Director of Strategic Communications
Park University – Parkville, MO
Bridget Locke currently serves as director of strategic communications within the Office of University Engagement at Park University. This appointment was effective July 1, 2018.
Locke, who previously served as manager of strategic communications, began her career at Park in April 2016 as a development and marketing writer. In her current role, Locke is charged with developing and executing strategic communications that promote the University, including a comprehensive communication plan for the Office of the President, and delivers communications pieces to other units of the University. In addition, she is responsible for the communications elements of Park’s major public and internal programs, and collaborates with the University’s special events team in the planning and coordination of key programs and events.
Prior to joining Park University, Locke was the major gifts manager for United Way of Greater Kansas City. She has also served as the assistant director of enrollment services and marketing manager at Donnelly College in Kansas City, Kan., and in various roles at Assurant Employee Benefits in Kansas City, Mo., including a stint as the corporate communications and community relations specialist.
Locke earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in communications and human development from the University of Saint Mary in Leavenworth, Kan., and in December 2018, earned a Master of Arts in Communication and Leadership from Park.
Q AND A
What kind of child were you? I was never shy, per se, but I was an introvert who loved to read. As the youngest of two, I’m sure I was a brat to my sister—but not intentionally. I asked a lot of questions and was naturally curious.
I was also a reluctant leader. Eventually, I broke out of my shell and took on more leadership roles, but I was more comfortable in the background. Because I read a lot, I grew to become a strong, persuasive communicator. Others saw that as a leadership strength.
How did you find your way to a career in higher education? In 2013, I left a career in the insurance industry after 14 years; I was looking for an opportunity to manage and realized that wouldn’t be happening within the organization I’d spent the majority of my career in. A nearby institution was hiring, and valued my skill set—so I left the insurance company and became a higher ed professional.
Who was your work role-model, mentor, coach or sponsor and what is the best advice/help they gave you? My role model was (and still is) a communications guru named Joyce Richards. She hired me for my first communications job. She was good at her role and was tough to please … but in a way that made you better. She taught me four lessons that have stuck with me:
1) “There are examples out there.” – I once came to her to discuss an assignment I hadn’t completed. Rather than allow me to lean on her expertise for direction, she simply said, “There are examples out there,” and redirected me to find my own way through my confusion. She was a little annoyed with me at the time, but in hindsight, it was the best thing she could have said. It taught me to be self-sufficient and to try to find the answer for myself before saying, “I don’t know what to do.”
2) “Give 120%, then at the end of the day, you’re square.” – I struggled with work/life balance early in my career (and still don’t have it mastered), and she taught me to be fully present and accountable on the clock … but to do my best to leave work at work and to enjoy my family and loved ones once I made it home. At the end of the day, go home and give your loved ones as much energy as you give your career.
3) “Trust your gut.” You know the right answer, most of the time…but even if you make a choice that wasn’t the best course of action, you’ll survive and learn from the experience.
4) “Listen, assess, then recommend.” As a younger professional, I would use language that lacked confidence and seemed self-defeating. My mentor taught me to replace phrases like, “What if we …” and “What do you think about …” to “I recommend you…” and “Based on my experience, I believe it would be best to…”
Certainly you had to make some tough career decisions along the way. Tell us about one of them and how you found your way through. I once left a lucrative job because I didn’t feel valued or heard. At the time, I believed I was in a position to start my own business with what I’d learned in the industry. I wasn’t ready, though; because I hadn’t built a strong enough client base or marketed myself well, my business failed and I wound up returning to the job I’d left. It was humbling, but I learned resilience and recognized the importance of not burning bridges.
The one skill I have that helps me the most in my current position is? As a communications director, it’s important to have a knack for writing. I do lots of it and I enjoy creating things that move people to action or improve understanding. Still, I am humble enough to try to constantly improve my writing. My mantra: Everyone needs an editor. Including editors.
How do you gain respect for you and your work?
First and foremost, it is important to be consistent. You simply have to keep your word, meet deadlines, understand what people need to know, and continually learn.
As someone who is responsible for steering communications, it’s important for all people to feel as if their perspective has been heard and represented. Sometimes that means speaking truth to power or going against the grain to be sure communications and access to information are fair and balanced. Maintaining a sense of personal integrity – particularly as a person of color in spaces where there may not always be equal representation of people of color – is personally important. I believe to be respected, you must be authentic.
Additionally, it’s important to be humble and trainable. I recognize that I am not perfect, am never above reproach, and know there is always more to learn. I need to constantly sharpen my skills and learn from others around me. I believe people who are constantly trying to evolve and grow gain the trust of their peers, and the respect of those who want to elevate them to higher levels.
What is your advice for others looking to pursue a degree in higher education? Love people and love learning. In higher education, the mission to make education accessible to more people should always be paramount. If you make that your true north, everything else that comes with working in higher ed falls into place.
Two things people don’t know about you?
1 – I am a pretty good impressionist! Cartoon characters, 80s pop stars, British television hosts …
2 – My favorite place on the planet is the public library.
Top item on your bucket list?
1 – To become a famous novelist.
Your go-to-way to relax? Hearty laughter, moving music and intentional prayer soothes my soul. That said, I’m not above the occasional glass of white wine …
What you learned after graduation that they never taught you in classes? In many cases, people don’t care how much you know; they want to know how much you care. Learn constantly, but lead with love. It covers a multitude of sins and will open more doors than your degree.