Jessica Jewell Budzianowski

(College of Idaho)

The Director of Development | 40 Under 40 Class of 2020

Life is about relationships. When we have positive relationships, they inspire us to be better and do better.



Since applying to our 40 Under 40, Jessica accepted a new job as the director of development at the Girls Scouts of Silver Sage Council in Boise, Idaho. Learn more about how she got to where she is today in her career by reading her extended interview.


What inspired you to go into this line of work?

Someone saw something in me and encouraged me to apply for a position within the development department at my alma mater. While I was interviewing, the vice president asked me to apply for the annual fund director instead of a research position. I never knew you could work in philanthropy. I want to be part of meaningful work and make a difference in the world around me. Building a culture of philanthropy is about authentic relationships, trust, learning and leadership. 


What challenge did you overcome to get where you are today?

As I first started my career, one of the challenges I had was thinking “leadership” was easy and automatic. That once someone put a professional title to my name, I was automatically was a leader. I may have been a leader, but I wasn’t a good one. I had this thought that I had to be someone different and act a certain way. I tried to copy other leaders’ behaviors, but it wasn’t the authentic style for me. I didn’t understand perspectives or listen to (or act on) feedback from others. I had this imaginary way that was the right way to be a leader. It wasn’t until I was vulnerable and honest with myself, staff/teammates and friends that I understood that leadership starts with listening and trust and it’s all about positive relationships. A friend took me to lunch one day and was honest with me. She asked, “Where’s the authentic Jessica?” It was that moment that I knew I was not being true to myself or to others and needed to learn more about how to be a leader and to find my own voice. Taking a step back to listening to others, welcoming change and understanding one another has helped me become a true, and positive leader.


Did someone help you get to where you are today, like a mentor?

There have been so many mentors that have helped me get where I am today. Gamma Phi Beta has truly shaped who I am personally and professionally. During collegiate leadership constant training, I was asked to recruit an International council member to practice my recruitment skills. This was a defining moment for me. I came from a small chapter and I barely understood what recruitment was, but more specifically, I was not confident in my own skills. Kris Baack provided me with praise and helpful feedback that still guides me today. She saw something in me. Working with a variety of people in numerous situations, building programs, coaching conversations and learning about structure through volunteering with Gamma Phi Beta has helped me grow as a professional leader. Matter of fact, during my interview for Make-A-Wish Idaho, one of the board members asked me to role play a donor conversation (i.e. think recruitment practice), and I didn’t miss a beat and confidently proved to him I was the right candidate for the job!


What do you love most about your job?

I have had an unwavering faith and belief that I can be a part of making incredible things happen for others and our community. It’s the people I meet and work with that inspire me to do better and be better. From the first generation student who attended college only by scholarships who wants to give back to their alma mater to the survivor who wants to share their story to build awareness about the signs and symptoms of a heart attack in hopes of saving a life to the volunteer who so passionately believes in giving hope and bringing kindness to a child when they are in the toughest battle of their life, they all have inspired me and have shaped who I am. They all have incredible stories to share, and I am so incredibly lucky to be a part of their journey. I am honored to be a part of life-changing experiences and to have built some of the most incredible relationships and friendships with so many volunteers, donors, survivors, families, teammates, wish kids and future women leaders of tomorrow. Bringing joy and seeing confidence in others is the greatest gift I can receive.

Mountains or Beach


Apple or Android


Early Bird or Night Owl


Stripes or Polka Dots


Left Brain or Right Brain




  • Boss Lady Icon
    Hoda Kotb

  • Favorite Food
    Potato chips and French onion dip

  • Can't Live Without
    Natural Ice Chapstick

  • Favorite Season
    Winter – the more snow the better!

  • Favorite Color

Describe yourself in three words.

Authentic, accountable and loyal.


Your life philosophy is…

Paul Wellstone said, “We all do better when we all do better.” Life is about relationships. When we have positive relationships, they inspire us to be better and do better.


What is the best piece of advice you received?

Don’t try to be someone else. Be the true, authentic Jessica. Listen to understand, not just to respond.

If someone handed you an airline ticket to a place of your choosing, where would you go and why?

As much as I love the mountains, I’d love to take a trip to Bora Bora. If I could wish for anything, it’d be the opportunity to get away, stay in an over-water hut and just enjoy nature and a slower pace of life for a week with my husband.


What’s something you cannot live without?

Time with my family. I work hard but want to play hard, too! I treasure the time where I can attend my kid’s Halloween party or field trip to the zoo, taking weekly “adventures” with my husband and my son to go skiing, hiking, camping or exploring the community around us. As important as my immediate family is, it’s important for us to spend time with our extended family (and friends that are family) as well.


Name a book you read that positively shaped you.

“The Oz Principle, Getting Results Through Individual and Organizational Accountability” by Roger Conners, Tom Smith and Craig Hickman. I also love the sequel: “Journey to the Emerald City, Achieve a Competitive Edge by Creating a Culture of Accountability”(by Roger Conners and Tom Smith. These books changed my life and helped me become the leader I am today.


If you weren’t working in the industry that you are, what would you be doing instead?

I love helping others and having fun! I really enjoy listening to others, talking through ideas and coaching others to help find their passion. It would be a blast to serve as a motivational speaker, a coach or maybe even a Disney character for a day! Think of the joy you could give to others!


How do you unwind or relax after a long day?

The busy day keeps going with a curious 4-year-old old by my side. Though, being able to read him a book at night or talk about what he learned at school helps me to wind down.


The most rewarding aspect of your job is…

Connecting individuals and our community with things they are passionate about. I am inspired by the volunteers and donors who want to do good in our world, build confidence and bring joy to others when they need it the most.


If you could have a gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it – metaphorically speaking, getting a message out to millions or billions – what would it say and why?

I’ve always lived by Mahatma Gandhi’s quote, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” It’s inspired me to stand up for values that are true to me, and not to just sit around and let the world happen around me. I have the power and drive to make positive changes for the world around me. We all do.


In the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your life?

I thank my son for this, but since he was born, I’ve learned how to let the small things go and just enjoy the moment and people around me. I recall getting so caught up in drama or silly things around me that it just consumed everything else I was doing. Now, I can easily ignore those small things and be grateful for what I do have and the journey that I’m on.


When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, or have lost your focus temporarily, what do you do?

When I’m overwhelmed, I have to make a list or write down what is bothering me. Once I can see it on paper, it helps me feel a little more control and make a plan to move forward.


What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve ever made? (Could be money, time, energy, etc.)

Gamma Phi Beta. She has grounded me, brought me some of my best friends, taught me about positive relationships and powerful conversations, inspired me, connected me to my husband (one of my sisters introduced us), helped me define my values, given me endless laughs and fun memories, taught me about leadership and made me the person that I am today!

Name a confident woman of character who you look up to? Why her?

Megan Ronk, Kris Baack, Linda Malony, Becky Boyd-Obarsky, Chandra Claassen Soule, NancyAnn Thompson, Shauna Wilson, Tanya Jordan, Stephanie Carriere and Sarah Shinn. These sisters and friends, and the genuine relationships I have with everyone, have had a profound impact on the woman I am today. Each woman has lifted me up, encouraged me, provided focused feedback and taught me about resiliency. They are women who believed in me. They coached me to understand my strengths and challenges, serve where I am needed, encouraged me to take risks and be okay with failing and to mentor others with authentic relationships. Just like the women listed above have inspired me, I strive to be like them – to make a positive difference in someone’s life, our sisterhood and in my community.