Washington State Magazine

Washington State Magazine :: Summer 2013

Summer 2013

In This Issue...


The Animal Mind Reader :: Beyond the notion that animals other than humans may indeed possess consciousness, Jaak Panksepp’s work suggests a litany of philosophical implications: How should we treat animals? Do we have free will? Where might we search for the meaning of life? Are our most fundamental values actually biological in nature? by Eric Sorensen

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE—Video: The Primal Power of Play }

Something Old Something New—A history of hospitality :: When Washington State College introduced its hospitality program in 1932, no one had yet imagined an airport hotel, a drive-through restaurant, a convention center, or the boom of international travel. Eighty years later, as the industry grows in new and unexpected ways, the School of Hospitality sends its graduates out to meet its evolving needs. by Hannelore Sudermann

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE—Video: The History of Alderbrook Resort }

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE—Story: WSU’s Bell Hop }

Waiting for the Rain :: “The point of our visit was to talk about food, drought, and war. Begnemato sits in central Mali, in the east of Mopti province, where staples like millet and rice sell for six times what they did a year ago. Andoule blames their food problems on the fighting in the north and last year’s poor rains.... The previous year’s drought had depleted village seed stocks, and the conflict in northern Mali has either cut off many farmers from their fields or frightened them away.” From We Never Knew Exactly Where: Dispatches from the Lost Country of Mali. by Peter Chilson

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE—Video: On the edge of turmoil Peter Chilson talks about his experiences in Mali. }


{ WEB EXCLUSIVE—Excerpt: Micronesian Blues A section of WSU Professor Bryan Vila’s book Micronesian Blues, about training police officers in South Pacific islands. }

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE—Video: After Newtown: Guns in America A PBS documentary on the role of guns in U.S. culture, with WSU emeritus Professor Joan Burbick. }


{ WEB EXCLUSIVE—Video: You sunk my battleship! A look at the intramural Battleship game in Gibb Pool at WSU, courtesy of University Recreation }


{ WEB EXCLUSIVE—Video: Greg Blanchard: WSU Chef }

New media

:: Blasphemy: New and Selected Stories by Sherman Alexie ’94

:: We Are the Bus by James McKean ’68, ’74

:: Chicago, Barcelona Connections by Greg Duncan ’98

:: WSU Cougars from A to Z by Carla Nellis ’90

:: New & Noteworthy: Planet Rock Doc: Nuggets from Explorations of the Natural World and The Whole Story of Climate: What Science Reveals about the Nature of Endless Change by E. Kirsten Peters; Blazing a Wagon Trail to Oregon: A Weekly Chronicle of the Great Migration of 1843 by Lloyd W. Coffman ’87; Career Choices for Veterinarians: Private Practice and Beyond by Carin A. Smith ’84

On the cover: Jaak Panksepp with zebra mask by Pierre-Marie Valat. Photo Robert Hubner

Marcia Steele Hoover '90 at Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon. <em>Bill Wagner</em>


Marcia Steele Hoover ’90 at Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon. Bill Wagner

Marcia Steele Hoover ’90—Running with a mission

by | © Washington State University

Nike World Headquarters is its own strange utopia. A visit to the well-groomed grounds just south of Portland starts in the parking area with sounds of children from the outdoor play yard of the child development center. A walk into the campus meanders between four-story office buildings named for great athletes and coaches, and then past geese on grass and a group of women doing jumping jacks and stretches on a plaza in front of Lake Nike before starting their run.

The plaza connects to a cafeteria, one of six eateries on the property, where Marcia Steele Hoover breezes in wearing running shoes and two layered zip-ups. It’s this culture of business, creativity, health, nature, and energy that she’s focused on promoting as global director of the Nike Communications Center of Excellence. She slides into the booth across from me, plunking her notebook on the table.

“We all walk around with our little notebooks,” she says. Some are digital; hers is paper filled with small, elegant handwriting. Lists, paragraphs, reminders—all a mix of her creative process and her job guiding a large team of writers, editors, artists, and videographers, or as she calls them “end-to-end talent.”

