March 11, 2020 by Sarah Beidleman
In honor of International Women’s Day on March 8, SWANA is highlighting women in the industry who have shown their dedication and hard work. In this male-dominated industry, each woman has had her own unique experience.
Tiffany Dunn is the Executive Director for the Saline County Solid Waste District located in Benton, Arkansas. She received her Bachelor of Business Administration in Marketing from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. She is very committed to her community and state, actively serving as Vice President for the Board of Directors for the Arkansas Chapter of SWANA, Secretary of the Arkansas Environmental Educational Association, Chairman for Keep Bryant Beautiful, and a committee member for Benton Matters. Some of the highlights of her career include being named a Lodestar from Keep Arkansas Beautiful in 2014, creating an award-winning recycling fashion show called Re-Fashion Bash “Where Green is the New Black” that is now in its 6th year, and developing and implementing the Youth Environmental Ambassador program for all Saline County Schools that received the SWANA Unsung Hero award in 2015. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her daughter visiting State parks, hiking, and traveling.
Dunn has been involved with SWANA since 2018 when she became the YP representative for the Communications, Education, and Marketing technical division. Now she is serving as the representative and Secretary for the Advisory Board and serving on the Planning and Membership committee. The push to be more involved with SWANA came from participating in the Mentor Program. Her mentor encouraged her to get involved to help build her network and gain more knowledge of inner workings of SWANA.
We talked to Dunn to learn more about her perspective and experience in the industry.
How long have you been in the industry?
Tiffany Dunn (TD): I have been in the industry for 8 years. I started with the Saline County Solid Waste District in February 2012 and was “official” in June 2012.
How did you get into the industry?
TD: I kind of fell into it. In 2011, I found myself unemployed and not sure of what I wanted to do except to finish my degree that I had slowly been working toward. Going part-time and paying your way is a slow process. My degree is in Business Administration with an emphasis on Marketing. I thought I would be working for an Advertising Agency or a Broadcasting Company, and I had for 8 years until I started thinking that there has to be something out there that I can do that will be a difference maker. The call that started it all was from a guy that I had met through networking through the Chamber. He said, “Tiffany there is a position open for an office assistant at a Solid Waste District and this will allow you to finish your degree and work”. It really sounded too good to be true, but I showed up and have been here ever since. Never did I think I would be working in the Solid Waste industry, but I’m so thankful and lucky for that I fell into this career path.
What is it like being a woman in this industry?
TD: If this industry has taught me anything it is to just be yourself. Everyone that I have ever met in this industry is very supportive of one another and wants to help you succeed. It is a male driven industry, but I think we are starting to see a change in that more women are entering the industry.
What progress have you seen being made in the industry?
TD: Some of the progress I have seen is connecting our resources to improve the industry. SWANA is a great organization that helps with that as well. Just by attending the conferences you gain so much knowledge and learn what resources are available out there. Also, with the partnerships of other organizations we will be better at consistent messaging. I think technology is definitely something that has progressed as well. We have better technologies that help drivers while driving trucks and landfill operators are operating landfills more efficiently.
What progress do you hope to see for the future?
TD: I think the biggest thing right now for our industry is Recycling. I would like recycling to be more uniform across the U.S. and we need to work on ways to move material and contribute it to the economy.
Who is your role model?
TD: My role model is my mom. She has the biggest heart and is the most selfless person I know. She is always positive and is my biggest cheerleader. You should hear her sitting on the sidelines of a sports game! She taught me that while we might have struggles in our life it’s important to stay strong and keep working for what you want. There is value in hard work and having the confidence in yourself to succeed.
Do you consider yourself a pioneer in the industry? If not, what do you think it takes to be a pioneer?
TD: I think I would consider myself more of just a person that is interested in helping to make our industry the best that it can be. I like being a part of such an awesome industry that can help drive change to make it better and stronger. It’s definitely not a one-person effort.
What accomplishments are you most proud of?
TD: My personal accomplishment I’m most proud of was finishing my degree. After going to school for forever part-time, having a baby, and paying my way through it was the most rewarding and best feeling when I finally made it across that stage. The accomplishment I’m most proud of in my career is the creation of Re-Fashion Bash “Where Green is the New Black” recycling fashion show that is now in its sixth year. Through this fashion show we have been able to work with hundreds of kids, kindergarten through twelfth grade with this program. They learn the importance of recycling and how materials can have a longer life by upcycling and reusing. Every year the kids impress me with the creativity of their designs that hit the runway.
What advice do you have for other women entering a male-dominated industry?
TD: Working in the Solid Waste industry is rewarding! While it is male-dominated, women in the industry are highly regarded and needed. When entering the industry find a mentor that will help you navigate and help develop you to be a leader in the industry. They want you to be successful!