Ptosha "Rocki" Rockingham '89

Ptosha “Rocki” Rockingham ‘89

 

  • Chief Human Resources Officer at GE Appliances in Louisville, Kentucky

  • Native of East St. Louis, Illinois

  • Bachelor of Arts in Public Relations from McKendree University

  • Recipient of the 2007 McKendree Academy of Excellence Award for Language, Literature and Communications

  • Made University history as one of the first black Homecoming Queens at McKendree and one of the first black editors of the McKendree Review student newspaper

by Stephanie (Coartney) Dulaney '10


Trailblazer has always been a fitting description for East St. Louis native and McKendree alum Rocki Rockingham ’89. Currently the Chief Human Resource Officer for GE Appliances, she has held major leadership positions in such Fortune 500 companies as Chrysler, General Motors, Sunbeam, Jarden Consumer Relations, and Newell Brands. What’s behind her success? A burning desire to inspire other young people of color to dream bigger and believe in who they are and what they can achieve.

Choosing to attend McKendree was something of a family affair for Rocki. Her mother and aunts are alumni, and she was looking for a college close to home whose strong academic and athletic programs would allow her to grow. A member of Student Government and the women’s basketball team, Rocki found a place that enabled her to tap into that innovative spirit and cultivate the skills she would use throughout her career. She is proud to have been one of the first people of color to serve as Editor of the McKendree Review student newspaper and one of the university’s first black Homecoming Queens.

“I loved helping the university move itself to become more diverse,” she said.

Quotation Graphic"I’ve always had the instinct to challenge the status quo. When people are brave enough to take positions and be great influencers, change can happen."


Majoring in Public Relations and Journalism, Rocki sought a career path that fit her skills in writing and negotiating. After graduation, she worked in various positions in corporate communications, public affairs, government affairs, and community relations. She spent 12 years in the auto industry and the next 22 years in consumer products. Her first job after McKendree took her to Flint, Michigan. After living all over the world and almost every state in the U.S., she says it’s important to follow your passion no matter where you find yourself and to never let your surroundings dictate what you do.

Now the head of Human Resources in a global company, Rocki enjoys inspiring creativity and innovation among thousands of employees. She describes her role as “a connector of culture and business,” utilizing her passion for bringing meaningful change to the corporate world. “Our business priorities have to match our company culture in order for us to transform and improve,” she said. “I enjoy helping associates learn more about themselves to bring their best selves and value to the organization.”

That urge to benefit others spills into her volunteerism as well. She mentors youth, organizes charitable events, and serves on countless boards to address issues from hunger and literacy to foster care. “Being a woman of color, I defied negative societal tags,” Rocki explained. “I try to move with intention in my career and life because I know that who I am and what I represent is bigger than me. I reach back to give of my time, talent, and treasure because someone did it for me.”

Her life motto is to “live your destiny daily.” Whether she’s touching the lives of her corporate associates all over the world or working locally to bring meaningful change to disadvantaged communities of color, Rocki is still paving the way for more trailblazers just like her.


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