Strengthening the Meliora spirit

Strengthening the Meliora spirit

Meet Washington D.C. Network luminary Tess Troha-Thompson ’06

Tess Troha Thompson Headshot

Tess Troha-Thompson ’06

When Tess Troha-Thompson ’06 graduated 15 years ago she knew that leaving Rochester would be bittersweet, but she was certain that her connections would be forever—and she was right. Now, as a committed volunteer and ambassador, Troha-Thompson holds a variety of leadership positions and roles to strengthen the Meliora spirit in Washington, D.C.

For Troha-Thompson, it all started while on the River Campus as a political science and english major. She kept busy as a Meridian Society member, giving college tours and assisting with the admissions interview process. She also was a Peer Career Advisor at the Greene Center, president of College Democrats, and performed with Off Broadway On Campus group as well as Chamber Singers.

After college Troha-Thompson went back to Chicago (she grew up in Waukegan, Illinois) and worked in Public Relations. She landed an internship for Senator Dick Durbin in his Chicago office and in 2008, joined her first campaign as a field organizer in Michigan for Mark Schauer who was running for Congress. When Schauer won, she was lucky enough to be able to join him in Washington, D.C. in his Capitol Hill office.

The next five years were spent expanding her career on Capitol Hill working in various campaigns in numerous roles. “One of my favorite positions was director of operations, legislative aide, political director, and campaign manager for Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, which was a true joy of my professional and personal life—not to mention I could live out my college dream of living near Park Ave in Rochester,” says Troha-Thompson.

Working for Rochester’s own Congresswoman and her involvement with the University inspired Troha-Thompson to be a part of the tradition of women mentors, which she feels has been a rewarding experience. Now working at New Blue Interactive, where she has been for the last five years, she serves as chief of staff, managing and overseeing staff and professional development. New Blue is a political digital fundraising and communications firm specializing in Democratic campaigns, progressive organizations, and nonprofits.

Troha-Thompson is committed to staying involved with the University of Rochester and has been an alumni volunteer ever since she left. She says, “At first, I did admissions interviews and joined recruitment or admitted student events in Chicago to talk about my experience. When I moved to D.C. my involvement increased and I added new roles. I have really enjoyed helping to grow the Washington, D.C. network as a member of the Network Leadership Cabinet and as co-founder and co-chair of the D.C. Women’s Network. I think it is so critical to engage alumni at all stages of their life and in a unique way that is most meaningful to them.”

“My favorite part of leading the D.C. Women’s Network is connecting different generations of graduates who can lift each other up, inspire, and offer wisdom. Interestingly, it goes both ways. A number of our seasoned alumnae have become really inspired and have learned from the more recent alumnae and we all know that, in D.C. especially, who your network is can be a huge part of your ability to advance in your career. And for the younger generations, building those connections is really empowering as well.”

In addition to the exciting work in the region, Troha-Thompson also serves as chair of her 15th Reunion Committee. “It’s been really fun, especially after the isolation of COVID, to reconnect with fellow 2006 alumni and hear updates of how everyone’s doing. I also think the class gift is a wonderful opportunity to start to engage alumni who haven’t financially supported the University in the past. It’s a lot to ask right after graduation but I’m finding that by 15 years out, many of my friends are more financially able to give and they’ve had time to reflect on the role that the University has played in their life. They are ready to pay it forward for the next generation of students,” she says.

When asked about what she would tell others to get involved, Troha-Thompson suggests that alumni start small: “You don’t have to do it all right away. Talk to a contact in one of the regional networks and start a conversation, sign up to be an admissions interviewer, or join The Meliora Collective and connect with other alumni that way. It can feel overwhelming to join something official or plan an event, so start with what you are comfortable with. If you have an interest in getting more involved, my biggest advice is to take the plunge…it’s worth it!”

— Emily Gillette, August 2021