MIS Graduate Tawny Hammond: Saving Animals and Sailing Ships

Posted: November 08, 2023 | Author: Madelyn Bushman | Read Time: 3 minutes

Tawny Hammond, director of No-Kill Advancement at Best Friends Animal Society, was SUU’s first-ever MIS graduate who emphasized in Contemporary Animal Services Leadership (CASL) after SUU and Best Friends Animal Society teamed up to enhance the CASL curriculum with a focus on how to manage animal-related nonprofits. Hammond graduated in December 2020, while living in Traverse City, MI where she completed her master’s degree 100% online with a 4.0 GPA. 

Prior to working in the animal services field with Best Friends Animal Society, Hammond worked for the Fairfax County Park Authority for 25 years. She also is an entrepreneur, as the owner of Discovery Cruises, and captains a 149-passenger tourism boat and 65 ft. Schooner that holds 18 passengers. 

The Hammond Discovery Cruise ship Hammond's Schooner sailboat

Hammond had always wanted to get a master’s degree- it was a personal goal of hers. “Going to school reminds you how to learn. I really enjoy learning. I find it rejuvenating and revitalizing. I feel reinvigorated by it,” she said.

In the past, she tried to complete her master’s two times but never finished. When she learned about SUU’s Master of Interdisciplinary Studies (MIS) program while working on the Best Friends Partnership with the university, she believed that it was the right place, right time and right school for her to achieve her goal of finishing a master’s degree. 

Hammond was instantly drawn to the customizability to match her varied interests and professional needs. This was not only perfect for her career at Best Friends, but also for her own business as the MIS program at Southern Utah University offered the perfect combination of skills. 

“The MIS program is actually perfect for entrepreneurs because they can gain skills in both business practices and their core business,” Hammond said.

Tawny Hammond with a dog

She hadn’t seen this type of program anywhere else and was surprised to see how affordable it was. “SUU is really affordable with no compromise on quality, rigor or integrity,” she said. 

When beginning her master’s at SUU, she was nervous about doing school online, as her only college experience had been with in-person classes.  Not knowing what to expect, she took a “Online and Hybrid Teaching” course to help her become more prepared and comfortable with online learning. 

She quickly developed a schedule that worked for her by getting up early to study. She was always eager for professors to open assignments early and make lectures available so she could move at a faster pace. She loved participating in all the discussions in order to connect and understand concepts more deeply. 

Despite being nervous at first, Hammond’s experience with SUU Online was positive due to its personal connections and sense of community. 

“When I got to graduation and met my classmates in person, we greeted each other with hugs even though we had never met before other than virtually,” Hammond said. 

Now after receiving her master's, Hammond has been able to reflect and see how a master’s degree has impacted her life.  

“I feel like it has given me a professional edge and given additional credibility to my reputation,” Hammond said.“It has increased my depth and breadth of understanding and that helps me in every aspect of my work.” 

Her advice for others considering going back to school for their master’s degree  is, “Don’t wait.”

“There will never be a perfect time to go to school because life is busy,” said Hammond. “Just get started. You will be amazed at what you will be able to accomplish.” 

Learn more about SUU’s online MIS degree.

Tags: CurStu Interdisciplinary Studies Graduate Programs Online

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