Shanette Buford-Brazzell’s first job out of college was at The Jerome Schottenstein Center at The Ohio State University supervising 400 part-time employees and 15 part-time supervisors as the event coordinator. Despite her passion for and career in sports, this YWCA Bootcamp alumna and Distinguished Young Woman has returned to a career in her hometown in higher education, where she got her first big break in development.
Key to her success has been “not allowing when others tell me ‘no’, overcoming that and proving to myself that I can do whatever it is I receive a ‘no’ for. As a Distinguished Young Woman and an African –American woman, I have been told no and given a lot of roadblocks.”
“There are not that many people in my industry that look like me or had the experience or faced challenges that I have. I can persevere in any odds. I can have a seat at the table and have my dream job.”
Buford-Brazzell has always had a passion for watching sports, with ESPN always at the ready for viewing, and having had participated in sports during her childhood. When she started her undergrad path at Cleveland State University (CSU) she started as a psychology and business major, switched her major during her junior year in college to journalism and promotional communications and a minor in Black and Gender Studies. She was certain sports reporting would be a perfect field to pursue. After a summer internship in the CSU athletics department updating the media guide, she realized sports journalism did not hold her interest. With an informational interview, the athletics administration coordinator in the department mentored her and gave her the opportunity to work in game day event management and athletics development, which ultimately gave her the skills and passion for development that have shaped her career. Eight years later, her mentor still has an impact on her career and personal life.
Further leveraging her love of sports, Shanette obtained two internships at America SCORES Cleveland and at the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission, which gave her nonprofit experience outside of higher education. Post-graduation, she moved to Columbus to work at The Jerome Schottenstein Center. For two years, she sharpened her event management and marketing skills, and gained additional higher education advancement experience, through collaboration and volunteer work, on a much larger playing field with her incredible supervisory responsibility for a new grad.
Shanette returned home to Cleveland in 2015, to spend more than three years working in events, marketing, and development at the United Way and was promoted a few months after being recognized as a YWCA Distinguished Young Woman. While at United Way, she completed the Civic Leadership Institute at Cleveland Leadership Center and obtained a certificate in sports philanthropy from George Washington University’s School of Business.
Reflecting on completing the 2017-2018 cohort of YWCA’s Bootcamp professional development program, she thinks both professionally and personally she improved by looking within and working “on myself while looking outward.” Looking for change, support, and more confidence, the program delivered. “That is something I am proud of achieving, not giving up, because there were days that were very emotional because of the topics, but you had to put in the work to get the results.”
Despite her promotion and her fit in United Way events, she longed to return to higher education and joined the development team at Weatherhead School of Management, Case Western Reserve University as Assistant Director of External Relations at the end of 2018. She primarily works on their annual fund to solicit funds from alumni and friends of Weatherhead to attract unrestricted donations. She appreciates working with such an established development team in higher education that is deeply rooted in the work of the university.
Buford-Brazzell thinks her greatest strength is her open-mindedness and creativity.
“I keep an open mind when it comes to any kind of topic, any duties aspects of my professional life. I am the one who takes the initiative to reach out to my peers in similar industries to see what others are doing around the same topic instead of reinventing the wheel to see how those ideas could possibly work at where I am currently working.”
In addition to being a member of professional development organizations such as Association for Fundraising Professionals (AFP Cleveland) and Women in Sports and Events (WISE Cleveland), when Shanette wanted to move back to Cleveland, she was recommended to join Junior League of Cleveland, to get involved in the city and to build new relationships. Junior League promotes volunteerism in women and Shanette has held two chair committee positions and one board position. “Some of the women have been in Junior League since the chapter started in Cleveland and are very involved in all aspects.” Junior League has benefited from her work on their fundraising strategy, special events and membership engagement.
Buford-Brazzell is committed to the YWCA’s mission by continuing “to use my personal and professional experience as a platform to empower women – peers, women before me and mentoring those women coming up behind me, while having a seat at the table and to be a voice for women regarding eliminating racism, but adding diversity and inclusion in the workforce, board roles, volunteer organizations and education.”