Creating an awesome work environment Giving back to the communities in which we live and work By Jeff Deans November 14, 2023

Nelnet Associate Tod Fenner is Promoted to Brigadier General

Leading in Life and Work – and Other Lessons Learned

Nelnet Diversified Services (NDS) IT Director Tod Fenner began his military career 36 years ago when he joined the North Dakota National Guard. What started as a way to pay for college soon turned into a lifelong career and passion. The valuable friendships and constant challenges pushed Tod to continue to reach higher in all aspects of his life.

On Nov. 4, Tod’s hard work was rewarded as he assumed command of the Colorado Army National Guard’s Land Component as Brigadier General. He is now responsible for the management of over 3,000 soldiers and nine major subordinate commands.

When we learned about Tod’s promotion, we knew we had to chat with him to hear more. Tod shared more about his promotion, leading in life and work, his work/life balance, and lessons learned over the years. Here’s what he had to share:

Leading in Life & Work

Leadership and learning have been focal points throughout Tod’s career, both in technology and the military. He expressed the value in understanding the person underneath the uniform before he makes decisions about how best to lead them. The opportunity to set direction and give opportunities for growth and development have motivated him to continue to grow himself in leadership roles.

Work/Life Balance

Maintaining a healthy balance between his role in the military, his position at Nelnet, and his personal life is not easy. Instead of focusing on balance, Tod invests in work/life effectiveness. He strives to do the things that make an impact and communicates the expectations in all aspects of his life and career.

Tod credits his wife (Merrilee) and two kids (Peyton and Paige) for being patient and resilient when he is called to duty. It’s the family that often carries the biggest burden for an active service member. Tod also stated, “It’s not a coincidence that I have worked at Nelnet for 25 years while serving in the Army National Guard, Nelnet leadership and colleagues have actively supported by me this entire time. Nelnet supports active and retired service members because they want to not because they should.”

Lessons Learned

When asked about lessons he has learned throughout his long and decorated career, Tod noted that his curious nature and love of learning have guided him to success. He goes out of his way to learn, not only about the people he leads, but also about best practices, organizations, units, missions, and more. He said it’s important to always be curious and to seek to understand before being understood.

In addition to Tod’s involvement in the military, he has worked at Nelnet for 25 years and currently serves as an NDS IT Director specializing in Federal System Modernization and Architecture.

Nelnet is grateful for his contributions both to our company and to our country. Congratulations, Tod, and thank you for your commitment, courage, and sacrifice every day.




Jeff Deans

Copy Director

Jeff Deans is a Copy Director. With decades of creative experience behind his work, he concepts ideas and crafts language for a wide range of projects and businesses across Nelnet. Away from the keyboard, Jeff turns his creative focus to smoking meats, obsessing over fantasy football, and getting lost in TikTok.