O'Connell, Tracy


Associate Professor


Tracy O'Connell joined the faculty after a career managing public relations, advertising and marketing that spanned three decades. A UWRF alumna (1974), she credits her alma mater with providing the rounding she needed for a career that started in print journalism and later encompassed the fields of politics, aerospace, education, and the utility industry.

O'Connell studied business, including market research and organizational communication, for a master's degree at UW-Stout, and higher education for a doctoral degree from UCLA, where her dissertation studied the image of a college in the changing culture of a multi-ethnic community.

While her initial goal was to be an investigative news reporter, O'Connell crossed over to the public relations side early on. After a couple years editing the Augusta (Wisconsin) Area Times, she managed public relations and marketing for what is today Chippewa Valley Technical Institute. A move to the Los Angeles area in 1985 saw her continuing her marketing of education at the Ventura Community College District and Long Beach City College, where she also taught public relations and wrote a textbook used for more than a decade.

Moving to the for-profit arena in 1996, she managed customer communications at Southern California Edison during a period that encompassed the meltdown of the deregulation of the electric industry. Responsibilities included managing a multi-million dollar annual budget, advertising in five languages, overseeing the production of bill inserts and other collateral material, supervising the corporate web site, and other projects carried on by a staff of six.

A member of the Advertising Federation of Minnesota, the Twin Cities chapter of the Association for Women in Communications, and the Association of Educators in Journalism and Mass Communication, O'Connell teaches introductory and advanced advertising and public relations, and mass media writing for students in the Marketing Communications unit. A lifelong interest in other cultures, combined with the wish to provide new opportunities to her students, led O'Connell to participate in a Summer, 2005 trip to Tibet with other members of the university family, to explore opportunities for students to work on innovative marketing projects.

During the summer of 2011 O'Connell led a group of UWRF students on a unique interdisciplinary field experience in China, associated with the China Exploration and Research Society founded by renowned explorer Wong How Man. Click here for a glimpse ( of UWRF students in the midst of this extraordinary opportunity!