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Humans of the U: Nakaiya Stucki

"Not only should students be learning in their classes, they should also be having dynamic, engaging educational experiences outside of the classroom."

“I’ve always been interested in psychology and human expression. Communicating and discovering people’s desires, goals and passions are fascinating to me. From the age of 13, right up until my 21st birthday, I studied multiple dance disciplines and found freedom in expressing myself through ballet, jazz, lyrical, hip hop and tap. I studied and trained at multiple dance academies throughout Australia, including Dance World Studios, based in Melbourne and Brent Street, in Sydney. My plan was to move to North Hollywood to continue my training at Millennium Dance Complex and Debbie Allen’s Dance Academy while working as a choreographer and performer.

However, upon graduating from Brent Street, I decided I needed a break from dance. I had suffered multiple injuries throughout the years and the physical demands were really starting to take a toll on my mental health. I had been away from family and friends for what felt like an eternity. It was time for a change and it was also at this time that my interest in psychology and neuroscience started to peak. I decided to take a vacation to the U.S. This was when I first met my future husband. A year later, we were married and decided to move to Logan, Utah, where he was attending school at Utah State University. At that time, I decided to make the switch to finance. When I tell people that, they’re often surprised, they don’t think dance, psychology and finance have anything in common. But for me, numbers and spreadsheets are just other forms in which I can express myself, while simultaneously exploring the perspectives and goals of others. Financial information is a window into what people truly value. Not only does it show you what people want, but if you pay close attention, you can discover why they want what they want, something only a profoundly curious geek like me can appreciate.

Now, as I work at the university as the finance director for University Marketing and Communications, I think of my job as less of just crunching numbers and more as helping people find and accomplish their goals within the framework of a budget. My role allows me to take a strategic approach, letting me observe from a birds-eye view how the university works and what values drive it, as well as getting to know staff members and understand their priorities.

I’m originally from New Zealand, and the culture there is very family-oriented. Your family members are not just your blood relatives, but all the people you interact with. We often joke that us Kiwis are never too sure who our blood relatives are and who are not because a complete stranger will become ‘family’ in a matter of days. As I work here, I try and share that culture and perspective with others. All of us at the U, the faculty, staff and students, are connected by our work with this great organization, and we have a responsibility to lift one another up to accomplish our goals.

One of the reasons I took on my role here was to make a difference in the lives of students and help to make sure their experience was an enjoyable one. Not only should students be learning in their classes, but they should also be having dynamic, engaging educational experiences outside of the classroom. One of my mum’s favorite quotes that she used to say to us all the time was, ‘Don’t let schooling get in the way of your education.’ I’ve taken that advice to heart, and in my role, try to promote and develop a university that fosters a multifaceted educational experience that puts students and their development first. I love that I get to be a part of an organization that values that.”

—Nakaiya Stucki, finance director for University Marketing and Communications