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Blazing a Trail

September 14, 2023
Ashley Brauer, Alumni

Blazing a trail as Founder and Chief Strategist for her company, Max Strategic Communications, University of Louisville MBA alumna Ashley Brauer uses her gift for communication and marketing to aid her clients in sharing their stories. Recently, her commitment to serving her community through the Rotary Club of Louisville earned her the title of 2023 Rotarian of the Year. Brauer recently shared more with us about her professional background, mission, and goals for the future.

College of Business: Could you share your background?

Ashley Brauer: I began my college career at the University of Kentucky, but when I decided I wanted to be a journalist, I transferred to Western Kentucky University to be part of one of the top programs in the world. I spent the next three years working at NewsChannel 12, WKU’s student-run newscast, producing, reporting, and anchoring. I interned at NewsChannel5 (WTVF-TV) in Nashville…and gained valuable insights and experiences that helped me break into the world of television news. I graduated in 2005 with degrees in broadcast news and psychology.

When an opportunity to come home became available, I moved back to Louisville as Senior Sunrise Producer for WAVE-TV. I spent four years at WAVE3, ending as the 11 p.m. producer. In addition to daily newscasts, I produced Final Four sports specials and countless hours of live Kentucky Derby and Derby-related coverage.

In 2012, I started fresh – beginning my MBA program at UofL and taking a job as a social media specialist for the Al J. Schneider Company. I soon moved into a marketing communications manager role and have only grown. I then took a job with Guthrie/Mayes Public Relations, where I worked with Toyota, Diageo, National Center for Families Learning, Verizon, the bridges projects, and more. In 2021, I took a job with the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky. In 2022, I started Max Strategic Communications, grew it, and left the Foundation in Spring 2023. 

College of Business: Why did you decide to earn an MBA degree and why did you choose UofL’s program?

Ashley Brauer: I always knew I would go back to school when I was ready to transition out of news. As luck would have it, I had a tough time getting out of news during the recession. I was in the top three of many jobs. Although I had all the skills these employers were seeking, I didn’t speak the same language – the language of business. I saw an MBA as a means to correcting this problem – providing potential employers with evidence that not only can I complete a graduate program, but I also have relevant skills. 

I studied for the GMAT and applied to MBA programs at UofL and another local university as I was completing my last months in television news. I chose UofL because I felt it was more challenging and would give a better all-around experience. I also knew a Louisville degree would be more recognizable and highly regarded. 

College of Business: What were the most challenging experiences you had to overcome in your MBA program, and how did you overcome those challenges?

Ashley Brauer: When you do your MBA while working full-time, you quickly learn to prioritize. I remember one week [that] I worked well over 100 hours. The way the CoB puts together the MBA teams made it possible to succeed. [My teammates] took the lead on projects that week, and…when they were slammed…I was able to fill the gaps for them. Regardless the challenge, our teams and cohort worked together to get each other through. We lifted each other up during difficult times and cheered each other on. Your cohort and team become your family. I keep in touch with many of them to this day. 

College of Business: What experiences did you enjoy the most with the MBA program?

Ashley Brauer: I enjoyed the relationships forged with my classmates. Whether this was meeting at Vint on Sundays to do homework, karaoke after a Friday night class, or traveling half a world away to learn about international businesses, we formed a family. We not only supported each other through a difficult 20 months of the MBA program, we experienced births, deaths, marriages, divorces, job transitions, new houses, and moves to other cities. We keep in touch and have talked about having a 10-year reunion. 

College of Business: How did you become involved with the Rotary Club of Louisville?

Ashley Brauer: I became involved with the Rotary Club of Louisville through the Rotary Leadership Fellows (RLF) program. The RLF program provided me with three mentors, weekly networking with business and community leaders, a scholarship, and honorary membership in the Club. Upon graduation from the program, I joined as a full member. Since then, I’ve served as a Board Director, and chair of [several] committees, [including] Leadership Fellows, Speakers, Communications/Public Image, [and] Emerging Leaders. I’ve also served on the Social Activities Committee and Community Impact Committee. I am currently chair of the Leadership Fellows Committee and Speakers Committee.

