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Friday, June 2, 2023

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Natalie Haack (’09) and Bill Trumpfheller (’87). Natalie Haack (’09) and Bill Trumpfheller (’87).

All in the Family

Employers and recent alumni benefit from SDSU's Aztecs Hiring Aztecs program.
By Tobin Vaughn

Bill Trumpfheller (’87), president of Nuffer, Smith, Tucker Public Relations, has been with the San Diego firm since his days as a student intern.  Half of the company’s 22-person staff is comprised of San Diego State University graduates.

Now entering his fourth decade with the firm, Trumpfheller estimates he has worked with 25 to 30 fellow Aztecs during his tenure at NST. Although plenty of his coworkers have been top performers who come from other great colleges and universities, he said he still prefers to hire SDSU grads.


"Because I know what they know,” he said. “I know what they studied. Many of the same professors still have touch points in there. Some of them have retired but it's really that I know the quality of the education they got and I know the professors who taught it to them.”

Responding to a need

Trumpfheller, who has served as president of the SDSU Alumni Association twice, has kept close ties with SDSU's public relations program since he graduated. He said the relationship is beneficial for all involved.

“I know if there's a need we have professionally I can call up the people in the SDSU public relations department and say, ‘Hey, you guys need to start including this in the curriculum’ and they listen, adapt, and the next graduate is going to have that knowledge. The school has the ability to respond to what we need.

“It’s our responsibility to tell the educators what we need from the students, and their responsibility is to give students the skills they need to get a job. So it's a great partnership — and that's really what it's all about is a partnership."

A good decision

Natalie Haack (’09), a senior account executive at NST, earned a master’s degree in journalism and media studies from SDSU. As a student, she was an intern at the firm who turned the opportunity into a full-time position. It helped, she said, that the company president fully appreciated her educational background. 

"It was evident right from my interview with Bill that he knew exactly who my professors were. It was nice because he understood the type of education I was getting at SDSU and knew what I was learning because he knows the program so well."

Haack says the relationship between her employer and her professors helped boost her confidence as a new employee. She recalled a day in class when a professor was asking students about their internships.

“And I said I was at NST and he looks at me and goes, ‘Oh, well, that’s a place you all want to be interning.’ So you know if you’re working with the professors and they speak well of a company, you think, ‘Well, this was a good decision.’” 


SDSU Career Services Executive Director James Tarbox is a staunch advocate of Aztecs Hiring Aztecs. He believes the practice strengthens the university’s brand among potential students as well as employers.

“Having more students graduating with job offers contributes to the idea that I think many employers have which is our students leave here job-ready,” he observed. “We really want to emphasize the point that the value of the SDSU degree and the value of the SDSU experience, especially at the undergraduate level, is that when you graduate, you are very marketable.”

A great place to start for alumni who are in positions to hire graduating students is by listing job openings and internships with SDSU Career Services.  But Trumpfheller says there are many more ways for alumni to improve future prospects for their companies and industries by getting involved with the SDSU programs from which they graduated.

“Some of it is just getting back in touch with people on campus and saying, ‘Hey, I'm here and I'm in a position to hire.  Let's talk about the internship program. Let's talk about my company,’” he advised.

“I don't care if you're an engineering firm or an astrophysicist or whatever, the students who are coming out are going to become your future and if they're good, you have a good future. If they're not, good luck. It’s important for you to touch back in with the university."