When veteran bicycle globetrotter Max Peer pedaled onto the University of Notre Dame campus on Thursday, July 25, he was met by a number of “Welcome Max” placards hoisted by enthusiastic students eager to hear more about his upcoming 35,000 mile bicycle/canoe trip that will take him around the world. Aided by technological advancements to optimize the safety and comfort of his projected four-year long humanitarian global trek, Peer, sponsored by the German software giant SAP, will be bringing the message of his “Share the Knowledge” tour to approximately 1,060 college campuses and SAP offices throughout the world.
“The most difficult part of this journey is the planning that’s going into it that will involve following a tighter schedule than I’ve never had to follow before,” said Peer, an Austrian who in the past 15 years has parlayed his self-proclaimed passion for the outdoors into publicizing nonprofit organizations that share his “pay it forward” focus. His contribution to humanitarian causes has included the removal of land mines in a number of Asian countries, the distribution of toys and educational materials to needy school children, and the promotion of holocaust memorials. Peer also promotes the benefits of music in his capacity as a live sound engineer and recording studio designer – his normal “day job” when he isn’t off promoting free education and other non-profit charitable causes. His normal schedule includes six continuous months per year on the road.
Peer also has been allied over the past several years with the Denmark-based Interaction Design Foundation. The nonprofit IDF, in partnership with SAP since March 2013, is an online publisher that for the past 10 years has been distributing free textbook and videos, designed by leading technology designers, to universities and tech companies around the world.
"Our message is that education is the single most powerful way to lift people out of poverty and change lives,” said Peer, who said he looks forward to sharing that vision at every stop along the way as he engages with organized groups of university officials and students and just curious passers-by.
On a practical note, Peer said that as he’ll be riding solo on his global tour, without a support team or transport vehicles shadowing him, “the most important thing is to have clean water.”Consequently, he carries with him two gallons of water for both drinking and washing, supplemented by a water-filtration system on his converted tandem-frame touring bicycle. He also has a multi-layer solar panel to recharge his GPS and cell phone during all sorts of weather conditions and a portable 6.5-foot-long canoe to take him, his bike and supplies across territory where roads do not go.
Ann Rosenberg, the head of Global SAP University Alliances who has been following Peer’s U.S. tour since it kicked off in Orlando, Fla., earlier this year, outlined SAP’s new University Alliances Program for both students and faculty at the Stayer Center for Executive Education at Notre Dame's Mendoza College of Business.
Also on hand to meet him at the Stayer Center was Roger Huang, Martin J. Gillen Dean of the Mendoza College, and Andrew O’Donnell, vice president of the University’s 21-member competitive cycling team.
“We used to be very guarded with our technology, but all that has changed in recent years,” said Rosenberg, who discussed SAP’s current commitment to providing free access to education “no matter where you live or what you are doing.”
Toward that end, Rosenberg said SAP will donate licenses to more than 1,300 University Alliances member institutions and fully outfit their professors with free software and curriculum to provide students with hands-on access to SAP applications and technology in order to drive innovation.
“We want to promote universities all over the world as incubators, where knowledge is free and students will have ‘playgrounds’ at their disposal to nurture their imagination. That’s the way of tomorrow. We have to think big and we have to think globally,” said Rosenberg, adding, for example, that SAP is currently looking for 500 sales associates among recent college graduates.
“The average age of our current sales force is 44,” she said. “We also want to add 100 students onto our development team, because we need the ideas your generation has to build on for the future.”