Nila Tuckson enjoys the buzz of downtown St. Louis outside her office on Washington Avenue.
Sporting a brilliantly purple Fontbonne University T-shirt, Nila Tuckson arrived on the school’s Clayton campus, relaxed and a smile on her face. On any other Tuesday, Tuckson, a Fontbonne alumna and the director of human resources for the St. Louis Convention and Visitor’s Center, would already be answering the hundred or so e-mails waiting for her in her downtown St. Louis office. But today, a day off from work, she has time to sit and enjoy the cool morning air.
Sitting on a bench on Fontbonne’s Clayton campus, Tuckson admitted that when she was young, she never felt a connection to school. Instead of studying, she envisioned herself jumping into a career and earning her own paycheck. So it may seem strange that this alum, who once avoided academics, is now one of Fontbonne’s most enthusiastic ambassadors.
“Going to Fontbonne was the best thing I ever did,” Tuckson said emphatically. “Once I got the school bug, I knew that it would take me places.”
Tuckson worked full time after high school, exploring a few different colleges along the way — none of them met her needs. By the time she decided to turn her focus from career to education, she had to balance her roles as working professional, wife and mother of a small son. With her family’s support, she enrolled in Fontbonne’s OPTIONS program and, in 1999, earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration. More than any other university she tried, Fontbonne fit her the best. She credits a goal-setting course — an elective taught by Carol Dillon, Fontbonne’s current director of counseling and career development — with giving her the final push to pursue her dream of working in human resources.
At the time, Tuckson had a good job, but she used the techniques she learned in the class to visualize her goal and apply for a new position, soon receiving word that she had been hired. “I got to go back to that class and tell them that I had achieved my goal,” she recalls.
Ten years later, Tuckson is the director of human resources at America’s Center, overseeing the recruitment, hiring and professional affairs of 173 full-time and 500-600 part-time employees. She worked her way up from supervisor to director and considers herself not just an employee, but a strategic partner in the company. Tuckson is content with her life, and she talks about her alma mater — the place where she received her professional start — like she would a close friend, with notes of appreciation and loyalty in her voice. She recommends it to friends, to her son and to anyone else who will listen. And she believes that, as with her job, she is a partner in its growth.
“A few years ago, I wanted to get more involved in the community and asked myself, ‘who helped me the most?’ Fontbonne,’” she said. “I urge other alums to get involved and volunteer. You spend so much to get that degree. It’s important to give back — I recommend it to everyone.”
Tuckson began volunteering at alumni events and then was asked to serve on the alumni board. Her term now almost over, she plans to stay active in the Fontbonne community.
“Everything you do leads you in the path you’re supposed to go,” she explained. “It was meant for me to go this path. It’s been good for both my education and my career.”