Linda Varrell ’00
Like many alumni of the University of Southern Maine, Linda Varrell ’00 took a long, winding road to her USM degree. Something else she has in common with her fellow alums is that she then used that degree to decisively propel herself into a more prosperous future—now the founder, President, and CEO of Broadreach Public Relations.
Beginning in 1984, she attended the University of New Hampshire and then Southern New Hampshire University, before moving to Maine to work at Northeast Bank (then Bethel Savings Bank) in 1988. In the 1990s she took ITV (interactive television) classes at the University of Maine at Augusta before getting inspired to complete her degree by enrolling at the Lewiston-Auburn campus of University of Southern Maine. In doing so, she remarkably closed the loop on what is now a nearly 100-year-old family connection to the school—her grandmother graduated from the Gorham Normal School (USM’s precursor) in 1927.
“USM helped me get closure on what I had started 14 years earlier,” she spoke of her personal journey. “The advisors and faculty at USM Lewiston-Auburn worked with me to secure enough credits, structure my course load and work with my employer so I could finish my degree in under two years.”
With her degree in Leadership and Organizational Studies under her belt, she now had the confidence and skills to take on a Senior Project Manager role at Northeast Bank. She continued in this role for several years, and during an organizational restructuring she realized there was no further potential for upward mobility. She approached leadership with her dream of starting her own public relations firm, and not only were they supportive—they also became her first client.
“I’ve always advocated for myself, and I had a couple of incredible mentors over my career,” she said. “My degree gave me a solid foundation to help advance my career, and that experience and work helped inspire me to start to pursue Broadreach in late 2006, launching in 2007. Broadreach recently celebrated its 15-year anniversary.”
She got her Master’s degree in Organizational Leadership from Southern New Hampshire University in 2008, and is nationally accredited in public relations (APR). She still credits her time at the University of Southern Maine for preparing her for balancing the pursuit of that degree with the pressures of a new business.
“USM jumpstarted my career in terms of understanding organizational behavior, growing as a leader and getting things done. I was balancing work, school, and life, and USM taught me to harness my available resources to achieve my goals. In my current role it’s all about balance as well, and bringing to the table the best resources and partners for our team and for our clients, so they can achieve their goals.”
“Strategic communications is not a fad,” she continued. “In today’s digital world reputation management is getting more and more complex. Businesses and organizations need partners with outside perspective. Our work is not 9 to 5 – when handling crisis, change, and complex communications, we have a duty to responsiveness and competency.”
Like many people, she considers building and empowering a team that can thrive under this pressure to be the biggest challenge of business ownership. To her, it’s about “ensuring a flexible work schedule, relevant benefits, competitive compensation, and rewarding work; all the while giving back to our communities.”
Staying true to Broadreach’s values and mission is a priority, and part of what Linda considers “giving back to our communities” is giving back to USM. She’s on the Board at the USM Foundation, she was Chair of USM Corporate Partners, has made generous commitments to the Great University Campaign, and participates in events such as the 2023 Women in Leadership panel. Broadreach has a long history of working with USM graduates as interns and apprentices.
“The next generation of leaders will be coming out of USM,” she told us. “It is our responsibility to help mentor and give back to those who made it possible to achieve our goals and grow our careers. Experience is a hard lesson and when we can share our journey, our resources, and our time, it can help ground the journey of others.”