Tanya Salman gets others onto the right page, hitting the high notes and crossing the finish line
Published in 2020 Wisconsin Super Lawyers Magazine on November 18, 2020
In 2014, as a first-year associate, Tanya Salman joined Girls on the Run, a national organization that helps elementary school girls train to run in 5K races. “Alongside the physical training, the coaches use an empowerment-focused curriculum,” she explains. “We talk about bullying, about self-confidence. I like how it integrates running with these important life lessons.”
Salman recalls one training run in which her young running buddy was fearful that she wouldn’t be able to finish the upcoming 5K—the culmination of the GOTR program. “I told her, ‘If you get tired, it’s OK, we’ll walk. I know that you can do this and so do you.’” Fueled by words of encouragement, the young girl proudly completed the run alongside her teammates.
“She was running more than me,” Salman admits with a laugh.
Girls on the Run is just one way the commercial litigator gives back to the community.
“I think that volunteering makes me a better person and a better lawyer,” she says. “And at the same time, I can add value to the city and organizations that I’m in.”
As a child, Salman and her father would visit the library every weekend. It’s just one reason she joined the working board of Friends of the Madison Public Library. Within a year, she was elected its president.
“I recently read, ‘Libraries aren’t in the business of books—they’re in the business of communities,’” she says. “At the Madison Public Library, there is a huge core push toward making sure that the library supports social equity and diversity and inclusion. Those are things that are really important to me.”
Salman also serves as secretary of the Madison Public Library Foundation, which supports Madison’s library system and hosts the Wisconsin Book Festival. This annual celebration draws 15,000 booklovers to a weekend-long event and, throughout the year, appearances by best-selling authors.
“Because of everything going on right now, we’ve actually been able to pivot and host everything electronically,” Salman adds, listing author and former Congresswoman Stacey Abrams (Our Time is Now and Lead from the Outside), food writer Mark Bittman (How to Eat and the How to Cook Everything series) and Salman Rushdie (Midnight’s Children and The Satanic Verses) as recent Book Festival participants.
In June, Salman was also named the president of Opera for the Young, a nonprofit that brings professional opera to over 75,000 elementary schoolers per year. “It’s actually kind of amazing,” Salman says. “The wonderful artistic director, Diane Garton Edie, takes classic operas including The Magic Flute, The Barber of Seville and Elixir of Love, and adapts them to kid level. The themes are all the same, the music is the same, but the words are much more for elementary school students.”
The organization also prepares children for the performance with a curriculum that teaches the story and songs, plus enlists a group of students to join the performers onstage in cameo roles and as the opera’s chorus.
Salman is also active with Michael Best’s philanthropic Best Efforts day and Lawyers & Engineers Advancing Diversity, an employee resource group that supports LGBTQ and racially diverse attorneys, professionals and their allies. Similarly, she is a member of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.
Salman’s commitment to community service has been recognized several times, including by the Association of Women Lawyers, who named Salman its 2018 Community Involvement awardee. Giving back to community has other benefits, too.
“My involvement in these groups makes me empathetic and it makes me read situations better,” Salman says, noting that her legal background is an equal asset to her volunteer work. “I can give that legal side of me to the board and be a better fiduciary for the organization.
“I like to get involved, I care about my community and I want to make Madison and Wisconsin a better place to be.”