URI Harrington School board member discusses career, importance of traditional skills, innovation in media education

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Steve Malkiewicz. URI photo courtesy of the Harrington School of Communication and Media.

KINGSTON, R.I. – October 13, 2016 – It seems as though communication, journalism and media are changing by the minute and that those who work in the field must be increasingly flexible.

University of Rhode Island graduate Steve Malkiewicz started learning those lessons as a sports writer, assistant sports editor and then sports and news editor at the University’s student newspaper, The Good 5 Cent Cigar.

After earning his bachelor’s degree from URI in 1981, he went to work as a news reporter at the Norwalk, Conn. Hour and Stamford, Conn. Advocate, before joining IBM, where he serves as director of communications for IBM Global Business Services. Since the establishment of the Harrington School of Communication and Media in 2008, he has served on its executive advisory board.

The University recently discussed a number of topics with Malkiewicz, including the opening of the $6.5 million Harrington Hub for Global Leadership in Communication and Media on Friday, Oct. 21 at 11 a.m. on the Kingston Campus Quadrangle.

URI: In your position at IBM, where are you based and how many staff do you supervise? What does your job entail?

Malkiewicz: I’m the global leader for workforce and executive communications for IBM’s largest organization, its global consulting business. We’re headquartered in Westchester County, N.Y., and I work with a small team here and collaborate with colleagues around the world. Today’s rapidly emerging technologies are creating tremendous change across the business landscape. Our consulting business is responsible for advising clients on how to apply those technologies to achieve their business goals, and then implement everything from the business apps through our partnership with Apple to digital business design to the core applications for finance and other critical applications that keep companies large and small operating day to day. Our primary role with the communications team is to make sure our teams understand the strategies for delivering these capabilities and to enable employees to be advocates for IBM.

URI: How did your education at URI prepare you for your job in journalism and at IBM?

Malkiewicz: The lessons I learned studying journalism and communications have served me extremely well not only in my newspaper career but in corporate communications at IBM. Journalism is about telling stories, applying your natural curiosity and asking questions until you are able to build a fact-based narrative, rendering complex subjects understandable, so people can learn how the issue at hand affects their lives. At IBM, in public relations roles I have held and now focusing on our employees, those lessons and skills come into play every day.

URI: What traditional skills remain important for a person entering communications and media work today and what new ones do they need to possess in this era of instant, online communications?

Malkiewicz: The core skills remain the same – writing with clarity and impact, building a persuasive argument, telling a compelling story. The on-line communications and collaborative tools available today provide instantaneous global reach, new ways to amplify a message and the ability to combine different forms of visual media to tell those stories with even greater impact. The specific tools will change and evolve, but the core skills remain paramount, and the Harrington School strikes this balance.

URI: How is the Harrington School preparing URI students for jobs in this fast-changing media environment?

Malkiewicz: University curriculum is often created and taught in silos. But the world no longer works that way, if it ever did. The interdisciplinary program advanced by the Harrington School – a holistic approach combining core communications, writing and rhetoric, public relations, film studies, journalism, library science studies – enables students to emerge in the marketplace with the combination of skills that reflect the way communications is practiced today.

URI: Including you, there are numerous prestigious media professionals serving on the Harrington School advisory board. What do you and your fellow board members bring to faculty and students in the Harrington School?

Malkiewicz: I believe that we are able to bring real-world experience and perspective from an incredibly diverse set of leading businesses and institutions: start-ups and Fortune 500 companies; academia, global and regional news and media organizations and corporations from technology, finance and other industries.

URI: What excites you about the Harrington Hub opening Oct. 21?

Malkiewicz: To quote my fellow board member Jay Spach (former senior vice president for organizational development at Thomson Reuters), ‘in a world often defined by virtual interaction, we sometimes forget the importance of place – I see it as the value of in-person interaction in an environment that fosters collaboration and creative thinking.’ The Hub will be the manifestation of all the defining attributes of the Harrington School; a multi-million-dollar destination where people will come to work, learn and innovate together. It will be the new jewel of the URI campus.