College of Liberal Arts Alumna of the Year Jill Campbell has spent her entire career climbing the corporate ladder, first with Cox Communications and now Cox Enterprises. As the latter’s executive vice president and chief people and operations officer, Campbell helps oversee a private, family-owned company with more than 50,000 employees and $21 billion in annual revenues.
Given her extensive C-suite experience, it comes as no surprise to learn that Campbell’s education is rooted in business — sure enough, she earned her MBA from Oklahoma City University in 1990. But it was her first degree — a bachelor’s in sociology that she received a decade earlier in 1980 from UNLV’s College of Liberal Arts — that Campbell says truly set her up for corporate success.
“Sociology is a great base for any career,” Campbell said. “It’s all about the study of people, and any job you take will involve people and the unique dynamics that come with them. I’ve always felt like my sociology background gave me an advantage over others who were never educated or trained around what it takes to motivate and engage people.
“You can have specific business skills, but if you don’t have a basic understanding of how to communicate with people, you won’t get nearly as far.”
Campbell, whose career at Cox began in 1982 as director of communications in Oklahoma City, currently is charged with leading Cox Enterprise’s family office, real estate, aviation, people solutions, facilities, security, and corporate affairs departments. That followed a stint as Cox Communications’ executive vice president and COO, where she oversaw daily operations with the primary goals of enhancing marketplace execution and growing the company’s 6 million residential and commercial customers.
Throughout her career, Campbell’s leadership has been recognized with several prestigious awards. In 2000, the Las Vegas Business Journal named her one of Southern Nevada’s most influential women. Then in 2004, she received the Atlanta chapter of Women in Cable Telecommunications’ Woman of the Year Award, and four years later, the national organization named her the overall 2008 Woman of the Year.
Campbell’s impressive professional résumé is complemented by an equally strong commitment to community-based endeavors. She has been a board member for a bevy of nonprofit organizations, including United Way, Boys & Girls Club of America, the YMCA, and Atlanta History Center. Additionally, she remains devoted to her alma mater through various charitable channels, and also as a regular donor.
The coronavirus pandemic has reminded all of us about the power and importance of being resilient. Share a moment from your time at UNLV that helped build resiliency in you.
Actually, my entire time at UNLV was about resiliency. I was working full-time while taking classes, which was a challenge in itself. Then during my last two years, I became a teaching assistant in the political science department. Not only did I have to be accountable as a student, but I also had to be accountable to other students. The combination of working full time, being a TA, and attending classes was a lot to take on, but it was an early lesson in managing numerous responsibilities all at once.
What’s the one challenge or crisis you’ve faced in your career that you conquered thanks to lessons learned during your days at UNLV?
As a sociology student, I focused much of my time on women’s studies, and one professor in particular was a big influence on me. She emphasized the importance of diversity and ultimately helped prepare me to enter a male-dominated industry. I doubt I would’ve thrived in my industry to the degree I have without that professor’s guidance.
My time at UNLV also taught me about the impact of my decisions in the business world. Sometimes these decisions have far-reaching effects on people who may not have the opportunity to speak up or be represented. That’s why I always strive to champion diversity, be it at every level in our company or out in the community.