A Sorrell College of Business alumnus has been appointed by the President of the United States to a post in the Department of Agriculture.
Wesley Swanzy, a native of Goshen and a 2012 graduate, has been sworn in as Chief of Staff to the Chief Financial Officer at USDA.
An Air Force veteran commissioned out of TROY’s Detachment 017, he has spent the last three years in finance on Wall Street and completed his MBA at New York’s Columbia University Business School. A former active-duty Air Force Finance Officer and current Reservist, Swanzy has spent more than ten years leading Airman in South Korea, the Middle East, and the Pentagon.
In his final assignment on active duty, Swanzy served as the Executive Officer to the Director of Budget Investment, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Financial Management, and Comptroller. In his reservist role, Swanzy serves as a Congressional Liaison under the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Congressional Budget and Appropriations Liaison, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Financial Management, and Comptroller at the Pentagon and holds the rank of Major.
“I am honored to have accepted a Presidential Appointee position with the Biden-Harris administration,” Swanzy said. “I am humbled and excited to embark upon this new journey.”
Swanzy said his journey began in the TRIO program and Sorrell College with strong mentors at TROY.
“Troy University, specifically Sorrell College of Business, was one of the most defining moments for my professional and personal life,” said Swanzy, who majored in business administration and international relations and minored in leadership. “Sorrell helped prepare me for success after graduation, which was commissioning into the world’s greatest Air Force.”
Admitting that his time at TROY passed quickly, it was time well spent learning and developing relationships that span the globe. Involvement on campus was key – Swanzy was an SGA Supreme Court Justice, an Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity member, was involved in Circle K, and was a residential advisor.
“The culmination of experiences and opportunities at TROY helped tremendously bolster my success. As an undergraduate student, you think about your future but are more focused on the hustling day-to-day life of a college student,” he said. “However, looking over my years in the military, time on Wall Street, and graduating from Columbia Business School has helped me realize that none would be possible without the foundation I gained from Troy University.”
Swanzy left active duty in 2019, joined the Air Force Reserves, and moved to New York City to tackle two goals – resume his education and gain corporate finance experience.
“I began working on Wall Street and knew I wanted and needed more to build a successful career in the world’s financial capital. I had spent the past ten years in government finance, which is very different,” he said. “Being the lifelong learner I am, an MBA seemed like the right next step, and Columbia University was always on my list of top choices, so I applied and was accepted.”
While his path to Columbia was untraditional – he had work experience prior to applying – the Executive MBA Program allowed him to work full time and attend classes full time on Fridays and Saturdays.
“This endeavor was not the easiest route, but very rewarding. My keys to success would be to get involved and master a skill or skills — and be curious,” Swanzy said.
“I’ve always had an inquisitive personality, and my years in the Air Force allowed me to travel around the world and cultivate experiences and skills for a better future. I would argue that business school is more about the network of people you encounter than the courses. The courses allow you to learn a new subject or master the art of another and are very important. Still, as an Executive MBA program, friendships and networks stand out more. In business, you’re more than likely to reach out to a new network of friends or colleagues for advice or help,” he said.
Networking is one skill Swanzy first developed at TROY, as did his willingness to ask for and develop mentors.
“Never underestimate the power of a mentor and the words ‘thank you.’ A lot of my success comes from having great mentors throughout my career. Great men and women such as Lt. Col. Christopher Shannon (ret.), who was my ROTC Commander, Dr. John Kline (retired director of Leadership), Mrs. Mary Griffin (retired Upward Bound director), Mrs. Sandra Thomas (a Sorrell instructor) and Ms. Barbara Patterson (Director of Student Involvement) are just a few I had at TROY,” he said.
“Mentors can range from someone at the top of the career field to a great friend willing to tell you the hard truths,” Swanzy said. “I’ve always found that most people – especially people who have been successful and excelled in an area you admire – want to be mentors; they are waiting to be asked for advice.”
Swanzy’s TROY experience not only included academics and campus life but a more personal skill set.
“TROY helped me define who I was as a person,” he said.
“TROY lives by its motto of ‘educating the mind to think, the heart to feel and the body to act.’ One key characteristic I walked away from TROY with was a sense of service and knowing what I stood for – my core values as a person,” said Swanzy.
He said those “core values” developed at TROY aligned with the Air Force Core Values: “Integrity First, Service before Self, and Excellence in All We Do.” That alignment significantly developed his career, both in the military and in the civilian world.
“Life is about relationships, and TROY is where you make lasting bonds that will carry on for a lifetime,” he said. “TROY is a very close-knit family that shows itself in the classroom, the boardroom, and everything associated with the University. TROY taught me to excel academically and contributed to being a well-rounded individual.”
“I am a Trojan for life and wouldn’t change my time there for anything,” he added.
Here’s some advice he’d offer today’s undergraduate students at TROY:
My advice is to be inquisitive and get involved! Undergrad is the time to explore your interests and what life path you want to build for yourself, so if you are interested in a club or class — take it! You will thank me years down the road. I was very active on campus and off campus at TROY. I enjoyed volunteering with Circle K and Habitat for Humanity; I worked as an RA, was invoiced in SGA, and was heavily involved in Greek life. Having a diverse group of experiences and friends has contributed to my success during undergrad and my life. The Air Force enhanced this mindset with its mission and bringing people from every walk of life together for a single cause.
I would also tell them not to be afraid of failing; sometimes, it’s through failure that you learn who you are and how you define where you’re going. I always refer to the Confucius quote, “Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising every time we fail.” Failure is not bad; it’s a part of life, but you must pick yourself back up and learn from your mistakes. The opportunity to fail offers a chance to succeed, so fail smart.
Another piece of advice is to learn the value of flexibility. Flexibility is the key to success, and in the Air Force, we say, “Flexibility is the key to Air Power.” You have to have a plan but be willing to go with the flow and change, as life can throw curve balls from time to time. Albert Einstein describes flexibility best by saying, “The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.” I truly believe this is a crucial skill needed to succeed in every part of life.
Don’t be afraid to find someone you respect and ask them to be a mentor. It’s as simple as asking to meet for coffee or setting up an office call. Mentorship can be casual, but it does take work. It’s a two-way street, and you must give just as much as you expect to receive.
My TROY degree has so much value and paid dividends beyond what I could have ever comprehended during my time there . . . Without the fantastic staff, leadership, and global student base, I wouldn’t be where I am today. TROY offers world-class education and empowers the next generation of global leaders. TROY, Alabama’s International University, exposes students to the best of diversity, enhancing their ability to excel in the globalized world and the value I accredit to my undergraduate degree every day.