When she joined the new Communications Center of Excellence in 2011, it had just a handful of people. In two years it has grown 300 percent, says Steele Hoover. That’s particularly significant for a corner of the company that isn’t a revenue generator, and for which it is difficult to show a return on investment. But Nike has 8,000 Portland-area employees, 48,000 worldwide including those with subsidiary companies like Converse and Hurley, and the company’s leaders prize employee engagement and satisfaction, which is a boon to productivity, she says. “Our employees live and breathe the Nike culture.”

Steele Hoover’s job is to reinforce that culture and connect the employees, which can be difficult for a company so large. More, it’s to promote the characteristics the company prizes like energy, imagination, and attachment to the brand. “Nike does more than outfit the world’s best athletes,” reads a recent job posting. “We are a place to explore potential, obliterate boundaries, and push out the edges of what can be. We’re looking for people who can grow, think, dream and create.”

The internal communications group uses every kind of vehicle: a Facebook-like social media platform, videos, newsletters, information campaigns, even signs on campus. They must be creative, even outrageous, if it helps communicate. “We really don’t have any guardrails,” says Steele Hoover. To promote the launch of a new company-wide technology platform, “the most boring thing ever,” she says, they built anticipation over several weeks by planting giant blue footprints around campus to stir interest. It helped catch the attention of every employee who needed to adopt the new platform.

Steele Hoover credits her time at WSU with preparing her for the jobs that led to this one. “Cable 8 was great because we were interviewing the same players and coaches as the major sportscasters,” she says. She also majored in political science, which helped her to an early job as a press secretary with U.S. Senator Frank Murkowski, and then to work in a prosecutor’s office in Alaska. She moved into a job with Pacific Telecom, which eventually took her out of Alaska and into the Portland/Vancouver area.

There she went to work as an analyst for several different business consultants. She visited clients at their headquarters around the country and advised them on their brand and marketing strategies. “I was on the road 100,000 miles a year,” she says. In that job, “you know more about their companies and their strategies than they know themselves.”

“I’ve had an interesting ride with many different companies and roles,” she says. “And my jobs have just gotten better.” But the constant themes have always been corporate strategy and marketing communications.

Her appreciation of WSU goes beyond her academic training. A member of the Greek system and a volunteer coxswain with the crew team, she made many good friends. “They are my best friends today,” she says. She prizes those ties.

When Molly McCue ’12, was looking for a job at Nike last spring, she discovered Steele Hoover was a fellow alum and asked for a meeting. “She let me pick her brain all because of our Cougar connection,” says McCue, who felt elated just to have a meeting. “Professionally, her reputation here is second to none.”

“When Molly showed up, she didn’t just have a CV, she had a full-on portfolio,” says Steele Hoover. She had worked for the athletic department and amassed a ton of experience. “That’s what WSU gives you,” she says. When a job came open, Steele Hoover encouraged McCue to apply. Now McCue is a full-time project coordinator.

Nike jobs aren’t all that easy to get. One recent search brought in 1,000 resumes. “Our pull is so great because we are the biggest [sports] brand in the world,” says Steele Hoover. “Some people make it a full-time effort to get here.” She, herself, set Nike as a goal, and started working for the company as a contractor, leaving her full-time consulting job to put all her energies into her Nike work. It paid off. “I found my niche and they brought me in,” she says. She celebrated by going home and having a pint with her husband.

The daughter of a coach, she planned at WSU to become a sportscaster. “We all thought that ESPN was going to come knocking at our doors,” she says. But the instructors were clear that most of them would never reach the national news market. “They didn’t sugarcoat anything,” she says. “They tried to make it real so that when you get out into the corporate environment there are no surprises.”

Steele Hoover may not be at ESPN, but at Nike she has found similar work in sports and communications. A few of her colleagues are former professional athletes and she gets to meet and be involved in projects with some of the world’s most exciting players and coaches. In this job, “I feel like I’ve come full circle,” she says. “Now I work for an athletic company doing what I’ve always wanted to do. How awesome is that?”

Categories: Alumni, Business | Tags: Nike, Organizational communication

Comments are temporarily unavailable while we perform some maintenance to reduce spam messages. If you have comments about this article, please send them to us by email: wsm@wsu.edu