As the media liaison for Maersk, Alison Kosakowski ’01 landed the role of her life when Somali pirates hijacked the ship featured in Captain Phillips.
Within days of graduating from Bryn Mawr, Alison Kosakowski ’01 took a job in New York City and began climbing the corporate ladder in advertising and communications. But all that changed when Somali pirates hijacked the Maersk Alabama and held hostage the ship’s captain, Richard Phillips. Kosakowski, then a communications manager for Maersk, was dispatched to Vermont, to help Phillips’ family manage the media attention. By the time the crisis was over, the mountain views and tight-knit community had inspired her to engage in some serious soul-searching.
Today she lives on a 1,000-acre dairy farm with her husband and works as a marketing and communications director for the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, where she’s been helping local farmers market themselves using social media.
On Climbing the Corporate Ladder: Kosakowski isn’t shy to admit that she chose to go into advertising and public relations out of college because they seemed to present some of the more lucrative opportunities for English majors. “My priorities were different back then,” Kosakowski says. “My parents paid for my education, and I felt it was important to show them their investment had paid off.”
Turning Point: When Maersk was looking for someone to field questions from reporters camped at Phillips’ home, Kosakowski volunteered. “There was a very strong possibility that he wouldn’t make it out alive,” she says, “and the burden of knowing I was the one who had to break the news to his wife was killing me.” In the end, the U.S. Navy SEALs rescued Phillips, but Kosakowski stayed on in Vermont. “I was very attached to the family, and I told them I would be there as long as they needed me,” she says.
Current Project: As communications director at Vermont’s agriculture agency, Kosakowski plays a number of roles, but one of her favorite projects is teaching farmers how to use social media. “I find this really rewarding because I am using the skills I developed over a dozen years working in advertising and corporate communications in a way that has an immediate impact,” she says. “I can empower farmers to share their stories, promote their products, and build understanding for agricultural issues in their community.”
Photo by Mia Moran.