Cindy McConkey (B.S./JEM ’80) combines a strong background in journalism and public relations consulting in directing the Corporate Communications group for Scripps Networks Interactive, the company behind the popular lifestyle networks HGTV, DIY Network, Food Network, Cooking Channel, Travel Channel and Great American Country (GAC). Her role involves the development and supervision of strategic, integrated communications programs for Scripps Networks Interactive including reputation management, media relations, social responsibility, employee communications, government relations, speakers’ bureau, event marketing and marketing and creative services. In addition, she supports the company in regard to financial communications and business media matters.
CCI: How and when did you first get involved (on a volunteer basis) with CCI?
As a former journalist who now oversees marketing and communications for a major media company, I have for many years been an occasional guest lecturer for various journalism and broadcast classes at UT’s CCI. I also have been a panelist for PR Day that’s put on by UT’s PRSSA chapter. As the head of Corporate Communications for Scripps Networks Interactive, I oversee the company’s corporate social responsibility. In this capacity, I met Mike Wirth when he became the new Dean of the College of Communication and Information several years ago. We worked together to secure funding from Scripps for several new CCI initiatives, including insight and financial support for the Tennessee Journalist Program, the Diversity Leadership Program and the Scripps Convergence Lab, among others. At some point during this time, I was invited to serve on CCI’s Board of Visitors.
CCI: In your view, what is the most important or impactful role you’ve played as a volunteer?
When I first came to Scripps Networks 10 years ago, I initiated an intern program between the Corporate Communications department and CCI. That program has expanded to the PR groups at HGTV and DIY Network, with Scripps Networks Interactive now hosting as many as 4-5 interns per semester. I believe the practical and demanding environment of working in a fast-paced media company is invaluable to these CCI interns – many of whom we have helped place in their first jobs after college. Of course, I would also rate the guidance and financial support we contributed to the Scripps Convergence Lab as a very significant accomplishment.
CCI: Why have you chosen to support the college (financially and/or with your time)? Why do you see this as important?
I appreciate and value the education I received from the School of Journalism when I was at UT. At the time I attended, the J school was considered one of the top journalism programs in the country. When I first reconnected with the school a dozen years later, I found that the program was having some problems that led to a decline in enrollment and a drop in the national rankings. After joining Scripps Networks 10 years ago, I was in a position (along with others) to provide feedback and input that ultimately, helped bring about some positive changes that have made a difference for the school, the students and local businesses such as Scripps Networks. I also give a lot of credit to Dean Wirth for his guidance, creativity and commitment.
CCI: What do you hope to accomplish during your term with the BOV?
To continue to provide guidance and support – as well as a real-world perspective – whenever and however I can.
CCI: If someone is considering volunteerism as a way to “give back” to the University, what advice would you have for them? Why should they do it?
It’s not what you get in life, but what you give. I was fortunate to have family, high school teachers, college instructors and professional mentors give me the knowledge, encouragement and support that enabled me to succeed – and by that, I mean to be happy and fulfilled at the end of the day. Volunteerism is a way to pay it forward.
CCI: What from your UT and CCI experience has “stuck with you” during life since graduating?
Hard work and a commitment to quality.
CCI: What is your favorite memory from your time as a student at UT?
I’m not sure my college experience was typical. I lived at home and commuted; worked 25-35 hours a week, and went to school full time, graduating with exactly the required number of credits in four years. So my favorite memory actually is after I graduated, getting off work at the newspaper at 11:30 and not having to go home and study!
CCI: Any other parting words of wisdom?
Each of us controls three things in our lives … How hard we work, our attitude, and how well we take care of ourselves. The rest, give to God.