Moving forward

Tess Morrissey.

Throughout her career, Tess Morrissey, PMBA ’19, has helped communities transform.

After earning her bachelor’s in international relations from the College of Wooster, Morrissey returned home to Buffalo and began volunteering for the 2010 gubernatorial race. It was her first experience working on a political campaign — and she was hooked.

“The campaign was 24/7, and I loved it,” she says. “With no budget, we had to be really creative and problem solve all the time to convince people to vote for our candidate.”

After the election, Morrissey parlayed her volunteer position into a full-time role within Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy’s office, where she saw firsthand how government policies can shape lives and neighborhoods.

“We were down at Canalside doing a groundbreaking when it was literally just pavement,” Morrissey recalls, referring to Buffalo’s now-bustling waterfront. “To go down there now and see the difference, it’s so cool to know I had a tiny part in that project.”

By 2013, Morrissey was promoted to director of scheduling. As Duffy zig-zagged across the state to meet with constituents, she coordinated his calendar — a fast-moving target that required flexibility and a calm demeanor to manage successfully.

“I had my BlackBerry attached to my hand for four years, but it was worth it because I learned so many lessons on how to operate effectively and efficiently in the workplace,” she says.

In 2016, Morrissey brought her talents to UB, where she served in dual roles. First, as deputy director of state relations, Morrissey advocated within state government for the university’s budget and priorities, including UB’s recent designation as New York State’s flagship.

In addition, as director of community relations, Morrissey likened her team to UB’s “front door,” working to connect the university with the surrounding neighborhoods through programs, events and outreach. One moment she might be facilitating a service project for students at a nonprofit, while the next she might be listening and responding to concerns from residents in University Heights.

Tess Morrissey on stage with local elected officials.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Morrissey — on stage, at left, with University District Council Member Rasheed N.C. Wyatt and Erie County Legislator April Baskin — hosted a drive-thru graduation at UB to celebrate the local high school class of 2020. Photo: Douglas Levere

At UB, Morrissey leveraged the relationship-building skills she honed in government — and took the opportunity to add new skills to her repertoire by going for her MBA at the School of Management.

“I was starting to lead teams, so it was important for me to learn communication skills and different management styles so that I could be a successful manager and continue to grow in my career,” she says.

Today, Morrissey serves as vice president of policy and strategic affairs at J Strategies, a communications and public affairs firm with offices in Albany, New York City and Boston.

Working remotely from her home office in Buffalo, Morrissey helps clients find allies and build coalitions that can advocate for issues and influence legislators. One of her current clients, the nonprofit Compassion and Choices, pushes for expanding end-of-life options, including medical aid in dying.

“At J Strategies, we work on several health care issues, helping patients and advocates share their personal stories about how legislation impacts their daily lives,” Morrissey says. “It is inspiring to see people channel their pain and sadness to become passionate advocates around an issue and make a real difference.”

Morrissey says the most exciting part of her job — and politics more broadly — is seeing the impact of her work in legislation and in our community. For example, Morrissey recently worked to generate buzz and support for a bill that had stalled in the New York State Legislature. The bill is now on Gov. Hochul’s desk to be signed into law.

“For me, politics is definitely a way to give back — to effect change on important issues and to move my city forward in a positive way,” she says.

Written by Matthew Biddle