UNT Alumna Dustee Tucker Jenkins’ Passion for Telling the Story Leads to Roads of Success
When small-town girl Dustee Tucker Jenkins (’01) from Andrews, TX, ventured onto the highway for the first time to make her way to Denton to attend UNT, little did she know that her path would eventually lead to the U.S. government in Washington, D.C., or the corporate boardrooms of New York. Though her extensive experience in communications and media relations have earned her national praise, it is her time at UNT that Jenkins credits as the foundation for her success.
Upon attending UNT, Jenkins wasn’t sure what career path she wanted to pursue, but she decided to follow her passion and major in journalism with a concentration in broadcast news.
“I was intimidated at first because unlike many of my classmates, I didn’t know what I wanted to major in, but I loved the art of storytelling and bringing stories to life,” she said.
Starting at UNT was overwhelming at first, so Jenkins decided to meet new people by joining Chi Omega, which eventually led to serving as president of the Panhellenic Executive Board and as vice president of the Student Government Association.
“There is something to be said for raising your hand and taking the first step,” said Jenkins. “My experience with student organizations provided me with connections for life.”
After graduation, Jenkins quickly discovered that broadcast news was not the right fit for her, and a chance meeting with Tony Goolsby, former Texas State Representative and UNT alumnus, at Homecoming opened a new direction when he suggested she try politics.
“I had never considered working in politics before, but I wanted to be a part of what was happening in the world,” said Jenkins.
Armed with several letters of recommendation from her former UNT professors and staff, Jenkins moved to Washington, D.C., and landed a position answering the phone in the office of U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, eventually being promoted to press secretary. Later, as an appointee of President George Bush, she served as director of communications in the Department of Housing and Urban Development for Secretary Alphonso Jackson.
While Jenkins was working in Washington, D.C., UNT created the North Texas in D.C. Internship Program, and Jenkins helped secure an internship in Sen. Hutchison's office, with student Sarah Nowery (’05, ’07) taking the inaugural spot. The program celebrated its 15th anniversary in April, and Jenkins and Nowery were both recognized as “trailblazers” at the event. Since its creation, the program has provided for nearly 200 UNT students who have interned for various government entities.
“D.C. is all about connections and moving fast,” said Jenkins. “So that’s how we were able to create the first internship. I was incredibly proud and inspired hearing the stories of the past interns at the recent celebration event.”
Though she enjoyed her work in D.C., Jenkins’ career path once again shifted gears when she was appointed director at Public Strategies, Inc. (now Hill + Knowlton Strategies), specializing in crisis and financial transactions. Jenkins went on to serve as senior vice president and chief communications officer at Target, where she would encounter her greatest challenge and greatest achievement. Under her leadership, Target completely transformed its communications operations—establishing a new organizational structure while embracing a more open, transparent approach to communications. Jenkins led the company through a heavily publicized data breach, which became one of the most widely covered corporate crises of all time.
“I am proud of the way we handled the data breach by being proactive and transparent and telling the story of what was going on,” said Jenkins. “It was important that we connected directly with the people and humanized the corporation, showing that we were doing everything we could to fix the problem.”
Jenkins currently serves as the global head of communications for Spotify, the world’s largest music streaming service. In this role, she leads all external communications, public affairs and media relations, as well as enterprise-wide internal communications across more than 65 countries and territories. She also was instrumental in taking the company public.
“I love that in my role I get to communicate with people across the world, and I get to discover and listen to artists I would never have known otherwise,” said Jenkins, who admits that her latest music obsession is the band Midland.
For her work, Mashable recognized Jenkins as one of 10 Pioneering Women Changing the Field of Communications, and she is listed on PR Week’s Global Power Book (a ranking of the world’s most influential communicators) as well as the Holmes Report’s Influence 100. She also has been recognized by Ad Age for 40 Under 40 in Marketing, and PR Week for 40 Under 40 in Public Relations.
Jenkins also believes in the importance of being involved in mentorship.
“I’ve forged some incredible relationships in my career with leaders I’ve worked for, and to this day, I continue to seek guidance from them when needing career advice,” she said.
Jack Martin, chairman and CEO of Hill + Knowlton Strategies, has been a trusted advisor and mentor to Jenkins for many years.
“Jack has been a tremendous sounding board for me, and I’m so appreciative of his time and advice. I now have several mentees, and I truly value these relationships because I know how important they were in shaping my career.”
But Jenkins’ roles as wife and mother always take center stage. She is married to Justin Jenkins, a partner at Winthrop and Weinstine, and has two children, Havanna and Hutch.
For Jenkins, UNT will always be a special place.
“UNT has always been there for me, and I am so incredibly grateful for that,” she said. “It’s where I developed my passion, and 20 years later, I still love the art of storytelling.”