Tanner Russell Headshot
Alumni Spotlight

Tanner Russell

Associate Director of Alumni Relations | UW Alumni Association

Interviewed by Sena Krula

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What year did you graduate and what did you get your degree in?

MBA, 2014 (undergrad Business Admin @ Fort Hays State University, 2013)

Tanner graduation photo Tanner with UWAA Coworkers
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Why did you decide to get your MBA here after you completed your undergraduate degree?

I finished my undergraduate degree in three years and at that juncture, I was looking at options for the right ‘next step’. With my business background, an MBA seemed to fit well, and Wyoming had been home for so much of my family, so I decided to come to Laramie to learn more about that option at UW. I met with Steve Farkas, MBA Director at the time, and made the decision to apply. I was graciously accepted and started my MBA that Fall. To answer the question a little more directly, I was ready for that next step in my education and UW immediately felt like home. It was the right choice.

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Tell me a bit about your experience attending the UW College of Business. What resources did you take advantage of?

I had a wonderful experience with the COB and as a grad student, I sure did spend a lot of my time there. I really enjoyed having shared office space with my cohort – we learned a lot about ourselves and a lot about each other. I also appreciated the opportunities that we were afforded in the vein of networking and meetings prominent leaders and businesspeople from across the state and beyond. Leaning into opportunities to expand my professional network is something that I wish I would have done much earlier.

Tanner with daughter Tanner with festive coworkers
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What opportunities do you take advantage of as an alum? How do you stay connected?

I think staying connected as an alum is much easier for me because I do work for UW. As the Associate Director of the UW Alumni Association, I am honored to be in a position where I can positively impact other alumni and focus on how we, as an organization, can provide value and additional ways for others to connect with UW.

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What advice would you give to young professionals who are looking for jobs in Wyoming?

Pick up the phone. Send the personal email. Ask others in your networks, personal and professional, if they are aware of opportunities if you want to stay in Wyoming. An internet search narrows a lot, but I believe nothing beats that personal connection.

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What does a day in your life at the UWAA look like?

Every day is different when trying to build an engagement strategy that connects with over 130K alumni. Whether we are talking logistics for next year’s Homecoming events, identifying high engagement regions where we would like to grow our networks, understanding how to best support our campus and external partners, or evaluating the strategy around our digital engagement, our team is always focusing on how to best engage with our alumni in a valuable way. I have had the unique opportunity to rebuild our engagement team over the past few months and I am so excited to see what we accomplish in 2023.

Tanner with daughter Tanner with daughter
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What are some of your favorite things about Wyoming? What makes Laramie and Albany County a great place to live?

As I write this response with a blizzard outside my office window, I giggle. Wyoming is beautiful place to live and to call home. I didn’t spend my childhood years here, but I have lived and worked in both Laramie and Albany counties. I have done a lot of growing up here and I’m grateful to raise my daughter and to continue to grow personally and professionally in such a welcoming and community driven place.

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The College of Business is part of the Daniels Fund Ethics Initiative Collegiate Program. Does your organization have a code of ethics or a set of guiding principles that it uses for decision-making – and if so, can you share it with us?

Our Executive Director, Jack Tennant, has this saying, “People don’t remember what you did, they remember how you made them feel.” We don’t have a formal code of ethics, but I think this closely aligns. We also have created our own personal mission statements as a team that we are able to connect back to the UWAA mission which has been a really valuable exercise for us.

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Our ethics class has also adopted the Daniels Fund Ethics Initiative principles as their classroom code of conduct and are working to integrate the principles into their classroom culture. Tell me a little about the culture of your organization and how you go about developing a culture of “doing the right thing”.

Our internal organizational culture closely aligns with DFEI principles, especially those of Integrity, Trust, Accountability, and Transparency. I think we do a really good job of holding ourselves and each other accountable to these principles so we can move forward together providing the best service possible to our alumni.

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Bill Daniels was the founder of the Daniels Fund. Mr. Daniels believed integrity and an unwavering commitment to ethical behavior provided "the ultimate business advantage." Do you think he was right?

I do. Being a Daniels Scholar myself, I have been connected to the DFEI principles for a long time – about 13 years now. I think having a foundation grounded in integrity and ethical behavior allows us to consistently do the next right thing no matter the situation (Yes, a Frozen reference! Toddler mom over here.).

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How do you encourage ethical behavior among your UWAA staff? On those occasions when integrity issues do arise, how do you hold your employees accountable?

I believe in always leading by example. I am proud to say that I haven’t had integrity issues arise in my current organization. If I did, I would approach it with open communication and respect. Timeliness, mutual respect, honesty, and ownership is something that we proudly live and lead with in the UWAA – as long as we have that, we move forward in a positive direction and grow together.

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What ethical dilemmas have you run into while working in various industries?

Any time you work in an industry that has compensation-based incentives based on productivity, it lends itself to ethical dilemmas. Having personally experienced that type of environment early in my career, I would say that having the support of leadership, strong values, and consistent communication makes a big difference but of course doesn’t eliminate dilemmas from the equation. I have always approached these types of instances directly, respectfully, and with grace extended to those that are impacted.

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In closing, is there a final piece of advice you would like to share with Wyoming business alumni?

As Wyoming COB alumni, we have had a unique experience grounded in hard work and grit. Never lose your grittiness and always advocate for yourself.

To learn more about the Ethics Initiatives at UW