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Tara Jones

Director of advancement in the College of Business
Office of Development

As director of advancement in Auburn's College of Business, Tara Jones leads the college's fundraising efforts and team. She is a two-time College of Business graduate, completing a bachelor of science in international business in 1994 and a master of business administration in 1995. She joined Auburn's Office of Development in 2003 and in 2010, earned the national Certified Fund Raising Executive professional designation. Her husband Anthony "AJ" Jones, also an Auburn graduate, majored in radio, television, and film and currently hosts two TV shows, one focused on sports, in the south Atlanta area. AJ met Tara's parents on the MARTA train in Atlanta after Auburn's bowl appearance on New Year's Eve 2001. It turned out that both AJ and Tara were living in Newnan at the time, and they began dating. The two were married a year later, and now enjoy traveling and watching a variety of sporting events together.

1. How did your experiences as an Auburn student lead you to a job in development?

As an undergraduate student, I was a Student Government Association senator in addition to sorority and honorary society memberships. My graduate assistantship in Student Affairs led to my first job after graduation. For two years, I served as an advisor for Auburn's University Program Council and for Panhellenic. Eager to use my business degrees, I worked in the telecommunications industry for seven years building customer relationships, planning long-term strategic financial goals and developing marketing and sales strategies. These experiences led me to fundraising on Auburn's behalf – first for the College of Architecture, Design and Construction and now, for the College of Business. As a result, I'm able to connect alumni and friends with something that I love – Auburn! And, I get to do this in the college where I earned my degrees.

2. What do you enjoy most about your job as a development officer?

My favorite part of being a development officer is meeting alumni and building relationships. I enjoy hearing about each person's Auburn experience and how education helped to shape his or her career. Every story is unique and interesting. Listening to the interests of alumni and donors allows us to better connect their passions with a project at Auburn. Involving and connecting alumni, friends and companies leads to their investment in our programs. An important part of my job is stewardship. This means communicating to our investors how we have effectively used their contributions to make Auburn better. Especially in these economic times, people want to know that they made a good decision by choosing to contribute to Auburn.

3. You travel a good bit personally. What has been your most exciting trip so far?

I love to travel, but when your job takes you out of the office and away from family for days at a time, living out of a suitcase can become a little wearisome. So, when I get to travel for fun and with family and friends, it's a treat. One of the most exciting places I get to visit is New York City. It is definitely my favorite city. A few years ago, AJ and I went to the U.S. Open tennis tournament. It was one of those trips where everything worked perfectly. At the U.S. Open, we got to see all the greats play – Roger Federer, Andy Roddick and Rafael Nadal. We also saw Justin Gimelstob's last match and his retirement speech. I then got to meet Justin that next year at a Davis Cup match. We also enjoy going to Las Vegas once a year and even got engaged there.

4. You and your husband are both big sports fans. Which sports do you enjoy watching the most?

I love watching most sports, but I would say my favorite sport to both watch and to participate in is swimming. Through my job at Auburn, I have had a chance to become friends with several Auburn swimmers and divers through the years. It is exciting to see them compete on an international stage. I have recently enjoyed watching triathlons. After completing a sprint triathlon this summer, I am even more impressed with the professionals who make this sport look so easy. I enjoy trying to become a runner. I especially love running on campus in the fall; it never gets old. Also, I am obsessed with the Olympics. In fact, as an Auburn student, I talked my parents into letting me study abroad in Madrid, Spain. Coincidentally, this was the same summer of the Barcelona Olympics. I saved my money all summer so I could buy Olympics tickets. I got to see the finals of women's gymnastics and track and field. One night, I even had to sleep on a park bench in the Olympic village, but it was worth it. Since meeting my husband, I have a greater appreciation for watching golf, baseball and even hockey. We are great seat fillers and often get offered tickets to NFL games and NCAA basketball tournaments. Of course, we enjoy all Auburn sports and attend as many events as we can.

5. Why did you decide to come back to Auburn and work in Development?

I decided to come back to Auburn because I wanted a job where I could make a difference. As a senior, I received a merit-based scholarship from the College of Business. I always remember how great it felt to be recognized for my academic achievements. I wanted to be able to do my part to help other students have that same feeling. Development seemed like a perfect match for me. Now, I realize that, in addition to scholarships, there are even more ways to help Auburn students. I was recently part of efforts led by Dean Bill Hardgrave and the college's executive leadership team to update our strategic plan and vision. It is a lot easier to raise money when you have a great plan that you can believe in. Having the dean actively involved in our efforts and be a part of our visits with alumni and donors is also essential. For me, it is exciting to think that I was once a College of Business student and now I get to participate in the future direction of our programs.

Oct. 22, 2012