Q and A Conversation with Tammi Weaver: Hufflepuff
As a part of the Q and A series with university officials, each person will be asked to take a "sorting hat" personality test for fun and good measure.
Interview conducted and written by Rachel Voris
From flipping burgers for alumni booth at the fair to cheering on the team at every Nanook hockey game, Tammi Weaver and her family really embody what it means to be a part of the University of Alaska system. Just after celebrating her 20th anniversary with the UA, Tammi takes some time to reflect on her experiences, as both of her kids are starting their own journeys as UAF college students. Tammi’s story is a shining example of what it takes to work and raise two children through to college in Alaska.
20 Years and Going Strong
You just celebrated your 20-year anniversary working for UA, and now you have a daughter who is a freshman at UAF. Can you tell me about first coming to work here all those years ago?
Before I came to work at the university I worked for a CPA firm in town. In that line of work, much of the year involves a lot of overtime and a lot of travel. I found out I was expecting in September of 1993, and I wondered if I could maintain that lifestyle and be the kind of mom I wanted to be. I started exploring other career opportunities and the university was one of those options. I accepted the position here, which at the time was titled cash and accounting manager. It’s basically the same job I have now; it’s just evolved over the years. I’ve had the same boss the whole time I’ve been here, Jim Lynch. I don’t know how many people can actually say that. When I first was hired, I worked with cash management for the university, and I was in charge of Foundation accounting. In the early days I also had a small role in the College Savings Plan, which was still in its development.
Within six months, I gave birth to my daughter. By the next July I found out I was pregnant again. It was a very welcome, but very surprising thing to find out. My kids are only 18 months apart, which is fabulous, but it was terrifying at that time.
When I realized I was having kids so close together, I knew they would only be young once and I really wanted to spend that time with them. I strongly considered not working after my son was born. I talked to Jim about it and told him that I appreciated all the opportunities he had given me, but I needed to spend this time with my kids. He encouraged me to take a leave of absence instead of leaving the university. I had three months of maternity leave and a year leave of absence. Near the end of this time, Jim called to check on me and I told him I was ready to talk to grown ups again.
I didn’t come back fulltime. Jim was willing to offer a lot of flexibility. I shared the job with someone else in a retirement transition for the first year back and then I worked at about 80 percent for many years. Once my kids started school, I adjusted my schedule so I could be home by the time they got off the school bus.
What makes you special as an employee that a supervisor would be willing to create a lot of flexibility around your life?
That’s a great question for Jim Lynch. But, he made it so that I could work here in a challenging career and spend valuable time with my young children. My family as a whole is everything to me. My career has been wonderful, but it has never been my number one priority. I try to offer a lot of flexibility to my staff also—giving employees that flexibility, they are so much happier in what they do. I can confidently say that the people I work with and the flexibility in my work schedule are the reasons I’ve been here for 20 years.
Talk to me about your 20-year anniversary just a few weeks ago.
The celebration caught me off guard. It was the day before my actual anniversary. Jim Lynch came into my office and told me there was a surprise for another employee and asked if I would attend with him. I said sure, but I thought it was weird I hadn’t heard about it before.
When we opened the door to the conference room everyone yelled surprise! I thought the other employee was right behind me and that they were yelling surprise for her. Then, I looked at the decorations and saw giant pictures of me from 20 years ago all over the walls. Top 40 music was playing from 1993. The Got Milk campaign started that year, so the photos were captioned “Got Tammi? We Do.” It was pretty cute, sappy and really nice.
We had a salad bar and chocolate party, two of my favorite things. My people know me well.
When you were beginning your career, is this what you envisioned it to look like?
When I started it was much more of an accounting job. The investment part of the job has really evolved over time out of necessity. In 1993, the UA Foundation’s endowment was $18 million and through new gifts and investment earnings it is now $285 million. Things were more simple then. The accounting, banking and investment responsibilities have become so much more complex due to ever-changing regulations, compliance and reporting requirements. I’ve been fortunate enough to hire additional employees within the department. They really focus on the accounting and banking aspects of the department and I focus on investments. I didn’t initially envision that part of the job, but I love it.
The university seemed to be deeply imbedded within your family. How did that come to be?
Well, UAF specifically has been in our blood a long time. My husband Randy and I were both raised in Fairbanks and went through the Fairbanks school system and we graduated from UAF. For me, at the time it was a financial decision to attend UAF. I never really considered going anywhere else. Randy and I didn’t know each other in college. We both have accounting degrees and graduated two years apart. We met when he was working in public accounting and he and his business partner came to UAF to recruit. We met in a job interview. Needless to say I got the job.
Our careers paths brought both of us to Statewide and Randy worked here almost 17 years before he left to become a banker. Because we attended UAF, and spent much of our careers working here, we know a lot about the University of Alaska. It seemed like a natural progression for our kids to enroll here.
Can you tell me about your daughter’s decision to attend UAF?
When Alyssa starting thinking about where to go to college, I wanted her to consider every school that could possibly be of interest. I didn’t want her to feel like she didn’t have a choice in the matter. She qualifies as a UA Scholar and the Alaska Performance Scholarship, as well other UAF scholarships. Financially, it’s awesome she is staying in the UA system. I’ve told the kids all along that they should find the school that is exactly right for them, and we would figure out the finances.
Both of my kids are very family oriented. My husband’s family and my family are both here in Fairbanks. A few months ago my husband’s mother passed away. She had cancer for a long time and we knew her death was coming. For that reason, my daughter never really considered going anywhere else for college. Alyssa asked me if I would be disappointed if she went to UAF. I told her it all depends on the reason behind the decision. If Alyssa was going to UAF because it was the perfect place for her degree choice, then absolutely go for it. But, if she was only staying because she was too afraid to venture out, that would not have been a good enough reason. Then, Alyssa told me she chose UAF because she didn’t have much time left with Nana and couldn’t imagine leaving her. I couldn’t argue with that; I felt that was a very good reason. Alyssa wants to be doctor. Maybe having an elite school name on her diploma would make a difference. I kind of doubt it.
