Engelke finds great success as PR pro Making a difference with Feed the Children

By Kaylan Watkins, Courtesy of The Talon

A former Oklahoma Christian University student has achieved great success in the Oklahoma City business world.

Erin Engelke graduated from Oklahoma Christian in 2000 with a degree in public relations and advertising.

“When I graduated I had this very clear goal to climb the corporate ladder,” Engelke said. “About six years in, I realized that was actually not where my heart was. I wanted to use the skills that God has given me in a way that furthers my world, and not just in a financial way.”

She is now the vice president of communications and public relations for Feed the Children in Oklahoma City. Prior to holding this position, Engelke was the vice president of marketing and communications for World Neighbors.

“One of the awesome things about Feed the Children is that we have so much going on,” Engelke said. “From the moment I walk in the door to the moment I walk out the door, I am running.”

Engelke was recently honored by okcbiz.com when a panel of local executives chose this year’s “Top 40 Under 40.”

“Receiving awards is always so humbling,” Engelke said. “You never think you are worthy of that recognition. You are alongside people who have done amazing things in their careers … I feel really, really blessed to be where I am.

Mercedes Rosenthal, a senior communications major at Oklahoma Christian, first came into contact with Engelke through PRSSA.

“Dr. (Josh) Watson gave me her contact information and told me how valuable of a mentor she could be for students in the communication department,” Rosenthal said. “Career-wise, students can learn a lot from her. The way she handles her personal life, faith and career is very impressive.”

As a student about to graduate into the same career field, Rosenthal views Engelke as an ideal mentor.

“When we keep in mind that we are working for God, it is easier to enjoy our jobs and be a blessing to everyone we work with,” Rosenthal said. “When I heard Erin speak about her job at Feed the Children, I knew she was doing just that. She knows that her ultimate goal is to work for the Lord and accomplish her work for his kingdom.”

In her position at Feed the Children, Engelke wears many different hats.

“My team oversees the reputation of Feed the Children,” Engelke said. “I manage all communication efforts, which extends to the international programs as well.”

On any given day, Engelke finds herself tasked with managing special events, messaging, handling sensitive phone calls and complaints, media relations, managing internal communications, speaking engagements and community relations, among many other things.

“There is definitely a lot of energy to it and I thoroughly enjoy that,” Engelke said. “I love getting to see our work come to fruition and resonating both with our internal audiences as well as our external audiences.”

During her time at Oklahoma Christian, Engelke was impacted by two individuals in particular: Philip Patterson, distinguished professor of mass communication, and Larry Jurney, chair and professor of mass communication.

“Dr. Patterson was very intimidating when I first came to OC,” Engelke said. “I had this theory that he was trying to weed out the ones who weren’t strong enough to withstand the profession.”

Engelke had the opportunity to work closely with Patterson when she was on staff with The Talon, first as the features editor and then as the editor-in-chief. 

“I developed the largest amount of respect for him,” Engelke said. “He challenged me more than any other professor – to think and do things out of the box and to get out of my comfort zone.”

Jurney taught Engelke’s introductory speech class during her freshman year and eventually became like family to her.

“I moved from Idaho and I didn’t know a soul,” Engelke said. “In so many ways, Dr. Jurney took myself and my husband under his wing and invited us into his home. He was like family to us when we didn’t have family here.”

When asked, Jurney clearly recalls having Engelke in class many years ago.

“She has this ability to make everybody feel comfortable around her,” Jurney said. “She can talk to anybody and anybody can talk to her and that ability to communicate is incredible.”

Brent Pedersen, senior, knows the Engelke family well.

“Erin is a people person,” Pedersen said. “She has a heart for people, whether they be friends, family or acquaintances. She greets everyone with a warm and genuine smile. “

Engelke believes that one can learn so much from a book, but at the end of the day it’s the real-life, hands-on experiences that stick.

“No particular situation is exactly the same as it is laid out in the book,” Engelke said. “That is why I encourage students to experience multiple internships in fields that they might want to work for in the future.”

For students looking to break into the career world after graduation, Engelke offers a piece of wisdom. “I would encourage them not to settle,” Engelke said. “Take advantage of opportunities even when you think you might not be quite ready for them … you would be surprised to find that you can actually handle more than you think you can. It has so much to do with being confident in yourself.”