Dr. D’vee Buss, ’75, ’91, ’02, enrolled at Nebraska in 1973 unsure of her career direction and believing it might be her last shot at a college degree. With the support of a visionary colleague and a commitment to lifelong learning, Buss not only discovered her path, she went on to revolutionize advising during 44 years of service to business students.
“I was a first generation college dropout, raised on a farm in northeast Nebraska when I got here,” said Buss, assistant dean for undergraduate programs who is retiring in September. “Up until then, I mostly worked because I had a younger brother and sister to care for while mom and dad worked, including feeding farm workers who helped during planting and harvesting seasons.”
When Buss returned to college, she enrolled as an education student thinking she might get into administration work. After meeting with an advisor, things quickly changed.
“The advisor suggested I become a business student, and being a bit disillusioned about what I would do, I said, ‘Why not?’ Then, the advisor asked, ‘How would you like to have a job advising other students?’ That started me down my career path,” she said.
Although today the advising office at the College of Business includes more than 10 academic advisors, an array of student help and support from elsewhere in the college, Buss started advising as a team of one. Her biggest influence came from Dr. Gary Schwendiman, an associate dean who later became dean from 1978 to 1995.
“What Gary Schwendiman gave me was the encouragement to think out of the box. He would ask questions about why are we doing something a certain way. It caused me to ask the next question to ensure I’d done the proper research to take something forward. Then Gary always said, ‘Let's do it.’ and I had to get it done,” said Buss.
Among the major accomplishments of Buss’ tenure, her initiative to bring strengths sciences to every freshman-level business student helped build a foundation at the very university where strengths research was originally conducted by Dr. Don Clifton. Dr. Donna Dudney, associate dean of undergraduate curriculum and programs, believes it would have been difficult for the Clifton Strengths Institute to have happened without Buss’ action getting the CliftonStrengths®
assessment in place.
“D’vee’s Ph.D. dissertation brought about the idea for a class centered around strengths,” said Dudney. “Part of the reason we were able to build support for the Clifton Strengths Institute was because of D’vee’s work getting strengths started at the college. D’vee gets an idea and then takes care of the details to get it implemented. She gets the buy-in, does the research to see what will work and then implements the idea. That’s a rare thing and she has her stamp on so many big programs at the college, as well as college-specific scholarship opportunities.”
Buss, who enjoys bringing her own strength of maximizer to every initiative, pointed out the Start Something motto the college used in recent years resonated with her from years of doing just that. Without the attitude of taking action to create positive change, Dudney believes programs at the college today which Buss helped start such as strengths, Business Advising and Student Engagement, Professional Enhancement Program (PrEP), Business Abroad and the DREAMBIG Academy would not have happened. When former dean, Dr. Donde Plowman, came to the college, Buss helped the college create career opportunities for students through the PrEP program, which dramatically improved how students interface with potential employers.
“I saw students coming up for their senior year who still didn’t know what they wanted to do, and I was able to articulate the need for something more,” said Buss. “By creating a new program to take students through their sophomore, junior and senior years, we are more successful getting students acclimated for their careers.”
Buss also navigated major changes through the years in athletic advising. Although the Nebraska Department of Athletics maintains their own advising resources for athletes, Buss played a big role working with athletics to make sure students were meeting NCAA requirements and being held accountable for their academic standing. Keith Zimmer, senior associate athletic director for life skills and enrichment, praised Buss for her efforts.
“D’vee has done an amazing job building impeccable relationships with students and staff. Our student-athletes rave about how she guided them and connected with them, truly making an impact throughout their college career and beyond. I can only offer my sincere congratulations to her on a wonderful and impactful career at Nebraska,” said Zimmer.
Dudney recounted how at Nebraska football games she often meets people who attended Nebraska Business. Invariably the conversation centers around Buss.
“Whenever you run into a group of alums they’ll say, ‘Oh, do you know D’vee Buss? I worked in her office and she’s the reason I graduated from college.’ Kids came to Nebraska because of D’vee. Her student workers are some of our most successful alums and their connection to the University of Nebraska is a connection to D’vee. They credit her with why their Nebraska experience was so special,” said Dudney.
Dudney pointed out that it was Buss who originally worked to get study abroad programs embedded at the college, including starting one of the university’s most successful programs Nebraska at Oxford. Kirk Zeller, a global entrepreneur from Ravenna, Nebraska, who spent much of his career innovating technologies in the health care industry, experienced Buss’ efforts immediately when arriving at Nebraska 30 years ago.
“D’vee had a huge impact on me,” said Zeller. “I knew I wanted to study abroad in Japan, and the first person I met on the first Monday on campus was D’vee. I talked to her about the Senshu program and she made it all the more interesting. She worked to get me to Japan my sophomore year even though the program was mainly composed of juniors and seniors. D’vee went with us on the trip and made all the students feel comfortable, and has stayed in touch with me all these years. She is the constant for me at the College of Business.”
After all these years Buss sees the students as a driving influence for each decision she made at the college. She finds herself engaging students in a similar way to which she engaged with Gary Schwendiman to chart her course.
“I try to help students ask the right questions so they can find the answers for themselves. I have conversations with them to not only answer the question at hand, but to turn around and take that with them into the future. It led to always thinking ahead and how each situation can impact the next big thing that comes along,” said Buss.
A celebration in honor of Dr. D’vee Buss will be held Thursday, August 29, 3:30-5 p.m. in the Dean’s Suite: Boardroom, Terrace and Donor Room in Howard L. Hawks Hall 301. Colleagues, alumni and friends may RSVP at http://go.unl.edu/dvee
. Those wanting to send her best wishes or share memories may do so at firstname.lastname@example.org