Alumna Spotlight: Dr. Kimberly Osborne (PHD ’06)
Digital Specialist Jamie Lewis (AB ’12, AB ’12) recently interviewed alumna Dr. Kim Osborne (PHD ’06). Osborne is a professor at Purdue University and was named the inaugural C-SPAN Endowed Chair at Purdue’s Brian Lamb School of Communications.
You were named to the C-SPAN Endowed Chair at the Brian Lamb School of Communications at Purdue. Can you tell me a little bit about that position?
The C-SPAN Chair is a new position at Purdue in 2015-2016, and I am honored to be selected as the inaugural recipient of this prestigious endowment. It is a terrific fit for me because of my background in both public affairs and communication, which are areas central to C-SPAN’s mission. As a scholar, my academic expertise includes cultural studies, program planning, power/hegemony and media literacy.
Before I started at Purdue, I worked for two Cabinet-level federal agencies, in domestic and international roles, and I also have more than two decades of experience with corporations, nonprofits, top PR agencies, and media outlets worldwide helping to shape public opinion and public policy. At Purdue, I speak and teach, I serve on national boards, and I mentor the next generation of public affairs and strategic communications practitioners. It is rewarding to help guide young people whose skill set will impact decision making – from the U.S. Congress to statehouses to corporations nationwide.
Your resume boasts a variety of accomplishments. What are some accomplishments of which you are most proud?
It seems like I have lived many lifetimes in one, and this has made my life interesting. Professionally, my recent assignment as the Chief Strategic Communications Advisor to the Afghan National Security Forces made me proud. I was the U.S. Department of Defense’s top civilian communications advisor to Afghanistan’s defense ministries in Kabul. In addition to my day-to-day duties mentoring senior leaders in the Afghan Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Interior, I was tasked with “fixing” the “broken” communications function in the Afghan National Army. (Did I mention that I had never worked in a war zone before?) My plan provided recommendations for major organizational improvements, identified training needs and remediation, and proposed more proactive and strategic messaging focused on the end of Operation Enduring Freedom, the upcoming presidential elections, and other major high-stakes, high-visibility endeavors.
Additionally, I guided senior military personnel in the development of the first strategic communications plan for the Afghan National Army, and I led efforts by ISAF’s Ministerial Engagement Team and the U.S. Defense Department’s Ministerial Advisory Group. For my part, the Afghan National Army’s Director of Strategic Communications called me “the best advisor I ever had … in spite of being a woman.”
Personally, I have done a lot of things that make me proud. One of them is saying yes when a woman asked me if I believed in her dreams. She approached me at a speaking engagement in Los Angeles, and she told me she wanted to start a leadership development program to send young adults to Ethiopia to do service work. She asked if I thought she could do it and if I would give her advice. Today, she is the executive director of a start-up nonprofit organization called Ethiopian Diaspora Fellowship. In the first year, EDF sent five young people from the Ethiopian diaspora – including one UGA graduate — to Addis Ababa for six months where they worked with community partners to build capacity in sub-Saharan Africa. In a recent meeting, Ethiopia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs asked if EDF could expand their program and model to other western nations and bring even more help to Ethiopia. I am officially the organization’s “strategic advisor,” but I am always introduced as the “person who said yes.”
You earned your Ph.D. in adult education at UGA. What attracted you to UGA? Do any particular memories of your time in Athens stand out?
After I executed the public launch of Kelly Educational Staffing, which became the fastest-growing, most profitable business unit in (Fortune 500 professional services supplier) Kelly Services’ history, I’d become tired of Michigan’s winter weather. UGA’s Office of Public Affairs offered me a job in which I would help elevate the institution’s profile in the national media, and I did not hesitate to move south. In the decade that I worked and studied at UGA, I have more fond memories than I can recount in this space. Academically, I am grateful for the opportunity to study with several of the most esteemed scholars in the field of adult education and to have graduated from the top program in the discipline. Professionally, I enjoyed starting the Amazing Student feature on UGA’s website with my colleague, Janet Beckley, because I got to learn about and showcase so many talented Dawgs. I also enjoyed working as the first coordinator of the joint program between UGA’s Office of External Affairs, the Office of the President, and the Athletic Association where we featured UGA’s top teaching, research and service faculty on the field during home football games – which helps remind the Bulldog Nation that there is a university attached to its football team!
If you could give one piece of advice to UGA students as they prepare for internships and graduation, what would it be?
Be bold. Dare to dream. Take chances. Live the life you wish for. Think outside the box. Color outside the lines. Blaze new trails. I think back to when I was graduating from college, and I want to take that 22-year-old version of myself and hug her. I want to tell her to worry less and risk more. I want to tell her it will turn out to be more amazing than she can imagine. I want to tell her not to be so concerned about what other people think. And I want to assure her that it’s okay if you don’t know what you want to be when you grow up. Try one thing, and when it’s time to try something else, then do that. You only have all the answers when you look back at your life, never when you look ahead. It blows my mind to think about what a pivotal and transformational time this is in human history. What incredible opportunities we have to influence the course of events-for ourselves, for other people, for societies and for humankind! Do something positive. Inspire others. Make the world a better place.