Alex Jacobs Wilke ’07 is the director of public relations for the State University of New York, Potsdam, and a civic leader in that upstate college town.
“My career is very important, but equally as important to me is being engaged as a citizen and being well-rounded as an individual,” she says. “I found that at Wagner.”
Wilke is originally from a small town in upstate New York, close to the Canadian border. She attended Belleville Henderson Central High School in Adams, New York, with approximately 50 students in her graduating class. When it came time to choose a college, she wanted to go to the big city — but she still wanted a small campus. Wagner offered both.
In addition, having been in a foreign exchange program during high school, she wanted to study French and German. And, she loved to sing and wanted to be part of a strong choir tradition. Wagner offered all of those options.
“I liked the idea of taking courses that were interrelated and seeing the relationships between things.”
She also remembers being intrigued by the Wagner Plan when she heard about it during an open house for prospective students. “I liked the idea of taking courses that were interrelated and seeing the relationships between things,” she recalls. “And I liked all of the experiential learning aspects. It seemed like it would be very exciting for me to be a part of.”
At Wagner, she thrived as a student and a leader on campus. She remembers her “eye-opening” First-Year Learning Community that combined courses in music and religion and highlighted relationships between the two. With her professors and fellow students, she visited diverse places of worship and attended performances of music from around the world. During her senior year, she went on an interfaith trip to Israel through the Expanding Your Horizons program, a short-term study abroad combined with course, led by Wagner professors.
Influenced by her mother, a newspaper editor, she chose to direct her career path toward journalism. “I liked the idea of being able to explore a lot of ideas, investigate things, and let the topic lead the day,” she says. “I was always that hyper-curious student. … I wanted to find something where I could satisfy that curiosity in my career as well.”
She became an English major, with minors in journalism and religious studies. “I was constantly having to read and write, in all my classes,” she recalls. “They were all about thinking critically. You really do have to think on your feet as a writer in journalism, just having to very quickly synthesize an issue and get to the heart of it. You have to be able to interact with people of different backgrounds, be comfortable researching very different topics, that’s something obviously I saw a lot of overlap with [my coursework].”
In addition, she threw herself into co-curricular activities. She was the editor of the Wagnerian student newspaper for three years, as well as a Wagner College Choir member all four years. She participated in Wagner’s Habitat for Humanity chapter, which gave her opportunities to travel and participate in homebuilding projects. Her interest in environmental sustainability led her to start a new program in the residence halls, the Earth Floor, a space for students who shared that common interest.
After college, she started her career as a reporter for the Watertown Daily Times, the newspaper where her mother worked as well. After her years engaging with the Wagner community, she was prepared to dig into her home community again. She joined the staff of the State University of New York, Potsdam, in 2010. She met her husband, a faculty member, and they have started a family in Potsdam.
While balancing family and work, and singing in a choir, she serves on local commissions and boards and is considering running for the village board. “I’m the person who wants to know what’s going on. I want to delve in there,” she says. “I don’t just want to complain about the dilapidated house, I want to figure out what you can do about it under the law.”