Political Communications Expert Named Vice President of External Relations
By Julia Parmely
In 1980, Lorraine Voles, B.A. ’81, was guiding students as a residential adviser in Thurston Hall. Now, 28 years later, Voles is back on campus guiding GW’s communications staff as GW’s vice president of external relations, a newly created role that combines communications and government relations functions into one division.
“It was always my goal to work for an institution or organization in Washington, D.C., whose mission I could get behind, so GW is the perfect place,” says Voles, who assumed her position Feb. 2. “I have heard so much about the strength of GW students and the amazing energy on campus. The position is perfect and is a really exciting opportunity for me.”
“Lorraine Voles brings from the national stage the skills and strategic insights that will enable us to strengthen our government and community partnerships and elevate awareness of GW,” says President Steven Knapp. “An alumna herself, she will help us build better communication channels with our lifelong and worldwide community of 225,000 alumni.”
Voles most recently served as senior vice president of communication and marketing services for Fannie Mae and has more than 25 years of leadership experience in corporate and political communications. She has worked in every presidential campaign since 1984 and has served as press secretary for Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), deputy press secretary for former President Bill Clinton, director of communications and chief spokeswoman for former Vice President Al Gore, and director of communications for then-Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.). She also advised Hillary Clinton on her 2006 reelection campaign and presidential bid.
Voles, who hails from New York, says she fell in love with Washington, D.C., during her time at GW and became “addicted” to the fast-paced, grueling campaign lifestyle. The parallels between politics and higher education, including teamwork and an emerging emphasis on new media, attracted Voles to the GW position. “Political work is amazing because it involves being a part of something larger than yourself, and it’s the same with a university,” she says. “You are a part of a larger, dynamic group of people who have diverse interests but one unified goal, and that is to advance the university’s mission. I think my political experience and work with cutting-edge technologies and online communities will serve me well at GW.”
Voles also draws on public relations experience from her time serving as senior counselor for Porter Novelli and as an independent consultant for a variety of organizations, including the Democratic National Committee Convention, the Smithsonian Institution, and America Votes.
A transfer from Iona College in 1979, Voles joined GW’s Columbian College of Arts and Sciences as a junior and says she loved her classes. “My professors treated us like professionals, and expected us to write and source like professionals. I developed great skills that I still have today,” she says.
As a GW undergraduate, Voles saw former Pope John Paul II celebrate Mass on the National Mall in 1979 and attended former President Ronald Reagan’s inauguration in 1981. She keeps in touch with friends she met living in Mitchell and Thurston halls. “One of my best friends is from GW, and she is a big part of my life still,” says Voles. “I have so many wonderful memories from GW and tried to take advantage of everything the city had to offer while I was there.”
Voles lives in Chevy Chase, Md., with her husband, Daniel Smith, and two children, Ruby, 13, and Angus, 11. Though she admits she is not an athlete, Voles says she tries to pursue as many outdoor activities as she can in her free time and enjoys reading and completing The New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle— a hobby she began at GW.
Voles says she is looking forward to working with University faculty and staff to continue raising GW’s external profile. “GW has such an impact, not only in the country but around the globe,” she says. “It’s also an exciting time to be on such a unique college campus that is so close to a new administration. It was an opportunity too good to pass up.”