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Michigan State University

Frank Tramble’s Anthropological Excursions

Frank Tramble

Frank Tramble’s Anthropological Excursions

With a passion for higher education, Frank Tramble, ’09, is no stranger to stepping out of his comfort zone.

Frank Tramble, ’09, is Duke University’s inaugural vice president for Communications, Marketing and Public Affairs. But while he may be working with a familiar foe, Tramble carries a Spartans Will ethos into everything he does.

“I spend a lot of my time trying to welcome people into problems with the Spartan mentality that more people in the room means we’ll find the right answer together,” he says.

As a student, Tramble was a telemarketer at MSU. After a short stint in corporate America, he returned to East Lansing to lead the university’s Greenline team of student telemarketers.

“It felt like a calling,” he says. “I spent so much of my undergraduate experience wound up in that program, it seemed like a great opportunity to come back to.”

Seven years later, Tramble’s career led to a number of what he calls “anthropological excursions.” He went on to advocate for higher education at Georgetown University and Howard University on his way to Duke. And he exudes passion for the subject.

“Higher education is in an interesting space now,” says Tramble. “It’s more under attack than you’d ever think, especially for an industry that serves to educate and bring equity to our communities.”

The Detroit native believes in integrated marketing communication’s ability to help people see the value in higher education. When people understand and connect with an organization’s mission, it leads to stronger relationships. In this pursuit, authenticity is key.

“Transparency in your storytelling has to be expanded more than it has before,” says Tramble. “When you think of an MSU or a Duke, we have to make sure the stories of the campuses are understood by people who may never set foot on our campuses.”

That’s where integrated marketing communications—utilizing all available media channels to convey a unified message—can tip the scale. When it comes to communicating strategic goals, no matter how large or abstract, Tramble looks to emphasize the institution’s moral values and bring them to life.

“What are the messages we need to share to help us understand who we are?” he asks. “Marketing is really storytelling and bringing those messages to life. We can say things, but how do we pull everything together in a visual and digital way that brings us to truth?

“If you put out a statement and the people believe and connect with the statement, that’s when you really know you are those things. It’s not about who we say we are. It’s about our actions.”

That’s a philosophy Tramble lives by outside the office, too. He knows that what we do today affects what happens tomorrow. It’s fitting that his advice for up-and-comers in the professional world hinges on taking action.

“Accept the things you’re not good at and run toward them to get better,” he says. “Don’t jog, run. The one thing you have to do is be comfortable being uncomfortable. I have built my entire life on being comfortable in the uncomfortable.”

Tramble says his pursuit to find comfort in the uncomfortable started at Michigan State, and he could go on for days acknowledging the people and communities who made a difference in his life. But one thing is certain when he speaks about the university: Frank Tramble is a Spartan for life.

“This place can create a future for you,” he says. “The MSU community means so much to me.”

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Author: Russ White, '82, '01

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