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New Extension communications director advances mission of community, global outreach

URBANA, Ill. – For more than 100 years, University of Illinois Extension experts have worked in communities around the state providing research-based solutions for life’s everyday problems. In that time, Extension outreach efforts have evolved from community-focused in-person and mail communications and grown to include innovative online programs now available to a worldwide audience.

To provide leadership in Extension’s communications mission to share life-changing knowledge throughout the state and beyond, Bridget Lee-Calfas has been named as the Director of Communications for University of Illinois Extension in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences.

Lee-Calfas, who started in the role on December 16, brings a wealth of industry experience to the leadership team and will work to develop strategic marketing campaigns to promote Extension’s initiatives. She will lead a team of communicators to continue to provide support for staff projects and work to share the Extension story with internal and external stakeholders.

An Illinois native, Lee-Calfas has worked in dynamic and diverse roles in higher education and the non-profit industry.

“Ms. Lee-Calfas brings over 20 years of experience in communications, marketing, advertising, and publicity to the position, along with organizational management and leadership,” says Shelly Nickols-Richardson, associate dean of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences and director of Illinois Extension. “We look forward to her leadership and contributions as we continue to build our communications team and expand central communications services for our organization.”

For more than two decades, Lee-Calfas’ experience in marketing, development, public engagement, event planning, and brand management has offered opportunities to conceive, execute, and evaluate strategic marketing campaigns with internal, regional, and national scopes. She has worked to represent and write for diverse constituents and leadership teams, construct and elevate solid brand images as well as innovate on social media and digital platforms.

“Transformational experiences and global impact are at the heart of the University of Illinois mission and are epitomized in the innovative programming, creative problem-solving, and responsive leadership of Illinois Extension,” Lee-Calfas says. “I am excited to continue raising the profile of Illinois Extension's invaluable work while building strong relationships throughout the state, streamlining processes, and providing outstanding services.

Previously, Lee-Calfas led communications efforts at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts as the Advertising and Publicity Director. She organized, motivated, mentored, and supervised a variety of employees and consultants to effectively administer departmental operations and represent a diverse portfolio of campus partners. She served on the College of Fine and Applied Arts’ Communications Advisory Committee and Strategic Communications Plan Committee and led project management during Krannert Center’s 50th Anniversary.

Lee-Calfas earned a B.S. in Advertising from the College of Media at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and an M.S. in Strategic Brand Communications from the Gies College of Business/College of Media joint program. She is active in the Urbana community, where she lives with her husband and three children. 

Lee-Calfas will work on the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign campus in Taft House and can be reached at or (217) 333-6282.

The Extension state communications team provides direct service to educators and their program teams to shine a spotlight on the valuable educational content created and delivered by staff. They provide technical consultations for staff, support and promote programs and initiatives, and devise and implement plans to connect Illinois communities with Extension services. 

WRITEREmily Steele, Media Communications Coordinator, Illinois Extension

ABOUT EXTENSION: Illinois Extension leads public outreach for University of Illinois by translating research into action plans that allow Illinois families, businesses, and community leaders to solve problems, make informed decisions, and adapt to changes and opportunities.