Colgate Together with Laura Jack


Mayzie Potton, Maroon-News Staff

Laura Jack was born in Queens, NY, but has been in Hamilton for the last four years. Since the pandemic began, her name has become quite familiar around Colgate’s physical and virtual campus. As Colgate’s Vice President for Communications, Jack has taken on the task of filling student inboxes with daily updates on global and campus happenings in what she has coined the “Colgate Together Digest.”

“We were sending so much information so often, so we were like, ‘We have got to come up with a better way,’” Jack said. “President [Brian] Casey, he was heavily involved in this notion of ‘We have to make it a thing, and there has to be a voice to personalize it.’”

And thus, the informative and engaging Colgate Together Digest was born. President Casey began recording fireside-chat-like videos from his dorm room in East Hall, where he again participates in the universal quarantine alongside students, as he did in the fall. In these videos attached to the Digest emails, Casey gives crucial pandemic updates and analyzes the meal-delivery breakfast muffins, reminding students that they are not alone in braving their way through this process. In a similar way, Jack’s personal voice shines through the text of the Digest while she provides important campus and global updates, all the while helping facilitate a sense of community for the students during this otherwise isolating process.

“I think as the year went on, I got a little bit more personal,” Jack said. “You know, students would send emails back … I remember mentioning having dumplings at Merrill House, they had like a special or whatever, and this student and I got into this whole email exchange about fried or steamed, like which way was better! And it was silly, but you know, I hope it made the quarantine a little more bearable. For me it was just great getting to talk with students.”

Jack has worked in higher education communications and marketing since taking a position with the CUNY School of Professional Studies in 2005, where she helped develop their first online program. By that time, she had her MBA in marketing and had been working for advertising companies for a number of years. Jack believed that this transition was exactly where she wanted her career to go, and quickly fell in love with the new style of work.

“It felt like there was a purpose behind it … You know marketing and communications and all that stuff, it’s the same basic principles of the work,” Jack said. “But I felt like I was doing it for a better reason, right? I remember I was, like, crying at our first commencement. I was like ‘Oh, they’re graduating!’”

Jack worked in a number of schools before coming to Colgate, such as Johns Hopkins University and Howard University. Though she was reluctant to leave metropolitan D.C. for a cold little town in upstate New York, one meeting with President Casey showed Jack that Hamilton, New York is where she wanted to be for the next term of her life. 

“So I’ve been here four years now … I am basically responsible for all communications and reputation management for the university. So you know, how we present ourselves as an institution to the world, whether it’s profiling faculty in their research or alumni and their achievements, students and their achievements or recruiting students. And then obviously internal communications, talking to the campus when there is a crisis. We manage the website, social media accounts and the alumni magazine.”

Jack’s positions in other schools have been similar to the one she holds now — she tells the story of the university. However, Colgate’s small size and unique personality has made it an entirely new experience for her.

“Colgate is interesting in that I think there is a shyness and a humbleness to the institution. I mean, the faculty and students are doing amazing research and work, and there are opportunities that students have to do their own research, and it’s pretty impressive, right?” Jack said. “For example, if we get an inquiry from CNN and they want to talk to a biologist, right, and this is totally made up, but it has happened a number of times where faculty will be like ‘Oh, well I’m not the top biologist in the country so I shouldn’t.’ I’m like, ‘Oh yeah you should! I mean, you’re a scholar, you know what you’re doing, get out there!’”

There are a lot of things that COVID-19 has taken away from campus life. But in the midst of it all, with the careful planning and intention of Laura Jack, President Casey and the rest of this university’s incredible staff, a uniquely Colgate community has held itself together and will remain strong long after this time is behind us.