Tell us about your current career outside of being an adjunct faculty member at Columbia College.
Since 2007, I have been a principal in Big Splash Public Relations, an agency serving Chicago’s cultural community.
What was your first “real-world” job?
I was director of the Chicago Youth Repertory Company, a federally funded (CETA) theater program for teens who lived, for the most part, in economically depressed neighborhoods. While getting the word out about these talented young people, I discovered my niche and the direction that I wanted to pursue. Public Relations became my passion and the focus of my career. I then enrolled at Mundelein College (now merged with Loyola University) as a PR major where I received a B.A. in Communications.
What are 1-3 professional accomplishments that you’ve achieved over the years?
In 1986, when the Chicago History Museum experienced a devastating flood that threatened its 150 years of Chicago’s history, I turned a PR crisis into a career-changing coup. By securing positive media coverage about this once-in-a-lifetime disaster, the museum raised $15 million for a Capital Campaign that was expected to only bring in $7.5 million.
In 2000, I brought international acclaim to the Field Museum by creating a publicity triumph for a dinosaur named Sue, prompting a Chicago Tribune critic to describe Sue’s unveiling as “the best publicized exhibit in Chicago’s history”. The “Unveiling of Sue” also won the Publicity of Chicago’s prestigious Creativity Award.
In 2008, Senator John McCain ridiculed then Senator Barack Obama’s backing of a failed request for a $3 million federal grant for the Adler Planetarium to replace what McCain called an “overhead projector,” creating a PR crisis for the planetarium. I organized a press conference to demonstrate the comparison of an overhead projector that could be purchased for $30 on eBay with a large Mark VI Zeiss Projector that had been used in the planetarium since 1967. We presented the facts to the media, contradicting McCain’s claims. The follow-up media coverage saved the Adler’s reputation and supported the efforts of Mr. Obama on behalf of the Adler. As a result, both the Adler and Mr. Obama were winners in the court of public opinion. This project won the Publicity Club of Chicago’s Golden Trumpet Award for excellence in Crisis Public Relations.
What drives your professional career?
I love working with talented people on projects that I believe in.
Three pieces of advice that would be helpful to any student:
Learn to write well and you will never be unemployed for long.
Finding the work that you love can take an eclectic path but at the end of the road, when you find your dream job, it will have happened because of all that you have learned along the way.
You will find that, whatever your discipline, Columbia College Chicago will give you permission to lead a creative life. Knowing this will set you free to do what your heart tells you that you were meant to do.