By Molly Snyder Senior Writer Published Aug 02, 2023 at 1:02 PM

OnMilwaukee's The Future Is Female series is brought to you by Alverno College and features some of the most interesting, innovative and intelligent women in the city.

Alverno College, for over 135 years, has strived to educate and empower women to realize their leadership, strength of voice and potential to lead in the working world. Alverno’s support of “The Future is Female” continues to showcase and exemplify these efforts by supporting the stories of grit, resilience and strength of character of present, past and future leading women in the Milwaukee community! #AlvernoStrong

Michelle Rutkowski has done it all in the radio industry, from broadcasting to directing to programming. Currently, she is the Operations Manager for Milwaukee Radio Alliance which includes B93.3 FM, 103.3 MKE, 107.3 Racine and FM102/1. She is also on air weekdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on FM102.1.

How does she stay on top of her game? She's a self-described "student of the game."

"The learning never stops. There is never a point where you can say, 'Ok, I’m good. I don’t need to learn anything new now.’ That’s true in most things in life, though, I suppose," says Rutkowksi.

Born and raised on Chicago's South Side, Rutkowski earned a degree in Communications, Radio and Television Broadcasting with a minor in French studies from North Central College in Naperville, Ill.

She has worked in the industry non-stop since her college internships and has created a life where work and play are intertwined, fueled by her love for music.

"In many ways, my work is what I like to do the most. It allows me to go to a lot of shows which energizes me and keeps me connected with our audience," says Rutkowski.

When she's not in Radioland, Rutkowski likes going on adventures with her husband and two rescue dogs Zosia and Eligiusz (aka Eazy E). She also fosters puppies before they move to their forever homes.

"I really love spending time with family, friends and traveling to new places," she says.

OnMilwaukee recently had the opportunity to chat with Rutkowski and ask her eight questions based on the "8 Abilities" that all students achieve with an Alverno degree: Communication, Analysis, Problem Solving, Valuing in Decision-Making, Social Interaction, Developing a Global Perspective, Aesthetic Engagement and Effective Citizenship.

1. What does active listening mean to you? Do you consider yourself a good listener, and if so, how has this helped you in your personal and professional relationships?

Active listening is an important skill set, and one I admittedly am trying to get better at all the time. It means dedicating the right amount of time, attention and empathy to a person or situation being presented to you. It’s challenging for me because juggling so many things at one time means sometimes my attention is easily diverted. But in the end, successful active listening results in being able to balance feelings and situations of bands and their representation with what is best for the stations and its listeners. It results in being able to bring together many different moving parts – artists, venues, clients – and coalescing them into memorable events for the listeners.

2. What was the last subject you were curious about and then pursued to learn more? How did you pursue it?

I consider myself a curious person, and my interests are pretty wide. I’ve taken time to learn about dog training, plants and flowers, pottery, yoga and foreign languages (among others). I like to read up on these subjects but invariably I learn best by doing.

3. If you can’t figure something out yourself, what source or person do you turn to first? How long do you wait before you ask for help? As a woman, do you think you wait longer to reach out?

I would say that I do wait to reach out for help, because I like to figure things out for myself and I can be pretty stubborn about that. There are exceptions, of course, like certain technical elements of the job that are simply beyond my area of expertise. For the times when I need to get different perspectives and brainstorm solutions, I have an amazing group of colleagues that understand the situations I’m in and help me navigate any issues.

4. What are your personal values? Who and/or what inspired them and how do these values affect your decision-making process? 

Follow through on your word. Be generous. Choose kindness. Lead with gratitude.

I am humbled to be from a long line of bad-ass women. My great-grandmother was part of a group of immigrant women who called themselves ‘The Night Secretaries’ that took the bus together to work the graveyard shift cleaning offices in downtown Chicago while their kids were sleeping. My grandmother worked full-time, and while cooking and grocery shopping were considered the ‘wifely’ duties of her time, she had no qualms admitting those were not her favorite tasks. Luckily, my grandfather was happy to take them over. My mother worked her way up from an entry level position as a bank teller to a Project Manager for IBM Global Services.  She sometimes worked odd hours and long shifts, which meant dad would often fill the gaps and become our primary caretaker. All of this is to say, from a very young age, I was shown what true partnership and true loyalty looks like and that image has stayed with me my whole life. My family has always been a huge source of inspiration for me. They instilled these values in me from the very beginning, and in many situations I find myself thinking ‘Oh yeah? What would Grandma B think about you doing that?’ LOL.

5. Technology and online communication/meetings/social has definitely changed over the years. Do these things help or hinder your growth – or both?

On one hand it has been helpful because my workload does not allow a lot of time for face-to-face meetings during normal business hours. The natural downside to that is people feel you’re accessible at any moment, regardless of time of day, being on vacation, etc. But overall I see Zoom/Teams/GMeet as a positive and a step forward in helping us to be able to do our jobs from anywhere.

6. Where is the farthest you’ve traveled and what is a thing or two you learned from the experience? And what surprised you?

I was fortunate enough to live and study in London for several months in college, and being able to experience life through the lens of a different culture was one of the greatest experiences of my life. One of the best surprises was how easy and affordable they make it for students to travel within Europe so I was able to see so much of that part of the world during that time! In terms of actual distance though, the farthest I’ve traveled from my Midwest homes by pure mileage is Greece. I spent time in Athens as well as Santorini and I was amazed by how these remnants of ancient times are just there, chilling next to brand new buildings. A melding of old and new.  History and the present co-existing, which I think is such an important thing for us as a society to observe and preserve.

But ultimately, travel has taught me that there is so much beauty in this world to take in, and that you can find something special everywhere you go if you’re willing to turn over enough rocks. It doesn’t mean you have to go a long distance. Even a good road trip can show you that there is so much more out there than just the space we ourselves exist in.

 7. What are your favorite art forms? How do you challenge yourself to actively engage in the arts?

Well, thanks to the French studies background, I’ve got a real soft spot for the Impressionists. I could’ve made snow angels in the immersive Monet exhibit. But I also really enjoy the quirkiness of modernism. For example, I recently visited The Miniature Art Museum in Greenwich Village where I discovered Vincent Bal, a Belgian artist who plays with light and shadow in one of the most playful, enjoyable ways I’ve seen in a long time. 

I also try to support local artists and makers markets whenever possible. And after a friend introduced me to Art in Bloom at MAM a few years back, I make it a point to see it every year. I love it. 

As for making art, well, I love throwing clay and creating forms and shapes, but not only am I pretty awful at it, I really don’t like doing the firing and glazing processes that follow so I haven’t been able to maintain any semblance of consistency with it. 

8. How do you/your work move Milwaukee forward?  

I’m so proud to work for a local radio station that cares about Milwaukee and one that gives me the opportunity to work with great partners all over the city to put great events together: from large scale concerts like WLUM FM 102/1 Big Snow Show with bands like The Lumineers, to unique experiences like Bands on a Boat with Weezer, to once-in-a-lifetime intimate performances with Noah Kahan. We prove to the rest of the country on a regular basis that we’re more than just a “flyover” city, and it gives me great pride to help make Milwaukee a memorable stop for some of alternative music’s biggest acts.

Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.

Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.