Hanging conspicuously on an otherwise empty wall in Kerry Sallee’s office is a small canvas that reads, “Today is going to be amazing. True story.” Cute? Sure. Trite? Probably. But for the Honors College’s director of development, the simple statement hints at her deeply held beliefs about volition, empowerment, and gratitude. Fair warning: her positivity can be contagious.
When I first moved to Las Vegas from the East Coast in 2011, I overlooked what UNLV had to offer. I kept connecting with amazing people in our community who were big supporters of UNLV. One community leader corrected my misperceptions about the university and introduced me to the amazing people at the UNLV Foundation. Now, after being on campus for nearly four years, I’m proud to say that UNLV is my favorite place I have ever worked.
The most Vegas thing you’ve done since getting here
I love visiting the Neon Museum and go at least once a year. No matter how many times I visit, I always leave with a million new photos.
Biggest misconception about your job?
There can certainly be confusion around what those of us in development and alumni engagement spend our time doing. People see that we have off-campus lunches and attend special events, and they might assume the job ends there. But, in fact, our job starts there.
We are here to help build strong, lasting relationships between the university and our supporters. Off-campus meetings and events are, at times, the most convenient scenarios for our donors and alumni to connect with representatives from the university to hear the amazing stories of our students and faculty. If someone wants to meet on a weekend, we make time. If it means we are at events that run late into the evening, we’ll be there.
Greatest day on campus
My greatest day happens to also be the funniest. To encourage student and faculty participation in #RebelsGive, several of our team members — including our dean, Andrew Hanson — agreed to get a pie in the face.
Beyond it just being hilarious (and messy), that day I witnessed our students, faculty, and alumni demonstrating a new level of enthusiasm for supporting scholarships in our college. The fact that so many members of the Honors College community made contributions speaks to how amazing this place really is.
Before taking my current role, I remember looking at the Honors College from the outside and being so impressed with the discipline, drive, and spirit of community. I could not be more proud to do what I do every day!
Worst advice you’ve ever received
Long before joining the team at UNLV, a colleague at a previous organization strongly recommended I follow “best national practices” as we were starting a new fundraising campaign in Las Vegas. After some hesitation, I followed that advice. Let’s just say the campaign was less than successful.
I learned two valuable lessons from this. First, while every city is unique, Vegas is truly special. If you are good to Vegas, Vegas will be good to you! Ideas and actions need a Vegas twist. Second, I learned that I need to trust and have more confidence in my gut.
When people don’t use their turn signals — and texting while driving. I know many of my friends are rolling their eyes right now and are not at all surprised by this answer.
Favorite secret spot on campus
While I love many spots on campus, my favorite is probably the roof of Cottage Grove Parking Garage, looking west. It’s such a great retreat to take in beautiful views of Red Rock Canyon and overlook our beautiful campus. From breathing in cold winter air to watching a sunset or summer storm, the view always brings me peace and joy during busy days.
Carry blank note cards with you — something my mom and grandma drilled into me. I keep a stash in my work binder, in the office, and in my car. Hand written notes make a big impact, and being able to write a little note of thanks or congrats on the fly makes this meaningful practice so much easier.
A meal cooked with friends and family, made up of everyone’s favorite dishes, and thoughtful wine pairings from around the world. I love cooking and believe that only good things happen in the kitchen and around the dinner table — great conversations and so much laughter.
About that little canvas
I know it’s cheesy, but every time I read “today is going to be amazing” on my wall, I am reminded of the power of my volition. Attitude is a choice. I decide each day whether I will be happy or not. No outside circumstance or other person changes the fact that my attitude is always choice. The quote also sparks gratitude. We have so much to be grateful for, so why should we have bad or mediocre days?