” idea to which everyone seems to subscribe, and culminated into a mastermind dedicated to changing how and why we learn, what we learn and how to distinguish data from knowledge and the useful from the waste of time. All of it is geared toward making education more practical, something widely-regarded to be in dire deficiency in this day and age.

Change that and you’ve changed a society and Sarah, Michele and I have quickly realized and embraced this as our responsibility which I feel comes through when you listen to us, even in our pilot episode. We strive to make this something that will be used by everyone of all ages and even have found people who have limited college background interested in the issues and topics we discuss.

The College Mastermind Vision and Mission

The College Mastermind is dedicated to making everything you learn useful so that you (and all) will value learning as something that brings out the best, most inspirational and contributional parts of yourself, so as to shine and participate in improving this world. Imagine what a world like this would be like.

Wouldn’t it be worth pursuing?

We think so…