This article is the sixth and last in a series about SUNY Broome alumni at Tioga Downs Casino Resort. Click here for the first article in the series, which details the diverse career opportunities at the Tioga County business and introduces you to HR director Karen Shelp, a SUNY Broome alumna. Click here to read about Alicia Iacovelli, the sales manager planning the upcoming Alumni Event. Click here to read about Brianna Sheppard, Tioga Downs’ social media maven. Click here to read about Michelle Jones, who switched careers within the company. Click here to read about Stephen Gaug and Lauren Platner, who work on the gaming room floor.
Thirteen years ago, Wendy Schrader joined Tioga Downs to work in its financial office. The company looked far different then: No hotel or casino, no spa or restaurant. Well, to be honest, not much in the way of buildings at all on its swathe of green in Nichols.
“We started in a trailer with a computer and two cell phones. Now here we are!” said the SUNY Broome alumna, who is now the company’s senior regional director of finance. “This has been a really great experience, watching this company grow.”
Tioga Downs Casino Resort has come a long way since its start, and so has Schrader – while staying a little closer to home. She grew up 10 miles down the road from Tioga Downs and started her financial career working for two small accounting firms, before landing a job she loved at Johnson Outdoors in Binghamton.
Tioga Downs presented not only a professional opportunity, but a way to cut her commute significantly. Still, she applied with mixed feelings; she was happy at Johnson Outdoors, even if it was a bit of a drive. In the end, the gamble paid off and she found herself with another vibrant career.
“There are so many different activities that go on here. Casino, racing, restaurants, events, concerts, hotel, a spa. Here, you get it all – except for manufacturing,” she said. “There is always something going on.”
And that can make for a complex operation. Schrader oversees accounts payable, finance, the cage – where cashiers redeem vouchers for winning customers – and the money rooms both at Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs, and assists with operations at the Meadowlands, all of which are owned by Jeff Gural.
“One of the best aspects of the casino industry is the number of people you get to meet,” she said. “For such a small industry, it seems like everyone knows everyone. I know people in Nevada.”
Wendy came to SUNY Broome as an adult learner – also called a “non-traditional student,” meaning that she didn’t head to college directly after high school. Before college, she had worked retail, beginning with the iconic Endicott-Johnson shoes, which had its start in the area.
“I think SUNY Broome was a good place to start. It was a good transition for me, being out of school for ten years,” she remembered. “Being local made it very convenient.”
She enjoyed her professors and her classes, and was a member of the honor society Phi Theta Kappa. After earning her degree in Business Administration, she headed to SUNY Oswego where she earned her bachelor’s in Business Administration with an accounting emphasis and then her master’s degree.
She still has all her books from her SUNY Broome days and even pulls them out every now and then, she said.
“It was a great time! I loved SUNY Broome,” she said.