Gail Towns is Executive Director, Marketing & Communications, at Georgian Court University (GCU). She leads a team of professionals committed to telling the story of GCU’s role in shaping and changing students’ lives. She also provides strategic counsel regarding GCU’s communications efforts. More than two decades ago, Gail began her journalism career covering K-12 public schools and colleges and universities for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, her hometown newspaper. She also taught writing and reporting courses at Western Michigan University (WMU) and the University of Cincinnati. In addition, she worked in college and university relations posts at Atlanta Technical College and WMU. She was a parenting columnist for the Cincinnati Enquirer, Hamilton Journal-News, and Cincinnati Parent. Her work has also appeared in the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) magazine, and she is a frequent contributor to GCU Magazine.
If you could write a book about your life, what would the title be, and why?
If I could write a book about my life, it would have two titles. The first half would be the Invisible Woman. There is a reason behind it. I began my career as a reporter. And as a reporter, you observe, listen, ask questions, and tell other people’s stories. So, as a reporter, you don’t want to be part of the story. You don’t want to inject anything. You want to be as objective, as quiet, and as invisible as possible. That’s why I say – invisible.
I left the newsroom almost 20 years ago and began working in higher education. Nonetheless, I am still telling other people’s stories through marketing, public relations, and communications. The second part of my book would be called Unwritten. And that’s because it’s yet to be seen, yet to be experienced. As my children are ready to leave the nest (my children are 23, 21, and 18 now), I feel more will come in life. And that part is unwritten. I feel like there’s a blank slate; we’ll see.
Tell us something about your professional life.
I began my professional life as a reporter. Let me tell you about the moment I knew what excited me and gave me energy. This goes back to when I was in seventh grade – I think I was almost 12. The assignment was to talk about what we did for our summer vacation. Being from the south, my parents took my siblings and me to the Okefenokee Swamp on vacation. Well, it is no Disney World. It’s in South Georgia, below what we call the ‘gnat line,’ near the Florida line. We went to the swamp and looked at the alligators and dragonflies. We talked about mosquitoes, flora and fauna, and native species — all the things that you would expect to hear from my mother, a teacher, and my father, an outdoorsman.
When school started that fall, I had to report what I did that summer. I didn’t just want to stand in front of the class and talk about the alligators. I wanted my classmates to hear and have a sensory experience. So, I had an old-school tape recording of the sound from the swamp. I had photographs, and I did a little travel brochure. And so that’s when I learned how much I enjoyed storytelling.
At the same time, over the years, I have discovered that I do not want to do just one thing when it comes to telling stories, and that’s probably been both a burden and a blessing. That’s why I have moved from reporting to marketing in higher education.
Why did you get involved with the AMA-New Jersey chapter? Why is this organization important to you?
I have been engaged with the AMA for the last three years. I am a general member of the national organization. I have been actively consuming content, meeting and talking to people, and going to events. I did that probably for at least three years. Finally, in 2020 – 21, Kendra Clark, former AMA–New Jersey President, extended an invitation to get involved as a volunteer. I was looking for a way to help the organization and create those experiences for other people. That drew me to get actively involved as a volunteer with AMA-New Jersey. And, in the process, I am also learning new skills to build my portfolio. I do enjoy my time as a volunteer with the team here.
What is the best advice you would give to new professionals or young students?
You know, this question made me think. I once attended an event where the speaker, Ellyn Spragins, spoke about her book – Letters to My Younger Self. This made me think – if I had an opportunity to write a letter to my younger self, what are some of the things that I would say?
I would say, ‘Seize opportunities, push boundaries, don’t take no for an answer. Know your worth. Ask for what you want because nobody is going to give it to you.’ These are all things I wish I had learned earlier in life. These are the messages that I’d like to give to younger professionals.
If someone wants to connect with you, what is the best way to reach out to you on social media?
You can reach me at https://www.linkedin.com/in/gailtowns
Or Twitter @gailtowns.