College of Business: How did you feel about being named the 2023 Rotarian of the Year? 

Ashley Brauer: Being named Rotarian of the Year is an extraordinary honor that fills me with immense pride and gratitude. This recognition represents the culmination of my commitment to the values and principles of Rotary.

College of Business: How were you able to aid in re-establishing the Rotary Fellowships for our MBA students, and how can you see Rotary Fellowships helping current and future recipients in our MBA program?

Ashley Brauer: When I learned the Rotary Leadership Fellows program had been a victim of the pandemic, I knew I had to do what I could to jump start it. I began reaching out to current Fellows and found they were not only still interested in participating, but they were also hungry to get involved. We restarted the program, slowly building momentum and bringing it back to life. Two years later, it is back on track and thriving. When Baylor Landrum began the Leadership Fellows program in the 1990s, he envisioned a program that developed and nurtured Lousiville’s next generation of leaders to grow deep roots on our community and give back in an impactful way. Our current and past Fellows embody this goal. 

College of Business: What else do you hope to accomplish with the Rotary Club?

Ashley Brauer: Ultimately, I enjoy being part of an organization that is a catalyst for positive change in our community, region, nation, and world. I value the camaraderie and connections formed within the Club – with people from across our community – as they provide a supportive and like-minded community with a shared passion for service. I find immense joy in contributing to various service projects and initiatives, and contributing on the speakers committee, to make an impact on my community. 

College of Business: Could you share more about your professional journey since graduating from the MBA program?

Ashley Brauer: In 2014, I took a position with Guthrie/Mayes Public Relations where I worked with amazing clients, including Toyota, Diageo, National Center for Families Learning, SBP (a national disaster recovery nonprofit), Verizon, and UnitedHealthcare. Our communications efforts included traditional public relations, video production, digital strategy, and media training. In 2021, I moved to the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky to support the mission of helping Kentuckians be their healthiest. I led campaigns totaling more than $1.3 million to increase confidence in vaccines, among other initiatives.

During my time at Healthy KY, people kept asking me to help them with communications projects. I soon realized I missed helping people tell their story. That’s my gift. I started Max Strategic Communications, and it soon grew. I left Healthy KY in Spring 2023 to focus solely on helping others with strategic communications. 

College of Business: How have you stayed connected to the College of Business since graduation?

Ashley Brauer: I served on the UofL MBA Alumni Council from 2014 to 2018. My roles included vice president and marketing committee chair. During this time, the Council established the T. Vernon Foster Scholarship. I also stay connected by attending various MBA Alumni events, as well as through the Rotary Leadership Fellows selection process. 

College of Business: What other future professional goals do you have?

Ashley Brauer: I am filled with excitement for the future of Max Strategic Communications! I look forward to making a meaningful impact on my clients by empowering them to elevate their brand presence and engage with their audiences. I can’t wait to collaborate with talented professionals, build lasting partnerships, and see our clients thrive and succeed. The future looks brighter than ever, and I am ready to make it an unforgettable journey for my firm and its clients.

College of Business: What advice would you give someone considering earning their MBA degree at UofL?

I would tell someone to jump in fully. You will sacrifice and understand that your whole family and/or friend unit are part of the process. The UofL MBA program prepares you well and gives you the connections to succeed in business. It is worth the sacrifice, and you will have grown in ways you cannot even fathom through the program.

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About the UofL College of Business:

Founded in 1953, the UofL College of Business fosters intellectual and economic vitality in our city, region, and the global business landscape. Our academic programs, research, community outreach initiatives, and commitment to student success inspire lives and businesses to flourish through entrepreneurship, innovation, critical thinking, diversity, and the power of people.

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