Alumna Roberta MacDonald credits the University of Mary Washington with giving her the tools it took to help launch her extraordinary 40-year marketing career. She’s served as Vermont’s first marketing director and worked for such heavy-hitters as the San Francisco Opera, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Ford Foundation, American Express and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. For the past 28 years, she’s been with the billion-dollar agricultural cooperative Cabot Creamery, where she is senior vice president for marketing.
“I couldn’t have done it without Mary Washington,” she told regional business leaders, community members and students during a breakfast on Thursday, Oct. 19, at the Jepson Alumni Executive Center. As the College of Business’ Executive-in-Residence, she spent the day with students sharing stories about her success.
A drama major and self-described “math junkie,” MacDonald graduated from UMW in 1972.
“It was the most spectacular educational experience I’ve ever had. My mind cracked open at UMW so that all my curiosity and energy was stimulated,” she said.
At Mary Washington, she built up an extensive portfolio that helped her land a job selling and designing ads for a Northern Virginia newspaper. From there, she worked as a consultant in Manhattan.
“If somebody needed a poster, if somebody needed a handbill, I did that for them,” said MacDonald. “And I built a very impressive portfolio by volunteering.”
At Cabot Creamery, MacDonald took a creative campaign approach in marketing for the community-based cooperative to support an ethical form of farming that places farmer’s values on a higher level than production. She used what she calls a “quilt-based” system to effectively utilize scarce resources, making sure to include the community while gaining visibility.
MacDonald donned cow-print pants and a shirt embellished with a heart that read, “Cabot farmers sent us to thank you” during her presentation last week at UMW. The talk, titled “Dancing Among Giants,” centered on a small, award-winning dairy farm and co-operative prosperously competing with large corporations. MacDonald left students asking themselves how they, too, can do what they love and use their skillsets in an impactful way.
She stressed the importance of volunteering, which helped her become the person she is today.
“I realize that there are some classes you have to take that you don’t love,” said MacDonald, “but after the grind … do what you love, do what complements your business and your team’s passion.”