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From Fellow to Fellowship Program Manager: Tessa Seaney Practices Leadership fueled by Authenticity, Inclusivity, and a Pursuit of Challenged Perspectives

By Erin Huggins
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Coming from the small town of Mead, Colorado, to the historic corridors of Penrose House, is none other than Tessa Seaney, Program Manager of El Pomar Foundation’s Fellowship, and Fellowship Alum (class of 2021). She is a testament to the power of reflection, mentorship, and inclusivity of diverse thought. As Tessa graciously shared insights from her journey moving to Colorado Springs, and the principles that guide her leadership philosophies, I came to further appreciate Tessa’s role at the Foundation. The Fellowship program is truly enriched by her support and guidance in Fellows’ professional and personal goals.

“I grew up with a dirt road in front of my house and surrounded by farmlands,” Tessa said. “At one point, the town paved literally half of our road and we had dirt on the other side. I really enjoyed being in this small town but still close to the bigger cities.”

The combined love of her small town and the broader communities that surrounded her makes her place in the Foundation clear. Tessa fosters the empowerment of current Fellows while being dedicated to El Pomar’s grander mission in supporting the wellbeing of the people of Colorado. The tight bonds forged from her hometown upbringing continues to shape her approach to leadership as she mentors Fellows.

Before Tessa joined the Fellowship, she graduated from Fort Lewis College with a degree in psychology. She believed her next steps would be supporting and empowering others by pursuing a Ph.D. in psychology. After reflecting on her intrinsic desires – and the academic marathon she would need to prepare for – she was curious about other options. Her pursuits took an unexpected turn when someone suggested she look into a two-year fellowship opportunity that aligned with her passion for uplifting others.

“I had no idea what the Foundation was before this. I really wasn’t looking for a fellowship at all,” Tessa said. “It kind of fell into my lap and it was the perfect kind of opportunity.”

Although unexpected, this pivotal decision marked the beginning of a remarkable pursuit to enrich the lives of others. As Tessa transitioned from Fellow to Fellowship Program Manager, she navigated the challenges with grace and reflection, drawing upon the support of her predecessors and leveraging her newfound skills and perspectives. Her commitment to fostering an inclusive and supportive environment for her team became the cornerstone of her leadership philosophy, prioritizing authenticity, and growth above all else.

“My biggest responsibility is creating a space where you feel like you can be authentic and your fun selves; while also exceeding, excelling, and being brave as you learn new things,” she said.

In her role as Program Manager and mentor, Tessa has embraced the responsibility of nurturing the next generation of leaders. She emphasized the importance of creating a welcoming space where Fellows could thrive and enrich the Foundation through their varying perspectives, while also ensuring consistency and cohesion across programs. She reflected on her journey in the Fellowship, and the value that diverse perspectives offer to personal and professional growth. 

 “You think you’re all on the same page, but you all bring different perspectives and ideas,” she said. “It’s important to challenge the process to make sure everyone’s heard, and a lot of times those different ideas are very beneficial.”

Tessa’s leadership style is characterized by a dedication to inclusivity and diversity to foster progress and collaboration. It is through this mindset that Tessa can leave a positive impact on her peers, the current Fellows, and Fellows for years to come.

Despite facing challenges along the way, Tessa’s unwavering commitment to personal and professional growth remains constant and spreads to the Fellows she leads. Hearing Tessa’s experience from Fellow to Program Manager made me truly appreciate the importance of mentorship in shaping the experiences and character of others.

In essence, Tessa Seaney’s journey exemplifies the transformative power of leadership as she continues to inspire and empower. Her legacy serves as a demonstration of the importance of mentorship for incoming generations of leaders, building their capacity to uplift others and their larger communities as well.

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