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        College, Students

        Home is Where Harbert Is: Meet Tacey Kaiser

        March 16, 2022 By Michele Jackson

        All News
        Harbert Business Complex

        Editor's Note

        Many Auburn students are generational legacies, students who grew up loving Auburn, and who have an affinity that has been passed down from their parents and other family members. But, what about those who are first-generation Auburn students? Students that are not “Auburn born.”  We at the Harbert College of Business wanted to know what it is that draws a student from another part of the country to Auburn University. Why Auburn? Why the Harbert College of Business? This five-part series will highlight students from across the U.S., and we’ll dive in to find out why they now believe in Auburn and love it too.

        Meet Tacey Kaiser

        Tacey KaiserKansas born and raised, Tacey Kaiser grew up on a farm in the rural community of Bennington, population close to 600, where she knew everyone, and everyone knew her.  The kind of place you don’t realize how much you love until you leave. The kind of place everyone knows your “business” before you do, and your destiny is presupposed from the time you are a child.  It’s also the kind of place you might find yourself in a box – a this is who you are and who you’re going to be – kind of box.  Tacey always fit nicely in her box, until she didn’t and wanted more.

        So, what drew this small-town girl sixteen hours from Kansas to Auburn, Alabama, a small city of 70,000 people and a university campus with approximately 30,000 students, where she knew no one – not one soul?


        It’s often said Auburn people are passionate.  It’s true, we are. We love all things Auburn: the community, the university, the people, the sports.  And on Saturday, August 31, 2019, that passion emanated so tangibly through a TV screen it intrigued a girl sitting alone in her Emporia, Kansas apartment – a girl questioning if she was in the right place pursuing the right things.  Tacey was just looking for a game to watch, but she found so much more.

        A multi-sport, straight A student athlete, school and sports always came easy to Tacey, but she loved her rural community, so she played it safe when considering colleges. “I was one of those people raised in a bubble, a place where your identity is in the people around you. You don’t think about going somewhere your surroundings don’t give you your identity.” So, Tacey initially chose a small college just two hours away with the same sense of rural community as home. 

        But for Tacey something just didn’t fit.  She soon found herself in what she describes as a “culture of complacency.”  Her peers seemed to be satisfied with the environment, yet she wanted more. Something was missing.

        While she’d heard of Auburn University only once before, during a basketball tournament, the name recognition was enough to stop her channel surfing that fateful Saturday afternoon as Auburn and Oregon opened the 2019 football season on ESPN.  She noticed the energy of the crowd and the people’s passion intrigued her, “It was a great game, and the people were so fired up. I’d never seen people love a place the way I felt like the Auburn fans loved Auburn,” she said.  “I realized that is what I want. There was something about Auburn that made the people feel like ‘I can’t get this anywhere else’. I knew then that’s what I’d been missing”.

        Tacey at the game

        After watching the game, Tacey realized she’d been settling.  She wanted to love her college and community the way the Auburn people did.  She wanted to learn more about this place. Her google search began on Auburn University’s Traditions Page. Tacey learned about rolling trees, lemonade, the eagle flying and the seal, and as one search led to another, her obsession was born. The more she researched, the more passionate she became, until something clicked, and she thought “I should go.” 

        She knew she needed a place to grow, a place she would be challenged and compelled to apply herself, a place where the people matched her passion and drive to achieve. Tacey had never been to Auburn, never been to the South, and had only been outside the mid-west twice, nevertheless she applied to Auburn and was accepted in a competitive transfer class.  Now, she just had to convince her parents.

        The first week of January 2020, Tacey and her parents arrived in Auburn, “Literally, I stepped foot on campus, it was so beautiful, and I knew, this is it. I have to be here. I will do whatever it takes.”  It was going to take a lot.  Out-of-state tuition alone was a stretch for her, and this was a long way from home.  She would have to do this on her own. 

        Tacey had read about Southern Hospitality and the friendly culture in Auburn, but she experienced it for the first time her first day on campus.  As she and her parents stood, lost, looking confused and running late for a tour, a student, clearly in a hurry to get to class herself, stopped to ask if they were lost and needed help. Tacey said that gesture really eased her mom’s heart. After that encounter, she asked everyone she met on campus if they could revisit their college choice would they choose Auburn again? Each and every time, the answer was yes. When she was touring the Harbert College of Business, she asked faculty, do you love this place, and the answer was yes.  When she was around town, she asked people she met if they loved living here.  Again, every time the answer was yes.  “It was just so apparent to me that there was something about this place that brings all these people together and rallies them around this one thing and I just had to have that” she said.

