‘Do It Anyway’

Do it anyway


Kathy Baird, B.A. ’96, chief communications officer for “The Washington Post” and member of the Rosebud Sioux Lakota Nation, has never let adversity hold her back.

by Lisa Conley-Kendzior

Kathy Baird




Kathy Baird, B.A. ’96, always dreamed of becoming an actress but never imagined that her biggest, most life-changing role would be that of a young single mother.

Baird is originally from Rosebud, S.D., and is an enrolled citizen of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. Her family moved to Washington, D.C., when she was a child, and it was there that she developed a passion for theater, dance and music. She would later pursue that passion at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York before her life took a dramatic turn.

“I wasn’t expecting to be a mom so young, so when my daughter arrived, I spent a year with her thinking, ‘Well, OK, what happens to acting now? And what do I need to do to set us up for success?’” she recalled.

Baird had always had an innate sense that she needed to give back to her community and decided to do so as a tribal attorney.

“I thought, ‘That’s a decent way to raise a child as a single mom,’ and that’s really why I came to George Washington because I figured it would be a good step before law school,” she explained, adding that at the time, both her family and her daughter’s father’s family were living in the D.C. area.

“I didn’t view myself as someone who could necessarily go away to school with a child, that felt really scary, so I was a commuter student at GW.”

Balancing schoolwork with motherhood meant that Baird didn’t have the time or energy to pledge a sorority, join a club or audition for theater productions. Instead, she focused on studying hard and building a better life for herself and her daughter, Peaches.

“I was an amazing student, and I can’t tell you I was that way before college,” she said, admitting that in high school she cared more about theater and partying than her grades.

“But having a child just really set my intention and perspective on being educated and accomplishing something that I could feel proud of that would guide a future for my daughter and me,” added Baird, who graduated magna cum laude in what she called one of the “highlights of [her] life.”

After graduation, Baird decided to pursue an executive M.B.A. rather than a J.D., and it was while she was in business school at Georgetown University that she fell in love with business consulting.

“Being able to problem solve and bring in different teams of people to tackle big business challenges, that felt exciting and a little bit scary, but I found myself really thriving in that environment and also realizing that I was capable of doing more than I thought,” she said.

Baird spent the next 15 years working as a consultant for different agencies while also raising her daughter, teaching at Georgetown, and founding and managing the Unified Scene Theater—which offered improv classes and hosted performances—with her husband, Shawn, whom she met through an improv class.

She had no intention of deviating from the life she had created, though there was one exception: If she received a job offer from her dream company, then, she told herself, she’d have to “just do it.”

“I always said, ‘If Nike calls, I’ll answer.’ And then they did, and it kind of blew my mind a little bit,” she said.

So, for the second time, Baird’s world completely changed. She joined Nike as its senior director of global communications and moved across the country to start her next adventure.

“Moving to Oregon felt like the ‘going-away-to-college’ moment that I never had,” she said. “I ended up going away to this amazing, amazing place where I learned so much about everything from communications to athletes to business strategy. And I learned so much about myself, and I did things that I hadn’t ever done before.

“You don’t go to Nike to sit in a box and think abstractly about how things might work better; you actually do it,” she added. “For me, that level of doing was far greater than I had ever been allowed as a consultant.”

During her time at Nike, Baird led communications on a “get-out-the-vote” initiative, formed a partnership with the Institute for American Indian Arts and collaborated on the N7 Collection, which celebrates Indigenous athletes and cultural game-changers.

It was the type of civic engagement work she had once envisioned doing as an attorney, and to this day she still praises the “power of the swoosh” and Nike’s positive impact on the world.

But history, as it so often does, repeated itself, and Baird soon found herself facing another situation that would ultimately spur another cross-country move.

“The only reason I left [Nike] was because I had the opportunity to work at ‘The Washington Post,’ whom I had previously worked with as a consultant, so I knew people there,” she explained. “All of a sudden it became really clear to me that it was something I should go after.”



“I certainly can't say I've been brave my whole life, but I've walked through a lot of spaces that have been scary, and I've realized that I have what it takes to get through things.” 




In late 2022, Baird joined “The Washington Post” as its chief communications officer, a job that offered the same sort of mission-driven work that Baird had enjoyed at Nike.

In her new role, Baird oversees public relations and brand marketing as well as “Washington Post Live,” the newsroom’s live journalism platform where top-level government officials, business leaders, cultural influencers and emerging voices discuss the most pressing issues of the day.

She’s also involved with “The Post”’s Press Freedom Foundation, a public service initiative that supports journalists around the world who are threatened, imprisoned or even killed because of their work.

“A friend of mine used to say, ‘We’re not saving lives here at work.’ But we are saving lives. We really are,” she said. “It feels really important and incredibly urgent.”

When reflecting on both the magnitude of her job as well as its position on the corporate ladder, Baird said she’s grateful to have had strong women of color—including Edelman CEO Lisa Ross, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland and Cheryl Crazy Bull, president and CEO of the American Indian College Fund—as role models, and she can only hope that she now serves as a role model for others.

“I feel really privileged and really blessed to be in the chair that I am. I don't know of any other Indigenous people in the C-suite in traditional corporate America,” she said. “To be invited to a table like the one that I’m at is because I'm an integrator. I've been a bridge builder since I was born.”

Baird said she doesn’t know what the future holds for her—maybe she’ll coach other Indigenous women who want to rise to the executive level or perhaps she’ll foray into public service—but she does know that she’s not willing to let fear stand in her way.

“Fear can hold people back from making decisions. And I certainly can't say that I've been brave my whole life, but I've walked through a lot of spaces that have been scary, and I’ve realized that I have what it takes to get through things or to accomplish things,” she said. “So it’s possible to be afraid but to do something anyway.

“Besides,” she added with a small smile, “I like to be a little bit afraid—it keeps me alive.” 



  Courtesy of Kathy Baird