Saint Mary’s Alumna for the Gold
From Saint Mary’s Class Ring to the Olympic Rings
All summer, we’ve seen the inspiring stories of the US Olympics and Paralympic games across the media and on our social media feeds. This incredible work is the result of Saint Mary’s own Kate Hartman ’04, who in April was named Chief Communications Officer for The United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee. Though her busy work and travel schedule don’t allow much free time, she couldn't pass up an opportunity to answer questions about her new role and what Saint Mary’s means to her.
Congrats on your new role! Thinking back to a year ago, would you have believed you’d find yourself in Japan, at the center of the Olympics and the world stage?
Ha! For sure no. The reality is that I was really happy in my role at Coke. I loved the people and the work was challenging. But when this role came about, it offered me the opportunity to chase a passion and work for a purpose-driven organization, and I couldn’t pass that up.
Tell us what your day to day is like in Tokyo. What is your team responsible for?
My team is responsible for leading the USOPC’s public relations and media relations efforts, including storytelling and stakeholder engagement with athletes, fans, National Governing Bodies (NGBs), team members, and other important partners to increase visibility and support for the US Olympic and Paralympic movements.
No two days have been the same in Tokyo. Our primary responsibilities here are mitigating any issues that may arise and give our incredible athletes a platform to tell their stories.
Every day includes covid testing, issues management and “managing victory.”
Managing victory is essentially when someone on my team picks up a Team USA athlete once they medal and escort them through various media opportunities usually ending at the TODAY Show (our Olympic broadcaster). It’s definitely a highlight of our day to shine a bright light on these inspirational men and women—and they LOVE being able to tell the world their story.
And yes – we do get to see sports! We try to get to at least one event a day—we divide and conquer based on what events may receive the most media attention based on profile and medal contention.
You graduated with a degree in business administration. How did your education and your previous experiences prepare you for this level of responsibility?
My business background was an absolute game changer for me when I was at Coca-Cola. Much of my role at Coke fell in the space of business and marketing communications. I credit my education and my degree for helping me navigate the complexity of supporting a Fortune 100 company from a communications perspective—because I understood the context of the messaging that I was responsible for delivering. It was the work I did at Coca-Cola that ultimately got the attention of the USOPC and landed me where I am today.
Was there a class/professor/experience at Saint Mary’s that stands out for you as particularly formative?
I really enjoyed all of my business and communication classes (okay, maybe not statistics), but I think one of my most formative experiences at Saint Mary’s was being a Resident Advisor. While it was a lot of work, I loved being a resource, and sometimes a mentor, for my fellow SMCers, and I really believe that served as the foundation for my love of managing people. I myself have had wonderful mentors, and I take great pride in “lifting as I climb”—and helping develop and lead the next generation of leaders.
In late June, Saint Mary’s College hosted the US Women’s Olympic Wrestling team for their final training camp. We were inspired by their determination and focus, but also their realness. What inspires you most about being around Olympians?
I think you nailed it on the head. For these past two and a half weeks, I’ve had the amazing fortune to be surrounded by 614 of the United States greatest Olympic and Paralympic athletes. Their commitment, resilience and passion for their sport is nothing short of inspiring but what really impacted me is their love and appreciation for their fellow competitor. I’ve seen amazing acts of sportsmanship across the board—and while medals make us all proud, watching our athletes reach across the lane to congratulate or console others makes us even prouder.
Do you consider yourself to be competitive too?
Oy. Yes. No denying it.
Thinking back to your time on campus—and where your life has taken you since—what would you say to the incoming first years as they head to campus later in August?
That it’s okay to not know what you want to do. I entered Saint Mary’s thinking I was going to be a teacher, and that’s clearly not the path I took. Saint Mary’s allowed me the opportunity to find my confidence, to explore new things and think differently—embrace that. While every decision you make does affect the next one, there’s always another decision ahead that can put you on the right path—YOUR path. Don’t be afraid to follow your passion and take the time to decide what’s best for you.