Alumni Spotlight: Derek Tano

Derek Tano
Derek Tano

U of M Ph.D. student starts own study-abroad company

Derek Tano, 24, of Lakeville, Minnesota, is an Inver Hills Community College alumnus who recently returned to the Inver campus to tell his story via the fourth installment of the Philosophy department’s “Rethinking the Paths of Success.” Derek graduated from Inver Hills in 2013 with his Associate of Arts (A.A.) with Emphasis in History.

“I originally wanted to go to the University of Minnesota, but was not accepted,” Derek said. “My dad told me to give Inver Hills a try. He’s an Inver Hills alum. He studied meteorology and air traffic control and went on to become a pilot for Delta Air Lines. ”

Derek loved his time at Inver Hills. He highly recommends finding your collegiate footing on a smaller campus where the instructors not only know your name, but take the time to work with you one on one.

“The education I received at Inver was as good as— if not better than—the education I received at the University of Minnesota,” Derek said. “Inver is an amazing stepping stone to more advanced degrees and career success. My advice to Inver Hills students is to care about their education and really value their time at Inver.”

Three words that describe you as a person:

After graduating from Inver Hills, Derek transferred to the U of M, Twin Cities, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in European History and a B.A. in Classical Archaeology. From there, he earned his Master of Education (M.Ed.) in Secondary Education from the U of M. He is currently working on his Ph.D. in Ancient Roman Archaeology. His dissertation research is focused on the Roman colonization of Britain following the Claudian conquest.

Derek’s areas of professional expertise include European and ancient history, European and Oriental culture, political science and international relations. He has worked with some of the world’s top historians and archaeologists. On top of English, he is proficient in Spanish and can get by in conversational French and Italian. He can also read Latin and Attic Greek.

Traveling the world and then some…

Derek might not have the basketball skills of Meadowlark Lemon, but he is an ultimate globetrotter. He has visited more than 100 countries on every continent except Antarctica as well as all 50 states in the U.S. He has lived and worked extensively in Italy—perhaps his favorite foreign country. He has also spent a great deal of time in Japan, Great Britain, India, Australia, France and The Netherlands.

Derek’s dad is a commercial airline pilot and his mom is a flight attendant. Derek took his first flight on a jetliner when he was only weeks old. He doesn’t claim to have spent more time in the air than both his parents combined, but it seems possible.

Derek with dad, mom and sister, Jaclyn
Derek with dad, mom and sister, Jaclyn, in a faraway land

World Class Programs

Derek is the founder, president and managing director of World Class Programs, an independently owned and operated company that specializes in creating overseas summer learning experiences customized to match each student’s personal plans and preferences. The company’s team of global educators has comprehensive expertise in both secondary education and the travel industry. World Class Programs applies a unique experiential method of learning based on Kolb’s Psychological Learning Styles. Derek developed the method while earning his master’s degree; all World Class Programs are taught in this manner.

“With this method, we bring the curriculum alive with valuable experiences and cultural immersion opportunities,” Derek said. “Along with the educational benefits, students will also meet new people from around the world, and experience a new way of life different from their own. All of this combines to form the ultimate summer experience with World Class Programs.”

“After completing my M.Ed. at the U, I found myself lacking conviction in what I was doing. I needed to find something I was passionate about again. I realized that travel is what has always invigorated me and I began to use that to find myself and realign my goals.”
Derek Tano, Founder and President, World Class Programs

World Class Programs

Derek discovered his future career as an entrepreneur while living and working in Italy as the program manager for a study-abroad company. The experience inspired him to start his own company, one committed to providing amazing educational opportunities with a focus on safety, expert educators and chaperones, and strong administrative oversight.

During the summer of 2017, World Class Programs is offering overseas learning experiences for students in grades 9–12 in Florence, Italy, and Osaka, Japan. Trips to France and Spain are planned for the summer of 2018; trips to Sydney, Australia, and London, England, are in the works.

Around the world in 24 years…

Rethinking the Paths of Success

The Philosophy department at Inver Hills hosts filmed interviews with noteworthy alumni in a series called “Rethinking the Paths of Success.” The alumni tell their distinctive stories to current students. Shane Stroup, philosophy faculty at the college, consider Derek’s story one of the more interesting he has encountered.

“Derek represents the ideal candidate for Rethinking the Paths of Success,” Shane said. “Derek’s willingness to take chances and create his own LLC so as to fill a void he sees in education, echos the influence of philosophy and its call to take risks. I wish Derek the best of luck, and look forward to watching him ‘inspire’ educational theory.”

Philosophy at Inver…

The Philosophy department at Inver Hills offers courses that introduce you to the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality and existence. The department’s mission focuses on facilitating your learning in the problems and history of philosophy, including the key areas of ethics, logic, scientific thought and world religions. As a philosophy student, you will develop your reasoning, critical thinking and analytical skills related to influential ethical theories as well as major philosophical theories of reality.

You can see more Rethinking the Paths of Success alumni, along with other guest speakers hosted by the Philosophy department, by visiting:
IHCC Department of Philosophy.

Derek Tano: Rethinking the Paths of Success gallery

Derek Tano Q & A

Derek Tano
Derek Tano
Peter and Arlene Ruzzi
Peter and Arlene Ruzzi

What has been your toughest challenge in life?
Starting my own business. There are so many unknowns. That process has also been the most rewarding and fun.

What person has influenced you the most in life?
My grandfather, Peter Ruzzi. He was the smartest guy I ever met. He didn’t have a college degree, but he worked for the U.S. Bureau of Mines as a geologist. He taught himself everything on the job. I used to visit my grandfather and grandmother in Eagan at least four times a week. Losing my grandfather was very difficult for me. I promised myself to succeed in my career and do him proud.

What’s your favorite country to live other than the U.S.?
Italy. I have an Italian heritage and I’ve spent a lot of time in Italy.

What’s the most beautiful place you’ve ever visited?
For cities, that would be Monaco or Vernazza, Italy. For landscapes, that would be New Zealand or Japan.

Runs in the family…

Jaclyn Tano, Derek’s sister, graduated from Inver Hills in May 2017 with her A.A. with Emphasis in Psychology. Jaclyn’s transferring to the U of M to earn her B.A. in English. From there, she’s aiming to get her M.Ed. in Elementary Education. She has always wanted to be an elementary school teacher.

Jaclyn serves as the Florence program director for World Class Programs and will be in Italy over the summer. She considers Florence her “home away from home.” Like Derek, she has traveled to more than 100 countries worldwide.

Visit World Class Programs on Facebook.

Derek with sister, Jaclyn
Derek with sister, Jaclyn

What’s the most intriguing place you’ve ever visited?
Thailand or Sri Lanka

What’s the friendliest place you’ve ever visited?
Mexico or Finland. I also have some Finnish blood.

What do you like best about history as a field?
If presented correctly, history is a story—one that’s part of you and actually true. You can see yourself in history.

What do you like best about archaeology as a field?
You are discovering the past. If I could time travel, I would definitely reach into the past, not the future.

What do you like to do when you’re not studying, traveling or working?
Sleep is awesome. I enjoy nerdy things like Dungeons & Dragons and strategy games. I also like walking my dog.

To learn more about enrolling at Inver Hills Community College, contact:

Admissions Team
Toll-free: 866-576-0689
College Center

To learn more about Philosophy at Inver Hills, contact:

Shane Stroup
Philosophy Faculty

Chuck Stieg
Philosophy Faculty

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