Judy Tansky

Fisher students and alumni interested in putting their business skills to work for nonprofit organizations know who to reach out to on campus. For more than 10 years, Judy Tansky, a senior lecturer in the Department of Management and Human Resources, has carved out a niche as the person for nonprofit-related projects and connections.

“Students get so much more out of their education when they’re doing something, when they can see that what they’re doing can have an impact and they’re allowed to be creative to solve a problem,” Tansky said. “I never really set out to be involved in social entrepreneurship projects and nonprofits — it just happened. But I really enjoy working with students and organizations that can make positive impacts in the community.”

Tansky (BS ’68, MAcc ’75, PhD ’91) has been named the 2017 recipient of Fisher’s Excellence in Service Award for her service as a member of Fisher’s faculty and for her work connecting students with nonprofit organizations in search of business insights. She will receive the award at Fisher’s annual Alumni Awards event on October 6.

Learn more about Fisher's Alumni Awards

“While I met Judy at Ohio State, I really got to know her better after I graduated,” said Patrick Westerlund (BSBA ’13), an education and impact investing consultant at the Columbus-based Tony R. Wells Foundation.

“Our paths came closer as I launched a career supporting social enterprises through the Wells foundation. Every time I talk to Judy she motivates me to work harder to make an impact in our community. I find it amazing how many people she influences as a business leader, a professor and a community steward.”

Tansky’s foray into nonprofits and social entrepreneurship began more than a decade ago with a simple request from the Central Ohio Diabetes Association: It wanted students to consult on a project to help turn a farm in western Ohio into a camp for children coping with diabetes.

“The Association didn’t have the time to put into it or any business expertise,” Tansky recalled. “They wanted to know if there would be an external market for this kind of camp outside of the four weeks they were going to use it and, if so, how to raise money to fund it.

“Our students presented their recommendations to the Diabetes Association’s board of directors, and I eventually ended up sharing with the United Way how this student-led project came about. The United Way asked if we had planned to continue these projects. At the same time, the students came to me and said they enjoyed the projects because they were learning about non-profits, and they were providing real services to these organizations. It’s just grown from there.”

Tansky Alumni Award 1

One example of this growth has been the prominence of the Alleviating Poverty Through Entrepreneurship (APTE) Summit, for which Tansky has served as an advisor. What started out as a student-led event inside Gerlach Hall in 2009 has since grown to become a premier summit throughout the country. Now held at Mershon Auditorium, the summit draws hundreds and attracts top social entrepreneurs from across the U.S. and around the world.

“One of the things I like most about Judy is that hands-on approach she brings to learning,” said Westerlund, who served as an APTE Summit co-organizer while at Fisher. “She has always structured her classes in a way that experienced practitioners are engaged either as guest presenters or as project sponsors that gives students honest insight to the real world.”

Originally from New Straitsville, Ohio, Tansky earned a scholarship to attend Ohio State and eventually graduated with an undergraduate degree in business education. She began her teaching career in vocational settings at Hocking College and what was then the Eastland Vocational Center, where she saw firsthand the effectiveness of active-learning, project-based educational environments.

Tansky returned to Ohio State in 1974 to pursue a Master in Accounting degree. As a graduate student, she was the only woman among the approximately 55 other members of her cohort.

“It was intimidating,” she said. “There were professors who were supportive and there were some who weren’t. It was definitely a challenge.”

After marrying her husband, Tom, she joined his family’s Toyota dealership business in 1975 and put her graduate degree to work as a full- and part-time accountant. Despite the transition to private business, Tansky never lost her passion for education.

She earned a PhD in human resources and organizational behavior from Ohio State in 1991 and eventually taught at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and James Madison University before returning to Ohio State in 1998 as a visiting professor.

She’s been at Fisher ever since.

“Judy is always smiling, always positive, and always moving forward,” Westerlund said. “She brings out the best in others and challenges them to think outside of the box.”

Together with The Ohio State Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE), Tansky has helped cultivate and grow the college’s social entrepreneurship footprint. Just as important, she’s been a force for positive impact for thousands of Fisher students — as an instructor in the classroom and as a generous supporter of the kinds of scholarships that she said changed her life.

“I’ve probably had a different lifestyle and a different set of circumstances having gone to Ohio State instead of staying in southeast Ohio,” Tansky said. “I’ve learned a lot and have been able to do a lot because of it. I like to see other kids have that same opportunity. I’ve jumped around a little figuring out what I wanted to do, and I’m not sure I’ve figured it out in the classroom, but to see students grow and make an impact for some really great organizations has been incredibly rewarding.”