Education: B.A., International Business, William Jewell College; M.B.A., Western Illinois University
Professional background: Shelle Summers has worked at the chamber for almost 10 years. Prior to moving to Arkansas, she worked for three years at a fundraising firm in Iowa and for 12 years as director of the Carl Sandburg College Foundation in Illinois.
What aspects of your work do you most enjoy? I love connecting people and helping them find ways to build their businesses. My job allows me to interact with and learn from entrepreneurs as well as leaders of large corporations. Seeing the growth that Northwest Arkansas has experienced and continues to experience is exciting — and there’s more to come.
What are you passionate about? Almost all of my professional life has been in the nonprofit world or serving nonprofit organizations. I enjoy helping people, so even when I’m not at work I still find ways to give back to the community. I’m currently involved in the Single Parent Scholarship Fund of Benton County, Rogers Public Library Foundation, Junior League of NWA and Rogers Early Risers Rotary Club.
What would you say is your greatest professional accomplishment to date? What are you most proud of? When we lived in Illinois, I was an active volunteer for our local chamber and they chose me as the 2003 recipient of the ATHENA Leadership Award, which included me in a group of outstanding female leaders in our community — an honor I will never forget.
What has been the biggest challenge of your career? My husband says his career moves have been the biggest challenge of my professional career. Twenty years ago, I probably agreed as I had to reinvent myself in every community, but now I consider each move a step in my professional growth. Starting a new career in each place we have lived enabled me to meet fabulous people, learn new skills and expand my horizons.
What are the attributes of a good leader? I would never ask anyone to do anything that I wouldn’t be willing to do myself. I also think being honest, dependable, and trustworthy are key traits of a good leaders. In 1995, I read “The Leadership Challenge: How to Get Extraordinary Things Done in Organizations” for the first time. I continue to go back to this book every few years as a refresher. It reinforces my beliefs and reminds me that leaders have to model the way.
What’s the best career advice you’ve ever gotten? Very early in my career, when I received my first big promotion, I made the comment of “having big shoes to fill,” to follow the previous director. A colleague told me not to walk in her footsteps but to make my own way. I’ve thought about that advice a lot over the years and how sometimes it’s hard to implement change, but the team always comes out stronger.
What do you do to unwind/for fun? My husband Brent and I play golf when we can find the time. We also love going to concerts, traveling and trying new restaurants. We’re so lucky that NWA has so much to offer right here at home, but we also love to travel and are always planning our next big trip.
What is your favorite part of living in NWA? There are quaint downtowns, the amenities of a major metro area, great culture and temperate weather — but the best thing is the people. We are a melting pot of generations of native residents as well as so many transplants like me that bring our experiences and background together to make NWA the special place it is.
What are you reading right now? I’m a huge fan of murder mysteries and always have several books downloaded on my iPhone and my Kindle, as well as a hard back book from the library on my coffee table. My list of favorite authors is too long to share. My viewing habits are pretty similar. I love “Masterpiece” and almost any show on the BBC.
Is there anything not addressed here that you’d like to convey to our readers? I have always been a believer in continuous learning, even before working at a college [in Illinois]. I think professional development is critical for everyone, no matter what field you are in. In January, I completed a four-year certification from the Institute of Organizational Management for association professionals, and prior to coming to Rogers I received my certified fundraising executive credential, which was much, much more work than getting my MBA.