Not long after graduating from SUNY Oswego, Trudy Perkins ’93 was at home in Albany, N.Y., watching the Oprah Winfrey Show on TV when Oprah asked her producer to join her onstage.
“I said to myself: ‘That’s what I want to do,’” Perkins said of the clipboard-wielding staff member who oversaw the success of the TV show’s episodes.
It was just the starting point for the business administration major, who went on to produce news for stations in Albany, then in Baltimore, Md., for WBAL-TV—managing and supervising news crews, including anchors, reporters, photographers and production staff.
“To be a news producer you have to know a little bit about a lot of things,” Perkins shared with students in her first return to the SUNY Oswego campus since 1996, when she was a featured panelist for the 2017 Dr. Lewis B. O’Donnell Media Summit in October.
Today, Perkins has leveraged an extensive communications background into a role as the deputy chief of staff/communications director for the office of Congressman Elijah Cummings, who is the ranking member of the U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
Perkins has been named among the Top 100 Women of Maryland by The Daily Record newspaper. And, since making the switch to the other side of the news camera, she has served as liaison to elected officials and senior-level civic, community and corporate leaders, developing and executing national and local communications strategies.
While she didn’t take public relations or communications classes during her time at Oswego, the skills Perkins learned as a member of the International Student Association (she was not an international student, but studied abroad in France), as the director of finance for the Student Association and as a member of the Program Policy Board—a role that saw her bringing musical acts to campus—prepared her for the future.
“It was all real-world negotiating that I learned right here in Oswego,”
The skills have translated to “firsts” that have shaped her career. Perkins was the first black woman in the role of producer at WTEN-10 in Albany, and her subsequent roles have had similar significance as a woman and a person of color, she said.
“I have been able to bring that perspective to the table,” said Perkins, who lives in Laurel, Md.
Capitol Hill is a competitive environment, but developing positive working relationships is key to success there, she said.
“People want to help others, especially if they have had a difficult road to travel,” she said. “Being able to share my experiences as a person of color and a woman, you never know how much that can impact others.”
Perkins serves on a number of boards for non-profit organizations, including Women in Film and Television, Art with a Heart, the Baltimore School for the Arts and the SEED School of Maryland, which is a college-preparatory, public boarding school in Baltimore. She is also a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., which she joined while at SUNY Oswego.
“There is no question that my time at Oswego prepared me for my career trajectory,” Perkins said. “Having the opportunity to take on leadership roles as a student and engage in so many diverse experiences gave me the confidence to take risks and seek positions that would be most fulfilling to me.”
—Eileen Moran Crandall