Foundation Feature: Jenni Huotari

Meet Jenni Huotari, a 2002 Accounting graduate who has fond memories of her time as a student at MSUM. Over 20 years later, she stays connected as a member of the MSUM Foundation board, donor, and overall ambassador to the university.

Name, job title, employer, grad year and major.

Jenni Huotari, Partner-in-Charge of Business Outsourcing & Strategy, Eide Bailly LLP

2002, Accounting

When did you first become connected to MSUM? How?

I wasn’t very familiar until I toured campus as a senior in high school. It immediately felt like the right place for me. I never second-guessed my decision.

Why have you stayed connected to the university throughout the years?

I’ve stayed close to MSUM by working for a firm that actively recruits from the university. This brought me back in a variety of ways to talk to students, speak to classes, connect with the professors and ultimately hire MSUM alumni. Even as some of the professors at the Paseka School of Business have transitioned, I’ve found those who have come to the University to create the same culture that drew me to MSUM over 20 years ago. I’ve also stayed close just to sheer proximity. I loved the campus so much I decided I could never move more than a couple of miles from it. I love being able to bring my kids through or near campus frequently!

What unique experience, skill or perspective do you bring to the Foundation Board?

I’m not sure I have any unique experiences or skills, but I can keep a close eye on campus. I do think that being in the community and having a pulse on the community’s engagement with MSUM is valuable.

What energizes you in your role serving on the Foundation Board?

I loved the university and the campus from the first time I saw it. It was a second home to me. I get to see the impact MSUM makes on both its students as well as the community. I’m grateful for the impact so far and excited to see the impact continue to grow.

What inspires you to give back to the university with your time and talent?

I came to MSUM as an intimated first-generation college student from a very rural area. My professors saw me and intentionally connected with me and guided me. I’m not sure if my path would have been the same without their genuine commitment to my success. I feel a ton of gratitude toward them.

What experiences at MSUM have influenced your life the most? Which have helped you succeed?

I mentioned previously my connection to my professors, specifically my accounting professors. I probably couldn’t say enough good things about them. But I would also like to give a shout-out to the tremendous folks leading the Comstock Memorial Union. I worked at the CMU throughout my college years and had an opportunity to be a manager of one of the service areas (specifically the Etc. Shop, for anyone that wandered through the lower level of the CMU in the late 90s and early 00s). I worked for Jean Hollaar, who is now the university’s vice president of Finance and Administration. I learned many valuable business and accounting lessons from creating and managing the budget, reviewing the financials, ordering products, managing a team, etc. It was invaluable.

What’s one thing you’re learning now, and why is it important?

It’s amazing how we can be in our careers for so long, and constantly be learning. I like data and data visualization. I like to geek out with that when I can. I am also always trying to learn how to be a more effective leader.

What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?

Most people don’t know I’m a farm kid from a city of 140 people. More people lived in my dorm my freshman year than in my entire hometown!

What’s the best advice you were ever given? Who was it from?

I have a bunch of different mantras that run through my mind in various situations. I find myself balancing out advice like ‘you can’t always hit a homerun’ with ‘how you do anything is how you do everything’. They seem contradictory, but also complementary. It reminds me to always give it what I’ve got, but not necessarily more than it needs.

Where’s your favorite on-campus meeting place?

Definitely anywhere in the CMU, especially after the improvements. It’s such a gorgeous space filled with memories for me.

What experiences in your life inspired you to give?

I know that I was very fortunate to not only receive the quality education that I did but also to receive it from such wonderful professors. I left school well prepared and confident in my skills. It’s important to invest in the place that invested so much in me.


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