Loyola University Chicago

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Alumna to speak at mid-term graduation

Alumna to speak at mid-term graduation

Holly Harnisch.

December 3, 2020

By Genevieve Buthod

Holly Harnisch has come a long way from her upbringing in a small town in Central Wisconsin.

She took her first giant step when she enrolled in Loyola’s School of Communication, and was wide-eyed walking onto the Water Tower Campus in Chicago's Gold Coast.

Today, Harnisch is Director of Brand Marketing for The New York Times, and she lives in New York’s East Village.

But Harnisch has never forgotten where she came from, and remembers her alma mater fondly.

Harnisch will be the commencement speaker at the SOC’s mid-year graduation on Wednesday, Dec. 9, a virtual gathering where she hopes to impart her experiences and wisdom on the midterm graduating class.

Harnisch claims her ability to tackle creative challenges comes from being a middle child in a family of five siblings. The fundamentals of dreaming things up, creating something together and navigating personalities were formed building forts, fighting over French fries and roller skating in Central Wisconsin.

Upon graduating from Loyola in 2009, Harnisch quickly entered the world of marketing and communications at Ketchum and Edelman for brands like Wendy’s, Jim Beam and AXE along with non-profits like UNICEF and St. Jude Children’s Hospital.

She now acts as director of brand marketing for The New York Times where she develops and executes programs that help readers understand the importance of quality, independent journalism, its role in their lives and its impact on society.  Her most noteworthy effort was “The Truth is Worth It” campaign for The Times.

We caught up with Harnisch as she prepares to return to Chicago for her commencement speech.

How do you think the Loyola’s School of Communication helped you prepare for your career?

I wouldn’t have the experience I have without Loyola’s School of Communication. 

Two main things stand out:

Professors that embodied the work I wanted to do, with acclaimed expertise in journalism and in communications (at agency and elsewhere). These professors both inspired me and gave me a real-life example of what my life would be if I worked hard, pushed to get internships and absorbed everything I possibly could. This made the work in class really applicable, I walked into internships with solid writing skills, understanding of tough cases and the drive to use find the stories worth telling.

Second, a willingness for the school to push me into the buildings I couldn’t get it on my own. I’m fairly all the critical internships I had at NBC5, Ketchum, Edelman and maybe even UNICEF, all came from Loyola connections.  

How has it prepared you for your work on the “The Truth is Worth It” campaign?

Quickly after getting my job at The Times, I gifted my parents a print subscription. They live in a very small town in Central Wisconsin and believe (and taught us) to be informed and try to make an impact with the skills you have. I knew having the paper delivered would both supply them with the local, national and world news they crave while also being a reminder of the great work I’m doing and able to do with their support. I believe they might be the only subscribers for miles.
 
Why do I mention that? Loyola quickly expanded my worldview while inspiring the drive my parents had instilled in me. From coming from the third poorest county in Wisconsin to walking into a class at Chicago’s Water Town. While I had been to the city, I had no idea what city living would be like, what working in the city would be like and what surviving in a city would be like. The city campus sparked something in me.
 
Loyola taught me how much I love the buzz of vibrant cities and how much you can learn in a fast paced, diverse, culturally rich place. The classes then shaped in me the importance of doing mission-based work and finding the important stories that would go untold unless you, as a communicator, found a way to tell them. 

That experience, that pace, that drive to do good sets me up to do what I do every day for The Times. 
 

Are you looking forward to being the commencement speaker?

First, I’m completely flattered and slightly terrified. I’m eager to connect with the students. I’m keenly aware of how hard this year has been and can’t imagine what it’s like to graduate in this climate. My only hope is to reassure this impressive group that they have everything they need to lead us through this unprecedented time.

Register to view the SOC mid-term commencement here.