Philosophy professor creates gift-giving app with help of student business team

MBA student Rachel Koller, ’20, shares her experience as marketing and brand developer for GFTD
Rachel Koller portrait photo
Author Rachel Koller is a 2020 graduate of Loyola University Maryland, where she majored in communication and minored in writing, and a current MBA candidate in the Sellinger School of Business. She joined the GFTD team in October of 2018 and works on app and brand development, while also creating promotional content for the company.

Having been raised in the small town of Blue Bell, Pa., I knew I wanted to find a school that felt like home. As soon as I stepped on Loyola’s campus as a junior in high school, I was enthralled by the sense and solidarity of the campus community.

That feeling continued into my first semester at Loyola, when my philosophy professor, Nina Guise-Gerrity, rarely came to a class without some sort of special gift for her students to get us through the early morning.

About two years ago, while studying abroad in Florence, Italy, I got a phone call from Professor Guise-Gerrity.

“I’m working on launching an app and I’d love your help,” she told me.

I didn’t hesitate before I eagerly accepted—although I was more than 4,000 miles away at the time, and neither of us had any background in app development. Because as much as I loved going to a small school, I was ready to be a part of something big. Little did I know at the time that this call would turn into a lifelong mentor-mentee relationship...

Group of students and faculty posing for a picture wearing matching 'feeling GFTD' t-shirts
The GFTD team poses with Nina Guise-Gerrity, founder and creator, on Loyola's Evergreen campus.

Spreading kindness is just a part of who Professor Guise-Gerrity is, so when she told me she had the idea for an app that would allow people to instantly gift one another, I was anything but surprised.

“I want to be able to gift my niece blueberries in California without the hassle of shipping and the inconvenience of gift cards,” she explained to me.

This sparked the idea for the forthcoming app, GFTD—a digital wish list and gift-giving application that streamlines sending and receiving funds to secure a specific gift. 

The GFT of Mentorship

From her role as my first-year academic advisor to my current mentor, Professor Guise-Gerrity has provided me opportunities to discern my career passions. My role as a member of the GFTD team is to conceptualize the app features, to create content for our website,, and to market our idea. This process has been especially exciting and challenging for the GFTD team, because the financial technology being developed for this app has never been seen before.

In a technology-oriented world, it has been incredibly exciting to learn the ins and outs of app development. Working on the brink of new technology as a college student has helped me practice professional communication and feel the excitement and pressures of a self-started business.

This experience has prepared me for my future and strengthened my appreciation for Loyola because I have been able to have an impact on multiple parts of a startup business and grow with a company.

Professor Guise-Gerrity has always helped me and the other interns discover our strengths and pushed us to execute them with her guidance. We pride ourselves on being an all-female team.

With every new business comes new challenges. The key to facing these challenges, as Professor Guise-Gerrity has taught me, is to not become caught up in the problem itself but to maintain a holistic perspective. As we’re working through the final details for plan A, we’re already coming up with plans B, C, and D.

My advice to students considering pursuing a project like this would be to embrace the challenges, ask questions, and be fearless and determined in your goals. These are all crucial lessons I learned as a Loyola student. And be open to learning: from, with, and about other people. Relationships ultimately fuel ideas and creation!