My name is Kaela Harmon Bailey. I graduated from W&L in June 2005 and currently work leading public relations for infrastructures projects for an architecture, engineering, and design firm. My husband, Michael, is an entrepreneur who owns and operates an online publication called The MinorityEye, and we have one son together named Miles.
I’ve always believed in the importance of amplifying the voices of underrepresented communities, which is what initially led me to pursue the field of journalism. That belief is a foundational part of our family’s core tenets, and it is one that has stayed with me throughout my career. It can be seen in the work I have done as I have led PR and communications for a variety of organizations with a history of overlooking diverse voices.
In that capacity, I have changed their approach and led them to engage with a wider representation of the public. Some of these organizations include the South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum, the Columbia Metropolitan Airport, and my current firm, HDR, where I ensure that the impacts of our projects on marginalized communities are thoughtfully mitigated before work begins.
The voice I can bring to the board
I believe that I can bring a fresh voice to the Board. First and foremost, I’ll be able to bring to the table the voice of a former black student who navigated the halls of Washington and Lee recently enough to have distinct contemporary recollections of the experience but with enough distance behind me to bring a grounded perspective.
Additionally, as a seasoned PR professional, I also provide e a clear understanding of the impact that messaging can have on an organization’s brand, particularly in today’s climate; and how a failure to have the right message leaves room for other entities to take control of an organization’s narrative. This blend of experience will serve the Board well as it works to ensure there are a variety of voices represented as the University works to refine its brand identity while remaining true to the principals that have made it so special.
My service to the University community
During my time at W&L, I participated in many volunteer opportunities, such as serving with a meals on wheels program and participating in a local reading program with elementary school children.
I was also actively involved with the Minority Student Association and led our efforts to elevate the organization’s visibility through volunteer work. I also was a founding member of the Tau Omega Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated, a historically black Greek organization rooted in volunteerism.
I served as an RA in Woods Creek during my Junior and Senior years, which gave me the opportunity to be a mentor and sounding board for lower classmen.
After graduation, I have been periodically involved with W&L’s Palmetto Alumni Chapter and helped organize several volunteer activities including serving meals at a local shelter and supporting a local children’s home.
Other community service
Currently, I serve on multiple boards and commissions. I am the Board Chair for the Midlands Chapter of Multiplying Good, a national organization that focuses on inspiring a spirit of volunteerism among high school students through our Students In Action Program. We also recognize individuals for their service work in the community with the Jefferson Awards.
In 2019, my County Council appointed me to sit on the board for our local general aviation airport commission, where I serve as Chair of our community outreach committee.
Most dear to my heart, however, is my work with the South Carolina Center for Fathers and Families, an organization that provides training and support services for fathers of all backgrounds throughout the state of South Carolina. I have been actively involved as a board member since 2014 and have served in multiple roles with the organization including that of Communications Chair.
I also continue to be a member of our local chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
Relevant personal and professional experience
My 15+ years of experience in PR and Communications would make me an ideal fit for the External Relations Committee.
I am a published author. My children’s book, Zoey’s First Plane Ride, debuted as a best seller in its category on Amazon.
I have been recognized nationally by Airport Business Magazine as a top 40 Under 40 award recipient, as well as locally by several publications also topping their top 40 Under 40 lists. These include Columbia Business Monthly, The State Newspaper, Southeastern Business Magazine, and the South Carolina Black Pages.
I was the youngest black person to serve at an executive level at the Columbia Metropolitan Airport in Columbia, South Carolina, and with my current firm I was tapped to be the national lead for strategic communications with our aviation market sector.
Other things to know about me
I want Washington and Lee to be a place that I can envision sending my son, and I want to be a part of ensuring that his experience would be more inclusive and less antagonistic than my own. That desire drives my interest in stepping up to serve instead of waiting on the sidelines for someone else to do it.