Susan Klobuchar, a University of Virginia alumna with 15 years in corporate marketing and communications and the last five years in a pioneering role as the UVA Alumni Association’s first chief marketing officer, has been named executive director of strategic communications at the UVA School of Engineering and Applied Science. Her appointment began on Aug. 1, 2023.
“Susan is an excellent strategist and leader,” said Jennifer L. West, the Nancy and Neal Wade Professor of Engineering and Applied Science and dean of UVA Engineering. “She especially demonstrated these qualities at the Alumni Association, where, among other accomplishments, she led a relaunch of the association’s brand, worked to instill a mindset of strategic engagement and elevated the association’s position as a valued partner in the broader University community.
“Susan brings not only her wealth of experience, strategic thinking and great ideas, but her familiarity with and affinity for UVA.”
At the UVA Alumni Association, Klobuchar helped lead several successful initiatives. These include Retold, a yearlong celebration of the 50th anniversary of coeducation at UVA; rebranding the Ridley Scholarship Program, an initiative designed to attract high-caliber Black students to UVA; and the 2022 Living Honor campaign.
Her new role at UVA Engineering is another great opportunity to merge that which she loves and the philosophy on which she has built a career, she said.
“I’m a storyteller at heart,” said Klobuchar, who uses the predawn hours to write fiction. “Marketing and communications are all about telling stories that connect people to ideas, to values and to each other. Here, there are stories everywhere I look waiting to be told to connect people to the mission and work of UVA Engineering.”
Klobuchar earned her bachelor’s in English from UVA in 1996 and an MBA in marketing from the Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. She began her career at General Mills, where she led marketing and communications programs for brands such as Betty Crocker, Pillsbury, Yoplait and Cheerios.
She left General Mills after 13 years as a senior marketing manager to become vice president and director of marketing for BreathableBaby, a successful startup specializing in safe products for babies and toddlers. In addition to building and executing the company’s marketing and communications strategy, Klobuchar worked with colleagues, medical experts, the Consumer Product Safety Commission and state government officials to develop safer infant sleep products and advocate for stronger product safety regulations and legislation.
Throughout her career, Klobuchar has focused on seeing the big picture.
“I’m always asking, ‘What are we trying to do?’, and taking an entrepreneurial approach to achieving that end,” Klobuchar said. “As communicators, our office will work to continue building the brand of UVA Engineering, understand and define the school’s and departments’ collective goals, and develop innovative strategies and plans to deliver on them.
“Then we’ll make sure everyone — from the most senior administrators to our students — keep pulling in the same direction. Collaboration is the key to success. I believe in the mission and values of this school to make the world a better place. I already know UVA Engineering is an exemplary leader in engineering research and education, and I can’t wait to work with members of our community to make sure everyone else knows it too.”