Movers & Shakers – Andrea Kruszka

A wearer of bright colors and many hats, this through-and-through Enneagram 7 serves as a mentor, photographer, community volunteer, radio host, arts advocate, rural innovator, regional board member, self-proclaimed optimistic realist, and everyone’s hype girl.

As a child, when asked what she wanted to be when she grew up, Andrea Kruszka’s response was, “Everything. And, I still want to do all the things!” This “Mover and Shaker” adds with great enthusiasm.

Fueled and inspired by a close-knit relationship with her family, it seems she is living out that dream.

Andrea has a passion for making an impact on quality of life, regionally and statewide, and does so via multiple platforms, including in her full-time job and through countless other community outreach efforts.

Co-running the Center for Rural Innovation at Tennessee Tech University, she leads initiatives in supporting regional small businesses, community organizations, and chambers of commerce, while also providing mentorship and experience for young leaders preparing to enter their careers.

Within this role, Andrea focuses on rural tourism branding initiatives via the Rural Reimagined program and also manages Eagle Works, an entrepreneurial leadership program offering a shark tank competition-style experience for students.

“Getting to connect these talented individuals with experiential opportunities helps students to gain confidence and to grow and develop into career-ready adults,” she states.

Placing great emphasis on relationship building, she also notes that most students stay in touch post-graduation, allowing even further mentorship and opportunities for encouragement. Andrea reassures her students that no matter how behind they may feel or what route a student may take, they can succeed.

Outside of student mentorship and innovation work, she finds fuel for her soul in a part-time photography business, a passion that resurfaced after moving to Tennessee from Michigan. From Detroit darkrooms to the light and color of the Upper Cumberland’s natural landscapes, Andrea has made Cookeville and the region a playground for exploring her love for nature photography.

While photography is a side hustle in which she finds so much joy, she never sees it becoming a full-time job. It’s a creative and therapeutic outlet, allowing her to share with others the feeling of calm and healing that nature brings to her. You can find Andrea’s gorgeous work at local shops, markets, and events, and even see her imagery featured in this very magazine (see Nature Spotlight)!

As a weekly radio host of “The Scene” on Lite Rock 95.9, she immerses herself in the local arts community, getting to know various artists from around the Upper Cumberland region.

“I get to be a piece of an arts culture that not every community has while giving artists an outlet, and especially recognizing, validating, and encouraging young artists,” notes Andrea.

Additionally, she is heavily involved in Art Love Cookeville, an idea that originated with one of her students. This group of local artists utilizes their work to make a difference in the community through an annual fundraising event with a rotating cause/non-profit. Most recently, Art Love Cookeville raised more than double their goal for Helping Hands of Putnam County.

You will also find Andrea serving locally and regionally in volunteer efforts and with outreach such as Impact Leadership, Highlands Leadership, and Southeast Tourism Society.

When asked what she wants to be most known for, she takes great pride in the idea of inspiring others and impacting how they see themselves.

“Making a difference, even if just in my small corner of the world, knowing I’ve changed at least one person’s life in how they have felt inspired, how they see themselves, and encouraging them to never give up is essential to me,” she beams.

Andrea acknowledges a quote she lives by and shares with others: “If I could give you one thing in life, I would give you the ability to see yourself through my eyes, only then would you realize how special you are to me.”

Through the eyes of Cookeville, Andrea Kruszka is seen as she is, a “Mover and a Shaker” for all things good.

– by Molly Brown, photo by Cris Stroud


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