A professor’s journey from Microsoft to UW

Joseph Russo is pictured on Kangaroo Island in South Australia. Russo started his career at a CPA firm, traveled the world with Microsoft and finally settled in Laramie. (Photo taken from jrusso.com)

He was assigned to an account in New York after his hire at a CPA venture capital firm in the late 1970s and one of the clients he attended to was the Gates family who would go on to create the multibillion-dollar company Microsoft.

Adjunct professor Joseph Vernon Russo from the School of Teacher Education and School of Counseling shared his journey from being an accounting and finance major working in a CPA firm, to traveling the world with Microsoft and finally settling in Laramie, Wyoming.

“[I] was assigned to the Gates account within the venture capital firm, and that ultimately became Microsoft,” Russo said. “I was doing nothing but Microsoft work for the first eight or nine years until I then joined the company directly in the early 90s.”

Russo then traveled all over the world to open new Microsoft offices in Canada, England, Australia and the US. He eventually settled in Reno until he retired from the company and let his wife, Cynthia Brock, continue her teaching at the University of Nevada, Reno.

Russo received his master’s in educational psychology and counseling and a PhD in educational psychology, both of which were inspired as he worked with the Microsoft Company.

“Ultimately just teaching within the company really tapped my teaching bone and I liked it,” Russo said. “I’ll teach anything, anywhere, anytime.”

Russo’s wife, Brock, was offered a position with the University of Wyoming to teach literacy with native populations and working with indigenous issues in education. Brock then asked if he would accompany her to Wyoming.

“I’d move there in a heartbeat,” Russo said. “It’s interesting, I thought I’d never see Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons again.”

Now that Russo has been at the university for a few years, he feels as though he’s been able to follow his passion of interacting with students, and share his knowledge of topics in education, development and counseling.

“As a person, I really like his approachability; he just genuinely seems like he cares about what he’s doing,” Elementary Education major, Lillian Nowell said in regard to Russo. “He really strives to make himself available 24/7 to all of his students.”

As Nowell said, Russo is oriented around care. He strives to be aware of students’ needs and has their well-being in mind.

“That notion of care, for me, is what it boils down to,” Russo said.

One of the reasons for Russo’s attentiveness is that, as a student, he felt that many professors were toxic and didn’t have the time or desire to interact with students.

“By and large, they were just distant and unapproachable,” Russo said. “I knew I would never be like that if I had the chance to teach.”

Russo’s efforts in changing the ways of his educational past have continued to make an impact on his students as he has developed his teaching style over the years.

“I just wish that all professors were like him and that they learned a little bit from him in the way that he’s approachable, he makes content exciting and he’s not doing it for just a job,” Nowell said. “He does it because he truly loves what he’s doing.”

As Russo stays in the department and moves forward with his teaching, he hopes to make a difference in the lives of his students, both in the classroom and out. This goal stems from his previous experience with educators.

“What kind of teachers did I admire?” Russo said. “What were the great teachers in my life? Invariably, they were the ones that gave a damn.”




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