In her quaint, meager office, proudly showing off the new School of Business Administration’s logo she created, one would not have guessed that this soft-spoken woman could have conquered so much within four months.
With sketches of fashion models and a portrait of the paparazzi at a Marc Jacobs fashion show framed on the wall, one would think Stella Connell was a fashion guru, but that’s not the case.
Oxford native, born and raised in this charming little town, Connell is the daughter of a photographer and Ole Miss General Counsel of 20 plus years.
At a young age, Connell said her parents encouraged her and her three sisters to read frequently.
“I knew I wanted to do something in the journalism area…it seemed like a natural thing to me,” Connell said.
While Connell felt like journalism was a good fit for her, initially, she wanted to become an architect. However, the college she chose did not have a program for architecture nor did she think she had the math skills to pursue that route.
Upon graduating high school, Connell decided to attend the University of Alabama.
Growing up in Oxford and having a mother that worked for the university, Connell wanted to step outside of the norm and attend college away from her hometown.
Connell graduated from the University of Alabama with a bachelor’s degree in communications and went on to further her education by obtaining a master’s in American studies.
While at the University of Alabama, Connell worked as a graduate assistant for the Office of Student Life as well as an assistant at the Alabama Heritage Magazine.
In August of 1991, Connell traveled to Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she attended the Radcliffe Publishing Course at Harvard University. Going into the course, Connell thought that magazine publishing was the career for her, but after hearing the vice president for Marketing and Publicity at Random House speak during the program, she realized book publishing was more her forte.
“It was a great program because, at that time, I had always thought there was just editing; I didn’t realize there were all these different jobs in the industry. The things she talked about seemed to be the best fit for me, which was PR and marketing,” Connell said.
The public relations and marketing side of publishing was more compelling for her than anything else. After attending the Radcliffe Publishing Course, Connell decided to move to New York City, where publishing companies blossomed.
Throughout the early 1990s, Connell put her talents to work with many well-known publishing companies in New York.
In ’91 and ’92, Connell worked as a publicity assistant for Doubleday Publishing, where she coordinated travel and media schedules, wrote press materials and directed media mailings. At Doubleday, she worked with authors such as John Grisham and Marilyn Schwartz.
She later went on to work as a publicist for Pantheon Books, Penguin Group and Random House until August 1994, also working with authors like Leonard Cohen and Anchee Min.
From August of ’94 to December of ’96, Connell was a publicity manager for G.P. Putnam’s Sons, where she worked with author Junot Diaz and many others.
With her extensive background in public relations, she founded her own PR agency called The Connell Agency, LLC, in New York in June 1998.
Living in New York City for 20 years proved successful for Connell, but after a certain time she felt it was time for her to move on.
“I lived in the city for about 20 years, and I left only a few years ago,” she said. “I wanted to get out of publishing. Although I love it, I felt that it is a business that has a lot of growing pains…it wasn’t working anymore in my mind.”
Connell moved back to her hometown and started exploring other options for work.
“I felt that two things were never going to go away, education and healthcare because people aren’t going to stop going to college and people aren’t going to stop getting sick,” she said. “So, I decided to start applying for positions in those industries.”
Connell stumbled upon a newly created position that the Ole Miss School of Business Administration posted on the school website. She figured the position would be a great fit, so she applied.
In November 2016, Connell began her journey as the new communications specialist and strategic brand manager for the School of Business Administration.
“Because I had my own business and had been a self-starter, publishing translated pretty well into higher education,” Connell said.
Since taking on the position as communications specialist, Connell has created a new logo for the business school and has written numerous press releases for newspapers such as The Oxford Eagle and the Mississippi Business Journal.
Ken Cyree, dean of the School of Business Administration, was more than elated to have Connell as part of the team.
“We are thrilled to have Stella Connell as our communications specialist and strategic brand manager,” Cyree said. “This is an excellent step forward for us since she is able to provide information to our constituents about the great things we are doing in the business school. Stella is doing a great job for us in her short time here.”
From the rave reviews she has received for her efforts, the School of Business Administration now has a different beat with Connell working to keep the school on the map.
“We have had many more high-profile stories about our rankings, faculty and programs since she has been here,” Cyree said. “I believe through her efforts, the School of Business is better positioned for the future since our success can be disseminated to a wide audience, and the knowledge of the things we are doing will help us to recruit outstanding students, inform employers for our graduates and increase our academic reputation.”
Justin Wright, Senior Business Administration major, believes that Connell is a great asset to the business school as well.
“It’s good to see someone who really cares about putting the business school on a pedestal, and I think this is what the school needs,” Wright said.
Connell may be the new kid on the block, but her success as a publicist shows that she has great potential in directing the Ole Miss business school’s future.
“I’m looking to grow the position and make it an indispensable position and hopefully grow the department with some developmental work,” Connell said.
By Italiana Anderson, a student of the Meek School of Journalism and New Media.
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