Justin Groenert, Vice President of Public Policy at the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce, received top recognition for his exemplary achievement as an alumnus at this year’s University of Southern Indiana graduate commencement ceremony.
Named after the university’s first president, the David L. Rice Alumni Achievement Award is granted to an alumnus or alumna who has positively impacted the Indiana region and comes with the honor of delivering the commencement address.
At the May 6 ceremony in Evansville, Indiana, Groenert offered graduates a simple, yet compelling advice: Force yourself out of your comfort zone, be a great teammate and take time to show gratitude.
“If you get an opportunity, don’t be afraid to take a leap of faith. Believe in yourself and make the jump,” Groenert says.
Groenert referenced several past roles for which he took that leap of faith, including chief of staff and legislative director for the Office of Indiana Treasurer of State, as well as district director and senior advisor for U.S. Representative Larry Bucshon. He also served as director of government relations and public policy at the Southwest Indiana Chamber of Commerce.
“If I learned anything in my undergraduate days as a football manager, it was the concept of the team, the team, the team,” Groenert says. “Be a great teammate. Do your job within your organization, and do the little things that pick your colleagues up and help improve the culture of your organization. You won’t regret it in the end.”
Trend spoke to Groenert to learn more about what this recognition means to him.
Trend: How does it feel to receive this commendation?
Groenert: It’s an incredible honor to be recognized in this way. David Rice is someone I met and worked with before he passed away. He was a giant in higher education in Indiana. So receiving this award is humbling.
Trend: Who would you like to thank for helping you reach this milestone?
Groenert: I touched on this in my remarks, but I have so many people to thank for this opportunity. Obviously, my parents and family have to be at the top of the list. They gave me the base from which to grow and reach outside my comfort zone and take some of the opportunities that I’ve been presented with.
I’m grateful to my friends and work colleagues that helped shape me into the professional and person I’ve become. My professors and classmates during my time at USI are special to me. I still keep in touch with many of the people at USI. I’m grateful to Christy for getting me into the Chamber profession and for the opportunity to arrive in Chattanooga.
Trend: Looking toward the future, what does this recognition mean to you and your career path?
Groenert: It’s always nice to be recognized, but I still feel like I’m in the first half of my career. This award and speech were a nice reason to stop and reflect on where I’ve been and some of the things that I’ve accomplished. It motivates me to keep my head down and continue to try to make my community a better place to live.
Trend: What message would you like to leave for our readers?
Groenert: I’m grateful to be in Chattanooga and working with the incredible team at the Chamber. This is such a dynamic group of people, pouring their hearts and minds into making Chattanooga an amazing place to live, work, and grow a business. I’m proud to call them teammates and Chattanooga my home.
As Vice President of Public Policy at the Chattanooga Chamber, Groenert works on policies at the federal, state and local levels of government that impact the Chamber’s 2,000 member organizations and the community at large. He creates initiatives for the Chamber and plays a major role in their implementation and success.
In addition to his extensive career achievements, Groenert donates much of his time to volunteering. He has served as a board member for organizations such as Autism Evansville, Rotary Club of Evansville and Indiana Chamber of Commerce Executives Association. He is currently serving on the board of Thrive Regional Partnership and on the Board of Regents for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for Organization Management.
He received his master’s degree in public administration in 2016 from University of Southern Indiana and a bachelor’s degree in political science and government from Western Kentucky University in 2004.
Groenert has played a significant role in the success of multiple campaigns and organizations since joining the Chattanooga Chamber in 2019. His work continues to inspire the community and foster a better tomorrow for members across Chattanooga.
Watch Groenert’s USI graduate commencement speech, beginning at timestamp 51:20, here.