        This was an expensive decision for Tacey and would mean graduating with student loan debt.  However, everyone she asked, most importantly her dad, affirmed what she knew.  This is the place.  Do whatever it takes.

        Tacey Kaiser was going to Auburn.

        Tacey loves Auburn Football

        Discovering her purpose and rising to the challenge

        As she began her course work as a marketing major in the Harbert College of Business, Tacey was placed in an entry level Supply Chain Management class.  “I fell in love with it”, she says. “I am a person who values efficiency. I value effectiveness.  I don’t understand why you would do something in a way that is not the best way when you can save time, you can save effort, you can save money. You gain so much out of the discipline of living your life the best way possible and I did not realize you could build an entire career on that.” Tacey discovered something she loved and the area of industry she wanted to pursue.

        By the end of the semester, she knew she wanted to change her major but felt like it was too late. 

        Jan Moppert, Director of the Office of Professional and Career Development, didn’t think so, and that mattered to Tacey.  Moppert also taught a Professional Development class required for all Harbert College of Business students, a freshman level credit course Tacey initially thought was unnecessary - until the first class.  Tacey quickly realized she didn’t know what she didn’t know. After the lecture ended, Tacey shared with her professor she knew she had a lot to learn and asked more questions. She did that often and Jan was always willing to spend the extra time.  This built a trusted mentor relationship for Tacey.  So much so, she knew when she contacted Moppert over the Christmas break, she would respond. And she did with simple words of counsel, “If you love it, you’ll do great work; it’s not too late.”

        Tacey’s new course was set.  She’d found her passion and now faced the challenge she sought as she began the work in one of the most rigorous supply chain management curriculums in the country.  “I never felt challenged before I got here.   I quickly realized how little I knew, especially in the area of professional development. My teachers and professors demand quality work, but I love it. I love the challenge in supply chain. It’s the challenge that drives me to get better, to grow, to produce quality work and become a higher quality person. I had the desire to get to all of that, but I wouldn’t have been able to grow without the challenge.”

        Tacey also loves that her professors’ knowledge and experience in supply chain brings a level of difficulty to every class assignment. They are tough and absolutely insist you think critically on your own. But she gets even more excited about their industry connections.

        “They bring the real world to you before they send you out into it. For example,” she said, “my purchasing professor tells us ‘my friend is coming to speak to our class next week’, and his friend turned out to be the Vice President for Supply Chain Services for the Coca Cola Company.”

        “I’ve never experienced a culture of people who are so focused and who are so willing to help you figure out what you want because they genuinely want what is best for you. They are so driven but not in a way that is selfish; they want you to share their passion.”

        Tacey didn’t have to channel surf this year to share in the passion that surrounds Auburn. She experienced it first-hand on football Saturdays and in the classroom. She found Auburn people are passionate about sports, but we are equally as passionate about preparing students to live out their purpose in a practical world, as the Auburn Creed states, where you can count only on what you earn. We are passionate about instilling a work ethic in students that will give them a competitive edge as they enter the workforce.

        Tested and Ready

        Tacey feels like the Supply Chain Management program has tested her in a way that has spurred her competitiveness and prepared her for any challenge in the workplace.  She won’t leave Auburn in May for her Lockheed Martin internship with any concern of “what if my job is challenging because I have never been challenged?” She’ll arrive in Fort Worth with the confidence her program has instilled in her that she has been challenged and tested and is ready with a challenge of her own, “try me, because I’ve been through the ringer,” she laughs. 

        “I’ve learned a lot about the Supply Chain Management industry. I’ve learned communication skills and been humbled enough to know when to talk and when to listen. I think the biggest thing the business program and especially supply management taught me is how to learn. And now, I never want to stop learning.”

        Tacey stepped out of the box she no longer fit it in and found her place at Auburn. Set to graduate in August, she has learned to make her own way in the world. Her perspective has changed, and she doesn’t even recognize the girl she was when she arrived.  Her identity now comes from her faith, and her critical thinking comes from her Harbert training, a training that made her confident in her skill sets, a training she says taught her how to learn. 

        The passion she experienced watching TV two years ago is now a love for Auburn Tacey carries in her own heart. She found her fit. She found family.  She found the challenging education she was looking for and she found her purpose.

        In Auburn, Tacey found herself.