MSU improves efforts with new strategic director of communications
Executive Vice President for Government and External Relations Kathleen Wilbur is announcing that former Consumers Energy executive, Merri Jo Bales, will join Michigan State University as vice president and strategic director of university communications.
Wilbur has been working for the past six months to develop a strategic, coordinated and proactive approach to communications and public relations efforts. Bales’ position will oversee those efforts, in addition to marketing, crisis communications and other areas of university communications. Current vice presidents Emily Guerrant, university spokesperson, and Heather Swain, Communications and Brand Strategy, will both report to Bales.
“Merri Jo will be an outstanding addition to the improved communication programs we are building at MSU,” said Wilbur. “Her extensive career experience, especially her time at Consumers Energy and her work consulting with leaders around our state, will help us improve our university communications systems. The communications needs of the university today are different than the needs we’ll have tomorrow, and I have great confidence that she will deliver strong results showcasing our Spartan leadership.”
Bales recently completed a 27-year career with Consumers Energy where she worked directly with the chief executive officer and other senior officers managing executive communications and expanding strategic functions. In 2018 she launched StratAlign 20/20, an executive consulting group focused on strategy development and improved leadership alignment.
“I look forward to returning to my alma mater and lending my experience and expertise to the team working to improve strategic communications,” said Bales.
Prior to joining Consumers Energy, Bales was executive director of the Michigan Sesquicentennial where she was responsible for planning the statewide commemoration of Michigan’s 150th anniversary of statehood. She also held a variety of roles for the Michigan Council for the Humanities where she worked from 1977-85.
An MSU alumna from the College of Communication Arts and Sciences, Bales received the Outstanding Alumni Award in 2009. Bales has served on the MSU Alumni Association International Board as well as the Communication Arts and Sciences Alumni Board. Bales has also been a guest lecturer for classes in public relations and communication at the university. Outside of MSU, Bales has served on the boards of the Michigan Foundation for Education Leadership, the Lenawee Community Foundation and Sienna Heights University.
Bales will start Nov. 28. Her position is pending approval from the Board of Trustees at the Dec. 14 meeting.