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Women’s History Month Spotlight: Kim Marks, a Navy Veteran Turned PR Professor

In honor of Women’s History Month, the Daily Helmsman is shining a spotlight on a well-accomplished faculty member, Kim Marks. Kim Marks is a certified public relations professional, a former Navy public affairs officer, a freelance PR consultant and a journalism professor at the University of Memphis. Marks also serves as the advisor for the university’s student-run strategic communication firm, Meeman 901 Strategies.

Marks enlisted in the Navy in 1986 and was commissioned as a public affairs officer while at officer candidate school in 1996.

Originally joining the Navy as an aircraft mechanic to help her pay for college at Western Tech University, she later became a journalist instead. The Navy paid for her to finish her degree while she was on active duty.

Later in the Navy, she applied to become a public affairs officer to earn her commission and the Navy accepted her application. While Marks was a public affairs officer, the Navy sent her to get her master’s in mass communications.

Marks mentioned her high school English teacher, Mrs. Servasi, who pushed her to apply to colleges and served as a mentor for her. In high school, Marks did not know what she wanted to do, but she liked journalism-related things. Her English teacher helped her to get involved in the school yearbook, eventually starting a high school newspaper together.

Another influence of Marks was her graduate advisor, Dr. Bey-Ling Sha, who encouraged Marks to become a teacher at UofM after retiring from the Navy.

Marks helped manage issues on the Navy’s national news desk and led the public affairs team aboard the USS Nimitz.

“When I got my commission, my first tour of duty as an officer was at the Pentagon on the Navy’s news desk, where we would take all the media inquiries that came in from national and international media and answer their questions,” Marks said. Marks enjoyed working on the national news desk because she got to travel and learn new things every day.

As far as the USS Nimitz, she said, “It was neat because we had mass media specialists, and we also had our own radio and TV stations on board. We were the department that took care of all the public tours. It was cool because, every day, I had to approve a radio schedule for a 24-hour radio show and a 24-hour TV station. I had to be really involved in all the mechanics of producing that, while also stepping back and being an advisor for all the public issues for the CO (commanding officer) and admiral on the ship.”

While Marks seems to be motivated by handling many tasks, there were times she got overwhelmed, recounting a specific instance in which she and her team were going to do a port visit to Chennai, India, from the Middle East. On the way there, Marks’ appendix ruptured, causing her to go into emergency surgery. Because of this, everything ceased.

Despite this stressful situation, Marks said, “I knew my team could handle this without me.”

Marks retired from the Navy after over 28 years of service and settled in East Memphis.

Marks also enjoys contributing to her community by helping small businesses with social media management and PR consulting. “I like to focus on locally owned small businesses and non-profits because I just feel like that’s where my heart is.”

While reflecting on her accomplishments, Marks said her biggest ones are obtaining her bachelor’s degree, being commissioned into the Navy, and getting promoted to commander.

After many years of service in the Navy, Marks seems content settled in Memphis as a professor. “Where I’m going to leave my legacyis being a professor at the University of Memphis.”

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