Frank, a Goodlettsville native, graduated from Tech in 2012 with a degree in political science
Cookeville – A Tennessee Tech University alumnus with a decade of experience in public relations and advocacy has returned to Tech in a leadership position as News and Public Relations Director. He will now help tell Tech’s story, and he sees his role as making sure that Tech is on every Tennessean’s radar.
Jonathan Frank, a Goodlettsville native, graduated from Tech in 2012 with a degree in political science and spent the next 10 years in Washington, D.C., before returning to campus earlier this year.
“Jonathan brings a depth of experience in public relations plus the perspective of a successful Tech graduate who can skillfully advocate for Tech,” said Karen Lykins, vice president for Enrollment and Communication. “In just a few months, the frequency and quality of media coverage has increased under his leadership.”
Frank called the role a dream job.
“I have waited and prepared for this exact opportunity, so the fact that it happened is a blessing,” he explained. “We have an incredibly talented team of people in our department that are as kind as they are gifted at their work.”
Frank, who has also served on the Tech Alumni Board of Directors since 2020, said the way Tech does its own news gathering and storytelling is unique and “rewarding to be a part of.”
“We don’t wait for anyone to tell our story for us, we are always doing that ourselves. Our news writers publish these beautifully written, and in some cases very touching, feature stories,” Frank said. “We don’t rely so much on just the traditional press release. We really are telling our story ourselves, on our own terms, every day.”
As a communicator it is meaningful to be working on a cause that one is passionate about, and personal, Frank explained. He knew what Tech meant to him as a student.
“We have such a rich story to tell at Tech,” Frank said. “It is like a fire hose of great content that we have on any given day. So, it’s deeply rewarding and as a communicator, it’s great to be helping those stories get out there.”
Frank originally came to Tech as a student because he felt it was the perfect size and distance from home. He wanted the independence of some separation from Goodlettsville but still wanted the ability to go home every so often.
“I knew they had the program of study that I wanted. When I came to SOAR and I met Karen Lykins and Lori Maxwell, I knew then that the political science and communication offerings at Tech were right for me,” Frank said. “Had I gone to an expensive private college, I don’t think that there’s any way that the level of engagement with and support from my professors and instructors could have been better than what I received at Tech.”
Frank’s direct supervisor at Tech is Lykins, who he had then as an instructor for his news writing and copy editing class 13 years ago.
“You know, to be able to work under Karen now, I have made a full circle,” Frank said. “I loved every job that I had an opportunity to do in D.C., but this feels probably like the most purpose-driven thing that I’ve been able to do.”
Frank also reconnected with Maxwell, his academic advisor, and the professor with whom he took seven classes as a Tech student.
“More than just an advisor or professor, she was really a mentor to me. Dr. Maxwell was the one who approached me about doing an internship at the Tennessee state legislature, which set the course for the rest of my career,” Frank said. “I felt like it set off a domino effect.”
Frank credits Lykins, and the communications department faculty like Russ Witcher and Brenda Wilson, as people who got to know their students as individuals and helped instill confidence.
The political arena was where Frank began his journey. While in college, Frank interned for Tennessee Senator Charlotte Burks, and immediately after graduation, he worked on a congressional campaign for U.S. Representative Diane Black – two women who were on opposite sides of the political aisle, but who both represented the Upper Cumberland area. He started as Black’s intern and worked his way up to communications director.
“I’ve worked for three former legislators, all from different backgrounds and at different places on the political spectrum. I feel so fortunate that in each case, they were the people that I really hoped and wanted them to be,” Frank said. “Politics aside, all of them were kind people who helped me in my career in significant ways.”
Frank’s most recent job was vice president of communications at the Better Medicare Alliance, a nonprofit research and advocacy coalition supporting Medicare beneficiaries’ health coverage options.
Frank said one thing he enjoys in his new role is the opportunity to get out and talk to the faculty and staff at Tech, whom he calls the experts and sources for news and stories.
One of the reasons Frank was interested in the job was the chance to be back in the Cookeville community.
“There is a vibe and an energy about this town that is really special. We have a lot of small-town charms with big-city amenities,” Frank said. “I think that when you come to Tech you get a chance to immerse yourself because there is a deep sense of community woven into both the university and this town.”
Frank said when he returned to Tech, he found new surprises.
“The way this campus has evolved and progressed is amazing. It was great 10 years ago, but I love the fact that it’s not static, and it’s not complacent. It’s just continuing to get better for current and future students,” Frank said. “I’ve always been very proud of Tech, but I think that coming back here, now as an employee, you see that Tech has really leveled up over the last decade.”
Frank’s goal is to be doing work that puts Tech on the map for a broader and bigger population. To him, success looks like continuing to expand the reach, expand the audience and ensure that people in every corner of the state and beyond understand the “vibrant campus life, the rigorous academics and the characteristics that make Tennessee Tech what it is.”
“Every day on this campus, I’m reminded that we have stories that deserve to be told,” Frank said. “We have faculty, staff and students with so much talent and heart, and I want to honor them in our work.”
Frank noted that D.C. is a transient city. There he made a handful of switches and moves, but he is eager to stay planted at Tech for years to come.
“I’m deeply interested in making a long-term commitment to the university and to this community,” Frank said. “This is where I spent some very formative years and so I hope to be lucky enough for many years back on Tech’s campus as an employee.”
Photo courtesy of Tennessee Tech.