Q&A with past presidents of the ComArtSci alumni board: Merri Jo Bales

Merri Jo Bales 

Vice President and Strategic Director, University Communications, Michigan State University 

Bales is a 1977 communication graduate and a 2009 recipient of the Outstanding Alumni Award. She served as president of the ComArtSci alumni board from 2003 to 2006. 

What was it like serving as president of the ComArtSci alumni board? 

Serving as the ComArtSci alumni board chair was a distinct honor. My term was during a time of opportunity, challenge and change and throughout my service on the board, our deans, alumni, faculty and other leaders consistently stepped up to address important questions about the future of our college, the ways we can best educate, celebrate and support our students, how we can further scholarship and the many strengths upon which we can build. In addition, I particularly enjoyed working with and learning from colleagues from other sectors and industries, as well as locations and experiences, knowing we shared an education which values the art and science of communication, and a deep commitment to MSU.   

How has your MSU degree or experience benefited your career? 

I have consistently expressed my appreciation for the life-changing opportunities that graduating from MSU afforded me. Friendships that have endured across decades must top the list. I am particularly grateful for the College of Communication Arts and Sciences because I truly value the preparation it provided me as my career unfolded. Understanding research and data, exploring the theories that can guide our work, seeking to improve every day and recognizing the importance of being prepared and thinking differently are priorities that were formed as part of my education, and I believe these have helped me as I’ve worked to make a positive difference in every phase of my career.   

What role can alumni play in the future of ComArtSci? 

There are many ways we, as alums, can contribute to our college. Alumni engagement can have significant impact with simple things like returning to campus or virtually sharing in a class, encouraging students as they seek employment, offering networking advice and mentoring through graduation and into early career. These all matter.  And, most importantly, we can support specific programs with our resources, encouragement and advice.