Now Alyssa’s spent almost a whole year at UAF and she loves it. She’s made a point to be involved with campus clubs like SOLD (Students Offering Leadership Development). She’s also in a pre-med club and a volunteer for the business leader of the year banquet.
Alyssa is going to the University of Idaho in Moscow next spring semester through the National Student Exchange. I think this is a good compromise from her going to college out of state. She did the research and looked at schools on a semester system because she didn’t want to go for a full school year and worry about transferring credits. She figured she could take a lot of her humanities classes that semester. She just wants to experience a new place and a new school, while still being a part of UAF. She also plans to return to Alaska after medical school.
Is she the type of student that is highly motivated on her own or did you as a parent develop high expectations in her?
Randy and I do have high expectations. Not going to college was never an option for either of them. They were aware from a young age that we have been saving money for their education through the UA College Savings Plan. It’s never been if I go to college— it’s when I go to college. My daughter is very self motivated. I never had to ask her to do her homework.
Is your son the same way?
My kids have two very different philosophies about school or about anything. Alyssa aims for getting 100 percent or higher on every assignment or test. As a result she works very hard. My son, Jeremy, 18 months younger, has a very different philosophy. For him, the perfect score is 90 percent. He can put in just enough effort to get the A, but he isn’t going to waste effort to go far above that. Both philosophies caused stress in the family. My husband and I wish they would both aim for the middle, like a 94, and call it good.
Will your son become a UAF student this fall?
Yes, he just finished registering for classes.
Tell me about his experience on choosing UAF.
Jeremy is less sure what he wants to do with his life. Right now he thinks he wants to explore criminology and forensics. He knows he can get a quality education here at UAF. If he decides to go on and get a master’s degree or do another program, he knows he will still have funds from his College Savings Plan to make that choice easier. Even though I told my kids not to think about the financial side of it, they both still did. They have two finance people for parents, so it’s not that they’re concerned about the money, but they can appreciate good financial decisions.
Did your son have a good experience with registration? How did the system work for you at that point?
Navigating registration was a little confusing. Jeremy wants to major in criminal justice with a psychology minor. The area is foreign to me—I’m an accountant. When we went to sign him up online, it seemed like you just pick the classes that you want and go talk to your advisor. I knew there had to be something out there that listed all the classes he should take. We started on the criminal justice website, which described bachelor’s degree requirements in general, but we needed more information. We knew Jeremy needed some intro basics. He started by picking a couple of classes and fed them into DegreeWorks. It will then tell you everything you have left to complete your degree requirements. DegreeWorks also lets students monitor progress and use “Look Ahead” features, which were helpful too.
Jeremy also used academic advising to help him schedule his classes. I didn’t go with him to his academic advising session. His advisor helped him even more with the schedule that he had picked with Degree Works by looking at his ACT scores and creating an even more customized path for his courses. It was a good partnership between DegreeWorks and academic advising.
Can you tell me one similarity and one difference from the time you were starting your college career at UAF compared to when your daughter started last year?
My daughter took a lot of AP classes in high school and started college with 26 credits. I never even dreamed of doing anything like that. She is doing it because she is focused. She has a life plan. In that regard, she is miles ahead of where I was as a freshman. I was lost. My freshmen year was scary and foreign. My daughter has embraced the college life. She submitted a proposal to the Northern Leadership Institute, and they are sending her to Illinois this summer for a leadership conference. I doubt I even knew about these kinds of things when I was in my first year of college.
What’s your philosophy towards parenting? Helicopter parent or more hands off?
I would probably be guilty of being too involved rather than not involved enough. My kids have always had a lot of activities, and I’m a parent who thinks I belong on the sidelines. I didn’t always stay for every practice, but I won’t miss a game or a recital. I want to be their number one cheerleader. As he grew older, Jeremy informed me I didn’t need to be at every event, but I could see him scanning the crowd to see if I was there and then smiling when he spotted me. When I was growing up, my parents were self employed and couldn’t get away from the office. They didn’t have the flexibility to come to my activities, so I made it a goal to attend as many of my kids’ functions as possible.
What’s something you love to do as a family?
Randy and I are serious hockey fans and were fans before we even knew each other in our college days. It’s something that we have done together as a family very consistently. We don’t miss a game unless we’re traveling. We’ve also travelled to Anchorage for the Governor’s Cup. We have even gone to Nebraska for one series.
When my kids were little, my daughter was taking ice skating lessons at the Patty Center. The Nanook hockey players were about to come onto the ice to practice. The team walked by us, these really tall, bulky college guys. One of them patted my son on the head and said, ‘how are you doing, little buddy?’ My son was in awe and knew he wanted to be a hockey player, too at that moment. After the next game, we waited outside the locker room for that player, just to thank him for recognizing our son and tell him that it meant a lot to us. The player became a close family friend. After he graduated, we sought out another player to become friends with. It was rewarding for my kids to have a connection to the team, and it inspired my son to play hockey for 12 years.
A Cinematic Snapshot of Tammi Weaver
Results from the sorting hat personality quiz indicated that Weaver is a Hufflepuff. Weaver reflects the qualities of Hufflepuff House from the Harry Potter tales. A Hufflepuff’s characteristics mostly center on hardwork and loyalty, which explains why Tammi has been with the UA System for 20 years. Hufflepuff's prive themselves on devotion, fairness, being just, and kindess. Some other notable Hufflepuffs include President Gamble, Regent Jacobson, Cedric Diggory and Professor Pomona Sprout.