Band Member Brings New Ideas and Energy to a New Role

By Toya Stewart Downey, January 13, 2017

Leaving corporate America behind for a new role at Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures (MLCV) was an easy decision for Band member Tawnya Stewart.

When the call came for her to consider the role as Chief of People and Culture Officer for Corporate Ventures Tawnya, who was living in Chicago, decided to head north for a new challenge.

“I’ve wanted to work for the Band for a long time, but it was a matter of timing and finding the right fit and opportunity to make a difference,” said Tawnya. “When I learned about this position I knew that it was the right time and the right job.”

“There are many aspects to this role, but the first is to be a culture champion,” she said. “This means I continue to build a culture of Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures through initiatives, programs, and leadership.”

“We are currently weaving the Ojibwe culture into the corporate culture, through various activities such as Ojibwe language classes, monthly dish settings, Asemaa and asking that our leaders teaching an Ojibwe word as an icebreaker at meetings, in addition we are working on offering a class about our culture.”

Tawnya is also the champion for Band members to ensure they are getting the coaching, mentoring and job experiences they need, so they can take on key positions within the MLCV.

“Another aspect of my role is to increase awareness and share opportunities to Band members who may not be aware that our goal is to bring as many Band members as possible into the business.”

She is also excited that she gets to continue to build Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures as a fun and cool place to work.

Until she began working for the Band a few months ago Tawnya had spent her long career working for high-profile global companies including BP and Accenture.

As a human resources professional, Tawnya had many different roles that included HR Director, Recruiting Manager and working as Talent specialist. She is well versed in corporate culture and large-scale business operations.

Her goals in her new role are multifaceted.

“I want to engage with all associates as well as Band members, and continue to build upon the culture that currently exists,” she said. “For example, one of my most recent activities was the partnership with St. Cloud State University-Business Leadership Series.

Through that partnership we wanted to give Band members and associates an opportunity to get a sense of what it takes to run a business.”

Another goal is to implement MLCV clubs and groups that will foster associate engagement, career advancement and recruitment and retention and help the communities.

To start with, the clubs will focus on specific groups — Band members, veterans, women — and will be tailored to interest of those groups.

“We’ll have a club focused on energizing people in the work place,” she said. “We’ll have another group led by Commissioner Joe Nayquonabe that will be running club that is focused on health and fitness.”

Another goal that Tawnya has is to create the Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures University which will focus on training, classes and experiences for Band members and associates.

Her work will impact Band members in a variety of ways, she said. Specifically, she will be able to get to know Band members, what their career objectives are and where they are with their education. From there she can provide coaching and mentoring to help them achieve their next step or offer feedback on their current performance through support and coaching.

“What’s most important about this role is that it’s not about me. It’s about our Band members and associates and what I can do to help them grow and develop.”

“I think one thing people should know about me is that I’d like to see others succeed, grow and change to whatever extent they are willing to do so,” she said. “People should also know that I like to have fun, I have a lot of get-up-and-go and look for the best in everyone.”

Tawnya added that she’s thrilled to work for the Band.

“It is an honor and privilege to be here doing this work,” she said. “I want to share my knowledge and experience with our Band members.”

She said she is thankful for the long-term associates that have worked for Corporate Ventures and have helped it grow to the powerhouse it is today. She looks forward to being a part of the growth and development in the future.

For now, Tawnya is still focused on learning the business and thinking about how she can impact and drive the cool factor for MLCV and being an example where the associates come first.

“I’m also looking forward to getting to know as many Band members as possible and working collaboratively and strategically.”

Tawnya’s long-term goals are to implement ideas, programs, and innovations. She wants to make sure they are sustainable and that they make a difference for everyone.

“There so many exciting things going on and I’m just glad to be a part of it,” she said  “I want to continue to learn and share my knowledge — that’s what is most important.”

Tawnya lives with her 14-year-old son in the Twin Cities. She received her Bachelor of Science Degree in Speech and Business from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and her Master of Science Degree in Human Resources from Loyola University in Chicago.